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Armoured Vehicles - NATO/ISAF - Southern Afghanistan  –  December 2006

Punching at Panjwaii  –  Canadian Leopard Tanks in Combat
CF Tracked Vehicles Tackle the Taliban  and Afghan Winters

Stephen  Priestley ,  CASR   Researcher / Illustrator
In to Action  –  Canadian Leopard C2 tanks and  the TLAV M113A3s in Combat

After a month of settling in and training, the Leopard C2 tanks of B Squadron of Lord Strathcona's Horse (RC) are on the move. On 03 Dec 2006 (Afghan time) the tanks rolled out of the Kandahar Airfield compound  heading for Panjwaii District. The Leopards form a new direct fire unit capable of  punching  through  the thick, mud-brick walls (left) that typify much of Panjwaii District and caused Canadian troops problems during Operation Medusa.

Images  from  Kandahar  reveal  details about  the deployed Leopard  C2s. As many as ten tanks are visible (right) all fitted with MEXAS armour kits – more than previously said  to exist  –  and at least one Leopard each is fitted with a dozer blade (right, front vehicle) or with a mine rack (topmost image, front vehicle).

The Leopard C2s aren't the only tracked armour in southern Afghanistan. The first Leo airlift included a Taurus Armour- ed Recovery Vehicle (ARV). There are also at least two AEV (Armoured Engineering Vehicle) Badgers joining the fight in Panjwaii (left). Both these specialist vehicles are based on a Leopard chassis. Light tracked vehicles also accompany the heavy armour. It had been announced that 40 rebuilt TLAVs would go  to  Kandahar in 2007.  It seems some arrived early.

Images of M113A3s in Afghanistan have been of poor quality so far. [1] The TLAV's rooftop remote-control armament has been covered  –  until revealed, we must assume that PWS (Protected Weapons Stations) have been mounted. M113A3s will act as infantry section carriers. The arrival of tracked LAVs is well-timed – winter rains are turning the Afghan dust into mud.

The tracked vehicles address some of the mobility limitations that were encountered  with  LAV IIIs during Operation Medusa [2] which will be worsened by the winter conditions. More important is the Leo's greater firepower – within a day of arriving at  Foward Operating Base Ma'sum Ghar, the Leopard's 105s were returning fire on Taliban rocket launcher positions.

Journalists contrast upgraded  Leopard fire control, sights, and protection with the cruder systems of  the Soviet tanks defeated by Afghan Mujahideen in the '80s. Quite true but parallels can be drawn with Northern Alliance tanks (left) in 2001 – T-55s used as mobile, direct-fire artillery. A Leopard firing from its FOB revetment  is simply more sophisticated  kit doing the same job.

The CF sees other roles for the Leopards in Afghanistan (among them protecting convoys from attack) but, in Part 2, we will focus on mouseholing mud-brick walls.
[1] 'Life-extended' TLAV (M113A3 and long-wheelbased MTVL) emphasized new armament arrangements –  either RWS (Remote Weapon Systems) or 'One Metre' turrets  (recycled from AVGP Grizzly section carriers).  The former is probably the Rafael PWS as planned but may also be the Kongsberg M151 RWS (as on APVs).

Another M113 type in theatre is the remote mine-clearing ILDS Protection Vehicle.

[2]  LAV IIIs had difficulties with Panjwaii mud-brick compounds and its irrigation ditches. Tracked M113A3s will cope better with the latter but  not with the former.

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