The Leopard 2 – whose history I talk about in this post – is a German main battle tank, used by Germany as well as by several other countries. It is considered one of the best tanks of the world.
The original idea began in the 1960s from a joint project between USA and West Germany for building a next generation main battle tank (MBT 70 or KPz 70). After its cancellation, both nations continued autonomously the development, which ended up with the M1 Abrams for the United States and with the Leopard 2 for the West Germany.
The first prototype saw the light in 1970, whereas the series production began in 1979 (with the version also named Leopard 2A0). Since then, several upgrades followed with the versions from the A1 of 1982 to A7+ of 2010. In particular, version A5 saw the addition of a wedge-shaped armor to the turret front. This is used to neutralize the blast of hollow charges and to deviate the kinetic energy penetrators.
The crew consists in 4 members: three in the turret —commander, gunner and loader— and the driver in the forward right hull.
The main armament is a 120 mm (4.72 in) Rheinmetall smoothbore gun, with a length of 44 calibers up to version A5, and of 55 calibers from version A6 on. There are also two 7.62 mm (0.30 in) machine guns, one coaxial with the main gun, the other on the turret, manned by the loader.
The advanced fire control system allows to engage moving targets while the tank itself is moving up to 30 km/h (18.64 mph). There are also a laser rangefinder, a commander's periscope plus night vision and thermal sights. The 47.64 l turbo-compressed V12 diesel engine provides 1479 HP at 2600 rpms, allowing the vehicle to reach speeds up to 68 km/h (42.25 mph).
The main user of Leopard 2 is Germany, but it is operated by 17 more nations. Up to now it saw combat service in Afghanistan, used by Canada and Denmark, and in Syria, used by Turkey.