Despite a rather strange situation with Marder IFV and even stranger offer to buy SpGh PzH 2000 with delivery in 2024-2027, the situation with arms supplies from Germany is slowly starting to change. A week ago they allowed Estonia to deliver D-30 howitzers to Ukraine , and let Czech Republic supply BMP-1 for the Armed Forces . And now there is information that Rheinmetall is preparing to supply the Armed Forces with Leopard 1 tanks in storage. Does the Armed Forces need the previous generation combat vehicles at all?
What are we talking about? First, about selling, not free shipping. Secondly, about Leopard 1 tanks, which have been upgraded at least twice. Rheinmetall is ready to sell to Ukraine 50 out of 100 Leopard 1A5 tanks in storage. This model is modified in the late 1980s Leopard 1A1A1, which in turn are modified in 1974-77 tanks of the Leopard 1 and Leopard 1A1 series. The latter also differed from the basic model of 1965.
The original Leopard 1 was designed in 1956-1961 by Porsche. As you know, Ferdinand Porsche designed tanks during World War II and was very successful in this. The famous VK 45.01 (P) Tiger and Panzerjäger Tiger (P) aka Elefant aka Ferdinand are his designs. But Porsche Sr. died in 1951, and his son, Ferdinand Porsche Jr., who everyone called Ferry Porsche, was already engaged in the designing of the first German postwar tank.
Leopard 1 was designed based on the fact that the tanks of the early Cold War could not withstand ATGMs with cumulative projectiles, so the designers decided to neglect the armor in favor of firepower, speed, and improved ground clearance. On the other hand, as the experience of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict shows, even advanced composite armor and counter-armor do not help against modern ATGMs.
Leopard 1 came out light, only 40 tons in the original version, fast and maneuverable, and the British 105-mm gun Royal Ordnance L7 allowed it to feel quite confident on the battlefield of the time. Production of various modifications of Leopard 1 lasted from 1965 to 1984, and a total of 6,565 vehicles were produced, of which 4,744 were tanks and others were auxiliary vehicles on the Leopard 1 chassis. Since 1979, the gradual replacement of this tank, which according to the modern classification should be considered light, with the tank Leopard 2 began. But even before that, some developments from the project Leopard 2 were used in Leopard 1 modifications.
They started completing the development of Leopard in the late 1960s. Literally, after the release of the first batch of tanks in the series the next version, Leopard 1A1, was introduced. It received a new stabilization system and thermal sleeve of the gun, an additional “skirt” to protect the trucks and additional armor, a new configuration of tracks. And in 1974-77, all the first batches of Leopard 1A1 were improved according to Leopard 1A1A1 version, and additional armor of the turret was installed.
The Leopard 1A5 in question is another update to the Leopard 1A1A1 from the 1980s. The turret was modified again. First, to install a new 120-mm gun, Rheinmetall Rh-120 L/44, the same as in the latest Leopard 2. Unfortunately, this option has not been used. Secondly, to accommodate additional ammunition and new equipment. Among the latter, we should mention the Krupp-Atlas Elektronik EMES 18 fire control system, which is an evolution of the EMES 15 system used in Leopard 2. In addition, the Leopard 1A5 received new shells, including sub-caliber armor-piercing and new mounted ceramic armor. The first Leopard 1A5 models were adopted by the army in 1987.
Subsequent modifications of the Leopard 1A6 did not go beyond prototyping, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, the German army fell into disrepair, and the old Leopards went into storage and were sold to third countries. Leopard 2 became the main tank of the Bundeswehr.
But the good old Leopard 1 is still in service in some countries, including NATO. Brazil has 128 Leopard 1BE and 250 Leopard 1A5, Chile – 120 Leopard 1V, Ecuador – 30 Leopard 1V and 30 Leopard 1A5, Greece has 501 Leopard 1A5GR and 19 Leopard 1A4GR, Turkey – 170 Leopard A1 and 227 Leopard A3.
Why do the Armed Forces need the outdated versions of Leopard 1, even though this tank is not able to withstand modern main tanks in direct combat? Yes, it’s true, the weak 105-mm Leopard 1 gun simply cannot break through the armor of the updated T-80BVM or T-90AM, and weak armor will not withstand the shot of a 120-mm gun. But Leopard 1 can still be useful.
First, thanks to its high maneuverability, the Leopard 1 can be used as a tank support machine to destroy the ATGM crews that threaten tank columns. Second, Leopard 1 can be used to hold secondary positions to free up more modern tanks for important areas. In addition, light tanks can be provided to Territorial Defense.
In any case, Leopard 1, which may arrive in Ukraine in six weeks, is a fairly quick and, hopefully, not very expensive solution to add to the Armed Forces tank arsenal. In addition, this is another important step forward in Germany’s arms supply to Ukraine. Our military will probably find a way to use these weapons against the rascists.
Mass – 42.2 t (first models 40 t)
Length – 9.54 m
Width –3.37 m
Height –2.70 m
Armour – Steel: 10–70 mm RHAe
Engine type and model – MTU MB 838 CaM 500, 0-cylinder, 37.4 litres, multi-fuel engine
Engine power – 819 hp
Speed – 65 km/h
Operational range – 600 km (on road), 450 km (cross-country)
Main armament – 1 × 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7A3 L/52 rifled gun
Ammunition – 13 rounds in turret 42 rounds in hull
Secondary armament – 2 × 7.62 mm MG 3 or FN MAG
Crew – 4 (commander, driver, gunner, radio operator/loader)
P.S. The idea of not painting over Bundeswehr crosses on turrets, expressed by someone online, looks very attractive.