Procurement: Cheap 120mm Ammo


April 28, 2012: Greece is buying 9,500 120mm tank shells (4,500 for practice) from Holland. This is German made, Cold War surplus munitions to be used by Greece's Leopard 2 tanks. Greece bought 170 of these tanks new and another 183 as Cold War surplus after 1991.

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 refurbished 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 much older tanks. The German Leopard 2 tank continues to be a hot item in the second hand market, often to replace U.S. M-60 tanks (a 1960s design). Already, Austria has bought 115, Canada 100, Norway 52, Sweden 160, Singapore 96, Denmark 52, Finland 124, Poland 128, Portugal 73, Greece 183, Chile 100, and Spain 108. Originally, West Germany bought 2,125 new Leopard 2 tanks, the Netherlands 445, Switzerland 370, Sweden 120, Spain 219, and Greece 170. The Netherlands has already sold off most of its Leopard 2s.

Greece also has 511 older Leopard 1s. The 1960s era, 43 ton, Leopard 1 has a 105mm gun and a top speed of 65 kilometers an hour. Until the 1980s, the Leopard I was considered one of the best tanks available. Entering service in the late 1960s, it was the first post-World War II German tank design. Although a contemporary of the American M-60A3, the German tank was considered superior. For this reason Germany was able to export Leopards to many nations. Most of the 4,744 produced (plus 1,741 Leopard chassis adapted to other uses, like recovery and anti-aircraft) have been retired (in storage) or scrapped. Many owners may have to melt down its Leopard Is, for there's not much of a market left for 43 ton tanks, even those equipped with a lot of nifty upgrades. The original buyers of Leopard I have already flooded the market.

Now, surplus ammo for the Leopards is being sold, cheap, before it becomes too old to use. Most ammo, especially the complex rounds used by modern tanks, has an expiration date. Usually it’s about twenty years, mostly because the propellant is chemically active and degrades (and becomes unreliable) over time. There are companies that can rejuvenate old tank ammo by replacing the propellant and checking for any other component failures. Your average 120mm tank round weighs 22 kg (48-49 pounds) and contains about 8 kg (17-18 pounds) of propellant. These 120mm rounds tend to cost more than $5,000 each, brand new. The Greeks got a bog discount.





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