In December 2014 the German Army received its first models of the latest Leopard 2 model, the 2A7+. The upgrades in the 2A7+ are based on user experience in Afghanistan. Canada and Denmark both used Leopard 2s in Afghanistan and the German manufacturer sought out a wish list of changes and upgrades. The American experience in Iraq was also consulted. The result was the new version.
The Leopard 2A7+ is an upgrade of the 2A6 model. That upgrade included 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 (to be used for electricity when the main engine is shut down), better air conditioning, and numerous other minor improvements. This increased the weight of the tank to 68 tons.
The Leopard 2A7+ upgrades also 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).
Until 2010 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 2A7+ standard. Germany still has 200 Leopard 2s and plans to upgrade all to the 2A7+ level,
The German Leopard 2 appeared in 1979 and was an immediate export hit, especially to replace elderly U.S. M-60 tanks (a 1960s design.) But when the Cold War ended in 1991 many Leopard 2 users looked to sell off many of their Leopard 2s. Already over 1,500 of the original 3,500 Leopard 2s have been sold as second-hand vehicles to Austria, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Singapore, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Portugal, Greece, Chile, Turkey and Spain. Originally, West Germany bought 2,125 new Leopard 2 tanks, the Netherlands 445, Switzerland 370, Sweden 120, Spain 219 and Greece 170. A contemporary of the U.S. M-1, many consider the Leopard 2 a superior tank, even though the M-1 has much more combat experience and subsequent upgrades based on the experience in battle.
In 2003 both Germany and the United States believed the usefulness of heavy tanks like the M-1 and Leopard 2 were over. Then came Iraq and Afghanistan where it was found that these traditional designs were still very useful, especially with the most modern accessories (like thermal sights, vidcams for all-round visibility from inside the tank and modern air-conditioning systems that can withstand tropical heat). Thus upgrading the Leopard 2s remains a big business.