The Norwegian army intends to update its “armoured fist”, replacing the ageing fleet of Leopard 2A4 MBTs. The army has to choose between two tanks – the South Korean Black Panther K2 (NO) and the German Leopard 2A7 (NO), which were adapted to local needs (hence the prefix “NO”).
Two tanks of these models arrived at the Rena test site in Österdalen for winter testing. Based on the results of this competition, the Norwegian military will have to decide which of the tanks best suits their needs.
The appearance of the Black Panther in the tender is a manifestation of the deepening cooperation between Seoul and Oslo in the military-technical sphere. Norway has already bought weapons from South Korea. In December 2017, Hanwha Land Systems and the Norwegian Ministry of Defense signed a contract to supply 24 K9 Thunder self-propelled artillery mounts and 6 K1 ARV recovery vehicles based on the K1 tank.
Tanks so heavy, Norways’ roads cannot handle
A funny incident when delivering rival tanks to the training ground is reported on social networks. The Norwegian Highway Authority inspected a tractor transporting a Leopard 2A7 from Germany. As a result, it was found that the excess was 15 tons, and a fine of 153,000 crowns [$18,000] was issued.
This case once again demonstrates the discrepancy between the road infrastructure in Europe and military logistics. The road network can hardly cope with the excessively increased weight dimensions of armoured vehicles. In the case of bridges, the situation looks more depressing: most of them are not designed for the passage of such heavy machines.
The Norwegian government announced a competition to select a new tank model for its Armed Forces in November 2020. Out of nine models of main battle tanks, two have made it to the finals of the competition – the South Korean K2 Black Panther and the German Leopard 2A7.
The Norwegian army purchased the Leopard 2A4 tanks in 2001. Fifty-four tanks were purchased from the Netherlands and modernized at Norwegian enterprises. Currently, the combat units of the Norwegian Armed Forces have only 36 Leopard 2A4 units. The supply of new tanks, which will replace the Leopards, should begin in 2025.
Norway received commercial offers from the competing companies in November 2021.
If Hyundai Rotem wins the auction, the first batch of tanks will be produced in South Korea by 2025. But most of the contract will be fulfilled by Norwegian enterprises organizing assembly using components developed in the country, for example, remotely controlled combat modules, which are proposed to equip new tanks. The second and subsequent batches will be produced in Norway.
K2-NO Black Panther tank weighs 61.5 tons with a 1500 horsepower diesel engine. The tank is equipped with a 120 mm cannon with a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun. The crew of the tank consists of three people. In addition, the tank is equipped with a remotely controlled weapon station with a 12.7 mm machine gun. A big plus in favour of K2-NO is its operation at low temperatures. It also has increased security due to the ballistic package and dynamic protection. K2NO Black Panther is installed with the Israeli Trophy active protection system for testing in Norway.
Sweden and Germany are upgrading their tank fleets too
The Swedish Armed Forces have begun the revival of their armoured forces. In particular, the Gotland Regiment is set about building the new Lärbro tank company. It will be equipped with Stridsvagn 122 tanks by 2025, a licensed copy of the German Leopard 2 tank. Sweden has 120 Leopard 2 (S) tanks with configuration close to the Leopard 2A5. In the Swedish army, these tanks received the local designation Strv 122 or Stridsvagn 122. Twenty-nine tanks were converted from Leopard 2 improved vehicles purchased from Germany. Another 91 tanks were produced by the Swedish company Hägglunds Vehicle under a licencing agreement. Their frontal armour, the roof of the tower, as well as the escape hatches of the crew are significantly strengthened compared to the Leopard 2A5. In addition, the vehicles have received more advanced electronics.
Germany started receiving the Leopard 2A7 tanks in September 2021. Tankers of the 393rd tank battalion began to accept a batch of 30 vehicles at the storage base. In 2022 the completed battalion will become part of the Joint High Readiness Task Force of the NATO Rapid Reaction Force. Under the terms of the agreement signed in 2017, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann will upgrade 104 Leopard tanks of various modifications to the Leopard 2A7V level until 2023.
The upgraded Leopard 2A7V was first introduced in 2016. The vehicle has received a new turret, hull and equipment. Leopard 2A7 was equipped with an auxiliary power unit to power electronic systems. The tank received Rheinmetall Rh-120 L55A1, a high-power smoothbore gun. New instruments were added to the Leopard 2A7 fire control system, and the main equipment of the vehicle was combined into the IFIS combat information and control system. Last year, the tanks were tested with the Israeli Trophy active protection system and the contract to install them on the newly built chassis of the Leopard 2 A7 standard and the Leopard 2 A6 A3 were inked. KMW refersit as Leopard 2 A7A1.