Leopard 1: The German-built 'best selling' tank with a British gun

Watch: How the first tank Germany built after the Second World War became the most sustainable in the world.

The German-manufactured Leopard 1A5 tank is set to become the most numerous Western-made tank in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

A total of 178 tanks are expected to arrive in Ukraine with 135 of them coming from Germany and Denmark.

Forces News spoke to Tank Museum curator David Willey to find out how and why the Leopard became the primary tank in Ukraine's arsenal.  

The Leopard 1 was the first tank that Germany built after the Second World War, and according to Mr Willey it became a 'best seller.'

The tank expert highlighted numerous factors that have contributed to the Leopard's renowned reliability.

"They've been built in large numbers, and they've been sustained because there's been so many," Mr Willey said.

"The manufacturers have kept a program together for spare parts, engines, upgrade programs, etc.

"And because there's so many countries with these, this is why it was a tank that was picked on, in particular, to go to Ukraine," Mr Willey went on to explain.

Ukraine has received both old and new versions of the Leopard tank over the past 18 months since the full-scale invasion.

The earlier Leopard 1 version had thinner armour, but according to Mr Willey what it lacked in armour it made up in speed.

"The Germans originally wanted speed to be their best defence on this vehicle, so they put a really meaty new diesel engine in the back," he said.

"And the idea was the sheer speed around the battlefield should stop you from getting hit by the enemy."

Watch: What's the difference between Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 tanks being sent to Ukraine?

Later versions of the tank received more levels of armour protection resulting in a boxy-shaped turret and an angular arrow pointed on some of the later models.

It is perhaps the continual upgrading program for German-manufactured Leopards that gives them an edge in terms of sustainability compared to the British Challenger 2, Mr Willey said.

However, it was initially British guns that gave earlier versions of the Leopard tanks an advantage that contributed to their best-selling status.

Leopard 1 tanks were initially fitted with a powerful British 105-millimeter L7 gun.

The L7 gun design by the Royal Ordnance Factories was also fitted on Centurion tanks, the British Army's main battle tank of the post-World War II.

The Americans also put the gun on their main battle tank - the Abrams.

Although subsequent iterations have been equipped with larger and more modern guns, they have successfully preserved the mobility inherent in the original design.

The surplus of Leopards serves as a testament to the vehicle's German manufacturing practices with Ukraine's embrace of this Nato technology standing as a testament to the tank's lasting legacy.

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