Czech Republic eyes Leopard Type 1A5 tanks which German Rheinmetall offered Ukraine

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

A Czech TV channel, citing Defense Minister Yana Chernokhova, reported that the Czech Republic is negotiating with Germany to buy Leopard tanks to replace the T-72 tanks that Prague provided to Ukraine.

As per the local media, Czechs have sent heavy equipment to Ukraine, including Dana self-propelled howitzers, RM-70 Grad salvo rocket launchers, Soviet-made T-72 tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.

When asked whether the Czechs would acquire Leopard 1 tanks from the 1970s or significantly more modern Leopard 2 machines, the Minister stated that it would be a modification “somewhere in the middle”.

88 Leopard tanks offered to Ukraine

In April, the Düsseldorf armaments group, through Rheinmetall, offered to send 88 Leopard-type tanks to Ukraine for 115 million Euros. The Czech defence minister’s claim it will be a modification between Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 may not be true as these two models are inherently different. 

Leopard 1 – The first tank after the war

After Germany lost World War II, the Leopard 1 was the first tank made in Germany to gain a fairly decent reputation. Built by Porsche, it was commissioned by several countries from Australia to Belgium to Greece and Turkey. It is armed with a 105 mm cannon with 13 projectiles in the tower and another 42 in the tank’s hull. The equipment also included two 7.62 mm machine guns. Leopard 1 achieved a top speed of 65 km per hour, and a fully fuelled tank could travel 600 km on the road or 450 km in terrain. The 70 mm thick armour could withstand 20 mm bullets in all parts. All this at a weight of 42.2 tons.

Leopard 2 – The modern Tank

Leopard 2 is armed with a 120 mm cannon and the tank accommodates 42-50 shells. The latest A7V types can use timed ammunition that can explode at precise distances. The shell disperses shards just before, inside or above the target. At the same time, the modernized cannon can use sub-calibre projectiles with a tungsten core, which should cope with the latest Russian tanks equipped with reactive armour. Due to the reinforced armour, the weight of the tank also increased. Depending on the different types of equipment, it weighs between 55.14-62.5 tons.

The new type also has a smaller range, only 400 km on the road or 250 km on the terrain. Both tanks are manned by four crew. 

The differences are great

At first glance, it is clear that the older model was significantly more mobile, mainly due to weaker armour and, therefore, less crew protection. The cannon is smaller in calibre and logically cannot compete with the current modern standards offered by Leopard 2. 

The Leopard 1 had versions from A1 to A5. Leopard 1 A5 was developed in the 1990s, and the key features included a modern fire control system and improved night vision equipment. About 1000 + A1 and A2 in the Bundeswehr (German Army) were upgraded to the A5 standards. A3 and welded turret and A4 are similar to it but with computerized fire control and a modern sighting system.

Gepard is a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun with 35 mm guns built on Leopard 1 chassis and is now offered to Ukraine.

The Leopard tanks offered to Ukraine and now Czech are Type 1A5 used by the Bundeswehr until 2003. 

Significantly aged

Initially, the main gun, the British 105mm L7A3, was the best gun available. Today it is hopelessly outdated. The Leopard 1A5 cannot penetrate the frontal armour of the Russian T-tanks. Also, the Russian tanks are armed with 125mm guns. The Leopard 1 would not be a match in open combat. In the 1960s, the Leopard 1 was very well motorized; today, it still almost reaches the level of the T-tank. 

The gyroscopic weapon stabilization system and the retrofitted fire control system on the 1A5 are comparatively modern. The model has a laser range finder. The computer takes into account weather, movement and type of ammunition. All the gunner needs to do is aim the target – the Leopard 1 can quickly lock on, fire and retreat while on the move. What remains is the insufficient armour, especially on the lower hull. In the event of a mission, reactive armour could be retrofitted, but the basic problem would remain.

But the Leopard 1 could still fill many other tasks today. It should not be forgotten here that the infantry fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers are usually far less well protected and armed. The Leopard 1 could accompany infantrymen and support them with its firepower and be used in defense and ambushes. Leopard 1 tanks could protect less vulnerable areas, freeing up other main battle tanks.


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