Canadian American Strategic Review


DND 101

CF  Leopard

Leopard 2


Leo 2A6M

Canadian Forces  Armour  —  Leopard 2A6M CAN  Main Battle Tank

 Update: With the end of the CF combat mission in Afghanistan, these borrowed Leopard 2A6Ms are being returned to the Bundeswehr. Note that some of the ex-Netherlands Leopards were 2A6s with L55 barrels and will be brought up to full Leopard 2A6M CAN standards.

The Leopard 2A6M tanks currently in use with the CF in Afghanistan are on loan from the German Bundeswehr. [1] The tanks were upgraded to Canadian standards prior  to being airlifted  into Kandahar in August 2007. Changes to the tanks included an extensive 'cage' of slat armour (to thwart RPGs) as well as CF communications equipment, etc.

Of course, the key upgrade was the add-on belly plates which define  the  2A6M model Leopard tank (the forward edge of the mine protection plate is visible in the photos, left and above right). Since it was intended that these tanks would  be returned to Germany, other standard Bundeswehr equipment was to remain unaltered –  such as the two MG3 machineguns. Rather surprisingly – in light of experience with Leopard C2s –  the tanks also originally lacked air conditioners.

  KMW  Leopard  2A6M CAN  Specifications
 Crew:   4 (driver, gunner, loader, veh cdr.)
  120mm L/55 main gun,  2 x 7.62mm
  MG3s, 16  x  70mm launcher tubes
  L  x  9.97m (gun fwd.) 7.74m (hull),
  W  x  3.74m (less skirts), H x  3.0m
 Weight:   62 t  (less add-on and bar armour)
 Powerplant:   1100 kW MTU MB 873
 Speed:   70+ km/h (road), 55 km/h (off road)

Heat Relief  for Crews in Afghan Summers
The Leopard 2A6Ms now feature both add- on air conditioners as well as summer frocks. The frilly outfits are Barracuda MCS (Mobile Camouflage System) mats which reduce heat by insulating the tank's steel plate from solar rays. [2]  Camouflage is an incidental  benefit of MCS. All tanks will be covered in Afghan dust  –  the CF doesn't even paint  the tanks.

While umbrellas and camo covers do elicit comments, they serve their purpose. So do the tanks themselves. The Leopard 2A6M brings increased firepower to Afghanistan. More importantly, and  in contrast with the older  Leopard C2s,  spare parts are readily available to cope  with appalling  operating conditions.  Critics claim that  the tanks are too intimidating for the role that  they play. Tankers know that intimidation can be an asset.  Other Leopard 2A6M assets are speed, mechanical reliability, and crew protection. [3]

[1] This loan was Phase 1 of  the Tank Replacement Project, Phase 2 was the purchase of  used  Leopard 2A4s and 2A6s from the Nether- lands. The program to refurbish this tanks has become very confused but the first 5  (of  20 )  Leopard 2A4M CANs  have been delivered.
[2] The Saab Barracuda MCS covers are said to reduce solar loading by 50 percent.  MCS is based on the Barracuda HeaT Reduction (or HTR) system. HTR minimizes heat radiation with a layered approach. The upper layer reflects sunlight while the bottom layer insulates the hull.  Leopard 2A6M MCS is similar to those fitted to Australian Leopards.  Leopard C2s have a different design of heat-reducing covers.
[3] At least one Leopard 2A6M CAN has been knocked out by a large IED. Although this vehicle was so badly damaged that it cannot be returned to Germany, the crew suffered no major injuries. In this case, the 2A6M's mine protection plate worked just as it was designed to.