The current Leopard 1 C2 has served Canada very well, but at almost 30 years old it is reaching the end of its useful life
In order to improve the Army’s operational capabilities, the government recently announced that it would borrow 20 Leopard 2A6M (M stands for the enhanced mine protection) and two Armour Recovery Vehicles (ARV) from the German Army and purchase up to 100 surplus Leopard 2 from the Netherlands. The first of the borrowed tanks arrived in Afghanistan on August 16.
To be able to deploy the tanks before the end of the summer, training started in early May 2007 when a team from Armour Corps units across the country arrived at the Dutch Armour School in Amersfoort Holland. The soldiers qualified during this Initial Cadre Training (ICT) course then went to the German Armour School in Munster, Germany to assist with the conversion training for C Squadron, Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) who deployed with the tanks at the end of August. The soldiers were very impressed with the capabilities of the new tank, many commented that the Leopard 2A6 had fixed all the little things that were wrong with the Leopard 1 C2. The combination of firepower, mobility and protection is second to none. When asked why he was grinning from ear to ear, Sergeant Marcel Chenier (LdSH(RC)) responded with, “Sir, its hard not too smile, this is an awesome piece of kit.” Warrant Officer Bruce Rose (RCD) also commented that, “with the Leopard 1 C2 you had to push the engine to get it going, but with the 1 500 hp engine in the Leopard 2, you have to hold it back—those ponies want to run.”
Training for the next two rotations into Afghanistan will take place in Germany, while the Army and project staffs work to bring the tanks, maintenance support and training resources back to Canada. The timeframe over which Dutch tanks will arrive in Canada along with the final distribution within the Army has not yet been decided. The tanks presence in Afghanistan will help improve the security environment and allow others to focus on the reconstruction effort. Its role, however, is not limited to Afghanistan, regardless of where the Army deploys on operations in the future, the Leopard 2 tank will provide an unrivalled operational capability by deterring attacks and providing close direct fire support.
by Capt Brian Corbett