Leopard 2A7 Tanks with European Support. "There are no other versions envisaged within the RFI" [ANALYSIS]

19 października 2017, 11:13
Image Credit: kpt. Adriana Wołyńska, szer. Natalia Wawrzyniak
Some of the NATO member states still operate T-72 and similar tanks, thus they may be also interested in finding a potential replacement. Image Credit: Visual Information Specialist Davide Dalla Massara/US DoD
The programme assumes that Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks would be reintroduced into the active service. Image Credit: Bundeswehr/Modes
The EDA requests takes into account only the Leopard 2A7 MBTs, with no attention paid to any other versions - e.g. Leopard 2PL (photo). Image Credit: Paweł K. Malicki
Image Credit: Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
Image Credit: Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow

Request for Information, concerning the modernization of the Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks, within the programme coordinated by the European Defence Agency, concerns solely the Leopard 2A7 versionas Defence24.pl found out. The document does not mention any other options of modernization. Meanwhile, Polish Leopard 2A4 tank fleet is being currently upgraded up to the 2PL variant. This is done by the domestic industry working together with the Rheinmetall company.

As we were informed by the spokeswoman of the European Defence Agency, RFI issued within the OMBT-Leo2 programme has been published with regards to modernization of the Leopard 2A4 tanks, the goal of which would be to upgrade them, up to the Leopard 2A7 version (different variants of this version are possible). The document does not include other tank versions within its coverage, on the basis of a „clear and unambiguous decision by the contributing Member States involved in this project.”.

EDA, hence, confirmed the fact that the RFI related to the optimization of the Leopard 2 fleet includes modernization and modifications, to the 2A7 version. The 2A7 version is being used and introduced at the moment by the Bundeswehr. However, the RFI does not mention other versions of modified tanks, even though other proposals are also available on the market.

Leopard 2PL may be a good example here - the said MBT upgrade is offered by the Polish industry, in collaboration with the Rheinmetall company. The latter entity has also prepared a variant-based upgrade programme, presented during the DSEI event in London this year.

EDA spokeswoman also noted that the goal of RFI is to gather the information on possible solutions and costs, which would be a support measure for the decisionmaking process. „If this programme proves to be successful, it could be applied to other types of equipment based on Member States’ decisions.” - as she stressed. However, the request itself has been received by all entities of the European industry.

Some Member States are considering the transfer of their surplus of Leopard 2A4 to other Member States. At this stage of assessment and consideration, there is no firm commitment by any of these Member States. It is up to the Member States and not to the EDA to go public with national decisions on the project.

Statement issued by the European Defence Agency received by Defence24.pl

The EDA’s spokesperson also stressed the fact that only estimated quantities of tanks have been mentioned within the RFI. At the same time, participation of the member states in the programme would not be translated into a binding obligation, since the number of tanks may be changed. For that reason, EDA cannot provide information within that scope as of now.  

Responding to an inquiry concerning the potential purchase of MBTs from the industry, the Agency representative claimed the following: In the RFI, the EDA encourages industry to identify innovative solutions. Should one of these be buying Leopard 2A4 which industry already have at its disposal, this solution will be taken into account. The EDA and interested Member States are open to any idea that can support the business case in a pragmatic and feasible manner.”.

Another statement, that had been issued by EDA previously, suggested that responses to the RFI may be submitted until 8th December. On the basis of the aforesaid submissions, and after analyses that are to be conducted by the Agency’s experts and member states are completed, further decisions may be taken. However, the said decisions shall be taken by the member states, not the Agency itself.

Leopard 2A7 Niemcy.
Fot. Heer/Marco Dorow.

EDA’s spokeswoman also stressed the fact that the member states involved in the project could benefit from the scale of the programme, as identical and latest variant of the MBT would be introduced in many countries simultaneously, which bears a significant relevance in the current geopolitical context. Moreover, this cooperation contributes to more coherence in the European capability landscape”, as we were told.

The information obtained by us suggests that the “contributing” EDA member states decided that the RFI, within the said programme, shall cover modernization and upgrades of the tanks up to the 2A7 version. Nonetheless, no specific countries were indicated by EDA. Also, no information has been released with regards to the states that are considering sharing of their tanks within the programme, or procuring main battle tanks after the modernization.

Leopard 2A7 is the latest version of the German tank developed by the KMW company, in collaboration with other entities. At the moment, the Bundeswehr operates 20 platforms as such. The said tank is capable of using programmable rounds, features extra armour and additional observation systems and C4ISR/BMS solutions.

In May this year, a contract was signed, with a value of 760 million euros, envisaging modernization of 104 Leopard 2 MBTs up to the 2A7V standard, with extra upgrades introduced too. The vehicles are going to be received by the Bundeswehr. The contract foresees that 20 2A7 tanks (mentioned above), 16 Leopard 2A6NL (being a part of the common German Dutch tank pool) and 68 Leopard 2 tanks bought from the KMW company (2A4 vehicles primarily) would undergo the upgrades.

Leopard 2A4 Niemcy
Niemcy pozyskają zmagazynowane czołgi Leopard 2A4, jednak przed przywróceniem do służby zostaną one zmodernizowane. Fot. Bundeswehr/Modes

The KMW company would act as the primary contractor within the said agreement. However, conclusion of the contract was preceded by negotiation - not only involving the MoD, but also the German company establishing the relevant dialogue with subcontractors, including the Rheinmetall entity. Back in February this year, Die Welt suggested that the companies are in an argument, discussing the scope of involvement of the latter company in the programme.

This issue was also mentioned by the German Defence Minister, expressing her readiness to sign the agreement in November 2016, asking the industry to do its “internal homework”. Even if we are not speaking of import, but about own modernization of domestically utilized equipment that had been previously operated for several years, and in cases when the authorities have so expansive procurement scheme at their disposal, similar to the one utilized in Germany, it is clearly evident that the competition between the individual companies may also have an impact on implementation of the priority programmes. In September this year, information was released, suggesting that Rheinmetall has signed a contract concerning the company’s participation in the programme, the goal of which would be to modernize the German MBTs, so that they would be compliant with the Leopard 2A7V standard.

The RFI issued by EDA has been based on a principle similar to the one applied in case of the German tanks modernization programme. We do not know which countries have declared that they have surplus vehicles available to be included in the programme. The available information suggests that 2A4 tanks may remain at disposal of Spain, Finland or Austria.

Some of the NATO member states still operate T-72 and similar tanks, thus they may be also interested in finding a potential replacement. Image Credit: Visual Information Specialist Davide Dalla Massara/US DoD

When it comes to Germany, the industry may be the main subject that could have the surplus vehicles at hand. This is suggested by the information that was released at the beginning of the year, about the fact that the British had rejected an offer of modernization and procurement of the surplus MBTs. The reports concerning that proposal, and the fact that the German company has an inventory of the Leopard tanks have not been officially emphasized by the company. On the other hand, according to the UN Register of Conventional Arms (data for the year 2016), 601 tanks of this type remain in Germany now. Bundeswehr is to operate around 320 - 350 examples, even after the target quantities are increased. Some vehicles may be available, even if some of the surplus platforms are transformed into ARVs.

The EDA-initiated programme is also a proof that there is an increased interest in the MBTs present, among the EU member states. A number of EU member states uses T-72 and M-84 derived platforms (Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Czech Republic or Hungary). A replacement for the said MBTs would be urgently required.

The Dutch government made a decision to reintroduce several Leopard 2A6 tanks into operational use, creating a joint armoured unit with Germany. Decision to reintroduce some of the previously withdrawn tanks has also been made by Sweden, meanwhile Denmark declared that it is going to initiate steps towards reinforcement of its armoured potential. It is easy to notice that many EU member states, quantitatively, do not have a relevant potential, thus the collaboration may not seem to be of major benefit.

Image Credit: Paweł K. Malicki.

The RFI published did not concern tanks other than the Leopard 2A7 version. This may bear some importance from the Polish point of view. The domestic industry, working together with the Rheinmetall company, is involved in a modernization programme concerning the Leopard 2A4 tanks, being upgraded up to the 2PL version. The Polish Ministry of Defence recently declared its will to acquire extra vehicles as such for the purpose of reinforcing the potential that remains at disposal of the armoured units, even before the newly developed vehicle is introduced.

Head of the Polish Ministry of Defence, Antoni Macierewicz, declared that Poland remains interested in acquisition of the Spanish Leopard 2 MBTs. The Ministry assumes that the aforesaid vehicles would later be upgraded up to the 2PL standard, for the purpose of unifying the fleet, so that it includes 2 variants of the tank: 2A5 and 2PL. Recently, information was published suggesting that the Spanish Leopard 2A4 tanks would be used to create special-purpose vehicles.  

Considering the above, narrowing down of the EDA’s request to modernization up to the 2A7 version may be detrimental for the Polish MoD. On the other hand, the EDA programme is at the early stage, while procurement or modernization decisions are expected to be made by the member states.

Finally, the fact that EDA is interested in establishing “hard”, conventional combat capabilities, instead of being limited to transport and crisis management potential, shall be perceived positively, as an element of the changing awareness, related to the need to increase the defence abilities. In a longer run, the new generation MBT programme, with the prospective vehicle expected to replace the Leopard tank, may also be supported by the soon-to-be introduced European Defence Fund.

In his recent statement given in the Parliament, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State at the Polish Ministry of Defence, Tomasz Szatkowski, referring to the projects that may receive support, stated the following: ‘We have a set of relevant projects (...) including a project of a new generation MBT. We are aware of the fact that Poland would not be capable of creating such tank on its own, but it may become a relevant partner. We see a chance for a European consortium being established. (...) Poland may be buying the highest quantity of tanks among the European states, excluding Turkey, probably.” Thus, the Polish Ministry of Defence is interested in taking part in the European programmes, also with regards to MALE UAVs and programmable radios. The effective participation in the European projects would require long and tough political and industrial negotiation.

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