Procurement: Norway Upgrades Its Tank Forces


March 6, 2023: Norway, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and threats against its other neighbors, is upgrading the tanks that equip its ground forces. Currently Norway has 36 Leopard 2A2 tanks obtained in the early 1980s. Norway is replacing these with 54 Leopard 2A7 tanks, with an option to add another 18 to that order. These new tanks will begin arriving in 2026. Meanwhile Norway is considering sending eight or more of its older Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Norway is a small country, with only 5.5 million people. The army has only 8,000 troops, 0nly 46 percent of them career soldiers, the rest are conscripts who serve 19 months. The only hostile border the army has to worry about is the 195 kilometer border with Russia in the far north. Most army personnel are infantry, supported by some artillery and tanks. Norway also maintains a large intelligence collection force for a country its size and this is mainly to monitor what the Russians are up to. This intel effort is quite effective and that annoys the Russians a great deal. Russia has more tanks near its land border with Norway but there is not much on the Norwegian side that is of military value. On the Russian side of the border there are several major naval bases and shipyards.

The Leopard 2A7 is similar in capabilities to the American M1A2. The first Leopard 2s entered service in the early 1980s, the same time the first American M1s appeared. Ultimately, 3,600 Leopard 2s were built, compared to about 10,000 M1s. Germany was the major operator of Leopard 2s, having over 2,000 in service before the Cold War ended in 1991. After 1991 Germany reduced its tank force, selling many of its Leopard 2s to countries seeking to upgrade their tank forces. Currently Germany has about 300 Leopard 2 tanks with many (up to a third) out of service for upgrades or maintenance. Several NATO countries are donating their older Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, where even these older Leopard 2s are more capable in combat than any Russian tanks.

The 55 ton Leopard 2A7 is similar to the American M-1, including the upgraded armor. The 66.5- ton 2A7 model is the most expensive tank on the market, costing over $15 million each. The 2A7 has a stabilizer (for firing on the move) and a thermal imager (for seeing through night, mist and sand storms.) The additional weight reduces range to 340 kilometers on roads or 220 kilometers off-road. Max road speed is 70 kilometers an hour. The Leopard 2 and M1 have evolved to become more identical in capabilities. This was done deliberately to achieve some NATO standardization for the two tanks most often used by NATO countries.




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