NATO’s “Leopard”

Most military experts have compared America’s current main battle tank (MBT), the M1A1/M1A2 Abrams to Russia’s modern T-90, though few countries utilize the American Abrams. This can be said of the T-90 as only five countries operate it: The Russian Federation, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and India. However, there is one tank just as capable as both (If not superior) produced in Germany called the Leopard 2.

The Leopard 2 was originally designed during the 80’s for the German Army (Pronounced Heer in German) when the Warsaw Pact seemed capable of overrunning Europe, very much like the M1 Abrams. Since then it has been upgraded repeatedly, the latest version in widespread use is called the “2A6,” with yet another variant in the prototype stage called the “2A7+” designed to have more protection and be better suited to urban warfare.

The Leopard 2A6 has a 120mm smoothbore cannon just as the Abrams tank does, though the T-90 retains a 125mm cannon. What the Leopard 2A6 does have over the T-90 is speed: The Leopard has a top speed of 45mph, whereas the T-90 can only go to 40mph.

The Leopard series also has much more field experience with different crews and conflicts when compared to the T-90. The Leopard was used by German forces in Kosovo as part of KFOR, Dutch forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of IFOR, and most recently in Afghanistan as part of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force). To date, very few Leopards have ever been decommissioned in combat when compared to the Abrams.

Currently, the Leopard is being used by the majority of countries in NATO, such as Canada, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Austria, Norway, Poland, Spain, Turkey, and Portugal, as well as other non-NATO members in Europe such as Finland and Sweden. Overall, there are roughly 1,956 Leopards in use by NATO, as well as 639 being operated by Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. Russia, on the other hand, only has 743 T-90’s in service while relying on the sheer amount of outdated T-80’s (Roughly 1,400 active with over 3,000 in storage). However, most T-80 crews are very poorly trained and since the dissolution of the USSR there has been much less funding for maintenance and repairs.

Although not as well-known in America, Germany’s Leopard 2 (Particularly the 2A6) is very capable in any combat situation as evidenced by positive reports by Danish and Canadian forces in Afghanistan, and due to the trust NATO members have placed in it’s abilities, it would appear an effective deterrent in any conventional conflict.

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