The German company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) is the only tank manufacturer in the European Union, allowing industrial and economic cooperation to sell battle tanks. It is why the German Leopard 2 tank remains the favourite for the European Army rearmament plans.
Leopard 2 – the only modern European tank in production
The Leopard 2A7 tank is the most modern variant of the Leopard 2 series of tanks, and it is a totally new tank model, unlike the modernisation project of used tanks, as is the case with other European types of tanks.
In addition, it is a proven platform for combat. Another important fact is that Leopard 2 tanks are in the Armies of most NATO countries.
The roots of the development of Leopard 2 tanks date back to the 1970s. However, KMW has continued with the tank’s development. Due to the timelessness of the design, Leopard 2 remains on the top technologically and on performance. The current variant of Leopard 2 with the nickname A7 is based on the experience gained with Leopard 2 of the previous variants by the armed forces of various countries during deployment in combat operations in recent years. The durability and performance of the tank were strengthened along with improved electronic and aiming systems.
Most nations require local industry involvement in modernisation projects for their armaments programs. It is commonly a requirement during the tender stage of weapon buying, even if the demand is only a few dozen pieces. KMW has met the local production requirements of Leopard 2 in several cases in the past.
LEOBEN – a unique support program
Buying new tanks is not enough as the user also needs an entirely new maintenance system, service facilities and capacity for future modernisations. One of the reasons why the Leopard 2 has become such a widespread tank is the support system called LEOBEN (Leopard-benutzende Staaten/ Leopard User Nations Group) or LEO User Club. Eighteen nations use over 3500 Leopard tanks, including Germany, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Poland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Turkey, and others. The program is U.S. and Europe exclusive and it is not known if Qatar and Indonesia have been added to the list making it a global program.
The LEOBEN program enables sharing experience from the operation of tanks, sharing logistics, and bringing economic savings. The LEOBEN countries work closely together in research and development, tank upgrades, repairs, the provision of spare parts or the provision of ammunition to make the operation of Leopard tanks as economical as possible.
The whole system also includes working groups with the given competencies. There is a working group for logistics cooperation, joint procurement of spare parts, maintenance planning and provision of ammunition. There is also a working group for service and maintenance of tanks, which also deals with technical modifications, weakness analyses and improvements. And finally, there is a working group for the modernisation of combat systems and common research and development policy.
Due to the LEOBEN program, Leopard 2 users can rely on strategic cooperation to reduce the cost of operating tanks. Therefore, the program means efficient spending of funds on the operation of tanks and the necessary logistics throughout their life, including upgrades and improvements. In addition, they are not affected by the number of tanks operated in each army. The cost of operating one tank would be comparable to the German or Polish army with hundreds of tanks and Norway, which has bought only a few dozen tanks.
LEOBEN in operation
Not much is known about the program in the open source barring a Canadian Letter of Intent (LOI) which has references to LEOBEN.
As per the LOI, Canada uses LEOBEN services for the Configuration Management of the standard configurations of Leopard Tanks and the ARV. Canada has also used LEOBEN CoopLog; however, Repair and Overhaul and spares are currently procured exclusively via Contracts/Standing Offers with the local industry.
The LOI also states that Canada maintains LOEBAN for interoperability as the Leopard 2 tanks have no role in Canada and are meant for deployment abroad. In Canada, they are used for only training.
The LOI also indicates a technology transfer process in LEOBEN and Canada intends to use it to promote its local industries.
Describing LEOBEN, the LOI states that the program “allows member nations to share ideas, solutions, and costs related to product improvement, obsolescence management, and configuration control.”
It also states that Canada will endeavour to adopt an “as LEOBEN as possible” policy regarding controlling its adherence to a common build standard. The intent is to maximise the efficiencies inherent in commonalisation and permit greater interoperability in times of crisis.