Logistics: Cannibal Leopards Run Amok


February 26, 2008: While the German Leopard 2 tank continues to be a hot item in the second hand market, the same can't said for spare parts to keep them going. Many nations have bought these Cold War surplus tanks (Austria bought 115, Canada 100 Portugal 71 and Norway 52 from the Netherlands, while Sweden bought 160, Singapore 96, Denmark 52, Finland 124, Poland 128, Greece 183, Turkey 298, Chile 100 and Spain 108 from Germany), at the same time there was a growing shortage of spare parts to keep these vehicles going.

Originally, West Germany bought 2,125 new Leopard 2 tanks, the Netherlands 445, Switzerland 370, Sweden 120, Spain 219 and Greece 170. These nations had built up stockpiles of spare parts for potential wartime use (when spares would be used more quickly). But many of the firms that produced the spares, stopped doing so in the 1990s, when many Leopard 2s were taken out of service and put into storage. Now the Cold War stocks are running out. Canada, which bought some Leopard 2s second hand, for use in Afghanistan, has had a major problem with this. The immediate solution was to buy more surplus Leopard 2s, just so they could be cannibalized for spares.

The 55 ton Leopard 2A is a contemporary of the American M1, but without the upgraded armor. Most 2A models have a stabilizer (for firing on the move) and a thermal imager (for seeing through night, mist and sand storms.) Germany has been selling refurbed 2A4s since the 1990s (after the Cold War ended and the German army was much reduced in size, reducing their tank force from 81 battalions to six.) This enabled many nations to inexpensively upgrade their much older tanks. Germany only has about 800 Leopard 2's left (having sold off over 1,300). About 400 of those are on active duty. The Swiss are shopping around 240 used Leopard 2s, and the Swedes would be willing to part with about 160 of them. No one wants to talk about the spare parts situation.




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