Armor: Saudi Arabia Buys A Panzer Korps


July 16, 2011: Saudi Arabia is buying 244 Leopard 2A7+ tanks from Germany. Saudi Arabia is believed to have already ordered 44, and now has increased that order. It was only a year ago that German tank manufacturer KMW has revealed this, the latest version of its Leopard 2.

Two years ago, the German Army announced that it was going to upgrade 150 of its Leopard 2A6 tanks to the A7 standard. That would include more armor on the sides and rear (especially to protect against RPGs), more external cameras (so the crew inside could see anything in any direction, day or night), a remote control machine-gun station on top of the turret, better fire control and combat control computers and displays, more powerful auxiliary power unit and better air conditioning, and numerous other minor improvements. This would increase the weight of the tank to nearly 70 tons.

The Leopard 2A7+ has added improvements to mobility (engine, track laying system, wheels and related gear), better soundproofing for the crew, more, and better, thermal sights, and more effective ammunition for the 120mm gun (fragmentation shells that detonate above or behind a target). Non-lethal ammo has also been developed for the Leopard 2A7+. KMW also plans to begin work on Leopard 3 this decade.

Until last year, the 55 ton Leopard 2A6 was the current version, and is a contemporary of the American M-1. The 2A6 model has a stabilizer (for firing on the move) and a thermal imager (for seeing through night, mist and sand storms.) Germany has been selling less capable refurbed 2A4s since the 1990s (after the Cold War ended and the German army was much reduced in size.) This enabled many nations to inexpensively upgrade their aging armored forces. In the last decade, many nations have upgraded their Leopards to the A6 standard. Many nations prefer to continue upgrading their Leopards, mainly because there are no new tanks to buy. Thus the appeal of an upgrade to the Leopard 2A7+ standard.

Saudi Arabia is concerned about Iran, which has a force of 1,500 much older tanks (most of them Russian T-72s and T-54/55s). Saudi Arabia has 1,300 tanks, most of them older American M-60s and French AMX-30s. But the Saudis also have 370 U.S. M-1s and 150 Russian T-90s. The 244 Leopards will increase the Saudi edge. The Saudis also have the money to buy spare parts for their modern tanks, and Western instructors to provide the best training. But the Iranians are better soldiers, so they might have an edge there.



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