The Czech Armed Forces will negotiate the acquisition of up to 77 Leopard 2A8 tanks in 6 modifications

 28. 05. 2023      category: Army of the Czech Republic
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The government recently tasked Defence Minister Jana Černochová with negotiating the possibility of joining the purchase of new Leopard 2A8 tanks, which Germany plans to acquire for the Bundeswehr. The Czech Republic could thus join the future users of the proven Leopard 2 tank, the only production tank in Europe.

leopard2a7Picture: The government recently tasked Defence Minister Jana Černochová with negotiating the possibility of joining the purchase of new Leopard 2A8 tanks, which Germany plans to acquire for the Bundeswehr. | KMW

Leopard 2s are used by the armed forces of 22 countries and are in service in all Central European countries, i.e. Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The tank manufacturer, KMW, has produced more than 3,500 Leopard 2s, which are now assembled mainly in Munich and Kassel. The manufacturer also has a sophisticated LEOBEN (Leopard-benutzende Staaten) support programme for Leopard tank users. The programme enables the sharing of tank operating experience, sharing of logistics and brings economic savings. The LEOBEN countries work closely together in research and development, tank upgrades, repairs, provision of spare parts or provision of ammunition to make the operation of Leopard 2 tanks as cost-effective as possible.

The purpose of the purchase of the new tanks is to rearm the 7th Brigade Task Force with a modern MBT (Main Battle Tank) type and thus to ensure an increase in the operational capabilities of the Czech Army's ground forces, especially within the capabilities of mechanised troops, both in the Czech Republic and in foreign operations. The aim of the rearmament is also to fulfil the NATO requirement for the construction of a heavy brigade by 2027 according to Capability Targets 2021.

The project for the acquisition of new MBTs to replace the existing T-72 M4CZ tanks was planned for after 2030. With the change in the security situation in Europe as a result of the Russian attack on Ukraine, the subsequent assistance to Ukraine in the form of deliveries of military equipment including heavy equipment, and the reassessment of the priorities of the Czech Armed Forces, this project was subsequently brought forward to 2027-2030. On the basis of these facts, a feasibility study was prepared to assess the availability of different types of tanks on the market and the overall financial requirements of the project.

We have written several times about the benefits of acquiring new Leopard 2 tanks. The Czech Army already has the first of 14 Leopard 2A4 tanks, which will be donated by the German government (in appreciation of the Czech Republic's assistance to Ukraine). This type of tank has also already passed military tests, so basically nothing prevents their service in the Czech armed forces. Therefore, the Czech Armed Forces already operates with older Leopard 2 tanks and the choice to acquire new Leopard 2A8 tanks is logical.

The Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic has been informed by its German counterpart about the possibility to join the upcoming framework agreement between the German Federal Ministry of Defence and Krauss Maffei Wegman for the acquisition of Leopard 2A8 tanks in March 2023. The Germans have approached other countries about the joint purchase, which should result in a reduction of the overall price of the vehicle, expansion of the serial production capacity and acceleration of deliveries.

According to the latest information, the German Ministry of Defence considers the planned new Leopard 2A8 as a transition to a significantly modified version of the Leopard 2AX, which is expected to be introduced towards the end of this decade. The Leopard 2A8 is likely to have much in common with the demonstrator unveiled at Eurosatory in June 2022, during NATO Days in Ostrava in autumn 2022 or at IDET 2023. Neither the basic concept of the tank nor the size and deployment of the crew will change. The driver will have his place in the front part of the hull on the right, while the commander, gunner and loader will operate in the battle turret. The 2A8 version will also reportedly stick with the Rheinmetall Rh 120 L55A1 gun, but will once again receive improved protection based on third-generation composite multi-layer armour, as well as enhanced mine-resistance of the hull and protection against cluster munitions attacking from above.

Leopard2a7_IDET2Picture: Leopard 2A7 at IDET 2023 | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE

The tank driver will have a combined day and night vision system that integrates a thermal imaging camera and a low-light amplifier for forward and rearward vision. This advanced system will greatly improve situational awareness and allow better orientation in low-light conditions. The optoelectronic equipment, fire control system and communications systems will also be improved. The engine will have a higher power output of 1,193 kW and the tank will also receive a more powerful auxiliary unit with a power output of 20 kW. The Leopard 2A8 will also be equipped with the EuroTrophy active protection system, which is derived from the proven Israeli Trophy system. This will change the shape of the turret to some extent compared to earlier versions. It is not yet certain whether a remote-controlled weapon station will be installed on the tower.

The possible joint acquisition of the Leopard 2A8 tank would significantly deepen military cooperation between the Czech Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany. During the feasibility study, the manufacturer KMW declared its readiness to involve Czech defence industry companies in the production and lifecycle security of the tank. Maximum possible involvement of the Czech industry in the project will be one of the priorities in negotiations with the German side and the manufacturer.

The subject of the MBT acquisition project is as follows:

  • purchase of up to 77 MBTs in 6 modifications
  • purchase of up to 6 8x8 wheeled workshop vehicles in 3 modifications
  • training of personnel
  • initial logistical support
  • training base (simulator and simulation equipment, didactic aids)
  • ammunition for training
  • provision of maintenance and repair of MBTs in the initial part of the life cycle
  • supply of initial stocks of spare parts and consumables
  • involvement of Czech defence industry companies in production and life cycle support

Tanks, as well as other armoured vehicles, have clearly proved their importance on the Ukrainian battlefield, which has been realised by the vast majority of armies, including the Czech Armed Forces, and the start of negotiations for the acquisition of proven Leopard 2A8 tanks is good news for the Czech Republic because, as we have also written, there are several interested parties for these machines and current production capacities are limited.

 Author: Tomáš Kolařík

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