Still Going Strong: Leopard 2 Tank Turns 40

A German tank, described as one of the world's finest, has celebrated its 40th birthday.

Known as "German Heavy Metal" among Bundeswehr troops, the Leopard 2 is still one of the world's best sellers.

Encased in more than 60 tonnes of advanced armour, its 120-millimetre main gun has a range of around five kilometres.

It has a reputation for pinpoint accuracy on the move, with a fully stabilised main gun, but its speed is what makes it such a deadly weapon - few other tanks can reach 70 kilometres per hour (43 miles per hour).

Two Leopard 2 tanks sit on training range in Germany 111219 CREDIT BFBS.
The Leopard 2 is used by 17 armies on four continents.

Lieutenant Colonel Jorg Stenzel, Commander Panzer Battalion 203, said:

“It’s comparable to an iPhone.

"It’s very intuitive, it’s very easy to handle but inside it’s high tech and it’s really unbelievable how this piece of engineer work is designed."

A man who knows the vehicle better than most, is specialist defence journalist, Carl Schulze, who said: “when you look at tank competitions, [the] Leopard usually is among the top three. Most of the time – top one and I think that speaks for itself.”

The Leopard's record has not been totally flawless. There were reports in 2016 that Turkey had lost 10 of its Leopard 2s during fighting in Syria.

However, Mr Schulze says the blame should not be attributed to the tanks.

Leopard 2 tanks demonstrating capabilities cross-terrain.
The tank can reach speeds of 70 km/h (43mph).

"You move fast, you fire on the move, you use cover and these tanks were in the open on top of a hill and static so they were perfect targets,” said Mr Schulze.

At the height of the Cold War, more than 2000 Leopard 2s were in the German Army stocks.

Two years ago, only 95 were believed to be fit for duty out of around 200, the German Defence Ministry said.

Now, Leopard 2s are being upgraded and numbers are expected to increase to 328 within three years.

Germany's main battle tank looks set to continue operating well into the future.

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