The Leopard 2A7+ was awarded the contract for the Norwegian tank under the 2020-started initiative “Project 9360 – Tank capacity for the Army” (Prosjekt 9360 – Stridsvognkapasitet til Haeren). The Norwegian Defense Purchasing Agency (Forsvarsmateriell, FMA) awarded the contract on February 3.
Leopard 2A7+ tank manufactured by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and the K2NO (a Norwegian-specific variant of the serial K2 Black Panther tank) tank manufactured by Hyundai Rotem took part in the competition. The Leopard 2A7 and the K2NO were chosen on November 16, 2020, and they were transported to Norway in pairs for testing on December 28, 2021, and January 9, 2022. To assess whether or not the vehicles met the operational and logistical standards imposed by the military, they were subjected to a series of extensive comparison tests in the winter.
Unofficial reports indicated that the South Korean K2 received some preference from the Norwegian military based on test results, and the South Korean side enticed the Norwegians with a wide transfer of technology, a significant share of industrial participation, and speedy deliveries; however, it appears that political considerations, arguments in favour of “compatibility” with NATO allies, as well as the tradition and experience of using the L-100, prevailed in the end.
KMW too runs the LEOBEN program (Leopard-benutzende Staaten/ Leopard User Nations Group) or LEO User Club, which 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, spare parts, or ammunition to make the operation of Leopard tanks as economical as possible.
In November 2022, the Commander-in-Chief of the Norwegian Armed Forces, General Eirik Kristoffersen, recommended to the Minister of Defense of Norway that the acquisition of new tanks be abandoned entirely, as the Norwegian army, according to the general, “greatly needs mobility and firepower” and new helicopters and long-range precision weapons should be purchased instead of tanks. However, such a bold viewpoint from the chief executive was eventually disregarded.
The new Leopard 2A7+ tanks will replace the 36 remaining Leopard 2A4NO tanks in the Norwegian military (Norway purchased 52 Leopard 2A4 units in 2001 from the Netherlands, and the vehicles were built by KMW 1983-1985). Presumably, the designation for the tank variant for Norway will be Leopard 2A7NO.
As stated in the news release, discussions will begin at KMW for procuring 54 Leopard 2A7NO vehicles, with an option for 18 more vehicles (72 tanks in total), as part of Project P9360, which was formerly known as Project 2050. This will allow for the withdrawal of 52 Leopard 2A4NOs from the northern brigade (Brigade Nord), of which around 30 were supposed to be operational, and the introduction of new vehicles as part of one of the new armoured battalions (Panserbataljonen).
During the press conference held in Rhine (mot Municipality, Hedmark County), Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr stressed the possibility that additional tanks would boost the armoured capabilities of the land troops ( Haeren ).
The total cost of the programme is estimated to be NOK 19.7 billion, the first deliveries are anticipated to take place in 2026, and the programme is anticipated to be finished in 2031.
As mentioned, since 2002, Haeren has been using ex Dutch Leopard 2A4s in its arsenal. In 2018, it was decided that they would not be updated and that their operational service would be terminated in 2025. It’s interesting to note that initially, the thought was given to bringing them up to the 2A7 standard.
In place of the L44, the Leopard 2A7 is equipped with a larger 120mm RH-120/L55A1 smoothbore gun with an enhanced maximum line pressure from 670 to 700 MPa, HTK intercom, SitaWare Frontline battlefield management system (BMS), and L3 Harris radio station RF-7800H-MP. Additionally, the amount of armour and mobility is improved. The new modified cannon has been designed to fire programmed DM11 and DM63/DM63A1 sub-calibre ammunition with a 4.6-kilogram core, 26-millimetre diameter, and 685-millimetre length. The same service life was maintained (1.5 thousand shots). The vehicles also receive an additional 17 kW Steyr M12 power generator, the Thales SOTAS communication system, a new air conditioning system, and thermal imaging cameras from Airbus ATTICA for the commander and gunner.
Currently, this latest version is being deployed in Germany (20 of 205 planned Leopard 2A7Vs have been delivered), Denmark (ultimately, 44 Leopard 2A7DKs will be modernised), and Hungary (as completely new vehicles – 44 Leopard 2A7HU). The Czech military forces announced on January 31 that the Leopard 2A7 would be the target tank (approximately 40-50 tanks).