Armor: More Leopards In Indonesia

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November 19, 2013: After a few more months of negotiations there has been a final settlement on terms for the Indonesian purchase of a large quantity of Cold War surplus armored vehicles from Germany. These include 103 Leopard 2A6 tanks, 42 Marder 1A3 infantry fighting vehicles, and 11 Leopards modified for support functions (4 Armored Recovery Vehicles, 3 mobile bridge-layers, and 3 AEVs for engineering work under fire). The deal is worth about $280 million and has been under negotiation for several years. Some of the vehicles have already arrived in Indonesia for evaluation and been seen in public.

This German armor is based on 1970s and 80s designs and is replacing even older British and French items from the 1950s and 60s. Indonesia has no real enemies nearby, and a hundred modern tanks should be able to handle any local emergency. All the remaining vehicles on this deal will be delivered by 2016. Nearby Singapore, which Indonesia is generally on good terms with, bought some Leopard 2A4 tanks in 2004 and has been satisfied with them. That apparently influenced the Indonesians.

Until 2010, the 55 ton Leopard 2A6 was the current version and is a contemporary of the American M-1. The 2A6 model has a stabilizer (for firing on the move) and a thermal imager (for seeing through night, mist, and sand storms). Germany has been selling less capable refurbished 2A4s since the 1990s (after the Cold War ended and the German army was much reduced in size). This enabled many nations to inexpensively upgrade their own aging armored forces. In the last decade many nations with Leopards have upgraded to the A6 standard. Many nations prefer to continue upgrading their Leopards, mainly because there are no new tank designs to buy. The late-Cold War models, especially the American M-1 and the German Leopard 2 are still the best available.

After 2010 Germany offered a 2A7+ upgrade for the Leopard 2. This provides improvements to mobility (engine, track laying system, wheels, and related gear), better soundproofing for the crew, more (and better) thermal sights, and more effective ammunition for the 120mm gun (fragmentation shells that detonate above or behind a target). Other improvements include more armor on the sides and rear (especially to protect against RPGs), more external cameras (so the crew inside could see anything in any direction, day or night), a remote control machine-gun station on top of the turret, better fire control and combat control computers and displays, a more powerful auxiliary power unit and better air conditioning, and numerous other minor improvements. All this increased the weight of the tank to nearly 70 tons. Many Indonesian roads and bridges cannot handle a 55 ton vehicles, much less a 70 ton one. The Indonesians plan to work around that by shipping the tanks long distances using railroads or ships.

The Marder is a 33 ton infantry fighting vehicle with a turret mounted 20mm autocannon and space for seven infantrymen. The latest upgrade adds more armor to the side to protect against RPGs and installs a better radio.

 

 


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