Leopard I

France and West Germany hoped to develop a common MBT, but each nation then decided to go its own way, with the Germans developing the Leopard. First appearing in 1963, the Leopard MBT entered production in 1965. A total of 2,347 Leopards (later the Leopard 1) were built for the German Army by Krauss-Maffei (later Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann) during 1965-1984, and the tank remained in service until 1999. The Leopard was also built under license in Italy.

The Leopard 1 resembled the French AMX-30 in that it sacrificed armor protection for speed and maneuverability. It went through a variety of marks and submarks during the period it was in service, the final versions including computerized fire-control and thermal night-vision systems. Its 105mm main gun allowed use of the full-range of standard NATO ammunition.

This reliable, effective MBT attracted a number of foreign purchasers, and Germany exported the Leopard 1 to a number of other nations, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Greece, and Norway. Withdrawn from service in Germany (which had since reunited following the collapse of the Soviet Union) in 1999, the Leopard 1 has undergone upgrades and remains in service with the armies of half a dozen states.

Krauss – Maffei Leopard 1 to 1A3 Series

TheLeopard1familygrewoutofthemid fifties agreement between France and West Germany to develop a common MET design. In Germany the programme resulted in two competing design team vehicles series with the chosen vehicle design being approved for production in 1963. Since then a number of variants have been built, these are:

Leopard 1 – main production variant and armed with a Royal Ordnance 105 mm L7A3 rifled tank gun firing all NATO standard 105 mm tank gun ammunition types. The gunner has a TEM 2A stereoscopic rangefinder sight. The commanderhashisownTRP2Asight. For night combat infra-red sighting and driving systems are used. There is also a dismountable white light/infra-red searchlight which can be fitted over the main gun.

Leopard 1A1 – refitted Leopard 1 with gun stabilisation system, thermal gun sleeve and new running gear components. Leopard1A1A1-retrofittedLeopard1A1 with special armour on turret sides and roof. Most of the vehicles are being upgraded to the Leopard 1A5 standard with a computerised fire control system and thermal imaging system for night fighting/poor visibility combat.

Leopard 1A1A2 – modified Leopard 1A1A1 with LLLTV observation and sighting system. Most vehicles are being upgraded to the Leopard 1A5 standard.

Leopard 1A2 -limited production model differing from Leopard 1Al in only minor respects such as stronger turret, improved ventilation filters and the use of passive image intensifier night vision sights for the commander and driver.

Leopard 1A3 -limited production model as Leopard 1A2 model but built with new welded turret using all-round special spaced armour construction and other minor equipment modifications.

Krauss – Maffei Leopard 1A4 to 1A5 Series

The Leopard1A4 was the last production model of the Leopard 1 series and is virtually the same as the Leopard1A3 but with a computerized fire control system coupled to a fully stabilised main armament in place of the gunner’s mechanically linked stereoscopic rangefinder sight.

A total of 250 were built of which 150 have been transferred to Turkey as military aid, after modification to the new build Leopard1T1(1A3) standard already in service with the Turkish Army.

In the early eighties West Germany trialled a number of computerised fire control systems in the Leopard 1 MET for a proposed retrofit package. The system chosen was the EMES 18 and this, together with a passive thermal imaging night fighting system, was used from 1986 to 1992 to upgrade 1300 Leopard 1A1A1 and Leopard 1A1A2 vehicles to the Leopard 1A5 standard. However, this conversion was originally to be an interim standard as a further modification package was deemed necessary to improve the tank’s battlefield survivability factor by enhancing the armour protection with add-on armour and adding additional protection systems such as an explosion suppression unit to the turret area. This variant was to be designated Leopard 1A6. A batch of 75 upgraded Leopard 1A5 tanks has been passed to Greece by the Germans.

A number of combat support vehicle types have either been built on 01 converted from the basic Leopard 1 chassis. These include the Bergepanzer and the Product-improved Bergepanzer ARVs, the Pionierpanzer 1 and Pionierpanzer 2 AEVs and the Bibei AVLB. There is also a tank dozer conversion kit used on the Leopard 1 and 2 variants

Summary: First tank produced by the Federal Republic of Germany. It flowed from a plan by France, Italy, and Germany to develop a common MBT, but each nation then went its own way. A reliable, effective tank, the Leopard was also built under license in Italy, and it was exported to a number of other countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Greece, and Norway. Although withdrawn from German service in 1999, the Leopard 1 remains in service in the armies of a half-dozen states.

Production dates: 1965–1984

Number produced: 2,437 for West Germany

Manufacturer: Krauss-Maffei


1: initial production model

1A1: improvements include additional turret armor

1A2: improved turret and passive nightvision equipment for commander and driver

1A3: new all-welded turret and enhanced armor protection

1A4: all-welded turret and integrated fire-control system

1A5: A4 with computerized fire-control system and thermal night-vision equipment

Crew: 4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)

Armament: 1 x 105mm (4.13-inch) gun; 2 x 7.62mm machine gun (one coaxial and one antiaircraft); 2 x 4 smoke grenade launchers

Weight: 89,041 lbs.

Length: 23’2” (31’4” over gun)

Width: 11’2”

Height: 9’1”

Armor: maximum 70mm

Ammunition storage and type: 60 x 105mm; 5,000 x 7.62mm

Power plant: MTU MB 828 Ca M-500 10-cylinder 830-hp multifuel engine

Maximum speed: 40 mph

Range: 373 miles

Fording depth: 3’4” (7’4” with preparation; 13’1” with snorkel)

Vertical obstacle: 3’9”

Trench crossing: 9’11”

NBC system

Special models: armored recovery vehicle; armored vehicle–launched bridge armor engineer vehicle; artillery observation vehicle; air-defense tank (with twin 35mm guns)

A friend was in the Canadian military, and they were doing joint maneuvers with the German ‘Bundeswehr’. The Canadians noticed the German tank treads were incredibly wide. “Why is that?” (In deep German accent) “So we will never get stuck in Russian mud.”

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