Leopard 2: National and regional reasons for acquisition within the Czech Army
One of the hottest candidates for the new Main Battle Tank for the Czech Armed Forces is the German Leopard 2. It can be considered to be one of the most modern tanks in the world, especially in the latest A6, A7 and A7A1 variants. In this article, I will try to outline the main positives should the Czech Republic take the above path of modernization of its armored corps.
Our northern neighbor, Poland, operates 142 Leopard 2A4 and 105 Leopard 2A5 tanks. The Poles want to upgrade the A4 version to the 2PL standard. The Polish concern PGZ (Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa), which is in charge of modernization, has already delivered the first pieces to the Polish Army during the past year. All tanks should then be modernized and handed over to the Army by the end of 2023. Due to the composition of technology in the tank army and efforts to modernize, it can be assumed that Poland will want to operate only one type of tank - the German Leopard. At the same time, it cannot be assumed that Poland would "throw money out the window" for the modernization of the PT-91 and T-72 tanks.
The second case, and a country close to the Czech Republic, is Hungary. Its ground forces have recently experienced a major technological leap. The Hungarian army bought 12 pieces of the Leopard 2A4 and 44 pieces of the version 2A7+. In addition to tanks, the ground forces also purchase Lynx KF41 tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles and PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers. Both types of equipment, like the Leopard 2, come from Germany.
The third country close to the Czech Republic in which Leopard tanks could appear, even on the basis of the above-mentioned two examples, is Slovakia. Our closest ally is awaiting the modernization of tanks, because, like the Czech Republic, it still uses the T-72 tanks, which have a very low combat value in the 21st century.
Our southern neighbor, Austria, currently also uses 114 Leopard 2A4 tanks. According to Austrian strategic documents, these tanks need to be modernized after 2020. It can therefore be logically assumed that Austria will modernize its tanks to at least the A6 version over the next ten years.
The biggest advantage for the Czech Republic would be the fact that this is a German tank. Production and service takes place in our western neighbors, which eliminates logistical problems with spare parts and the like. When assessing possible candidates, it is also necessary to take into account that not only our closest neighbors and allies use this type of tank. Other European users include Denmark, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Most of these states use A4 or A5 versions, and it can be assumed that these tanks will be modernized in the near future and the Leopard 2 tank will be the main type of tank across European armies for at least another 15-20 years.
In the case of the need and deployment of Czech mechanized units together with other European armies within NATO or the EU, logistical problems with spare parts would be eliminated. Another advantage is the possibility of purchasing spare parts or ammunition together with other states, for example within the V4, where the joint purchase of ammunition for small arms has recently been successful. Given the geographical location of our country, we can also talk about a joint training program, either within the V4 or a wider group of states. The Czech Republic has a tradition in pilot training within the Pardubice Aviation Training Center. In the case of the acquisition of Leopard 2 tanks, it is possible to consider building a multinational training center for tank troops, modeled on the aforementioned Aviation Training Center.
The Concept of build-up of the Czech Army 2030 envisages tanks as part of the mechanized troops. There is generally talk of a "piece by piece" replacement - we operate the MBT category (Main Battle Tank), we will replace the current tanks with the MBT category. Due to the uncertainty in the defence funding, the question is how many Leopard 2 tanks the Czech Republic could buy. As a possible solution to the complex situation of the Czech tank troops, there is also the possibility of renting tanks for a certain period of time, similar to JAS-39 Gripen aircraft, which would partially solve the problem of financing and ensure the preservation of tank troops in the Czech Army. for the future purchase of leased tanks.
In the case of the purchase of German Leopard 2 tanks, there would be not only the "integration" of armaments with other European armies, but also a significant support for the Czech defense industry. Mention may be made, for example, of the recent cooperation agreement between the Czech holding company CSG and the German company Rheinmetall, the aim of which is, in addition to the construction of a new plant in Kopřivnice, also cooperation within the V4 countries. It is therefore a question of to what extent the CSG holding could be involved in the possible implementation of the contract for Leopard 2 tanks for the Czech Army, however the above-mentioned agreement with the German giant proves that the Czech defense industry does not play and will not play the second fiddle in the future.
In conclusion, the Leopard 2 tank is a promising platform used by many European countries. It can be assumed that this will be the case for the next 15-20 years, as the tank manufacturer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), is working on improvements to the latest version of the A7. For example, the recently introduced version of the A7A1 is equipped with the Israeli Trophy Active Protection System. The acquisition of the Leopard 2 tank would move the Czech tank army into the 21st century. Together with it, the Czech defense industry can acquire know-how usable in the V4 countries, where German tracked vehicles technology is already abundant. If we talk about the future, we must not forget the Main Ground Combat System project, or "eurotank", which is being developed by KMW and Nexter. It is this "eurotank" that has the chassis and engine of the Leopard 2A7 tank and the turret of the French Leclerc tank. The acquisition of the Leopard 2A7 tank would thus also facilitate a possible future transition to a common European platform.