Main Battle Tanks


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Nov 28, 2014
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
Leopard Main Battle Tank

Leopard 2A6, with the new Rheinmetall 120mm L55 gun. (Photo: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG.)

The Leopard 2 is, undoubtedly, one of the most sucessfull projects of the last generation of main battle tanks, with over 3,200 units produced. The Leopard 2 is in service with the armies of Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden and Spain. The Finnish Army is buying 124 and the Polish Army 128 used Leopard 2A4 tanks from Germany.

Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG has developed a mine protection system for the Leopard 2, following a concept definition by an international working group from Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, under the lead of the German procurement agency BWB. An order placed in September 2003 involves the modification of 15 Leopard 2A6 tanks for the German Army and ten Leopard 2A5 (Strv 122) for Sweden. The first mine-protected tank was delivered in July 2004. The kit consists of add-on armour elements including a new plate under the tank floor, new vision systems and restowage arrangements for ammunition. Trials in February 2004 demonstrated that, with the new armour package, Leopard 2 tank crews could survive the detonation of an anti-tank mine under the tank without suffering any injuries.

Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG latest development of the Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank series is a new technology demonstrator model intended for peacemaking and peacekeeping deployments, the Leopard 2 PSO (Peace Support Operations). The Leopard 2 PSO was officially presented at the 2006 Eurosatory.

On November 5, 2009 Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG celebrated the 30th anniversary of the commissioning of the Leopard 2 main battle tank to the German Bundeswehr. The first Leopard 2 was commissioned in October 1979 by the German Bundeswehr, and is still in active duty with the Hellenic Army of Greece. Speaking in the event, Lieutenant Colonel Marco Geerke, Head of Operations for the Leopard 2 with the Bundeswehr, stated that “despite its age it is no historical vehicle”. Indeed it is not - the Leopard 2, in several versions progressively updated up to the Leopard 2A6, are in service in 16 countries, namely Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

Actually, the Leopard 2 is undoubtedly one of the best main battle tanks of the world, a most successful design that succeeded in achieving an unique approach to the three basic principles that define an MBT - Firepower, Protection and Mobility. So impressive that the Bundeswehr plans to keep it in service until approximately 2030. This would mean that the Leopard 2 would have been used for more than 50 years – although in an extensive range of upgrades, encompassing a constant evolution of its capabilities.To put this timeframe into the perspective of a lifetime of a main battle tank, Lieutenant Colonel Geerke’s stated that this would be like decommissioning the ‘Königstiger’ of World War II only in 1995.

On July 14, 2010 Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG unveiled the next-generation of the Leopard 2 - the Leopard 2 A7+, which incorporates a new approach in upgrade modularity, that maximizes the Leopard 2 effectiveness either for operations in urban terrain as well as high intensity operations.


The development of the Leopard 2 MBT can be traced back to a project started in the 1960's. At this time Germany and the United States were still working on the MBT-70 program, so this project had a very low priority.

While Germany and the United States were developing the MBT/KPz-70, their agreement did not allow a parallel national tank program, but when the Leopard 1 MBT was introduced into service in 1965 Porsche was awarded a contract to develop improved components to increase its combat effectiveness to the standard demanded by the MBT/KPz-70. This program lasted until 1967, when the contract expired, and became known as 'Vergoldeter Leopard' or 'Gilded Leopard'.
When the first cracks appeared in 1967 in the German/American cooperation program for joint development of the MBT/KPz-70, the German Ministry of Defense decided to continue and to increase the development of the 'Vergoldeter Leopard', which later became known as 'Keiler' (Wild Boar).

Leopard 2 prototypes, in different phases of development. A total of 17 prototypes were built, with differing suspension, turret, and armament.
Krauss-Maffei of Munich was chosen as the main contractor, with Porsche involved in the development of the chassis and Wegmann in that of the turret. In 1969 and 1970 two prototypes (ET 01 and ET 02), both powered by the 10 cylinder MB 872 engine, were built for further evaluation. In late 1969, with the end of the development program for the German/American tank, the German Office for Defense Technology and Procurement initiated a study to save at least the majority of the MBT/KPz-70 development program. This was an attempt to combine parts of the abandoned MBT/KPz-70 program with components of the experimental tank, and became known as 'Eiler' (Boar) but never reached prototype status.

In early 1970, the German Ministry of Defense recommended the development of the 'Vergoldeter Leopard' to be continued with the adoption of the MTU engine developed for the MBT/Kpz-70 in order to take advantage of the further experience that had already been acquired with it. Another seven vehicles were ordered, with Krauss-Maffei again chosen as the main contractor.

The prototypes looked at first glance very much like the Leopard 1 A4, but with a wedge-shaped bow and an exhaust grille moved to the rear plate. The roadwheels came from the MBT/KPz-70, and the return rollers from the Leopard 1. The engine also came from the MBT/KPz-70, a 12 cylinder MTU MB-873 Ka-500 water-cooled multi-fuel four-stroke engine, together with its 20 kW generator, gearbox, air filters, and the cooling and braking systems, forming a compact group that could be easily replaced in 15 minutes. Ten of the seventeen turrets built were fitted with a 105 mm smooth bore gun while the remaining seven had a 120 mm smooth bore gun, both designed and produced by Rheinmetall.
When the first analysis of the Yom Kippur War of 1973 became available, it became clear that increased armor protection would be a decisive factor in the future. The outcome was a decision of upgrade the Leopard 2 to MLC 60 (Military Loading Class 60 tons), which would allow increased armor, and to modify one of the turrets with a new multi-layer type of armor. This resulted in a breakthrough in the Leopard 2 program and the first step towards the Leopard 2 AV.

During 1973, negotiations began between the United States and Germany to standardize certain components of both nations main battle tanks of the eighties. As a result of this, by 1976 it was agreed to study how Leopard 2 could be modified to meet US performance and constraints. Based on the altered German and US military demands, Porsche, Krauss-Maffei, and Wegmann designed and built the Leopard 2 AV (Austere Version).

The Leopard 2 Austere Version prototype.
Modifications included the new multi-layered (much like the British developed "Chobham" armor, which consisted of layers of steel and ceramics) armor on the hull and a new turret with a less sophisticated fire control system. Two chassis and three turrets were built, and were ready in 1976. The first prototype had a turret with a Hughes fire control system and a L7A3 105 mm main gun. The second one was equipped with the same gun, but provisions were made to allow a quick adoption of the Rheinmetall 120 mm smooth bore main gun. The third turret had a German fire control system, including the EMES 13, and was to be used in the German test program. An additional turret was built and was identical as the third, but had the Rheinmetall 120 mm smooth bore main gun installed from the beginning.

The Leopard 2 AV was originally intended to be tested as the same time with the XM1, but the German modification program took longer than expected. The US Army therefore proceeded with the evaluation of the XM1 prototypes built by Chrysler and General Motors, and ultimately decided to launch full-scale development of the Chrysler design.

However, the German prototypes arrived in the US by the end of August 1976 and comparative tests between the Leopard 2 AV and the XM1 prototypes were done at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, lasting until December 1976. The US Army reported that the Leopard 2 AV and the XM1 were comparable in firepower and field mobility but the XM1 was superior in armor protection, and so the XM1 was selected. After the comparative test the Leopard 2 AV prototypes were returned to Germany for further evaluation tests.

In September 1977 the German MoD formally decided to go ahead with plans for production of 1,800 Leopard 2, which were to be delivered in five batches. From the original group of companies bidding for the contract, Krauss-Maffei was chosen as the main contractor and systems manager. MaK became sub contractor and production was to be shared between the two companies on the basis of 55% for Krauss-Maffei and 45% for MaK. Wegmann, as turret integrator, received full responsibility for coordination the integration of the EMES 15 fire control. The EMES 15 fire control was developed by Hughes in cooperation between Krupp Atlas Elektronik, with the 120 mm smooth bore high-performance main gun supplied by Rheinmetall with the turret.

Without doubt, at the time of its introduction (1979), the Leopard 2 was the most advanced tank in the world. The Germans succeeded in designing a tank with high success in all three areas of tank design: mobility, firepower, and armor protection.

Until then, tank designers had only been able to achieve two of these objectives at once. The British Chieftain, for instance, had a pretty good gun and good armor, but very poor mobility. At the other end of the scale was the French AMX-30, which had good mobility, an adequate gun, but weak armor.


The Leopard 2 was the most advanced tank in the world back in the late 70's - early 80's. The Germans have succeeded in designing a tank with high success in all three areas of tank design: mobility, firepower, and armor protection. The tank above is from the first production batch.
A total of 380 Leopard 2 were built in the first batch, 209 by Krauss-Maffei (chassis nbr. 10001 to 10210) and 171 by Mak (chassis nbr. 20001 to 20172), with the first six delivered in 1979 to Kampftruppenschule 2 in Münster. Another 100 were delivered in 1980 and 229 in 1981, replacing the M48A2G in units among I (GE) Corps. The first Leopard 2 went to Panzerbattalions 31, 33 and 34 of 1 Panzerdivision, with partially parallel delivery to Panzerbattalions 81, 85 and 84 of 5 Panzerdivision. The Leopard 1s then in service were passed to the Panzerbattalions of the Panzergrenadier Divisions, were they replaced the M48A2G. By 1982 production was running at 300 a year, with the last first batch Leopard 2 delivered in March of that year.

The combat weight of the Leopard 2 is 55,000 kg, empty weight being 52,000 kg, and its hull has spaced multi-layer armor. The running gear consists of seven dual rubber-tyred road wheels and four return rollers per side, with the idler wheel at the front and drive sprocket at the rear.
Torsion bar suspension is employed, with advanced friction dampers provided. The Diehl 570F tracks, with rubber-bashed end connectors, have removable rubber pads and use 82 links on each track. For use in icy ground, up to 18 rubber pads can be replaced by the same number of grousers, which are stored in the vehicle's bow when not in use. The first four sessions of the side skirts are heavily armored, and must be raised for rail transport. The remaining sessions are made of standard rubber and metal fabric and are hinged to swing upward if neccessary.

The driver's station is located at the front, offset to the right of the vehicle's center line. A large, pintle-mounted lift-and-swing type hatch is provided for the driver and opens to the right. There are two observation periscopes in the driver's hatch, plus one to the left of his section, for use when driving closed down. The central periscope (in the hatch) can be exchanged for a passive IR-sight for night operations. An escape hatch is provided under the driver's seat.

The turret, incorporating multi layer armor, is mounted in the center of the hull and is manned by the commander and gunner in the right half, with the loader in the left half. The commander and the loader each have a circular hatch, opening to the rear, and six periscopes provide all-round vision for the commander. Both hatches have ring mounts for the 7.62 mm MG-3 air defense machine gun, though it is normally installed on the loader's hatch.

Leopard 2, first batch production series. The first batch was delivered from 1979-1982. The first 200 tanks built originally had the PZB 200 image intensifier mounted over the mantlet, the thermal imager being not yet available. The first batch was also the only batch to have a wind sensor installed on the turret.
The 120 mm Rheinmetall main gun is fully stabilized in both azimuth and elevation, and the WNA-H22 electro-hidraulic gun control system is fitted. The gun fires two types of ammunition, both developed by Rheinmetall APFSDS-T, known as DM-33 KE (Kinetische Energy), and HEAT-MP-T, known as DM-12 MZ (Mehrzweck = multipurpose), both types having combustible cases. 27 rounds of 120 mm ammunition are stored in a special magazine in the forward section of the hull, to the left of the driver's station - additional 15 (making a total of 42) are stored in the left side of the turret bustle, and separated from the fighting compartment by an electrically operated door. Should the ammunition in the bustle be hit, blow-off panels in the turret roof would direct any explosion upwards. A co-axial 7.620mm MG 3is mounted to the left of the main gun and 4,750 rounds of machine gun ammunition are carried.

The Rheinmetall 120mm L44 gun was the most powerful tank gun by the time the Leopard 2 MBT was entering service with the German Army (1979).
The thermal sight for the gunner's EMES 15 primary sight was not ready during production of the first batch, though all vehicles were prepared to be so equipped at a later stage. To provide an improvised night fighting capability for first batch vehicles, the Panzer-Ziel-und-Beobachtungsgerät (PZB) 200ow light TV system (LLLTV) was temporarily fitted to 200 Leopard 2 The EMES 15/FLT-2 fire control system consists of:
  1. gunner's primary sight with mirror stabilized in azimuth and elevation​
  2. laser transmitter and receiver​
  3. thermal imaging system and eye piece assembly​
  4. commander's and gunner's control units​
  5. commander's display unit​
  6. computer control unit​
  7. commander's joy-stick hand control​
  8. digital ballistic computer, which calculates the relevant data for a firing solution​
  9. cross wind velocity sensor (first batch only)​
  10. gun elevation sensor​
  11. laser electronics box​
  12. cant angle sensor​
  13. interconnecting cable set​
The gunner also has an auxiliary telescope FERO-Z18 with a magnification of x8, mounted co-axially to the right of the main gun. An independent and fully stabilized PERI R-17 primary panoramic sight, made by Carl Zeiss and with magnifications of x2 and x8, is installed at the front of the commander's station. This sight can be traversed through 360 degrees and allows the commander to override the gunner's control if necessary. An ammunition supply hatch opening outward, is provided in the left side of the turret side. Two groups of four 76 mm Wegmann smoke mortars are mounted on either side of the turret and can be electrically fired either as single rounds or in salvos of four.
Two SEM 25/SEM35 radio sets are fitted behind the commander in the rear right of the turret bustle. The radio antennae are mounted to the left and right behind crew stations.

The engine compartment is at the rear, separated from the fighting compartment by a fireproof bulkhead. The MTU MB 873 Ka-501 liquid-cooled 47.6 litre V-12 cylinder 4-stroke exhaust turbo-charged diesel engine develops 1,104 kW (1,500 PS) at 2,600 rpm. It is started by eight 12-volt/125 Ab batteries and has a 24-volt electrical system. The Leopard 2 maximum road speed is 68 km/h, though it is limited to 50km/h during peacetime, and top reverse is 31 km/h.
Fuel consumption is estimated at around 300 litres per 100 km on roads and 500 litres per 100 km across country. The four fuel tanks have a total capacity of approximately 1,160 litres, giving a maximum road range of about 500 km. The Renk HSWL 354 hydro-kinetic planetary gearbox with integral service brake is coupled to the engine, forming a compact power pack which can be exchanged within 15 minutes. Four forward and two reverse gears are available through a torque converter, enabling the Leopard 2 to turn on the spot if required. The transmission automatically changes gear within the range pre-selected by the driver. The cooling air outlet grille is very prominent across the upper section of the rear plate, and was reinforced after the 28th vehicle built. Exhaust grilles with vertical bars are located to the left and right of the de-airation vents. A fault detection system detects any technical malfunctions. The engine/transmisson powerpack of the Leoperd 2 weighs 6120 kg.

Four 9 kg Halon fire extinguisher bottles are installed on the right behind the driver's station. The bottles are connected to pipes and hoses and are activated automatically by the fire detection system, when temperatures rise above 180° F inside the fighting compartment, or manually via a control panel in the driver's compartment. An extra 2.5 kg Halon fire extinguisher (HAL 2.5) is stored on the floor beneath the main gun. The Leopard 2 has a self-contained NBC protection system, which produces up to 4 mbar (0.004 kp/cm²) over pressure inside the vehicle.

The Leopard 2 is able to ford water obstacles 1.20 m deep (wading) without any preparation, and to ford at a depth of 2.25 m (deep wading) with special preparation. About 15 minutes preparation is required to get the tank ready for crossing water obstacles at a depth of 4 ma (underwater driving), including the fitting of a special three-piece snorkel to the commander's cupola.

Production of the second batch began in March 1982 and ended in November 1983. Of the 450 vehicles built, 248 were built by Krauss-Maffei (chassis nbr. 10211 to 10458) and 202 by MaK (chassis nbr. 20173 to 20347). The most significant changes were the deletion of the cross wind velocity sensor, and that the protection over the optical blocks at the commander's station was now faceted shape. The tank thermal sight, based on the common modules provided by Texas Instruments and built by Carl Zeiss, was now fitted to the gunner's EMES 15 primary sight and the gun control system was included in the fault detection system. The fuel filters were repositioned, considerably reducing the time required for refuelling. An external head-set connection was added to the left rear of the turret side. The racks of ammunition stowage were identical to those that were to be fitted to the M1A1 Abrams. Two foot boards were attached to the power pack, thus avoiding damage to the steering system and the electrical wiring and plugs during maintenance with the deck removed. The tow cable clamps on the rear deck were repositioned and the cables, now 5 m long, were crossed on the rear plate. Due to these numerous changes, this version was designated theLeopard 2 A1 .

The 300 Leopard 2 of the third batch were built between November 1983 and November 1984, 165 by Krauss-Maffei (chassis nbr. 10459 to 10623) and 135 by MaK (chassis nbr. 20375 to 20509). The most notable changes were the addition of a deflector, which raised the position of the commander's PERI R-17 primary panoramic sight by 50 mm, and a larger cover plate fitted on top of the NBC protection system. These modifications were subsequently also carried out to the second batch vehicles. The third batch vehicles were also designatedLeopard 2 A1 .

The fourth batch was built between December 1984 and December 1985. Of the 300 vehicles delivered, 165 were built by Krauss-Maffei (chassis nbr. 10624 to 10788), and 135 by MaK (chassis nbr. 20510 to 20644). The most significant changes were the installation of new digital SEM 80/90 VHF radios and revised exhaust grilles with circular bars. The ammunition supply hatches were welded shut (risk of leaking if turret was hit). The vehicles of this batch were designated the Leopard 2 A3 .

Leopard 2A3, Panzerbattalion 123, Panzerbrigade 12, October 1990.
Between December 1985 and March 1987, 370 vehicles were delivered, with 190 being built by Krauss-Maffei (chassis nbr. 10789 to 10979), and the remaining 180 by MaK (chassis nbr. 20645 to 20825). In this batch, the fire control was fitted with a digital core to facilitate the use of new ammunition, and to improve the crew's survivability a fire and explosion suppression system developed by Deugra was installed. The return rollers were repositioned. The turret protection level was increased to more than 700mm for KE and 1000mm for HEAT. The vehicles of this batch were designated Leopard 2 A4 .

Leopard 2A4, German Bundeswehr. (Photo: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG.)
Although only five batches were originally intended to be built, an order for a sixth batch of 150 vehicles was placed in june 1987, and 83 were built by Krauss-Maffei (chassis nbr. 10980 to 11062) and 67 by MaK (chassis nbr. 20826 to 20892), between January 1988 and May 1989. New features in this batch were the installation of maintenance-free batteries, the introduction of Diehl 570FT tracks, and the use of zinc cromate free paint. The central warning light was now installed in a small housing on the hull, in front of the driver's station, for better observation by the driver when driving head-out.The ammunition supply hatch in the left side of the turret was deleted. The vehicles of this batch were also designated Leopard 2 A4 .

Production of 100 seventh batch vehicles began in May 1989 and ended in April 1990, with 55 built by Krauss-Maffei (chassis nbr. 11063 to 11117) and 45 by MaK (chassis nbr. 20893 to 20937) . The vehicles of this batch were identical to the late sixth batch vehicles and also called Leopard 2 A4 .

Leopard 2A4 (seventh batch), Panzerbattalion 214, 7.Panzerdivision, CMTC Hohenfels, December 1995.
Between January 1991 and March 1992 75 vehicles were delivered, with 41 built by Krauss-Maffei (chassis nbr. 11118 to 11158) and 34 by MaK (chassis nbr. 20938 to 20971). Changes included slight modifications of the base mounts for the smoke mortars, and later on a collimator for the muzzle reference system was fitted to the right side of the 120 mm main gun, near the barrel's end, and was subsequently retrofitted to the vehicles of previous batches. The muzzle reference system allows a quick check for the gunner of the distortion of the gun barrel in relation to the sight optics. The vehicles of this batch were also designated Leopard 2 A4 .

The final Leopard 2 A4 of the eight batch was delivered to the Gebirgs-Panzerbattalion 8 (Mountain Tank Battalion) on 19 March 1992, in a official ceremony in Munich.

Leopard 2A4 of Panzerbattalion 393, December 1995. CMTC Hohenfels.
After delivery of the last eight batch vehicle, there were 2.125 Leopard 2 A4 in service with the Bundeswehr. The Leopard 2 was designed to meet the requirements of modern mobile combat to counter the Soviet threat to Central Europe. It used the most advanced technologies available at the time, to achieve enhanced performance, with optimal results in the combination of armor protection, firepower, and mobility; which placed it among the leaders in modern tank design.


Leopard 2A5 KWS II: new turret and third generation composite armor.
(Photo: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG.)

In a modern world the pressure for modernization is a matter of course, but in the field of military technology it is a bitter reality. With the appearence of modern and capable Soviet tanks such as the T-64 B and T-80 B, equipped with a high-performance 125 mm smoothbore gun capable of firing guided missiles, the development of an even better Leopard 2 was demanded. However, cooperation between nations over their tank industries can be difficult. After the cancellation of a joint French-German tank development project in November 1982, Germany extended the concept phase for a Leopard 3 in March 1983 to last until 1996. Several alternatives had to be examined, including production of additional Leopard 2, improvement of the Leopard 2, development of a new turret for the Leopard 2 with a crew of four or with a crew of three with an automatic loader, or still the development of an entirely new hull and turret.

The development of improved components for the Leopard 2 was finally favoured, and in 1989 the Leopard 2 KVT (Komponentenversuchsträger - component trial vehicle) was built and tested. This vehicle was fitted with additional armor, spall liners in the fighting compartment, a new electrically-driven sliding hatch for the driver, new hatches for the commander and loader, and increased reactive and passive armor on the turret roof. The EMES-15 was raised and received an armored housing, and the PERI-17, now including an independent thermal sight channel, was relocated to the left rear of the commander's section. This prototype had a total weight of 60,500 kg. After the trials, this vehicle was converted into the IVT (Instrumentenversuchsträger - experimental vehicle for instruments) and joined the IFIS (integrated command and information system) development program carried out between 1988 and 1992, which researched in cooperation with the US the more efficient way to the management and use of gathered information. After evaluation of the development tests with with the KVT, two prototypes were built in 1991 by Krauss-Maffei for the improvement program, known as KWS.

The overwhelming political changes within the Eastern Block, and the resulting decreasing defense budgets definitely modified the improvement program. An alternative improvement program was initiated, divided into three stages, and known as KWS I, KWS II, and KWS III (the Roman numerals do not denote chronological order).

KWS I consisted of the adoption of a longer L/55 120 mm main gun and the use of improved ammunition, having an increased muzzle velocity of 1,800 m/s (OBS: This program resulted in the Leopard 2 A6).

KWS II was the development of increased armor protection for the crew and improved command and control system capabilities (OBS: This program resulted in the Leopard 2 A5).

KWS III consisted of the adoption of a 140mm main gun.

Prototypes of the Leopard 2 with the 140 mm gun.
On October 1991, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Germany decided for cooperation in a development program for KWS II. The first Leopard 2 A5 were officially delivered to the German Army School on 30 November 1995. Chassis of the sixth, seventh, and eight batches were to be used for the conversion program and to receive reworked and modified turrets taken from tanks of the first four batches. Modernization of the chassis were to be carried out by Krauss-Maffei and MaK while Wegmann and Rheinmetall became responsible for the turrets.

The most significant change to the hull of the Leopard 2 A5 is the new driver's hatch, which is now electronically operated and slides to the right to open. A deflector is mounted to the left of the driver's station, with stowage brackets for camouflage support poles. A camera mounted above the rear cooling air outlet is connected to a monitor on the driver's dashboard to enable him to reverse at high speed, without needing directions for the commander. The road wheels are now made of steel, replacing those made of aluminium.

The turret front and sides are fitted with wedge-shaped add-on armor in sections, which can easily be replaced by field workshops if hit or, at a later stage, be replaced by more advanced armor. The side panels of this extra armor are hinged to swing forward, neccessary when engine is to be replaced. The gun mantlet was completely redesigned, and additional stowage boxes are fitted to the turret rear and sides. The interior of the turret is now fitted with a spall liner for improved protection against splinters. The electro-hydraulic gun control and stabilization system was replaced by an all-electric system. The optical FERO Z-18 auxiliary telescope was relocated to a position on top of the gun mantlet, and the commander's PERI-R 17 panoramic sight has been moved to the left rear of the commander's station. The commander's improved independent sight now includes a thermal channel whose image is displayed on a monitor on the commander's station. The laser range data processor was modified so that the Leopard 2 A5 can now engage helicopters with APFSDS-T ammunition, and a GPS vehicle navigation system is built in with the GPS antenna installed at the rear of the turret roof.

The additional armor has increased the combat weight of the Leopard 2 A5 to 59,500 kg, which has not affected the mobility, as the vehicle was designed to accept such an increase.


9 859 0
Nov 28, 2014
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates

Leopard 2A6, heavily camouflaged, of the German Bundeswehr, on maneuvers.
Photo: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG

The Leopard 2 A6

The Leopard 2A6 includes a longer L55 gun, an auxiliary engine, improved mine protection and an air-conditioning system. The German Army is upgrading 225 2A5 tanks to 2A6 configuration, the first of which was delivered in March 2001. The Royal Netherlands Army has ordered the upgrade of 180 of its 2A5 tanks to 2A6 configuration, the first of which entered service in February 2003.

In March 2003, the Hellenic Army of Greece ordered 170 Leopard 2 HEL (a version of the 2A6EX) for delivery between 2006 and 2009.

The Leopard 2E, of the Spanish Army, showing the extra armor on the front hull, and the new 120mm L55 gun.
Spain has ordered 219 Leopard 2E (a version of the Leopard 2A6 with greater armor protection) and 16 Leopard 2ER recovery vehicles, and four Leopard 2 driver training vehicles. The first 30 are being built by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH, and the rest will by licence-built in Spain by General Dynamics, Santa Barbara Sistemas (GDSBS). Deliveries of the first batch began in 2004 and should complete in 2008.

Leopard 2E, showing the full 130 cm increase in barrel length of the new 120mm L55 gun.
(Photo: Circulo Trubia.)
The Spanish version has some changes compared to basic A6 model beside more armor, including an Indra/KAE LINCE C2 system, Indra 2nd gen TI for gunner and TC, a new Indra 3rd gen passive scope for the driver and Spanish PR4GE (license built 2ng gen PR4G digital frequency hopping radios) with data modem for wireless secure data transmission.


The Leopard 2E - of the Spanish Army - firing the new 120mm L/55 gun.
A new smoothbore gun, the 120 millimeter L55 Gun, has been developed by Rheinmetall GmbH of Ratingen, Germany to replace the shorter 120 millimeter L44 smoothbore tank gun on the Leopard 2.

The 120 millimeter L44 gun barrel has a length of 530 cm and weighs 1,190 kg. The whole gun weighs 3,780 kg. By comparison, the 120 millimeter L55 gun barrel has a length of 660 cm and weighs 1,374 kg. The whole L55 gun weighs 4,160 kg. The extension of the barrel length from caliber length 44 to caliber length 55 (130 cm) results in a greater portion of the available energy in the barrel to be converted into projectile velocity.

An important characteristic of the new L55 gun is its compatibility with the Leopard 2 weapons system, meaning that it can be integrated without substantial alterations. The external geometry of the gun was designed to minimize the phenomenon of static sagging, as well as to achieve optimum constant curvature. With respect to both of these factors, the form of the barrel selected for the L55 plays a critical role. This was a prerequisite for the system's high first-shot hit probability. The L55 gun can fire any standard 120 mm round.

Especially when using the new DM 53 KE round, the L55 enables approximately an 30 percent increase in performance compared with conventional systems. For example, when fired from the longer barrel, the DM 53 (LKE II) KE round attains a muzzle velocity in excess of 1,750 m/s.

The L55 smoothbore gun, equipped with a thermal sleeve, a fume extractor and a muzzle reference system, is compatible with current 120mm ammunition and new high penetration ammunition.

An improved kinetic energy ammunition known as LKE II was developed as a result of a Tactical Requirement issued in November 1987, and uses the longer gun barrel. The effect of the kinetic energy projectile on an enemy target is achieved by 1) the penetrator length and projectile mass and the impact velocity and 2) the interaction between the projectile and the target. The penetrator material is heavy tungsten powder in a monoblock structure. The improved kinetic energy ammunition has higher muzzle energy and recoil forces.

Rheinmetall's latest ammunition developments for the Leopard 2 include the DM 43 A1 120mm KE cartridge, DM 53 120mm LKE cartridge and the new 120 MP cartridge.

The Leopard 2 A6 lethality effectiveness is especially due to the development, by Rheinmetall W & M, of a smoothbore gun system. Based on the military requirement for firepower enhancement, Rheinmetall W & M further improved the performance of this gun and pertaining KE-ammunition. A 130 cm increase in barrel length plus other modifications (the chamber can support higher pressure from new propellants) resulted in a higher projectile velocity and increased KE-performance. Estimated muzzle kinetic energy, firing the APFSDS DM 53 (LKE II) round, is around 18-20 megajoules (MJ). The 120 mm L55 weapon is compatible with the current MBT-types in service throughout NATO, as they can easily be retrofitted.

The New Rheinmetall 120mm L55 Gun:

The 120 mm L55 hyper-velocity gun: a 130 cm increase in barrel length plus other modifications resulted in a higher projectile velocity and increased KE-performance.
A further performance increase of the Leopard 2A6 was achieved by the introduction of the DM 53 (LKE II) tungsten long rod penetrator round. This round has a significantly higher penetrating capability than other current types of KE-rounds and is considered a guideline when equipping current or future systems. Estimated penetration performance of the DM 53 (LKE II) tungsten long rod penetrator round fired by the Rheimetall 120mm L55: 750 mm at 2000 meters.

The secondary target spectrum is covered by the other ultra-modern secondary rounds (HE and MP).


The Leopard 2A6, despite all weight gain (from Military Loading Class 60 to 70 tons) due to repeated armor protection upgrades, plus the new 120mm L55 gun, retains all the traditional maneuverability of this MBT series. Above, a Leopard 2A6 demonstrates the MBT's capability to cross a small river.
The Leopard 2 A6 is protected by third generation composite armor, with the additional reinforcement to the turret frontal and lateral armor with externally mounted add-on armor modules. In the event of weapon penetration through the armour, a spall liner reduces the number of fragments and narrows the fragment cone. The spall liner also provides noise and thermal insulation. The reinforcement provides protection against multiple strike, kinetic energy rounds and shaped charges.

The charts below show the armor protection improvements implemented on the last Leopard 2 models:

Leopard 2 A4 MBT - Estimated Armor Protection Levels (Late 1990's)
Leopard 2 A4
Against Kinetic Energy
(in mm of RHAe)

Against Chemical Energy
(in mm of RHAe)​

590 - 690
810 - 1,290​


Lower Front Hull

RHAe = Rolled Homogeneous Armor Equivalent; an equivalent RHA thickness of a given armor type against a given armor piercing ammunition or missile (i.e. Kinetic Energy penetrators, like APFSDS DU long-rod penetrators or Chemical Energy projectiles, like HEAT ammunition and ATGM's). Modern composite (Chobham) armor may be several times more efficient against Chemical Energy than RHA of the same thickness.
Source: Tank Protection Levels web site.

Leopard 2 A5-A6 MBT - Estimated Armor Protection Levels (2002 - 2004)
Leopard 2 A5 - A6
Against Kinetic Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
Against Chemical Energy
(in mm of RHAe)​

920 - 940
1,730 - 1,960​


Lower Front Hull

RHAe = Rolled Homogeneous Armor Equivalent; an equivalent RHA thickness of a given armor type against a given armor piercing ammunition or missile (i.e. Kinetic Energy penetrators, like APFSDS DU long-rod penetrators or Chemical Energy projectiles, like HEAT ammunition and ATGM's). Modern composite (Chobham) armor may be several times more efficient against Chemical Energy than RHA of the same thickness.
Source: Tank Protection Levels web site.

The Leopard 2 A6 is one of the best protected main battle tanks in the world, standing in the same class as the US M1A2 SEP Abrams.

The new Leopard 2A7+, presented by KMW on July 14, 2010 as a new generation of one of the most successful main battle tank designs in history, incorporates a modular protection kit, increased mobility, improved sustainability, enhanced reconnaissance abilities and an even more precise deployment of its various weapons.

The Leopard 2A7+ is an upgraded Leopard 2A6 armed with the Rheinmetall 120mm L/55 smoothbore gun. It is also possible to upgrade the Leopard 2A4 or Leopard 2A5 with the older Rheinmetall 120mm L/44 gun to the latest Leopard 2A7+ standard.

The new MBT, which was tested and approved by the German Bundeswehr (which is expected to upgrade at least part of its fleet of 225 Leopard 2A6 and 125 Leopard 2A5 to this standard, funds permitting), brings to the scene a new concept in modularity, providing a weapons system that actually allows operations in urban terrain as well as high intensity operations.

Next to the unmatched IED and mine protection, the modular protection concept allows for additional passive armor over the frontal arc, as well as along the sides of the hull and turret, plus the integration of an urban operations kit that also offers a 360 degrees protection against RPG's.

Target oriented firepower

The capability to fire the new programmable 120mm HE-round (for the Rheinmetall 120mm L/55 smoothbore gun) enables the crew to engage targets behind cover and within buildings. Fitted with KMW’s FLW 200 Remote Controlled Weapon Station (RCWS) armed with a .50 MG and 76mm grenade launchers, which is operable under protection, the LEOAPRD 2 A7+ is assertive in both built-up and non-built-up terrain.

Increased mobility

The LEOPARD 2 A7+ benefits from an increased mobility by a newly developed final drive, a new track, enhanced torsion bars, an improved brake-system and an adaptable dozer blade to clear obstacles for following vehicles.

Enhanced sustainability

Furthermore it is equipped with a high-performance cooling unit and an APU (auxiliary power unit) to accomplish a 24-hour battle day. The redesigned operational concept allows the crew to utilize the new capabilities efficiently.

Leopard 2A7: Outstanding performance in either urban or high-intensity operations.
(Photo: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG.)
Enhanced reconnaissance and situational awareness

The commander and gunner benefit from the 3rd generation ATTICA™ thermal sight, near field surveillance at day and night as well as day and night cameras for the driver.

Tank damaged – crew alive

The Canadian Army uses the LEOPARD 2A6M in Afghanistan. This version corresponds to the A6 version, but it also has enhanced protection against mines and booby traps. The fact that this protection is extremely effective was demonstrated in November 2007. Taliban fighters carried out an attack on a Canadian Leopard 2A6M-CAN with a large booby trap. The tank was indeed damaged, but the entire crew survived the attack. Following a repair the Leopard 2A6M-CAN is now back in use once again.

The Leopard 1A7+ at the Eurosatory 2010. (Photo: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG.)​


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Leopard 2A6M CAN: Canadian Leopard 2A6M, adapted to meet the requirements of the Canadian Forces. The tank has add-on front armor, and slat armor is installed. Leopard 2A6M is a state of the art model, that includes an integrated mine protection, with increased armor on and under the lower front hull, and the underbelly, plus a new redesigned crew compartment, which increases survivability. The 20 Leopard 2A6M CAN, delivered on August, 2007, were loaned by the Canadian Forces from Germany, to increase the effectiveness of Canadian units deployed in Afghanistan. Canada will also buy 100 Leopard 2A4 tanks, as a result of a government-to-government agreement between the Netherlands and Canadian governments. This acquisition will meet the long-term requirements of the Canadian Forces.

Leopard 2A4, 41(NL) Tankbataljon, 41(NL) Lichte Brigade, Weser-Emsland, June 1993.​

Swiss Pz87 : The Pz 87 Leopard 2 differs from its German counterpart in having a slightly altered turret rear, with a slope at the rear left side, and an additional stowage box for the camouflage net on the right turret rear. On the left turret rear is a box containing the external head-set connection for the crew's intercomm. Swiss-made WF Bern 7.5 mm MG 87 machine guns are installed, one mounted co-axially to the main gun, and one fitted to the loader's station on a Swiss-built MG mount for air-defense. AN/VCR 12 radios of US design, produced under license, are installed. On the left and right sides of the turret, next to the Nebelwerfer 87 smoke mortars, are two tubular cases for interim storage of hot exchanged machine guns barrels. Three grousers are stowed on the left turret side and a further seven on the right, which with the 18 carried on the bow brings the total to 28 grousers for use on soft or snowy ground instead of the same number of rubber track pads. Switzerland introduced the extra noise-reducing exhaust mufflers, attached to the vehicle's rear, for its entire fleet of KPz 87. All Pz87 carry the standard German camouflage scheme. Switzerland participated in the tri-lateral KWS II improvement program, and so will upgrade its Pz87 to the Leopard 2 A5 in the next century.

Dutch Leopard 2 : The Leopard 2 NL differs from its German counterpart in having a Dutch-designed smoke mortar system with six barrels on each side, a Dutch-built passive night periscope for the driver, a 7.62 mm FN MAG machine gun installed co-axially to the main gun and one further MAG for air defense, and Philips radios with US-style antenna bases. In January 1993, the Royal Netherlands Army announced plans to phase out 115 of its 445 Leopard 2 NL, which were sold to Austria, and to upgrade the remaining 330 vehicles to the standard of the German Leopard 2 A5. The first improved Leopard 2 NL were delivered to the Royal Netherlands Army in May 1997. These vehicles use the same German camouflage scheme, but retain the Dutch radios, antenna bases, FN MAG machine guns and smoke mortars. The Royal Netherlands Army has ordered the upgrade of 180 of its 2A5 tanks to 2A6 configuration, the first of which entered service in February 2003.

Leopard 2A5/Leopard 2 (Improved) : Upgrade with spaced armor added to turret front, and increased armor on hull and side skirts. Other improvements include improved stabilization, suspension, navigation, fire control, and hatch design.

The Leopard 2E, of the Spanish Army.
Leopard 2E : A derivative of the version 2A6 (with greater armor protection), developed under a program of co manufacture between the industries of Spain and Germany. The program is developed within the frame of collaboration decided in 1995 between the Ministries of Defense of both countries, in which also was included the cession of use by a period of five years of 108 Leopard 2A4 from the German Army to the Spanish Army. However, this cession was extended up to 2016, and after that those tanks will be of the Spanish Army. In 1998, the Spanish government agreed to contract 219 tanks of the Leopard 2E line, 16 recovery tanks (CREC) and 4 training vehicles. They choose Santa Bárbara Sistemas as the main contractor. The program, with a budget of 1,939.4 million Euros, includes also the integrated logistical support, training courses for crew instructors and maintenance engineers and driving, tower, maintenance, aiming and shooting simulators. The first 30 Leopard 2E are being built by KMW and the rest will be license-built in Spain by General Dynamics, Santa Barbara Sistemas (GDSBS). Deliveries of the first batch began in 2004 and should complete in 2008.

Stridsvagn (Strv) 121 : In 1994 and 1995 a total of 160 Leopards 2 A4 of the first five batches, taken from the German stocks were delivered to the Swedish Army. Officially designated the Stridsvagn 121, the first vehicle arrived in Sweden in February 1994. There were no noticeable changes or modifications carried out to these vehicles, used by the Swedish mechanized brigades.

The Stridsvagn (Strv) 122.
Stridsvagn (Strv) 122 : The Swedish Defense Materiel Administration (FMV) signed a contract with Krauss-Maffei for the manufacture and delivery of 120 Leopard 2-S officially designated as the Stridsvagn 122 by the Swedish Army. The contract also includes the supply of training, maintenance, spare parts, documentation, simulators, and an option to purchase 90 additional Strv 122, Bueffel ARV as well as interfaces for equipment already used by the Swedish Army. While Krauss-Maffei is the prime contractor, the chassis was sub-contracted to Hägglunds in Sweden. Wegmann, the prime contractor for the turret, sub-contracted the work to Bofors, and work for the fire control system was sub-contracted from STN Atlas Elektronik (formerly Krupp Atlas Elektronik, KAE) to Celsius Tech Systems AB in Sweden. Bofors will also manufacture 50 per cent of the 120 mm main guns, while Rheinmetall will produce the other half.

The Stridsvagn 122 is one of the most sophisticated versions of the Leopard 2 in current service. The front hull and glacis are fitted with additional armor plates, and the inside of the tank is completely surrounded by liner, to reduce the effects of being hit by projectiles, hollow charges or fragments. For night driving the driver uses the same type of passive night sight used by the CV 90 Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Due to the heavier combat weight of 62,000 kg, compared to the 59,500 kg of the German Leopard 2 A5, stronger torsion bars (derived from the ones used with the Panzerhaubitze 2000) are installed and reinforced brake disks are provided. All fuel tanks have a special additional explosion-supressing filling liquid. The engine compartment is constantly cooled to reduce the IR signature, and heat sensors installed in the engine compartment would automatically cut off fan and air intake operation if the Strv 122 should come under attack by napalm. the roadwheels are fitted with armored wheel hubs.

The turret front and sides have the same wedge-shaped add-on armor as the Leopard 2 A5 but, unlike the latter, the turret roof and the commander's and loader's hatches are also up-armored. Due to the extra weight, both turret hatches were of the electrically-driven sliding type, but this was abandoned because of the problem of opening the hatches if there was a power out. Now the turret hatches are handcrancked with a gear, so its no problem to operate them even if the tank is in a bad angle. The commander's periscope has an manually operated protective flap, which would fold up to protect the optic when desired and rests in front of it when not in use. The digital fire control computer carries data for up to 12 different rounds, including APFSDS-T, HEAT-MP-T, HEAT-GP, smoke, anti-helicopter and training ammunition. However, at the time this is being written (August, 2001), only five types of ammunition are being used: 120mm APFSDS-T, 120mm HE-T, 25mm APFSDS-T, 25mm HE, and 120 mm TPFSDS-T. The 25mm is for a barrel insert system, and used for basic training on closer fire ranges. Smoke, HEAT and helicopter rounds are not in use. The helicopter round is under development.

The laser rangefinder integrated in the EMES-15 uses the eye-safe Raman-shifted laser. The Strv 122 is the first MBT in Europe equipped with the advanced tank command and control system (TCCS). On the left and right sides of the turret the GIAT Industries GALIX vehicle protection system with 80 mm calibre mortars is installed, able to launch smoke, decoy, flare and fragmentation rounds. There are 36 grousers (snowgrips), 18 for each track, for use on soft ground instead of the same number of rubber track pads.There are 18 grousers stored on the back of the turret and 18 are stored inside the left turret. The Stridsvagn 122 is painted in a disruptive camouflage scheme of green, light green, and black colors.

The new Stridsvagn 122B : During the years of 1997 to 2002, Leopard 2-S MBTs, called Strv. 122 in Sweden, were being delivered to the Swedish Armed Forces. The originally German tank is one of the world's most powerful war machines but after carrying out a few tests, FMV ( Försvarets Materielverk - Swedish Defense Materiel Administration; Procurement Agency for the Swedish Armed Forces) found the tank was lacking in some areas when it came to protection. With the intent to fill up this gap, FMV carried out tests in order to find out how protected the tank was underneath. The results weren't satisfactory and FMV contacted its German equivalent and started the discussion of the problem. Within shortly, Switzerland and Holland were also interested. The goal was to develop a mine protection package for better chances of crew survival.

As a result, a new project was started, where Sweden's area of responsibility was verification and validation, which involved setting requirements and making sure they are met. Holland took care of computer simulation, with animations and calculating forces. Switzerland's role was to made sure the ergonomics and other requirements were being met after the modifications. Germany responsibility was to lead the project's group.

In order to have a fully-functional mine protection, several modifications to the original MBT were needed. The basic requirement was that it would protect the crew from reasonably-sized pressure-activated mines as well as those that use shaped charges designed to penetrate armor. The goal was not only to have the crew survive a blast, but also to be able to successfully get out of the vehicle afterwards.

The primary concern was to protect the driver's seat. The solution was a 'web' design made from fabric and is actually worn on the body, similar to a parachute. All the driver need to do once he is using it on is hook himself to the six belts which have been fitted in the driver's compartment. The basic principle is that the driver should have no contact at all with the floor of the tank. Even though the floor and bottom are reinforced with the new armor plate specifically designed to protect against mines, the risk of injury or death could not be eliminated if the driver's seat have kept bolted to the floor. The other modifications are not as evident as this one, but together they help form a safer work environment for the crew.

This new mine protection kit is being offered by Krauss Maffei Wegmann. Even though five countries have split the costs of the project, so far only Sweden and Germany have carried out the modifications on part of its Leopard 2 fleet. Germany has purchased 70 units while Sweden has purchased 10 units. Today the modified Strv. 122s, designated Strv. 122B, stand ready to participate in international missions and in the future Nordic Battle Group. A cost-effective and successful project was implemented.

Austrian Leopard 2 : In 1997 Austria purchased 115 Leopard 2 formerly used by and phased out by the Royal Netherlands Army.

Danish Leopard 2 : In July 1997 a contract was signed between Danish officials and Krauss-Maffei for the delivery of 52 Leopard 2 A4 from German stocks. By 29th of June 2000 the Danish Army Command signed a contract with Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, concerning the upgrade of 51 Leopard 2 A4 to Leopard 2 A5 DK standard. The project is worth 855 mill. DKr. The tanks are to be part of The Danish Reaction Brigade. The A5 are expected to be operative until 2025. The first A5 was handed over to the Army Material Command on the 24th of September 2002. The requirement was that the new Leopard 2 A5 DK should be of the standard of Leopard 1 A5 DK (SFOR). The configuration is based on the German/Dutch "Mannheimer-configuration" and the improvements made on the Swedish S 122. The upgraded Leopard 2 A5 DK will be equal to the German/Dutch Leopard 2 A5 with the specific purpose of being able to share training, logistical and technical expertise with other users of Leopard 2 A5.

The Danish Leopard 2 A5 will have more improvements than the German/Dutch tanks, and will use the improvements made with the Leopard 1 A5 DK (SFOR). Key elements of the upgrade are: - Improvement of the passive protection of the crew and the tank. - Improvement of the TC's working environment and his possibilities of using the tank in different circumstances. - Technical upgrading as required when adding/replacing armor. - Arrangements to ensure future upgrading of the tank. - Other improvements. Passive protection: - The Leopard 2 A4 configuration with the main and secondary sights are closed with new armor-modules. The gun mantlet was made narrower to make room for the armored modules which are placed on the front of the turret and the forward part of the sides of the turret. - On the hull, the existing composite armor are replaced with improved composite armor and additional armor are placed on the front.

The skirts are replaced with a new type. The drivers hatch are replaced with a new hatch which will be somewhat heavier. The new type of hatch will be a slide-type of hatch. The bearings of the road wheels will be of a new type witch are armored. On the inside both turret and hull will be fitted with spall-liners to protect against fragments. The protection of the hull differs from the Mannheimer-configuration where there are no replacements of the armor in the hull. This is manly due to the late batch of hulls where the protection is somewhat better than the hulls of the Danish Leopard 2 A4. Further improvements - Leopard 2A5 DK : Due to the increased weight of the turret and the lessons learnt during the Gulf War the Leopard 2 A5 DK are fitted with a 100% electrical system for turning the turret, stabilizing the gun etc. The system is capable of supporting a latter upgrade of the gun to 120 mm L55 or a 140 mm gun, and an additional armor on the top of the turret. - The angulated head of the gunners primary sight will be moved on to the top of the turret. The TC will be able to see the gunners sight on a monitor through the Charge-Coupled-Device (CCD).

The secondary sight of the gunner will be moved as to make it possible to put additional armor on the front of the turret, as mention above. - The commanders sight are moved to the rear of his cupola and will be fitted with stabilized sight with both daylight and thermal sights. The sights will be delivered by Elop Electro-Optics Industries, a subsidiary to Elbit Systems Israel. The contract is worth $3 million and runs over a period of two years. - The weight of the tank will increase to around 61 tons (MLC 70) instead of the 55 tons (MLC 60). - The tank will be fitted with an hybrid-navigational system based on the GPS-system, backed up by an inertial navigational system. The system will be prepared for future identification systems. - On the rear of the tank a camera will be mounted, witch will enable the driver to back up without the aid of the TC (only in daylight or twilight). - The cooling air of the engine are rerouted so as to ensure a further low thermal signature with no cooling are to be wended to the sides only in the back of the tank. - Furthermore the vehicle will be fitted with an electrical generator to help keeping the cooling system (air-condition and turret) with electricity.

Also, this will enable the tank to be fitted with some kind of battlefield management system in the future. - As mention above the tank will have an air-conditioning system, and an explosion suppression system. The engine compartment will be protected a fully automated system to protect against napalm. - The fuel tanks are protected against explosions as with the Leopard 1 A5 DK (SFOR). The upgrading will take place in Munich (hull) and Kassel (turret). Source: Danish Army Vehicles Homepage. By November 2002, 18 Leopard 2A5 DK were ready for test and training. The Danish Army should have all its MBT units equipped with the new Leopard 2A5 DK by 2025. (Special thanks to Thomas Dysted for the update!)

The latest version of the Leopard MBT is the Leopard 2 A6 EX.
(Photo: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG.)​

Leopard 2 A6 (EX): As its newest Leopard 2 variant, KMW is presenting the Leopard 2 A6 EX MBT, which includes the longer L/55 gun, an auxiliary engine, improved mine protection and an air-conditioning system. Superior firepower is guaranteed by the 120 mm smooth-bore gun of the Leopard 2 A6 EX. The development of the L/55 gun, a more powerful, longer version of the main armament and newly developed types of ammunition provide better penetrating power and permit target engagement at longer ranges. The German Army is upgrading 225 Leopard 2A5 tanks to the A6 configuration, the first of which was delivered in March 2001. The Royal Netherlands Army has ordered the upgrade of 180 of its Leopard 2A5 tanks to the A6 configuration, the first of which entered service in February 2003.

Leopard 2HEL, of the Hellenic Army of Greece - as a variant of the Leopard 2A6, this Main Battle Tank is also equipped with the new Rheimetall 120mm L55 gun.
Leopard 2HEL (Hellenic): In March 2002, the Hellenic Army of Greece announced that it had selected the Leopard 2 GR (a variation of the Leopard 2 A6), with a requirement for 170 tanks, to be delivered between 2006 and 2009, as well as the aquisition of 183 Leopard 2A4, from the Bundeswehr. The first units of the Leopard 2HEL were delivered in March, 2006.

Other countries using Leopard 2 tanks: The Norwegian Army bought 52 used Leopard 2A4 MBT's from the Dutch Army. The agreement was signed February 8 2001 and is worth 1,5 billion NOK. The first tanks was delivered in December 2001. The German produced tanks were build for the Dutch Army from 1983 to 1985, and have been slightly used (Source: Scandinavian Armor Website).

The Finnish Army is buying 124 and the Polish Army 128 used Leopard 2A4 tanks from Germany.

In connection with the transfer to Turkey of 298 surplus Leopard 2 main battle tanks from the Bundeswehr inventory, Rheimetall Defence received an order in December 2005 to supply Turkey with some 15,000 rounds of 120 mm KE ammunition (the DM 63, including practice ammunition). The order is worth around EUR 46 million. Delivery will take place during period July 2006 to June 2007 (Source: Rheinmetall DeTec AG).


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Leopard 2 Fahrschulpanzer (Photo:​

The Driver Training Tank (Fahrschulpanzer)
In addition to theoretical education and simulator driving, the Bundeswehr uses 31 Leopard 2 training tanks, which were delivered in two batches.The first batch of 22 vehicles, of which eight were built by Krauss-Maffei and 14 by Mak (chassis nbr. 19001 to 19022), was delivered between February and September 1986. The chassis were taken from current production and are therefore equivalent to those of the fifth batch. The second batch of nine vehicles, of which five were built by Krauss-Maffei and four by Mak (chassis nbr. 19023 to 19031), were delivered between January and April 1989; their chassis are equivalent to the sixth batch with the new side skirt forward sections.The driver training tank is essentially a regular Leopard 2 MBT with its turret replaced by a special observation cabin, with a dummy gun and extra weight to simulate that of an MBT turret.The instructor, with appropriate devices to override the trainee driver seated in the hull, sits in the front seat of the observation cabin. Two additional seats in the "glasshouse" provide space for pupils to observe. The Netherlands have 20 driver training tanks in operation, Switzerland uses three, and the Spanish Army uses four (info courtesy of Fernando Albarracin).​

The Bueffel Armored Recovery Vehicle. (Photo: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG).​

Bergepanzer 3 'Bueffel' ARV
The first component studies for a new armored recovery vehicle (ARV), planned to the maintenance support for the new Leopard 2 which was soon to enter service, began in 1977. On the introduction of the Leopard 2 it soon became apparent that the Bergepanzer 2 A2 ARV (based on the Leopard 1 chassis) would not be powerful enough to provide adequate maintenance support under 24 hour combat conditions, so a development program for a new ARV was launched.
The first experimental vehicle with a similar layout to th Bergepanzer 2 A2 and a wooden mock-up for an alternative internal lay-out, were ready in 1986. Two prototypes were ordered in 1987 and the experimental vehicle built up to the prototypes standard. The three prototypes were delivered in 1988 and underwent intensive tests, and in 1990 an order was placed for 75 Bergepanzer 3 'Bueffel' (Buffalo) ARV for the Bundeswehr and 25 Bergingstank 600 kN Bueffel for the Royal Netherlands Army (RNLA).​

MaK Systemgesellschaft mbH in Kiel was selected as the main contractor. Production was shared between MaK, with 55 vehicles built, and Krauss-Maffei, with 45 built.

The Bergepanzer 3 Bueffel armored recovery vehicle is based on the chassis of the Leopard 2. The driver sits on the superstructure front with the commander behind him. Three large doors provide access to the inside of the vehicle. A fire extinguishing and suppression system, an NBC protection system, and deep fording equipment with bilge pumps are provided. For night driving the driver can replace one of his periscopes with a passive night sight. During peacetime the Bergepanzer 3 is operated by a crew of two, although space for a third crew member is provided. The engine compartment is at the rear, and the Bueffel uses the same powerpack of the Leopard 2.

A large crane, with a lifting capacity of 30,000 kg. is installed at the right forward of the vehicle, the jib can be traversed 270 degrees. The crane has an electronic momentum limiter, which constantly calculates jib elevation, vehicle tilt, and load mass to prevent overloading. A Rotzler Treibmatic TR 650/3 winch is installed in the vehicle's forward section with an effective cable length of 180 m (33 mm in diameter) and the capacity to pull up to 35,000 kg, which can be doubled by using a pulley tackle.

A complete powerpack can be carried in a special cradle on the engine deck. The large dozer/support blade at the front is lowered as a support to stabilize the ARV during winching or crane operation. The blade can also be used for obstacle and clearence or dozing operations. The Bueffel is equipped with a suspension lockout system. Electrical cutting and welding equipment is also provided. Further equipment includes various couplings and towbars, rapid connect and disconnect couplings for towing, and a self-recovery system. Armament consist of a 7.62 mm MG3 machine gun, primarily used for air defense, and 16 70 mm smoke mortars, with eight fitted in two groups of four at the front and eight in a row at the rear of the vehicle.

Combat weight is 54,000 kg and the Bueffel has a towing capacity of 62,000 kg (MLC 70). Maximum achievable speed is 68 km/h, and 30 km/h in 2nd reverse gear. With a fuel capacity of 1,629 litres, the Bueffel has a maximum range of 650 km on roads and 325 km on across country. The Bueffel is capable of changing the powerpack of a Leopard 2 A4 in about 25 minutes, and with the Leopard 2 A5 about 35 minutes are required. There are 75 Bergepanzer 3 Bueffel being used by the German Bundeswehr, plus 25 in the Netherlands, 14 in Sweden, 16 in Spain, 25 in Switzerland. There more contracts for 12 to Greece, 150 to Korea (where Bergepanzer 3 components - like the crane, dozer/support blade, etc. - are installed on the Korean K1 MBT chassis, resulting in the K1 ARV), 46 to the UAE, and 22 to France (in both the UAE and France cases, Bergapanzer 3 components are installed on the French Leclerc MBT chassis, resulting in the Leclerc ARV).

In addition to these, there is an improved version of the Bergepanzer 3 Bueffel, deveoped for the Swedish Army, the Bgbv 120. This model, in comparison with the armoured recovery vehicle BUFFALO, encompass tactical as well as technical improvements. The Swedish armoured recovery vehicle is provided with an improved ballistic protection including an integrated interior liner protection, a reduced IR signature, a command and control as well as a navigation system, a new weapon station (2048 HYM) and a GALIX launcher system for self-protection. Furthermore, the vehicle has a recovery system with rear-view camera for recovery operations under armour protection, an increased crane system working range, a 1.5 t auxiliary winch and an increased tripple pull performance of the main winch (35 t single pull). After intensive and successful trials with the German armoured recovery vehicle BUFFALO in Sweden, the company was awarded the contract for the manufacture of 14 vehicles for Sweden. Source: Rheinmetall DeTec AG.

The Bueffel is capable of lifting 30,000 kg. and change the Leopard 2A5 powerpack within 35 minutes. (Photo: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG).​

Leguan Modular Bridge System (Panzerschnellbrücke 2) on Leopard 2
The Modular Bridge System (PSB2), developed for the Netherlands and German Armies, holds three bridges/bridge modules of 9.7 meters each. This enables the laying of several different combinations of bridges: 3 x 9.7 meters; 1 x 9.7 meters, 1 x 18.7 meters; and 1 x 27.7 meters. With a crew of one driver and one operator the bridges can be laid in approximately 3, 5 and 6 minutes respectively. The bridge modules are 4m wide, 0.65m in height and weigh 5000kg each. Carrying capacity allows for MLC 70 Standard Load (tracked vehicles) and MLC 100 Caution Crossing (wheeled vehicles). There are contracts of 35 vehicles for the German Bundeswehr and 14 for the Netherlands.​

The Leguan Modular Bridge System (Panzerschnellbrücke 2), with the 3 x 9.7 meters bridges combination. (Photo: MAN Mobile Bridges GmbH ).​

Main performance specifications for the new PSB 2 armoured vehicle launched bridge / Bruglegger MLC70 for the German/Dutch armed forces:
1. Military load class MLC 70/100 for the bridge
2. Modular bridge system, comprising three bridge modules @ 9.7 m
Bridge combinations of 3 x 9.7 m; 1 x 9.7 m plus 1 x 18.7 m; 1 x 27.7 m
3. Launching under armoured protection
4. Horizontal launching
5. Launching times from 5 min (short-span bridge) to around 10 min (long-span bridge)
6. Interoperability with allied armed forces
7. Same protection and mobility as Leopard II A 5 main battle tank
8. Classification of the overall system in military load class MLC 70
9. Service life of 30 years, including 10000 crossings and 3000 launchings
10. Modern reconnaissance and guidance systems​

Overall technical concept of the PSB2 / Bruglegger MLC 70:
A characteristic feature of the launching equipment is the parallelogram, formed in its basic position by the laying arm cylinder, laying arm, front arm and hull components, which can be moved by means of the front arm cylinder. The launching equipment draws the bridge modules from the rear "bridge magazine" according to the bridge length required, with the appropriate magazine levels being accessed by lowering the parallelogram. A rigid connection between two bridge modules is established automatically by the launching equipment moving the module ends one against the another. In the process, the deck plate lifters are brought into the upright position, and at the same time the ramp deck plates are raised to their coupling and service position. A crucial requirement when establishing the concept for the launching equipment was to optimize the system with regard to the launching times for the cases of use that, statistically, occur most frequently, in other words the launching of short-span bridges. For these cases only the vehicle supports are needed.​

A Leopard 2A4 main battle tank over the Panzerschnellbrücke 2 (MLC 70). Photo: Bundeswehr.
The main support system has to be activated solely when launching medium - and long-span bridges. The detachment of the bridges from the launching equipment takes place similar to the method used for the Biber armored vehicle launched bridge, i.e. by disengaging the roller carriages from the bridge rail. Source: Armed Forces International web site.

Panzerschnellbrücke 2

Technical data:

Total weight: 62,5 t

Height: 3,95 m

Width: 4,0 m

Length with bridge: 13,89 m

Crew: 2 men

Bridge: Bridge weight 3 x 5.040 kg

The Panzerschnellbrücke 2 - Leguan Modular Bridge System.​

Special Thanks to: Fernando Albarracin.

Pionierpanzer 3 Kodiak. Photo: Rheinmetall AG.​

Leopard 2 AEV (Pionierpanzer 3 Kodiak).

The Pionierpanzer 3 (PiPz 3) Kodiak is a newly developed armored combat engineer vehicle which meets the increased requirements of modern armed forces through enhanced effectiveness and functionality. It combines ultramodern combat engineer-specific technology with the proven components of the Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank.

- Building and removal of obstacles;
- Mine breaching;
- Relief missions and missions in disaster areas.

- Switzerland;
- Potential with all Leopard 2 MBT users.

Main features:

Leopard 2 MBT chassis;
Hinged excavator in center position;
Tiltable dozer system with adjustable cutting angle;
2 x 9 t capstan winch (double quadruple link up to 62 t);
Mine breaching (or mine clearing) kit;
Military Loading Class 70 (MLC 70).

Technical data:

Length: 10.20 meters.
Width: 3.54 meters.
Height: 2.30 meters.

Source: Rheinmetall DeTec AG.

Pionierpanzer 3 Kodiak with mine-plough. Photo: Swiss Army.​

The Pionierpanzer 3 Kodiak can also de used as minefield clearing armored vehicle, as the dozer blade can be changed for a full-width mine plough. Whatever configuration is used (for instance, the inclusion of anti-mine protection devices) the Pionierpanzer 3 is guaranteed to stay within the weight limits of the Military Loading Class 70 (MLC 70).

Since the prototype rolled out in autumn 2003, the system has already been tested by Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark. Additional trials, for example in Sweden, are currently under preparation. A number of nations are already considering procuring the AEV Kodiak, and the consortium is looking forward to signing the first full-scale production contract in the near future.

The Panzerpionier 3 Kodiak provides combat engineers with a multifunctional tool not unlike the famous "Swiss Army Knife": based on a Leopard 2 chassis (including anti-mine protection), the Kodiak is equipped with a hinged excavator, two capstan winches and a tiltable dozer blade which can be exchanged for a mine plough.

Pionierpanzer 3 Kodiak, of the Swiss Army. Photo: Swissmotor web site.

The Kodiak is also very useful off the battlefield, for example in disaster relief operations following hurricanes, earthquakes or floods, as well as in post-conflict reconstruction scenarios. Source: Rheinmetall-DeTec AG.

Leopard 2 PSO Technology Demonstrator - New threats call for new responses.
Photo: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG

The political security situation of the 21st century has changed from what it was. The world is no longer divided into east and west, the German armed forces and their allies in NATO are no longer just there to deal with the war on two fronts and the potential enemy has become militarily unpredictable. Today conflicts are spread around the globe, are usually confined to regions and are often the result of states collapsing politically. The threat does not necessarily come from an army; it could come from organized fundamentalists, terrorists and even from individuals. For peacemaking and peacekeeping deployments, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann is designing the LEOPARD 2 for Peace Support Operations (PSO). Military assertiveness and sustainability, highly mobile and extremely well protected, it is a tank that is also suitable for use against single targets and optimally so in both built-up and non-built-up terrain. KMW will be presenting the first demo LEOPARD 2 PSO - mainly financed from its own funds - at the 2006 Eurosatory.

With the LEOPARD 2 family vehicles, the armed forces of 13 countries are provided with a highly developed system whose capabilities will now be adapted for urban operation and asymmetric threats. The recent conflicts have more than demonstrated how necessary main battle tanks are as a means of escalation and de-escalation. Nevertheless capability gaps have arisen which the LEOPARD 2 PSO will now close. That is why the new LEOPARD 2 variant concentrates on those components that allow it to accomplish assignments in urban areas and asymmetric threats. They include highly effective all-round protection, a secondary weapon station that is operable under protection, an option for equipping with non-lethal effective means, a high-performance camera system for close observation, an enhanced reconnaissance ability, search light and a dozer-blade for barricade removal.

Peacemaking and peacekeeping operations will in future become crucially for the armed forces. The upheavals in eastern Europe globally shifted the power structure and new flashpoints have arisen in our multipolar world. Organized crime, international terrorism and the narcotics trade provide just some examples threatening the safety and security not only of individual regions but also, in the last resort, of the whole world. Thus the armed forces need military capabilities that are adapted to the various needs - particularly in terms of highly intensive simultaneous and close-quarter operations against all armored targets and extending to stabilizing steps and humanitarian aid in the sense of a three block war. The military assertiveness even in urban operations is made possible by high tech equipment and optimum weapon deployment covering the entire assignment spectrum. To this end the LEOPARD 2 - the synonym for cutting-edge main battle tank technology across the world - is adapted to the today's and tomorrows threats.

The idea is for the crew to act independently on the spot and yet be protected to the highest possible degree. The threat is asymmetrical and can come from all sides: anti-tank mines, hand-held weapons, grenades, IEDs (improvised explosive devices) to name just a few. Aside from the extremely high all-round and mine protection system, the LEOPARD 2 PSO therefore has additional components making it highly suitable for deployment in urban areas under all climatic conditions. It has a high-performance cooling unit, APU (auxiliary power unit), modern guiding systems and is equipped for a 24-hour battle day. For optimum observation by day and night, the LEOAPRD 2 PSO is also fitted out with a 360( camera system, the most up-to-date IR equipment and an outside communication point for the infantry.

The visible presence alone of the armed forces in areas being fought over has a stabilizing effect. The requirement for this, however, is having equipment and technology adapted to the deployment scenarios of today and tomorrow. Only then can a quick engagement rapidly stabilize the situation. This requirement is best met by the LEOPARD 2 for peace support operations.

The LEOPARD 2 of the 21st century

For its self-defense, the LEOPARD 2 PSO has a Type FLW 200 weapon station with integrated day and night sights on the turret, which the crew can operate remotely from a monitor in the protected interior. The weapon station has a horizontal traverse of 360°. Up and down, the FLW 200 can be moved in an arc of almost 90° overall. This allows the crew of the LEOPARD 2 PSO to defend themselves on all sides, and to observe and open fire on upper stores of urban buildings. The weapons station can be armed either with various machine-guns (light, medium, heavy) or with 40 mm automatic grenade launchers. But it can also be loaded with non-lethal ammunition, for example to bring a rebellion under control. The hydraulic rake blade, which can be raised, lowered and swiveled left and right, can also be used for this purpose.

With it, the LEOPARD 2 PSO can clear barricades or other obstacles out of the way. A special communication platform at the rear of the tank facilitates cooperation with dismounted infantry personnel. In addition, each LEOPARD 2 PSO is equipped with the IFIS guidance system. The provision of data transmission equipment and a GPS system means that the exact position of each tank is known. This makes guidance in battle easier, and minimizes the risk of firing on friendly units by mistake, because the crew of each LEOPARD 2 PSO knows where their own and the enemy troops are.

The LEOPARD 2 PSO clears the way

In order to maintain a clear overview even in confused situations, the crew can observe the immediate surroundings by means of a high-performance camera system. Monitors give the crew a 360° field of vision around the vehicle. Threats can thus be detected more quickly, and the crew can react immediately. In addition, they have a total of three modern thermal-image units and two search and sighting lights at their disposal for reconnaissance purposes.

A high-performance cooling system ensures that the climate inside the LEOPARD 2 PSO remains in a comfortable range, whether it is hot or cold outside. KMW presented the first prototype of the LEOPARD 2 PSO at the Eurosatory 2006 in Paris. Meanwhile the tank has given impressive proof of its extraordinary mobility as a so-called test carrier. Because of their intense interest in the tank, the Bundeswehr were and still are very closely involved at a conceptual level in its development, which KMW have financed entirely out of their own assets.

KMW also took into consideration the experience of the Canadian and Danish armed forces, which have already successfully deployed the LEOPARD 2 in Afghanistan. The components of the LEOPARD 2 PSO are so designed that all LEOPARD 2s that are at present in use can be upgraded to this version. In the years 2011 to 2018, the Bundeswehr intend to have a total of 150 of their LEOPARD 2s fitted with PSO components. In addition, 50 so-called UrbOp (Urban Operations) kits are to be procured; these also are also based on PSO components. This is the Bundeswehr’s reaction to the changed mission requirements that German soldiers are encountering in their conflict-prevention and crisis-containment missions, including the fight against international terrorism. With the PSO version, KMW, as the partner of the Bundeswehr, are turning the LEOPARD 2 battle tank into a weapon system that is technically fit for the 21st century.

The Leopard PSO thus combines sustainability and efficiency for MOUT (Military-Operations-in-Urban-Terrain) missions - the new range of assignments for the Allied armed forces. Source: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG.

Main Battle Tank - Leopard 2


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Main Battle Tank M1A/2 Abrams

A U.S. Army Abrams M1A1 tank takes a defensive position at a staging area during Ready Crucible in Germany, on Feb. 11, 2005. Over 50 tanks from the 1st Armor Division, Humvees, and support vehicles drove through more than 60 kilometers of German roadway and farmlands making Ready Crucible the largest movement of American armor in Germany since the 1980's. DoD photo by Richard Bumgardner, U.S. Army. Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense.

The M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank

The M1A1 Abrams in Baghdad (Operation Iraqui Freedom, 2003).

Increased Protection and Lethality: The M1A1 Abrams MBT

Improvements to the basic M1 Abrams were planned from the very beginning of its development to keep pace with the new Soviet tank designs. Thus, five models were produced. The original model, the basic M1, was produced from 1984 to January 1985. Total production: 2,374 tanks.

The second model, produced from 1984 to 1986, was the Improved Performance M1 (IPM1). The IPM1 was produced to take advantage of various improvements from the M1A1 program, before the full M1A1 was ready for production. These improvements consisted of a reinforced new suspension, various transmission modifications, improved armor protection, and the redesigned M1A1 turret gun mount and bustle rack, among others. The added weight (one ton) decreased performance only slightly.

The third model, the M1A1, or M1 with Block 1 Product Improvement, started in August 1985. In addition to the improvements fitted to the IPM1 tank, the M1A1's major asset was to be the German Rheinmetall 120mm smoothbore cannon. US studies on the gun concluded it was overly complex and expensive by American engineering standards, so a version using fewer parts was developed (such as a new coilspring recoil system, instead of an hydraulic one, like on the Rheinmetall 120mm L44), and designated the 120mm M256 gun. Along with the new gun came a number of associated changes to the fire control system.

Since the Korean War, the US Army found that the main tactical advantage in tank combat was the ability of seeing and engaging the enemy first - consequently, great emphasis was placed on getting the best acquisition technology possible, and as it turned out, the US pioneered all technologic improvements in this area, since the first image intensification night sights in the sixties, the thermal imaging during the seventies, and finally the millimeter wave multi-sensor of the nineties. The thermal sight had a dramatic effect during the Gulf War, since it enabled US tankers to see not only at night, but also through the "fog-of-war" and dismal weather conditions, like sand storms.

The M1A1 Abrams shows it's firepower, putting the 120mm M256 gun into good use, at the firing range.


The 120mm M256 gun of the M1A1 tank fires various types of ammunition, the most known being the M829A1 APFSDS-T ammunition (kinetic energy round with long rod penetrator, made of depleted uranium, with a muzzle velocity of 1,575 m/sec, and a maximum effective range of 3,500 meters, but engagement ranges approaching 4,000 meters were successfully demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm), also known as the "Silver Bullet" of Desert Storm fame. The M829A1 ammunition entered service in 1991.

The Abrams also has an onboard digital fire control computer. Range data from the laser rangefinder is transferred directly to the fire control computer, which automatically calculates the fire control solution. The data includes 1) the lead angle measurement, 2) the bend of the gun measured by the muzzle reference system of the main armament, 3) wind velocity measurement from a wind sensor on the roof of the turret and 4) the data from a pendulum static cant sensor located at the center of the turret roof.

The DU penetrator, right after leaving the gun.
Depleted uranium penetrators have density two and a half times greater than steel and provide high penetration characteristics, and a "pyrophoric" effect. When the DU penetrator hits a tank's armor, both the penetrator and armor partially liquefy under the tremendous pressure. Once the armour has been perforated, that part of the penetrator which has not melted, together with the molten armour and fragments that break away from the interior, ricochet inside the vehicle. This usually causes a fire, and if it reaches stored ammunition inside the tank, leads to catastrophic explosions.

But depleted uranium has still another important advantage. Under extreme pressure, a depleted uranium penetrator suffers adiabatic shear, meaning it breaks during penetration, but always keeping an pointed end instead of that mushroom shape that tungsten penetrators assume during the penetration process. This means that DU penetrators carve a smaller, more energy efficient pathway trough the armor it strikes. Hence the higher penetration performance of the DU penetrators compared to tungsten ones.

The new 120mm M256 gun, firing the M829A1 APFSDS-T (Armor Piercing, Fin Stabilized Sabot and Tracer) "Silver Bullet" ammunition proved to be extremely successful against Soviet and Chinese made tanks that got in the way of the M1A1 Abrams tanks during Operation Desert Storm. Other rounds include the M829 (an early version of the M829A1, which entered service by 1985), and the M830 High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT, which has a maximum effective range of 3,000 meters). Projectile (M829A1) lenght: 780 mm; weight: 4.9 Kg. Estimated penetration performance (M829A1): 610 mm at 2,000 meters.

The next generation ammunition, called 120mm APFSDS-T M829A2, entered service in 1994, and is the current armor penetrator ammunition being produced by the General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems for the 120mm M256 gun of tanks M1A1 and M1A2. It is a technology improvement over the M829A1, the "Silver Bullet" of Desert Storm fame. The new ammunition's performance gains, while classified, result from several new features. These include the use of a special manufacturing process to improve the structural quality of the depleted uranium penetrator. This, plus the use of new composites for the sabot, which, together with a new propellant, provide superior penetrator performance. Combined, these features increase the muzzle velocity of the M829A2 approximately 100 m/sec greater than the M829A1 (up to something around 1,675 m/sec), while operating at slightly lower pressure. Projectile length: 780 mm; weight: 4.6 Kg. Estimated penetration performance: 730 mm at 2,000 meters.

The 120mm APFSDS-T M829A3 is the third generation of depleted uranium armor penetrator tank rounds. It will replace the M829A1 and the M829A2 projectiles. Although its armor penetration performance is classified, this round is considered as the most powerful anti-armor ammunition in the world. The M829A3 round will provide the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams tanks with greater armor penetration capability than previous generation depleted uranium penetrator rounds while increasing accuracy, which translates as greater lethality at extended ranges. The long-rod kinetic energy penetrator weighs 10.0 Kg, and it's length is 924 mm. Muzzle Velocity: 1,555 m/sec. Estimated penetration performance: 765 mm at 2,000 meters.

The 120mm APFSDS-T M829A3 was approved for production in 2003. Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) will manufacture the composite sabot; load, assemble and pack the round; and provide logistics support. Production of the M829A3 occurs at ATK's manufacturing center of excellence in Rocket Center, West Virginia.

Newer KE penetrators like the US M829A2 and now M829A3, have been improved to defeat the armor design of Kontakt-5, used on the T-80U and T-90S main battle tanks. The M829A2 was the immediate response, developed in part to take on this new ERA type. The M829A3 is a further improvement, designed to defeat any future armor protection methods like the newer Kaktus type, which is currently only seen on prototype tanks such as the T-80UM2 "Chiorny Oriol" (Black Eagle) tank.

M1A1 HA (Heavy Armor) Abrams, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment "Brave Rifles" - Desert Storm, 1991.

Armor Protection:

The M1A1 Abrams, since the beginning, has benefitted from composite armor. Composite armor uses various materials different hardness and elasticity, heat and shock absorbing materials, layered and sandwiched together, to provide improved protection against specific threats, such as multiple-hits of Kinetic Energy (KE), and Chemical Energy (CE) ammunition. Composite passive armor is designed to absorb the energy of the impact, and prevent penetration and internal damage by the penetrating projectile or its residual effects. Composite armor is usually provided in modules or tiles, which are composed of a mosaic of hard (ceramic) materials, soft but strong (composite fibers) embedded in concrete matrixes. The frontal plan is usually covered with softer material, such as rubber or other composites, which are used to dissipate the initial impact and minimize the damage to the internal mosaic, thus retaining its multi-hit protection capability.

One of the most interesting modifications of the M1A1 series was the new armor composite including depleted uranium (DU) plate. This armor greatly increased resistance against kinetic energy rounds. During the Gulf War, M1A1 tanks could directly engage enemy tanks while in the enemy's line-of-sight with little risk from any eventual damage from incoming retaliatory fire. This means that M1A1 tanks could hit their targets, while Iraqi tanks couldn't hit, or, if they hit, couldn't damage M1A1 tanks. Also, due to DU armor, not a single US tank was penetrated from enemy fire. US tanks took many close direct hits from Iraqi Soviet-made T-72 and T-72M tanks, but enemy rounds were simply not able to penetrate the M1A1 tank's armor. The model that had this feature was called M1A1 HA (Heavy Armor), and had a protection equivalent to 600 mm against kinetic energy ammunition (APFSDS), and 1,300 mm against chemical energy warheads (ATGM's and HEAT ammunition).

The armor protection of today's M1A1 Abrams models is much better than that of the original M1A1 HA tanks that saw combat during the Gulf War (1991).

M1A1 Abrams MBT - Estimated Armor Protection Levels (1991)
M1A1HA, as deployed during the Gulf War, 1991
Against Kinetic Energy
(in mm of RHAe)

Against Chemical Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
600 - 680
1,080 - 1,320
560 - 590
510 - 800
Lower Front Hull
580 - 630
800 - 900
RHAe = Rolled Homogeneous Armor Equivalent; an equivalent RHA thickness of a given armor type against a given armor piercing ammunition or missile (i.e. Kinetic Energy penetrators, like APFSDS DU long-rod penetrators or Chemical Energy projectiles, like HEAT ammunition and ATGM's). Modern composite (Chobham) armor may be several times more efficient against Chemical Energy than RHA of the same thickness.

M1A1 Abrams MBT - Estimated Armor Protection Levels (2002)
Against Kinetic Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
Against Chemical Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
800 - 900
1,320 - 1,620
560 - 590
510 - 1,050
Lower Front Hull
580 - 650
800 - 970
RHAe = Rolled Homogeneous Armor Equivalent; an equivalent RHA thickness of a given armor type against a given armor piercing ammunition or missile (i.e. Kinetic Energy penetrators, like APFSDS DU long-rod penetrators or Chemical Energy projectiles, like HEAT ammunition and ATGM's). Modern composite (Chobham) armor may be several times more efficient against Chemical Energy than RHA of the same thickness.
Source: Tank Protection Levels web site.
During the Gulf War only 18 Abrams tanks were taken out of service due to battle damage: nine were permanent losses, and another nine suffered repairable damage, mostly from mines. Not a single Abrams crewman was lost in the conflict, while inside the protection of the M1A1's armor, by enemy fire. Casualties did occur, but in all known cases, the cause was fratricide from other US weapons. There were few reports of mechanical failure. US armor commanders maintained an unprecedented 90% operational readiness for their M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks.

The Abrams has been using Depleted Uranium (DU) armor since 1988. In 1996, a design change to the armor package was made by the Army and cut-in to production by General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) via Change Request XMPP-2083 in Oct 96 and effective with Job #1 M1A2 Phase II AUT. The use of DU armor is a primary feature that distinguishes the Abrams tank from numerous other commonly accepted equipment employed by the military and industry. The current use of the depleted uranium (DU) armor package on the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT) Heavy Armor System has been re-evaluated to determine whether the environmental impacts of its continued use remain insignificant, taking into consideration the current use of the tank and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC's) reduction in allowable radiation exposure from 500 mrem/year to 100 mrem/year for tank and maintenance crews (individual members of the public). As in already-fielded weapon system, M1 MBTs have been in production and in the field since the early 1980s. During that time, many technical, environmental and health assessments have been completed. These documents have addressed and minimized environmental impacts.

A Marine M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, with crewmen in top hatch, is parked in sandy and grassy area.
Location: Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, North Caronina, USA. Photo: Courtesy of the USMC.

M1A1 Abrams: The Backbone of the US Heavy Armored Force.

The M1A1 Abrams is still the backbone of the US heavy armored force; 4,796 M1A1 tanks were built for the US Army, 221 for the US Marines and 555 co-produced with Egypt. Egypt has ordered a further 200 M1A1 tanks with production to continue to 2005.

The M1A1 Abrams Tank Firepower Enhancement Program (FEP), a Marine Corps Systems Command initiative, is intended to increase the all weather, day and night target acquisition and engagement ranges and provide a far target location capability for the M1A1 Tank. The FEP system will include a scope of work that entails a suite of upgrades for the M1A1 Tank. These upgrades include a second-generation thermal sight and a north finding/target locating capability. The system will increase the tank crew's ability to detect, recognize, identify and accurately locate targets. Under the Firepower Enhancement Package, DRS Technologies has been awarded a contract for the GEN II TIS to upgrade US Marine Corps M1A1 tanks.

Also in production is the Tungsten Kinetic Energy Anti-Tank Ammunition, by the General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems. There are two types of tungsten ammunition available, the first being the Terminator (KEW) APFSDS-T: the "Terminator" is a close variant to the M829A1 ("Silver Bullet"). The Terminator is specifically configured for high-end performance in the hot extremes of the desert and is compatible with all standard NATO 120mm smoothbore tank cannons. The second tungsten penetrator ammunition type is the DM43A1 APFSDS-T: providing the greatest level of performance available, the DM43A1 is the product of a cooperative program between General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems and Rheinmetall GmbH of Germany, this cartridge also is compatible with all standard NATO 120mm smoothbore tank cannons.

M1A1D Abrams Main Battle Tank

M1A1 Crossing a river. Photo courtesy of Scott Cunningham

The Force XXI: Digitization and the M1A1D.

The M1A1 fleet remains the majority of the US Armor Force. The M1A1D is a digitized M1A1 that provides improved situational awareness and far target designate capability. The installation of a digital appliqué command and control package on the M1A1 is necessary to achieve Force XXI required capabilities.

Another planned improvement is replacing the analog Turret Network Box (TNB) and Hull Network Box (HNB) with new digital units to eliminate the associated obsolescence problems and to allow the introduction of a built-in-test (BIT) capability to support the Force XXI maintenance structure. Digital TNB's and HNB's also allow future electronic growth by providing unpopulated VME card slots.

In the survivability area the Army is working to develop and field a contingency armor package that is thin and lightweight, but with a high level of protection. These armor packages can be applied to either the side or front of Abrams tanks to provide additional protection as required by the mission. The Army is also seeking to fund resource upgrades to the M1A1 fire control system with the same 2nd Gen FLIR package on the M1A2.

The Army initiated an innovative M1A1 rebuild program in 1999 known as Abrams Integrated Management (AIM). In a partnership with the Anniston Army Depot in Anniston, Alabama, General Dynamics Land Systems is engaged in a refurbishment program of more than 1,000 M1A1 Abrams tanks. Under a unique partnership agreement private and public industry cooperate in the rebuilding the U.S. Army oldest M1A1's to a like-new condition by maximizing their core skills and capabilities.

The Abrams Integrated Management (AIM) Overhaul Program

The Abrams Integrated Management (AIM) Overhaul Program is an innovative teaming of the prime contractor, GDLS, and Anniston Army Depot (ANAD) to refurbish the tank to a like-new condition. The AIM Overhaul is the Army's under-funded program to sustain the nearly 7,000 Abrams Tanks as part of the total recapitalization plan. AIM is funded at 135 tanks per year which translates into a 12-year rebuild cycle for the active component. As the M1A2 fleet ages, the Army must expand AIM to include about 90 M1A2 SEPs per year beginning in 2012. With a 20-year rebuild cycle for the reserve component, the Army must implement a 90 tank per year program beginning in 2006.

Exploiting the unique strengths of both the manufacturer and the Army depot, the tank is completely remanufactured resulting in a nearly new tank. AIM Overhaul increases readiness, reduces operations and support costs, standardizes configuration, and minimally sustains the Abrams industrial base. The first M1A1s are now 15-years old and will approach 50-years old by the time the Army ultimately replaces them. With old equipment, sustainment is only part of the challenge; the Army must also maintain combat overmatch.

M1A1 tanks enter the process at Anniston Army Depot, Alabama, where the entire vehicle is completely disassembled with each component cleaned, inspected and evaluated for rebuilding, refurbishment, or complete replacement. While many of the rebuild components stay at Anniston, other parts are sent to one of several rebuild sites. These sites include General Dynamics' facilities in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Muskegon, Michigan, as well as other Army depots. Turret and hull subsystems are first worked on at Anniston and then shipped to Lima, Ohio, where the tank is reassembled, tested and accepted back into the Army's fleet.

AIM alone is a sustainment process only and does not insert new technologies nor address obsolescence. However, by exploiting the synergy created by integrating the AIM program with a viable Abrams recapitalization program, the Army has a cost-effective opportunity to apply and field these high-payoff projects. The current high-payoff projects include 2nd Generation FLIR, frontal & side armor upgrades, Vehicle Integrated Defense System (VIDS), digital turret & hull networks boxes with built-in test, and a new engine.The AIM Overhaul program is the optimum time/location to complete applied improvements. The AIM Overhaul program in its objective state will produce M1A1Ds. Currently the process applies many product improvements with some M1A1s receiving the M1A1D configuration retrofitted in the field.

The first year production of 45 tanks was completed in June 2000. Since inception the program has returned over 275 M1A1 tanks - as of November 2002 - in a like-new, zero mileage condition. The U.S. Army plans to fund the program over the next ten years at a rate of 135 tanks per year. The Army's Abrams modernization strategy includes a new tank engine program, the LV-100, the AIM program and a parts obsolesce program to reduce the operations and support costs and logistics footprint associated with the Abrams tank. These initiatives are funded by the Army to sustain its tank fleet over the next 25 years.

The M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank.

The M1A2 Abrams System Enhancement Program (SEP).
(Photo: General Dynamics)​
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The Force XXI: Maintaining Overmatch - The M1A2 SEP.

The M1A2 SEP (System Enhancemen Program), is the digital battlefield centerpiece for Army XXI. It is the heavy force vehicle that will lead Armor into the next century and transition the close combat mission to the Future Combat System (FCS). The M1A2 SEP is an improved version of the M1A2. It contains numerous improvements in command and control, lethality and reliability. The M1A2 System Enhanced Program is an upgrade to the computer core that is the essence of the M1A2 tank. The SEP upgrade includes improved processors, color and high resolution flat panel displays, increased memory capacity, user friendly Soldier Machine Interface (SMI) and an open operating system that will allow for future growth. Major improvements include the integration of the Second Generation Forward Looking Infared (2nd Gen FLIR) sight, the Under Armor Auxiliary Power Unit (UAAPU) and a Thermal Management System (TMS).

The mission of the M1A2 Abrams tank is to close with and destroy enemy forces using firepower, maneuver, and shock effect. The M1A2 is being fielded to armor battalions and cavalry squadrons of the heavy force. During the Army's current M1A2 procurement program about 1,000 older, less capable M1 series tanks will be upgraded to the M1A2 configuration and fielded to the active forces. There is currently no plan to field the M1A2 to the ARNG. In 1999, the Army started upgrading M1s to the M1A2 System Enhancement Program (SEP) configuration. This sensor also will be added to older M1A2 starting in 2001. When the SEP enter production, all older M1A2 will eventually be converted to the SEP configuration.


Further M1A2 improvements, called the System Enhancement Program (SEP), are underway to enhance the tank's digital command and control capabilities and to to improve the tank's fightability and lethality. M1A2 SEP tanks were scheduled to begin fielding in 2000. The M1A2 System Enhanced Program (SEP) is an upgrade to the computer core that is in essence of the M1A2 tank.

The SEP upgrade includes improved processors, color and high resolution flat panel displays, increased memory capacity, user friendly Soldier Machine Interface (SMI) and an open operating system that will allow for future growth. Major improvements include the integration of the Second Generation Forward Looking Infared (2nd Gen FLIR) sight, the Under Armor Auxiliary Power Unit (UAAPU) and a Thermal Management System (TMS).

The 2nd Generation Forward Looking InfraRed sighting system (2nd Gen FLIR) will replace the existing Thermal Image System (TIS) and the Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer. The incorporation of 2nd Gen FLIR into the M1A2 tank will require replacement of all 1st Gen FLIR components. From the warfighter perspective, this is one of the key improvements on the SEP.

The 2nd Gen FLIR is a fully integrated engagement-sighting system designed to provide the gunner and tank commander with significantly improved day and night target acquisition and engagement capability. This system allows 70% better acquisition, 45% quicker firing and greater accuracy. In addition, a gain of 30% greater range for target acquisition and identification will increase lethality and lessen fratricide.

The Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV) provides a hunter killer capability. The 2nd GEN FLIR is a variable power sighting system ranging from 3 or 6 power (wide field of view) for target acquisition and 13, 25 or 50 power (narrow field of view) for engaging targets at appropriate range.

Changes to the M1A2 Abrams Tank contained in the System Enhancement Program (SEP) and "M1A2 Tank FY 2000" configuration are intended to improve lethality, survivability, mobility, sustainability and provide increased situational awareness and command and control enhancements necessary to provide information superiority to the dominant maneuver force. The System Enhancement Program (SEP) allows for digital data dissemination with improved ability to optimize information based operations and maintain a relevant common picture while executing Force XXI full dimensional operation. This enhancement increases capability to control the battlefield tempo while improving lethality and survivability. Finally to ensure crew proficiency is maintained, each Armor Battalion is fielded an improved Advanced Gunnery Training System (AGTS) with state-of-the-art graphics.

A really impressive picture of a M1A2 SEP firing at night.
Photo courtesy of SSG Steven Johnson, C3-67 Armor, Fort Hood, Texas on November 11, 2000.
Click HERE to see the full-sized image!

System Enhancement Program upgrades are intended to:
  • improve target detection, recognition and identification with the addition of two 2nd generation FLIR's.​
  • incorporate an under armor auxiliary power unit to power the tank and sensor suites.​
  • incorporate a thermal management system to provide crew and electronics cooling.​
  • increase memory and processor speeds and provide full color map capability.​
  • provide compatibility with the Army Command and Control Architecture to ensure the ability to share command and control and situational awareness with all components of the combined arms team.​
The M1A2 SEP also has an improved armor package, which includes third generation steel encased depleted uranium armor, which makes it one of the best protected main battle tanks in the world. The chart below shows the estimated protection levels:

M1A2 Abrams SEP MBT - Estimated Armor Protection Levels (2002 - 2004)
Against Kinetic Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
Against Chemical Energy
(in mm of RHAe)​

940 - 960
1,320 - 1,620​

560 - 590
510 - 1,050​

Lower Front Hull
580 - 650
800 - 970​

RHAe = Rolled Homogeneous Armor Equivalent; an equivalent RHA thickness of a given armor type against a given armor piercing ammunition or missile (i.e. Kinetic Energy penetrators, like APFSDS DU long-rod penetrators or Chemical Energy projectiles, like HEAT ammunition and ATGM's). Modern composite (Chobham) armor may be several times more efficient against Chemical Energy than RHA of the same thickness.
Source: Tank Protection Levels web site.

Additional weight reduction, embedded battle command, survivability enhancement, signature management, safety improvement, and product upgrade modifications to the M1A2 will comprise the "M1A2 Tank FY 2000" configuration. Initial fielding of the M1A2 to the Army's 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, was completed in August 1998. Fielding to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Ft. Carson, Colorado is ongoing. Deliveries of the M1A2 (SEP) tank began in August 1999 and fielding began in the third quarter fiscal year 2000.

A multi-year contract for 307 M1A2 Abrams Systems Enhancement Program (SEP) tanks was awarded in March 2001 with production into 2004. The current Army plan allows for a fleet of 588 M1A2 SEP, 586 M1A2 and 4,393 M1A1 tanks. The potential exits for a retrofit program of 129 M1A2 tanks to the SEP configuration between 2004 and 2005. Initial fielding of the M1A2 to the Army's 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, was complete by August 1998. Fielding to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Ft. Carson, Colorado ended in 2000. Fielding of the M1A2 (SEP) began in spring 2000 with the 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, and continues. Rolling over of the 1st Cavalry Division's M1A2 tanks to new M1A2 (SEP) tank began in 2001 and continues.

Increased funding for Stryker and Future Combat Systems (FCS) came as a result of Army decisions in 2002 to terminate or restructure some 48 systems in the FY '04-'09 Program Objective Memorandum (POM) long-term spending plan. Among the systems terminated were: United Defense's Crusader self-propelled howitzer and the A3 upgrade for the Bradley Fighting vehicle, GD's M1A2 Abrams System Enhancement Program, Lockheed Martin's Army Tactical Missile System Block II and the associated pre-planned product improvement version of Northrop Grumman's Brilliant Anti-armor (BAT) munitions, Raytheon's Stinger missile and Improved Target Acquisition System, and Textron's Wide Area Mine. The US Army planned to procure a total of 1150 M1A2 SEP tanks, however future Army budget plans suggest that funding may not be available after 2004.

The US Army decided to cancel future production of the M1A2 SEP from FY2004, but in June 2005 ordered the upgraded of a further 60 M1A2 tanks to SEP configuration.

Under the Firepower Enhancement Package (FEP), DRS Techologies has also been awarded a contract for the GEN II TIS to upgrade US Marine Corps M1A1 tanks. GEN II TIS is based on the 480 x 4 SADA (Standard Advanced Dewar Assembly) detector. The FEP also includes an eyesafe laser rangefinder, north-finding module and precision lightweight global positioning receiver which provide targeting solutions for the new Far Target Locate (FTL) function. FTL gives accurate targeting data to a range of 8,000m with a CEP (Circular Error of Probability) of less than 35m.

The FEP also includes an eyesafe laser rangefinder, north-finding module and precision lightweight global positioning receiver which provide targeting solutions for the new far target locate (FTL) function.

The M1A2 SEP speeding up. (Photo: General Dynamics)

Continued Improvement:

While the M1A2 SEP and M1A1D provide improved combat capabilities overmatch; the Army is working to improve reliability, reduce logistical footprint, and lower Operations and Support (O&S) costs for the tank. This effort is focused on two initiatives that provide the force with the biggest "bang for the buck" in terms of O&S cost reduction, readiness improvement, and sustainment of combat overmatch. These initiatives include the following Abrams Engine Campaign and the Abrams Integrated Management Overhaul Program (AIM):

The AGT 1500 engine has served the Abrams tank well. It afforded a significant combat edge due to its lightweight, power, and stealth. However, the AGT 1500 is getting old and the fleet faces problems in maintaining this workhorse. The AGT 1500 represents 1960's technology and has been out of production since 1992. Declining reliability causes the engine to account for around 64% of the Abrams tank reparable O&S costs. The Army is focusing on the engine as a major element in easing the maintenance burden for the force while substantially reducing O&S costs.

PM Abrams has developed a two-phased program to improve engine readiness and lower costs. The first phase makes innovative use of a partnership with PM/AMC/industry to overhaul the existing AGT 1500 engine/components. This program is termed PROSE (Partnership for Reduced O&S Costs, Engine). Under PROSE, the government will "team" with the original equipment manufacturer to reengineer the production process and improve field support. The contractor provides quality parts and expert technical support, and the government (via its depots) provides the skilled labor and facilities.

The second phase of the engine initiative involves replacing the AGT 1500 engine with a new engine. There is great potential for improved tank readiness and long term O&S cost reduction in the implementation of this phase. This approach will not be cheap and will require a major decision by the Army. A 2 billion-dollar investment is required to replace the current engine with a new engine in the active component along, with a potential savings of 13 billion over the remaining life of the tank.

The PROSE process is expected to improve reliability by 30%. The benefits of the new engine are much more dramatic - the Army could achieve a 4-5 fold improvement in reliability, hopefully a 35% reduction in fuel consumption, a 42% reduction in the number of parts, and a 15-20% improvement in vehicle mobility. Life cycle engine O&S costs are projected to drop from 16 billion dollars over 30 years with the current engine to 3 billion dollars with the new engine.

Last news on the new engine: The US Army has selected Honeywell International Engines and Systems and General Electric to develop a new LV100-5 gas turbine engine for the M1A2. The new engine is lighter and smaller with rapid acceleration, quieter running and no visible exhaust.

The second piece of our O&S cost reduction strategy is the Abrams Integrated Management (AIM) program. The AIM process overhauls an old M1A1 tank to original factory standards, applying all applicable MWO's. The AIM Proof of Principle was completed in 1997, proving the cost-effectiveness of the concept and helping to define the scope. The AIM tank demonstrated an 18% O&S cost savings when compared to non-AIM tanks. The AIM overhaul concept is a cost-effective solution to address the problems of rising tank sustainment costs and increasing readiness concerns.

A series of live firing tests of the LAHAT - Laser Guided anti-tank missile developed by IAI/MBT (Israel Aircraft Industries-MBT Division) included the firing of 120mm missiles, adapted for smooth-bore guns used on Merkava Mk3, Merkava Mk4, Leopard 2A4/5/6 and M1A1/A2 Abrams tanks. The missile's trajectory can be set to match either tank (top attack) or helicopter (direct attack) engagement. Furthermore, the missile uses a tandem warhead which can defeat modern armor and reactive panels. The main warhead has a high penetration capability, defeating all known armored vehicles at high impact angles typical of top attack trajectories. The missile is designed for employment from 105mm - 120mm tank guns, as well as from launch tubes.

M1A1 Abrams firing APFSDS round.

Upgrading the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams tanks from the US M256 gun to the new Rheinmetall 120mm L55 gun: The first aspect to be considered is that the US M256 120mm gun (same as the German Rheinmetall 120mm L44 gun of the Leopard 2 - up to the A5 version - adapted to American engineering standards, and made under license in the US), firing the M829 APFSDS depleted uranium penetrator develops, within very close tolerances, the same kinetic energy as the German L55 firing tungsten penetrators (around 18-20 megajoules).

However, there are other aspects that must be considered, rather than pure kinetic energy. What has to be the first concern here - speaking about APFSDS ammunition - are both the flight phase and the penetration phase behavior of the long rod penetrator. During the flight phase the key is how stable the penetrator is and how much kinetic energy it retains. The penetration phase behavior is crucial, as this is when the kinetic energy is transferred to the target. The long rod penetretor must remain stable on impact, must resist shearing and should provide post penetration phase effects (i.e. spalling, pyrophoric effects, etc.). Because of those issues, it is not simple - as it may seem at a first glance - to replace the 120mm L44 gun with the L55. A lot of testing will have to be done to ensure the M829 (depleted uranium) munitions will behave properly when fired from the 120mm L55 gun.

Anyway, the chances are that no gun upgrade will be done on the Abrams tanks in the near future, since at the present stage of depleted uranium alloy technology the performance of the US M256 L44 gun firing the latest depleted uranium penetrators is still at least equal to that of the German Rheinmetall L55 gun firing the latest tungsten penetrators.

Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade and Below (FBCB2) program

In June 2004, DRS Technologies was awarded a contract to provide systems including rugged appliqué computers for the M1A2 Abrams tanks (and M2A3 Bradley fighting vehicles) as part of the US Army's Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade and Below (FBCB2) program.

FBCB2 is a digital battle command information system which provides enhanced interoperability and situation awareness from brigade to individual soldier that will be used in conjunction with the Army's Tactical Internet.

Tank Urban Survival Kit for M1A2 - TUSK

The M1A2 Abrams with the TUSK upgrade.
The Tank Urban Survival Kit, or TUSK, is a series of improvements to the M1A2 Abrams intended to improve fighting ability in urban environments. Historically, urban and other close battlefields have been the worst place for tanks to fight as the design of all Main Battle Tanks of the 3rd generation had to maximize the balance between armor/weight/mobility; and as a result the front armor is much stronger than that on the sides, top, or rear. However, in an urban environment, attacks can come from any direction, and attackers can get close enough to reliably hit weak points in the MBT's armor, or get sufficient elevation to hit the top armor square on.

Armor upgrades include reactive armor on the sides of the tank and slat armor (similar to that on the Stryker) on the rear to protect against rocket-propelled grenades and other shaped charge warheads.

This upgrade also includes reactive armor or explosive reactive armour (ERA), to be applied on the Abrams' side skirts, to lessen the damage from explosions caused from ATGMs warheads, exploding shells, grenades, or dropped bombs.

A gun shield and a thermal sight system are added to the loader's top-mounted 7.62 mm machine gun, and the mount for commander's .50-caliber heavy machine gun is modified to allow the weapon to be operated from within the turret with the hatch closed (the original M1 and M1A1 had this capability, but it was lost on the M1A2 due to the reconfiguration of several turret systems). An exterior telephone allows supporting infantry to communicate with the tank commander.

The TUSK system is a field-installable kit that allows tanks to be upgraded without needing to be recalled to a maintenance depot.

Revitalization of the AGT-1500 Turbine Engines:

The Total InteGrated Engine Revitalization (TIGER) is a comprehensive program for providing the U.S. Army a new way to support the aging AGT-1500 Turbine Engines of its M1 Abrams fleet. Under this program, Honeywell International Inc. will set up an approach based on full life cycle management, delivering performance-based logistics and engineering design improvements facilitating an integrated lifecycle management approach to significantly reduce operating costs while doubling the service life of overhauled AGT1500 engines from 700 to 1,400 hours.

This new approach encompasses a web-based database and special in-use monitoring systems, using field data to more accurately determine maintenance needs and provide Army units with detailed, timely information about the mechanical status of Abrams tanks. The result will be, besides the reduced cost, that commanders at every level will know exactly how much engine life remains in each tank, so they will be able to administer engine repairs and replacements as needed, before deploying to the field.

Honeywell is improving the performance of the AGT 1500 engines of M1 Abrams tanks under a one-year extension contract awarded by the US Army in August 2009. The company will work with the army on the total integrated engine revitalisation (TIGER) programme of about 750 engines. The value of the fourth year contract is about $300m. The total contract value is $1.4bn.


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M1A1/2 Abrams SEP Version 2 Main Battle Tank:

A depot mechanic tends to the mating of a M1A2 SEP V2 turret and hull.
Photo Courtesy US Army.​

The M1A2 System Enhancement Package Version 1 (SEP V1) was introduced as part of a continuous upgrade system for M1A2 tanks. As such, it consisted of an armor upgrade that included third generation steel encased depleted uranium armor, plus upgrades that provided improved target detection, recognition and identification with the Firepower Enhancement Package (FEP); an under armor auxiliary power unit to power the tank and sensor suites; a thermal management system to provide crew and electronics cooling; increased memory and faster processors, providing full color map capability; and compatibility with the Army Command and Control Architecture to ensure the ability to share command and control and situational awareness with all components of the combined arms team.

Under the M1A2 Systems Enhancement Package Version 2 (SEP V2) Reset program, besides an increase of the reliability and durability of the Abrams main battle tank, the focus is to bring future technology improvements to ensure compatibility with the Army's Future Combat Systems.

This reset and upgrade program involved two contracts between the US Army TACOM and General Dynamics Land Systems. The first on November 2007, for the upgrade of 240 M1A2 SEP version one tanks to the Version Two configuration which has improved sights, displays, and a tank-infantry phone. Work is to be completed by September 2009. The second, on February 2008, is a multi-year contract to upgrade to SEP Version Two configuration the remaining 435 M1A1 tanks in the US Army inventory.

General Dynamics Land Systems is developing further upgrades proposed for the Continuous Electronics Enhancement Program (CEEP) building on the latest System Enhancement Package (SEP) and Tank Urban Survivability Kit (TUSK) configurations of M1A1 and M1A2 main battle tanks.

CEEP incorporates advanced digital systems improving the warfighting capability of the crew, and ensuring compatibility with the standards to be implemented by the Army's future combat systems. CEEP will be introduced as a retrofit into current SEP models. The upgrades will include advanced displays showing color maps, sensor imagery and situational pictures. The systems will support wireless technologies to enable remote diagnostics, vehicle monitoring and dismounted command and control. Individual displays will be introduced to all crew members, improving intra-vehicular connectivity. The tank will be equipped with a new battery system, extending the silent watch capability and eliminating the need for an auxiliary power unit.

The CROWS II is a remote-control weapon system that provides the ability to acquire and engage targets from inside the protection of an armored vehicle. It is designed to mount on a variety of military platforms. The CROWS’ laser range finder improves accuracy and the sensor suite permits target engagements in all conditions. The system can hold five times as many .50-cal. machine gun rounds as other older systems. Under the M1A2 System Enhancement Program Version 2 (SEPv2) upgrade program, 370 CROWs II kits will be installed.

M1A1/2 Abrams MBT Technical Data:

The Abrams accommodates a crew of four, the commander, driver, gunner and loader. The commander and gunner are seated on the right hand side, the loader is on the left and the driver is seated at the center front of the tank.


M1A1 Abrams, firing the M256 120 mm gun.​

The main armament is the 120 mm smoothbore gun, US designation code M256, developed by Rheinmetall GmbH of Germany. The system manager for the 120 mm ammunition is Alliant Techsystems of Hopkins, Minnesota with second source by Olin Ordnance of St Petersburg, Florida. The 120 mm gun fires the following ammunition: the M865 TPCSDS-T and M831 TP-T training rounds, the M8300 HEAT-MP-T and the M829 APFSDS-T which includes a depleted uranium penetrator. Depleted uranium has density two and a half times greater than steel and provides high penetration characteristics.

The commander has a 12.7 millimeter (0.50 inch) caliber Browning M2 machine gun on a powered rotary platform and equipped with a x3 magnification sight. The elevation is from -10 to +65 degrees and the traverse is 360 degrees.
Starting with the M1A2 this powered platform and sight gave way to a larger commander's cupola and a manually operated machine gun mount. So, from the M1A2 onwards, the commander has to open the hatch and use the machine guns iron sights to engage targets. This was done because the room formerly taken up by the sight, the platform power assembly and the controls is now taken up by the CID and the thermal viewer.
The loader has a 7.62 caliber M240 machine gun on a Skate mount. The elevation of the M240 is from -30 to +65 degrees and the traverse rotation is 265 degrees. A 7.62 mm M240 machine gun is also mounted co axially on the right hand side of the main armament.​


On both sides of the turret the tank is fitted with six-barrelled smoke grenade dischargers, model L8A1, designation M250. A smoke screen can also be laid by an engine operated system.

M1A1/2 Abrams Layout

M1A2 Abrams layout.​


The commander is responsible to the platoon leader and signed equipment, the reporting of logistical needs, and the tactical employment of his tank. He briefs his crew, directs the movement of the tank, submits all reports, and supervises initial first-aid treatment and evacuation of wounded crewmen. He is an expert in using the tank's weapon systems, requesting indirect fires, and executing land navigation.

The commander must know and understand the company mission and company commander's intent. He must be prepared to assume the duties and responsibilities of the platoon leader or PSG in accordance with the succession of command. These requirements demand that the commander maintain situational awareness by using all available optics for observation, by eavesdropping on radio transmissions, and by monitoring the inter vehicular information system (IVIS) or appliqué digital screen (if available).

The commander is seated on the right hand side of the turret. The commander's station is equipped with six periscopes which provide all round 360 degree view.

The Independent Thermal Viewer from Texas Instruments provides the commander with independent stabilized day and night vision with a 360 degree view, automatic sector scanning, automatic target cueing of the gunner's sight with no need for verbal communication, and back-up fire control.

The system consists of a gyrostabilized head housing the sensors, a hand control grip with a panel for selecting parameter settings, an electronics unit and a remote cathode ray tube display. The range of the viewer is -12 to +20 degrees in elevation and 360 degrees in azimuth. The magnification is x2.6 at 3.4 degrees narrow field of view and x7.7 at 10.4 degrees wide field of view.

M1A1 Abrams cut out drawing.​


The gunner searches for targets and aims and fires both the main gun and the coaxial machine gun. He is responsible to the commander for the maintenance of the tank's armament and fire control equipment. The gunner serves as the assistant commander and assumes the responsibilities of the commander as required. He also assists other crew members as needed. Several of his duties involve the tank's communications and internal control systems: logging onto and monitoring communications nets; maintaining digital links if the tank is equipped with the IVIS or appliqué digital system; inputting graphic control measures on digital overlays; and monitoring digital displays during the planning and preparation phases of an operation.

The gunner is seated on the right hand side of the turret . The Gunner's Primary Sight-Line of Sight, GPS-LOS, has been developed by the Electro-Optical Systems Division of Hughes Aircraft Company. The M1 and M1A1 Abrams tank have a GPS-LOS with a single axis stabilized head mirror. The system has daylight optics with x10 magnification narrow field of view and x3 magnification wide field of view, and unity magnification close-in surveillance with 18 degrees field of view. The night vision Thermal Imaging System, TIS, from Hughes has magnification x10 narrow field of view and x3 magnification wide field of view. The Thermal Imaging System creates an image based on the differences of heat radiated by objects within the field of view. The thermal image is displayed in the eyepiece of the gunner's sight together with the range measurement from a Hughes laser range finder. The M1A2 Abrams tank has a two-axis GPS-LOS which significantly increases the first round hit probability by providing faster target acquisition and improved gun pointing. The azimuth inertial stabilization allows target detection, recognition and acquisition at longer ranges than the single axis system. The Line of Sight excursion range is -16 to +22 degrees in elevation and + or - 5 degrees in azimuth. The stabilization accuracy is less than 100 microrads, and the bore sight retention is less than 100 microrads.

The Hughes Laser Rangefinder for the M1 Abrams consists of a neodinium yttrium aluminium garnet, Nd:YAG, laser transmitter, a receiver and timing and logic electronics integrated into the tank's fire control system. The operator aims the rangefinder on the target and fires the laser. The laser beam is reflected back from the target into the receiver and the time of travel to and from the target provides an accurate range measurement for the fire control computer. The wavelength of the Nd:YAG laser is 1.06 microns which can be damaging to the eye. A new rangefinder, the Eyesafe Laser Rangefinder has been developed by Hughes for the Abrams tank which incorporates a Raman resonator which shifts the wavelength from 1.06 to 1.54 microns which is not damaging to the eye. The Hughes laser rangefinder has a firing rate of 1 shot per second and provides range accuracy to within 10 meters and target discrimination of 20 meters

The gunner has a Kollmorgen Model 939 auxiliary sight with magnification x8 and field of view 8 degrees.

The fire control computer is supplied by Computing Devices Canada of Ontario. The digital fire control computer consists of an electronics unit and a data entry and test panel. The range data from the laser range finder is transferred to the fire control computer. The fire control computer automatically takes data to calculate the fire control solution. The data includes i) the lead angle measurement, ii) the bend of the gun measured by the muzzle reference system of the main armament, iii) wind velocity measurement from a wind sensor on the roof of the turret and iv) the data from a pendulum static cant sensor located at the center of the turret roof. The operator manually inputs the data on the ammunition type and temperature, and the barometric pressure.


The driver moves, positions, and stops the tank. While driving, he constantly searches for covered routes and for covered positions to which he can move if the tank is engaged. He maintains his tank's position in formation and watches for visual signals. If the tank is equipped with a steer-to indicator, the driver monitors the device and selects the best tactical route. During engagements, he assists the gunner and commander by scanning for targets and sensing fired rounds. The driver is responsible to the commander for the automotive maintenance and refueling of the tank. He assists other crewmen as needed.

The driver's station at the center front of the vehicle is equipped with a monitoring panel showing the condition of vehicle fluid levels, batteries and electrical equipment. The driver has either three observation periscopes or two periscopes on either side and a central image intensifying periscope for night vision. The periscopes provide 120 degrees field of view.

The driver's night vision equipment enables the tank to maneuver at normal daytime driving speeds in darkness and in poor visibility conditions such as in dust, smoke and in battlefield obscurants. The Driver's Vision Enhancer, AN/VSS-5, developed for the US Army Communications and Electronics Command by Texas Instruments, is based on a 328 x 245 element uncooled detector array, working in the 7.5 to 13 micron waveband. The AN/VSS-5 provides a 30 degree elevation and 40 degree azimuth field of view. The field of regard is given as -50 to +20 degrees in elevation, and + or - 190 degrees in azimuth.

A Driver's Thermal Viewer, AN/VAS-3, developed by the Electro-Optical Systems Division of the Hughes Aircraft Company, is installed on the M1A2 Abrams tanks for Kuwait. The AN/VAS-3 is based on a 60 element cadmium mercury telluride, CdHgTe, detector operating in the wavelength band 7.5 to 12 microns. The cooling is provided by a Split Stirling 0.25 watt engine. The field of view is 40 degrees azimuth x 20 degrees elevation, and the field of regard is given as 100 degrees in azimuth and 40 degrees in elevation.


The loader loads the main gun and the coaxial machine gun ready box; he aims and fires the loader's machine gun. He stows and cares for ammunition and is responsible to the commander for the maintenance of communications equipment. Before engagement actions are initiated, the loader searches for targets and acts as air or antitank guided missile (ATGM) guard. He also assists the commander as needed in directing the driver so the tank maintains its position in formation.

He assists other crew members as necessary. Because the loader is ideally positioned both to observe around the tank and to monitor the tank's digital displays, platoon leaders and commanders should give strong consideration to assigning their second most experienced crewman as the loader. Loading of the coaxial machine gun, as well as the stowage and care of ammunition, becomes the duty of the gunner. The absence of a loader also means the commander assumes a greater degree of responsibility for air and ATGM watch.


The gunner aligns the reticule in the Gunner's Primary Sight with the target. The range is determined by the laser rangefinder and the range data is transferred to the fire control computer. The gunner's sight displays a ready-to-fire indication together with symbology from the fire control computer and system operational status. The gunner checks the alignment of the reticule in the Primary Sight with the target and the ready to fire indication and fires the gun.

Safety and Survavability

The hull and turret of the M1 are protected by advanced armour similar to the Chobham armour developed by the UK Ministry of Defence. The survivability of the M1/M1A1 main battle tank has been battlefield proven. The tanks survived without damage after sustaining direct hits by T-72 tank rounds. Of 1,955 Abrams M1A1 tanks in battle, no crew members were killed by enemy fire, four tanks were disabled and four tanks were damaged but were repairable.

The M1A1 tank incorporates steel encased depleted uranium armour. The depleted uranium provides a higher level of protection against anti-tank weapons.

The stowage for the main armament ammunition is in armored ammunition boxes behind sliding armour doors. Armour bulkheads separate the crew compartment from the fuel tanks. The tank is equipped with an automatic Halon fire extinguishing system which is activated within 2 milliseconds of a fire outbreak and extinguishes a fire within 250 milliseconds. The top panels of the tank are designed to blow outwards in the event of penetration by a HEAT projectile and access doors which are kept in the closed position provide protection for the crew. The loader has to depress and hold a switch to open the access doors: the doors close automatically when the switch is not depressed.

The tank is protected against nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) warfare and is equipped with a 200 SCFM, clean conditioned air system, a Radiac Radiological Warning Device, AN/VDR-1, and a chemical agent detector. The crew are equipped with protective suits and face masks.


The M1 is equipped with an AGT 1500 gas turbine engine from Lycoming Textron. The Allison Transmission, X-1100-3B, provides four forward and two reverse gears.

Fuel consumption

The M1 will need approximately 300 gallons every eight hours; this will vary depending on mission, terrain, and weather. A single tank takes 10 minutes to refuel. Refueling and rearming of a tank platoon - four tanks - takes approximately 30 minutes under ideal conditions.

Fuel consumption (average):

  • 0.6 miles per gallon;​
  • 60 gallons per hour when traveling cross-country;​
  • 30+ gallons per hour while operating at a tactical ideal;​
  • 10 gallons basic idle;​
  • A mine plough will increase the fuel consummation rate of a tank by 25 percent.​


M1A2 Abrams Measurements

DATA M1 / IPM1 M1A1 M1A2
Manufacturer General Dynamics (Land Systems Division)
Crew 4: Commander, Gunner, Loader & Driver
Weight 60 Tons 63 Tons 69.54 Tons
Length (Gun Forward) 384.5 inches 387 inches
Turret Height 93.5 inches
Width 143.8 inches 144 inches
Ground Clearance 19 inches
Ground Pressure 13.1 PSI 13.8 PSI 15.4 PSI
Obstacle Crossing 49 inches 42 inches
Vertical Trench 9 Feet
Power plant AGT-1500 turbine engine
Power Rating 1500 HP
Power to Weight Ratio 25 hp/ton 23.8 hp/ton 21.6 hp/ton​

Hydro Kinetic Transmission 4 Speed Forward
2 Speed Reverse​

Speed - Maximum 45 mph (Governed) 42 mph (Governed)
Speed - Cross Country 30 mph
Speed - 10% Slope 20 mph 17 mph
Speed - 60% Slope 4.5 mph 4.1 mph​

(0 to 20 mph) 7 Seconds 7.2 Seconds​

Cruising Range 275 Miles 265 Miles​

Main Armament 105mm M68A1
Rifled Cannon 120mm M256
Smooth Bore Cannon​

Commander's Weapon .50 Cal M2 Machinegun
Coaxial Weapon 7.62 M240 Machinegun
Loader's Weapon 7.62 M240 Machinegun on Skate Mount
NBC System N/A 200 SCFM -CleanCooled Air
Inventory - US Army 3,273 4,393 N/A
Inventory - USMC N/A 403 N/A
Estimated Unit Replacement Cost N/A $4,300,000 $ 5,600,000

Main Battle Tank - M1, M1A1, and M1A2 Abrams


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Russian T-90/T90S Main Battle Tank

TheT-90S is the most modern and best protected Main BattleTank of the Russian Army.
Today is: December 28, 2014
Last Updated: April 13, 2014

Russian T-90/T90S Main Battle Tank.


The T-90S is the latest development in the T-series of Russian tanks and represents an increase in firepower, mobility and protection. It is manufactured by the Uralvagonzavod Plant in Nizhniy Tagil (Potkin's bureau) of the Russian Federation.

The T-90S is in service with the Russian Army and the Indian Army. In February 2001, the Indian Army signed a contract for 310 T-90S tanks. 124 were completed in Russia and the rest are being delivered in "knocked down/semi-knocked down" form for final assembly in India. The first of these was delivered in January 2004. The locally-assembled tanks are christened "Bhishma". The tanks are fitted with the Shtora self-protection system and thermal imagers from Thales of France and Peleng of Belarus.

In January 2005, it was announced that a further 91 T-90S tanks would be procured for the Russian Army. 31 are due to be delivered in 2006.

In March 2006, Algeria signed a contract for the supply of 180 T-90S tanks from Uralvagonzavod, to be delivered by 2011.

In November 2006, India ordered a further 300 T-90 tanks, to be licence-built by Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF), Avadi. Deliveries are to begin in 2008.


Derived from the T-72, the GPO Uralvagonzavod T-90 main battle tank is the most modern tank in the Russian Army's arsenal. The successor to T-72BM, the T-90 uses the gun and 1G46 gunner sights from T-80U, a new engine, and thermal sights. Protective measures include Kontakt-5 ERA, laser warning receivers, and the SHTORA infrared ATGM jamming system.

Kontakt-5 is a Russian type of third-generation explosive reactive armour. It is the first type of ERA which is effectively able to defeat modern APFSDS rounds. Introduced on the T-80U tank in 1985, Kontakt-5 is made up of "bricks" of explosive sandwiched between two metal plates. The plates are arranged in such a way as to move sideways rapidly when the explosive detonates. This will force an incoming KE-penetrator or shaped charge jet to cut through more armour than the thickness of the plating itself, since "new" plating is constantly fed into the penetrating body. A KE-penetrator will also be subjected to powerful sideways forces, which might be large enough to cut the rod into two or more pieces. This will significantly reduce the penetrating capabilities of the penetrator, since the penetrating force will be dissipated over a larger volume of armour.

By 1992 the Russian Defense Ministry announced that it could no longer afford to manufacture two MBTs in parallel. Since both the "quality" T-80U and the cheaper "quantity" T-72B were each being built at one plant, and each plant was critical to the economy of the city it was in, the Government gave small orders to both. Omsk built five T-80Us and Nizhni Tagil 15 T-72s, and both built more against the hope of winning large export orders. Nizhni Tagil had built a few T-72BMs, T-72Bs upgraded with a third generation add-on Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) called Kontakt-5, which was already in service on the T-80U MBT.

Kontakt-5 has been succeeded by the newer Kaktus type, which is currently only seen on prototype tanks such as the T-80UM2 "Chiorny Oriol" (Black Eagle) tank.

To further improve the T-72's export prospects and its chances of being selected as Russia's sole production MBT, the T-80U's more sophisticated fire control system was also added to produce a vehicle designated T-72BU. Finally, since worldwide news coverage during Desert Storm had firmly established the image of the T-72 as a burning Iraqi tank, the new model was renamed T-90.

The Russian Defense Ministry made a selection of a single MBT in 1995. The fighting in Grozny had been shown around the world and the reputation of Russian tanks suffered. Although many casualties were due to bad tactics and many T-72s were also lost, it was the knocked-out T-80s which made an impression. More had been expected of the "quality" T-80 MBT. This is alleged to have tipped the balance against the T-80 in the selection. The T-80 was already more expensive and its delicate, fuel-hungry turbine engine was still giving problems. In January 1996, Col.-Gen. Aleksandr Galkin, Chief of the Main Armor Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, announced that the T-90 had been selected as the sole Russian MBT.

The T-90 went into low-level production in 1993, based on a prototype designated as the T-88. The T-90 was developed by the Kartsev-Venediktov Design Bureau at the Vagonka Works in Nizhniy Tagil. Initially thought by Western observers to be an entirely new design, the production model is in fact based on the T-72BM, with some added features from the T-80 series. The T-90 features a new generation of armor on its hull and turret. Two variants, the T-90S and T-90E, have been identified as possible export models. Plans called for all earlier models to be replaced with T-90s by the end of 1997, subject to funding availability. By mid-1996 some 107 T-90s had gone into service in the Far Eastern Military District.

Of conventional layout, the T-90 represents a major upgrade to every system in the T-72, including the main gun. The T-90 is an interim solution, pending the introduction of the new Nizhny Tagil MBT which has been delayed due to lack of funding. Produced primarily mainly due to its lower cost, the T-90 will probably remain in low-rate production to keep production lines open until newer designs become available. Several hundred of these tanks have been produced, with various estimates suggesting that between 100 and 300 are in service, primarily in the Far East.

T-90S, speeding out.

The T-90 retains the low silhouette of the earlier Soviet tanks. The glacis is well sloped, and is covered by second generation ERA bricks and a large transverse rib that extends horizontally across the glacis. The driver sits at the front of the hull and has a single piece hatch cover that opens to the right, in front of which is a single wide-angle observation periscope. Integrated fuel cells and stowage containers give a streamlined appearance to the fenders. The tank has a toothed shovel/dozer blade on the front of the hull beneath the glacis. There are attachment points beneath the blade for the KMT-6 mine-clearing plow.

The low, rounded turret is centered on the hull. The commander's cupola is on the right side of the turret; the gunner's hatch is on the left side. The 125-mm main gun has a four section removable thermal shield. It has two sections in front of, and two sections to the rear of the mid-tube bore evacuator. A 7.62-mm coaxial machine-gun is mounted to the right of the mantlet. The T-90 mounts two infra-red searchlights on either side of the main armament; these are part of the Shtora ATGM defense system. The turret is covered with second generation reactive armor on the frontal arc.

This ERA gives the turret an angled appearance, with the ERA bricks forming a "clam shell" appearance. There are ERA bricks on the turret roof to provide protection from top-attack weapons. There are banks of smoke mortars on either side of the turret. The second generation ERA package, combined with the advanced armor technology, makes the T-90 one of the best protected main battle tanks in the world.


The year 1999 saw the appearance of a new model of T-90, featuring the fully welded turret of the Obiekt 187 experimental MBT instead of the cast design of the original T-90. This new model is called "Vladimir" in honor of T-90 Chief Designer Vladimir Potkin, who died in 1999. It is unknown how this design affects the protection and layout of the turret, and whether the frontal armor package was also extensively redesigned (Source: Vasily Fofanov's Modern Russian Armor Page).

There are at least three different variants of the T-90. The Russians confirmed the existence of an export variant in June 1996 with varying equipment and engine fits, and Russian promotional materials have discussed both the T-90S (or "C" in the sometimes-used Cyrillic non-translation) and the T-90SK command variant. The T-90SK command variant differs in radio and navigation equipment and Ainet remote-detonation system for HEF rounds. The T-90 "Vladimir", with a welded turret, is also referred to as T-90M, but it is not an official designation. The official designation for those tanks were T-90A, or T-90SM. Actually, all production T-90s from 2001 onwards have welded turrets, so it only seems logical to assume that the official designation now is T-90S (or "C") - what is confirmed by the fact that all T-90S MBTs sold to India have welded turrets. There are also occasional references to a T-90E, but these appear to be unsubstantiated.

T-90S MBT Characteristics

T-90S Main Battle Tank, firing the 125mm 2A46M smoothbore gun.


The T-90S armament includes one 125mm 2A46M smoothbore gun, stabilized in two axes and fitted with a thermal sleeve. The gun tube can be replaced without dismantling inside the turret. The gun can fire a variety of ammunition including APDS (Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot), HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank), HE-FRAG (High Explosive Fragmentation) as well as, the APERS (anti-personnel) ammunition, consisting of shrapnel projectiles with time fuzes. By far the most widely used APERS round is a multi-purpose HE/HE-FRAG/FRAG fin-stabilized round. Its versatility has been lately further increased by introduction of a time-fusing system, Ainet. Other APERS rounds include shrapnel and incendiary, but these are a lot less common.

The 2A46 and 2A46M lines of mainguns (internal designations D-81T, D-81TM) were developed by the Spetstekhnika design bureau in Ekaterinburg (former Sverdlovsk), and are manufactured at the Motovilikha artillery plant in Perm.

The T-90S gun can also fire the 9M119Refleks (NATO designation AT-11 Sniper), or the 9M119M Refleks (NATO designation AT-11 Sniper-B) anti-tank guided missile system. The 9M119 missile comes in two variants: the 9K120 Svir, which is fired by the T-72B, T-72S, and 2A45M antitank gun; and the Refleks, which is fired by the T-80B, T-80U, and T-90 main battle tank. The Refleks round is 4 kg heavier and has a 5,000 meter maximum range, whereas the Svir has a 4,000 meter maximum range. The range of the missile is 100m to 4,000m and takes 11.7 sec to reach maximum range. The system is intended to engage tanks fitted with ERA (Explosive Reactive Armour) as well as low-flying air targets such as helicopters, at a range of up to 5km. The missile system fires either the 9M119 or 9M119M missiles which have semi-automatic laser beam riding guidance and a hollow charge warhead. Missile weight is 23.4kg. The gun's automatic loader will feed both ordnance and missiles. Due to high cost of the system, usually only elite regiments shall have those missiles in a loadout.

The Refleks 9M119 AT-11 SNIPER laser-guided missile with a hollow-charge warhead is effective against both armored targets and low-flying helicopters. The missile, which can penetrate 700-mm of RHAe out to 5,000 meters, gives the T-90S the ability to engage other vehicles and helicopters before they can engage the T-90S. The computerized fire control system and laser range-finder, coupled with the new Agave gunner's thermal sight, permit the T-90S to engage targets while on the move and at night. However, this first generation system is probably not as capable as current Western counterpart systems. The tank is fitted with precision laying equipment and an automatic loader to guarantee a high rate of gun fire.

Also fitted is a coaxial 7.62mm PKT machine gun and a 12.7mm air defense machine gun. A 5.45mm AKS-74 assault rifle is carried on a storage rack.

Fire Control:

The T-90S has the 1A4GT integrated fire control system (IFCS) which is automatic but with manual override for the commander. The IFCS contains the gunner's 1A43 day fire control system, gunner's TO1-KO1 thermal imaging sight which has a target identification range of 1.2km to 1.5km and commander's PNK-S sight.

The gunner's 1A43 day FCS comprises: 1G46 day sight/rangefinder with missile guidance channel, 2E42-4 armament stabilizer, 1V528 ballistic computer and DVE-BS wind gauge.

The commander's PNK-4S sight includes a TKN-4S (Agat-S) day/night sight which has identification ranges of 800m (day) and 700m (night). The driver is equipped with a TVN-5 infrared night viewer.

T-90S, of the indian Army. The T-90S is one of the best protected MBTs in the world.


The T-90S features the low silhouette of the earlier Russian tanks, with a low rounded turret centered on the hull, and is fitted with combined passive and active defenses which make the T-90S one of the best protected main battle tanks in the world. The glacis is covered by second generation explosive reactive armor [ERA] bricks, as is the turret. This ERA gives the turret an angled appearance, with the ERA bricks forming a "clam shell" appearance. ERA bricks on the turret roof provide protection from top-attack weapons.

The T-90S is equipped with the TShU-1-7 Shtora-1 optronic counter measures system, produced by Electronintorg of Russia, which is designed to disrupt the laser target designation and rangefinders of incoming ATGM. The T-90S is also equipped with a laser warning package that warns the tank crew when it is being lased. Shtora-1 is an electro-optical jammer that jams the enemy's semiautomatic command to line of sight (SACLOS) antitank guided missiles, laser rangefinders and target designators. Shtora-1 is actually a soft kill, or countermeasures system, which is most effective when used in tandem with a hard kill system such as the Arena.

T-90S MBT - Estimated Armor Protection Levels:
T-90S Main Battle Tank, with Kontakt-5 ERA
Against Kinetic Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
Against Chemical Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
420 - 750 - 920
580 - 1050 - 1340
670 - 710
990 - 1070
Lower Front Hull
RHAe = Rolled Homogeneous Armor Equivalent; an equivalent RHA thickness of a given armor type against a given armor piercing ammunition or missile (i.e. Kinetic Energy penetrators, like APFSDS DU long-rod penetrators or Chemical Energy projectiles, like HEAT ammunition and ATGM's). Modern composite (Chobham) armor may be several times more efficient against Chemical Energy than RHA of the same thickness.
Source: Tank Protection Levels web site.
The complete system includes infrared jammer, laser warning system with four laser warning receivers, grenade discharging system which produces an aerosol screen and a computerized control system. It is also fitted with NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical) protection equipment.


T-90S, showing it's agility. T-90S, airborne, again...

The T-90S has a liquid-cooled V-84MS 618kW (840 hp) four-stroke V-12 piston engine. This engine can be fueled by T-2 or TS-1 kerosene and A-72 benzine, in addition to diesel. The tank can carry up to 1,600 liters of fuel in the main fuel tanks and fuel drums. The fuel tanks are reinforced with armour plating. This engine results in a power to weight ratio of only 18.06 hp/ton, considerably less than that of the T-80U.

The tank is provided with a snorkel for deep fording and can ford 5m of water with equipment which can be deployed in 20 minutes, to negotiate 5 meter deep water obstacles.

T-90 "Vladimir", crossing an obstacle, at an exhibition. The T-90S MBT, showing it's mobility.

The mechanical transmission includes primary reduction gear, two planetary final gearboxes and two planetary final drives. The running gear features torsion bar suspension with hydraulic shock absorbers at one, two and six road wheel stations and tracks with rubber-metallic pin hinges.

The tank is also fitted with the NBC protection system and mounted mineclearing equipment.


Length 9.53 m
Width 3.78 m
Height 2.225 m
Weight 46.5 tons
Speed 70 km/h (road)
45 km/h (off-road)
Range 550 km
Primary armament 125 mm smoothbore gun, firing APFSDS, HEAT-FS, HE-frag-FS, and 9M119/9M119M Refleks ATGM
Secondary armament 7.62 mm machinegun in coaxial mount
12.7 mm anti-aircraft mg
Crew 3
Main Battle Tank - T-90/T90S/T90C
0 4 0
Dec 27, 2014
The T-90 tank is protected by both conventional armour-plating and explosive reactive armour.
0 4 0
Dec 27, 2014
The M1 is equipped with a Honeywell AGT 1500 gas turbine engine. The Allison X-1100-3B transmission provides four forward and two reverse gears
0 4 0
Dec 27, 2014
The command and fire control procedure known as first echo selection is used for laser range-finding for anti-helicopter operations. The principal weapon uses electronic firing to reduce reaction times


0 18 0
Jan 1, 2015
Damn, now this is a detail threaded, very very impressive, I've enjoyed learning about the Leopard 2 so I went and found a video to add to this thread!


0 18 0
Jan 1, 2015
The T-90 has been around for awhile, it's good to see that they're still making improvements on it. I am not sure if it will stand up to its rivals in an actual fight but i'm sure someone will test them all out at some point but here's a video for it.
1 42 0
Dec 27, 2014
These armoured behemoths are relics from another era. Today, the battle is not won with brawn. I believe the future of armaments lie in the direction of drones, both in the air and on land. The trend should be towards smaller vehicles which are lighter, more agile and, yet, not any less lethal.