It’s been some Friday since our army received several test A4 Leopards of the second generation, which are manufactured in Germany and continue in their concept from the Leopard of the first generation, which was produced from the mid-60s to the mid-80s. As it is an interesting piece of equipment, we went to Přáslavice to the 73rd Tank Battalion of the 7th Mechanized Brigade “Dukelská” to see the “Leos” up close.
The chassis of the Leopard is almost unchanged, but the second generation (production since the late 1970s) mainly brought modernized armament, active and passive protection of the crew, anti-fire equipment and new technological elements such as a night vision device, a thermal camera or, in the case of higher models from the A6 onwards, programmable ammunition.
In addition, the vehicle can be equipped with a panoramic camera system, so that the driver can observe the surroundings from the safety of his armored seat. The remaining three crew positions are occupied by the commander, gunner and charger.
A big advantage is that the driver sits inside practically like in a car, either with the seat pushed up, when the driver can freely look around with his head out, or in a fighting position, when the driver can see thanks to the windows, i.e. the cameras. The tank is steered by an adjustable ‘half steering wheel’, with dashboard gauges not all that different from those found in cars from the 1980s.
The main weapon of the 55-ton “Leoš” is a 120 mm cannon with manual loading. Why manual, you ask? Namely, manual loading is usually faster than automatic loading, and in a real tank battle (Battlefield players will forgive) the first shots fired are decisive. The tank is also proud of the MG3 anti-personnel and anti-aircraft machine gun.
The heart of the tank is a 12-cylinder water-cooled diesel engine with an output of 1,103 kW (1,500 hp) at 2,600 revolutions per minute. The transmission is automatic with four forward and two reverse gears. The maximum speed of the A4 model is 72 km/h forwards and 35 km/h backwards. The total driving range by road is then 550 km.
The trick of “Leoš” is that his belts can work in parallel, so this colossus manages to turn on a five-pointer. In addition, its tracks have rubber elements, which will ensure better controllability. In addition to all this, the tank is adapted for operation on roads, so it has front and rear lights, including brake lights and indicators.
In addition, the second-generation Leopard is a typical example of the Western tank school, which differs considerably from the Eastern (or more precisely, Russian) one. The Western mentality values the experience of the crews, bets on a powerful canon, high-quality optics, precise stabilization and ergonomic design to make the life of the crew more pleasant.
Eastern (Russian) tanks, on the other hand, rely on manufacturing simplicity, low operating and maintenance costs, but they no longer care much about the crew and its survival. You know, “many” of them…
Leos vs. T72
We asked the experienced tank operator Michal Valenta from the 73rd tank battalion from Přáslavice how he sees the Leopard 2 A4 against the current eastern T72 models, which our army uses extensively.
“The advantage of the Leopard is the automatic transmission, overall simpler driving, comfort, ergonomics and more interior space. “It’s much better to live with a tank, it has more effective brakes, better handling, it’s faster forwards and backwards, it offers higher clearance and a better view,” Valenta compares the machines.
We also asked why the army didn’t just buy the most modern version of the Leopard, but instead opted for the A4 type from the 80s. The crews need to be retrained on the new type of technology, from A to Z. This will eventually minimize even schoolboy mistakes, and if the tanks prove themselves, the Czech army will really go for the most modern types.
In any case, Leopard tanks enjoy popularity not only in Europe, where, in addition to Germany, they are also used by Poland, the Netherlands, Austria, Greece, Denmark, Norway and Slovakia, but also in distant Canada. And other countries are looking for them, because it is one of the current tops among tanks.
|Leopard 2 A4
|55 400 kg
|7 700 mm
|3 750 mm
|3 000 mm
|diesel 12-cylinder MTU MB 873 Ka-501
|1,103 kW (1,500 hp) at 2,600 rpm
|out Color HSWL 354 (4+2)
|Driving range by road