by: Henk Meerdink [ ]
Leopard 2 - Foreign Users.
The Leopard MBT has been a resounding success not only as a highly capable weapons platform, but also as an export item. Building on the early success of the Leopard I, which sold in large numbers when they became surplus after the introduction of the Leopard 2, the Leopard 2 has been the vehicle of choice for a large number of nations, who sought to buy a MBT, without the ability to produce their own.
The book starts with an overview of the development of the Leopard 2, repeating in essence the highlights of this chapter from Volume One. For those who don’t have Volume One it is a clear background to help identify the different versions as they are in use with other Nations, whilst it serves as a handy reference for those who do have Volume One.
Each country that uses the Leopard 2 has a separate chapter, each starting with a brief overview of the specific user’s procurement history, and details of user specific modifications. In the case of those countries who have used the Leopard 2 in action, such as UN operations, these are also described, along with any specific modifications as they may have been added.
Author: Frank Lobitz
Foreword by the Publisher, and Author’s acknowledgements and sources.
Two tables detailing the original procurement numbers and dates for the German and Dutch Armies, and subsequent onward sales of surplus vehicles to new users nations.
Chapter 1- Introduction
A 13 page introduction and outline of the development and export of the Leopard from the 2A0 to the 2A6M. The chapter consists mainly of text interspersed with graphs and tables, but does have some photo’s of the PSO-VT with improved armour package.
Chapter 2 - The Netherlands
The Dutch Army was one of the first users of the Leopard 1, and has subsequently used the Leopard exclusively as it’s main battle tank. After drastic cutbacks during the 90’s and early 00’s , the Dutch Army now fields only 40 Leopard 2A6, the remaining vehicles having been sold to a number of foreign users. This chapter consists of 31 pages, and show a variety of the 2A4NL, 2A5NL and 2A6NL as they are, and have been, in service with the Dutch Army. Many photographs show close-up detail around the tank, especially on the turret and hull deck. An interesting subject is the ‘Oranje Leo’ (Orange Leopard), a bright Orange painted 2A6NL to cheer on the Dutch Football team during the 2008.
Chapter 3 - Switzerland
In Switzerland the Leopard is designated Panzer 87, and over 29 pages the evaluation process and various Leopards and derived Recovery and Engineer vehicles are shown in great detail. Of note are the hideous exhaust ‘sound depressors’, which are needed to minimize the noise disturbance during peace time exercises.
Chapter 4 - Sweden
Sweden is a major user of the Leopard, and has developed a number of it’s own improvements, including ammunition, as well as the distinctive ‘Barracuda’ camouflage system. The Swedish designation for the Leopard is Stridsvagn 121 (2A4) and Stridsvagn 122 (2A5/6).
Chapter 5 - Spain
It took a very long time for Spain to commit to the Leopard 2, and the start of the chapter chronicles the long process. KMW even designed a shortened leopard, with six instead of seven road wheels, to match Spanish requirements for a smaller, lighter MBT.
Chapter 6 - Denmark
Denmark is one of the Nations to have deployed the Leopard 2 in action both in the temperate climate of the Balkans, and the arid desert of Afghanistan, and extensively prepared it’s Leopards before deployment in Afghanistan. Besides general pictures of the Leopards in use, the trail and use of the Barracuda camouflage system, together with slat armour, is clearly explained and shown in many photographs, which are particularly useful for modellers.
Chapter 7 - Austria
Austria is a relative new user of the Leopard, having bought surplus 2A4 vehicles from The Netherlands only at the end of the 1990’s. None have been upgraded to A5 or A6 standard.
Chapter 8 - Norway
Despite being a user of the Leopard 1, Norway did not procure Leopard 2 tanks until 2001, when it bought surplus vehicles from the Dutch Army. The various modifications to convert these vehicles to 2A4NO standard are clearly explained and displayed in the photographs.
Chapter 9 - Finland
Finland procured surplus vehicles (all 2A4) from the German Army, to replace it’s fleet of T-55 and T-72 MBT. It has also signed a contract for six Leopard 2 based 2L (Leguan) Armoured Bridge Layers. Most of the chapter on the Finnish Leopard shows the Leguan in close-up and action, showing the deployment of the bridge. There are also several pages of pictures of the Mine Clearing vehicle based on the Leopard 2. A very useful chapter for modellers who wish to scratch build one of these.
Chapter 10 - Poland
Poland currently fields two different MBTs, the Leopard 2A4PL and the PT-91, the later being a indigenous upgrade of the T-72, a situation which seems unlikely to change in the (near)future. This is a short chapter, with just three pages of photos, some showing typical Polish markings.
Chapter 11 - Greece
Greece has been using the Leopard 1 since the early 1980s, and has bought 2A4s (2A4GR) from Germany, as well as signing a contract to build the new Leopard 2HEL (2A6GR) in Greece. The photos in this chapter are mainly close-ups of the 2A4GR and 2HEL during a parade, but there are some interesting pictures of the comparative trails which also show the 2A6S next to a T-84 and T-80.
Chapter 12 - Turkey
This is a very short chapter, with just 7 photos, 5 of which show 2A4TU at a parade.
Chapter 13 - Chile
Another short chapter, with some interesting photos of the Chilean driver-training tank, as well as showing to good effect the Chilean desert colour paint scheme.
Chapter 14 - Singapore
Singapore has procured surplus vehicles (2A4) from the German Army, delivery of which started in 2008, which have been modified to an unknown extend. The photos in this chapter show some close-up detail of the turret basket
Chapter 15 - Portugal
Portugal is the latest Country to procure Leopards, to replace it’s aging fleet of M60A3 TTS tanks. 37 Leopard 2A6 tanks were bought from the Dutch Army, which were delivered in 2008. This chapter only contains six photos, of Leopards in their barracks.
Chapter 18 - Canada
Canada is a long term user of the Leopard 1C, going back to the 1970s, but only recently has Canada decided to procure up-to-date replacements in the form of 2A6 vehicles. The urgent requirement for 2A6 standard vehicles for deployment in Afghanistan was met by borrowing vehicles at short notice from Germany, followed by purchase of surplus vehicles from the Dutch Army.
The photographs in this chapter show in superb detail the modifications (such as the slat armour) and Barracuda camouflage system in operation in Afghanistan. These pictures are an outstanding reference for those building a model with slat armour, or those wishing to create the distinctive Barracuda camouflage.
Although this book is obviously an addition to the first volume, it is a valuable asset in it’s own right. Whilst it can not go into any of the detail of the first volume when it comes to the development and individual production batches, the introduction gives enough insight for the enthusiast to appreciate how the Leopard developed. Of particular interest is to see how different Nations have developed their Leopards in different ways, with a wide variety of armour and equipment upgrade packages on display. The fact that virtually every User Nation has modified its Leopards in a unique and often very distinct way, makes this a very interesting book.
The book is of a very high production standard, and is bound in very heavy quality covers, which should protect this book even from heavy usage, something from which a modeller’s reference book frequently suffers. I can confirm that my copy of Volume One is showing no signs of wear, despite having already been well used whilst I worked on two older Leopard models. The pages lay down flat, without need to force them at the spine, even at the beginning and end of the book, and whilst the glossy pages sometimes suffer from ‘glare’, this is compensated for by the superb quality of the photographs. Despite having published a sizable number of titles involving the Leopards from various countries, the Author and Publisher have consistently managed to publish new, unseen photo’s.
This book is particularly useful for modellers, perhaps more so than Volume One, as it contains a wealth of close-up images of the details that set these Leopards apart from the ‘standard’ German Leopards. In recent years we have seen a long overdue release of up -to-date models of the Leopard 2, and especially HobbyBoss have been spoiling Leopard enthusiasts with not only the German and Dutch versions, but also various other variants from Sweden, Spain, and Denmark to mention but a few. This book will be a valuable reference to built an accurate model of one of the foreign user Leopards, and to paint it in an accurate paint scheme.
Very highly recommended.