Leopard 2, Leclerc, Merkava: What are modern battle tanks worth? (1/3)

Since its first appearance on the battlefield during the First World War, the main battle tank has been the object of both an extreme fascination for some, and a total denial for others. Over the course of the conflicts, and the appearance of new weapon systems, such as the anti-tank missile or more recently the vagrant ammunition, the end of the tank's supremacy in land combat has been prophesied many times, like other major armaments such as aircraft carriers or combat aircraft. However, it is clear today, while geopolitical tensions continue to grow, that the tank market is doing well, with more than 4000 heavy tanks sold for export for the last three years alone, in Egypt, India, Pakistan, Poland, Hungary or Taiwan to name only the main contracts. At the same time, a new generation of these heavy armored vehicles has emerged, mostly on the basis of models from the end of the Cold War with new systems of detection, protection and increased firepower, making these vehicles the essential tool for any medium to high intensity land action.

In this three-part synthesis article, we will present the most emblematic of modern battle tanks, the very ones that could potentially endure most of the confrontations in the next 15 years on the planet, in order to understand their strengths. but also the weaknesses, and the determining role that they are called to play during this period.

Germany: Leopard 2A7 +

The Leopard 2, developed in the 70s by the German firm Krauss-Maffei Wegman, is in many areas the tank of all records in this panel. Not only was it the first to enter service in 1979, but it is also the most exported and one of the heaviest models ever built, with, for the A7 version, a combat mass exceeding 65 tonnes. It is also one of the tanks which knew the best and most effectively to evolve through no less than 16 versions, going from the initial version of 1979 equipped with a 105 mm gun and succinct analog electronics. , to the ultimate A7 + version equipped with Rheinmetall's L / 55 smoothbore gun, and latest generation on-board electronics and electronics, as well as an automated FLW200 turret in place of the original old MG3 machine gun. Nearly 11 meters long, 3 meters high and 3m70 wide, the Leopard 2A7 + is powered by a 12 hp MTU MB 873 Ka-501 biturbo-diesel V1480 engine, giving it a power / weight ratio of 22,8, 68 hp per ton. The armored vehicle can thus reach the maximum speed of 1,1 km / h on the road, and cross vertical obstacles of more than 55 m. Its L / 540 gun is, for its part, considered to be one of the most effective of the moment, capable of penetrating 1000 mm of steel at 829 meters with an M560 depleted uranium arrow shell and even 43mm with the penetrator shell. with Franco-German tungsten DMXNUMX.

Beyond its undeniable operational qualities, the success of the German Leopard 2 is largely explained by the joint efforts of KMW and Rheinmetall to constantly improve the armored vehicle which has known no less than 16 different versions over its 40 years. on duty.

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