Flakpanzer GEPARD gallery

In 1958 the Bundeswehr needed a replacement for its M-42 Duster anti-aircraft vehicles and decided to begin work on a new vehicle. The first idea was to install a turret with two 30mm AA guns and a radar on the chassis of the HS-30 IFV, but it soon became clear that this chassis was too small to accommodate a turret with that equipment. In 1961, the Federal Office of Defense Technology and Acquisitions (BWB) signed two contracts, with Rheinmetall and MARC (British subsidiary of Hispano-Suiza) for the development of four prototypes, two each company, based on the “SPz-neu”, the future Marder IFV. The MARC prototypes were never tested, but Rheinmetall presented one with guns and radar (on the image) and another prototype with guns only. They were tested, but in December 1964 the project was canceled because one of the prototypes was too small and the other had an underdeveloped radar.
(Oerlikon-Contraves prototype image). In 1965, the requirements for the new vehicle were published, which had to have an all-weather fire control system and to use the Leopard 1 MBT chassis. In June 1966, contracts were signed with two business groups for the development of a new vehicle. The first group was formed by the German firms AEG-Telefunken (firing radar and ballistic calculator), Krauss-Maffei/Porsche (vehicle and power unit), Rheinmetall (armament and turret) and Siemens (search radar and IFF) for the construction of two prototypes armed with two 30mm guns. The second group was made up of the Swiss firms Contraves (ballistic calculator and systems integration), Hollandse Signaalapparaten (search radar), Kraus-Maffei/Porsche (vehicle), Oerlikon (turret and weapons) and Siemens-Albis (tracking radar) for the construction of two prototypes armed with two 35mm guns, according to an idea by Oerlikon-Bührle from 1963.
(Rheinmetall Matador image). The German group called their prototypes “Matador 30 ZLA” and the Swiss group called them “5PFZ-A” and both were delivered in 1968. Extensive tests were carried out for two years and in June 1970 it was decided to continue development of the “5PFZ-A” prototype, the one armed with 35mm guns. In this way, 4 more prototypes were ordered under designation “5PFZ-B“, but they were equipped with the searching radar manufactured by Siemens instead of the Dutch Hollandse Signaalapparaten radar. In 1971 a pre-series of 12 vehicles was ordered, and all of them were delivered in 1973. Shortly after, in September of this same year, the Bundeswehr signed a contract for the acquisition of 420 “5PFZ-B Gepard” air defense vehicles for an amount of DM 1,200,000,000 (Deutsche Marks).
At the same time that the German prototypes were being developed, in 1968 the Netherlands requested a version equipped with a search radar and a fire control system from the firm Hollandse Signalapparaten. This variant was called “5PFZ-C” (on the image) and between 1968 and 1976, 1 prototype and 5 pre-series vehicles were manufactured. Finally, the Netherlands ordered 95 “CA-1” or “Caesar” vehicles that would be delivered between 1977 and 1979. The Dutch designation was “Cheetah PRTL” (Pantser Rups Tegen Luchtdoelen). These vehicles carry a search radar that operates in X-band and has a range of 15 km and a tracking radar that operates in X / Ka-band and has a range of 13 km. Belgium also acquired in 1973 another 55 Gepard that would be delivered between 1977 and 1980.
(German Gepard image). The Flakpanzer Gepard basically consists of the installation of a GDP-BO3 turret on a Leopard 1 MBT chassis modified to house it. The turret weighs 14 tons and houses the vehicle commander and gunner, as well as the surveillance radar, optical systems, fire control system and guns. The chassis is basically the same as the Leopard 1, although it is a little longer and has less armor than the tank. The driver sits at the front right of the hull, and to his left is a 95 hp Daimler-Benz OM-314 auxiliary diesel engine that is responsible for turning the turret and keeping the systems running when the main engine is running off. This engine is coupled to 5 generators that allows it to operate at different speeds. Two generators are in charge of the elevation and traverse of the turret, two more are in charge of the radar systems, fire-control and ventilation and the remaining one is in charge of the electrical system.
(German Gepard image). The Gepard’s main engine is the 37,400cc, V10-cylinder multi-fuel MB-838 CaM-500. It has a power of 830 hp, which allows the vehicle to reach 65 km/h on the road. It has 985 liters of fuel and can travel about 550 km before having to refuel again. The gearbox is a ZF 4 HP-250 similar to that of the Leopard 1 MBT, as are the running gear and tracks, although the shock absorbers were modified to give more stability to the vehicle during guns firing. The vehicle has an NBC protection system and can ford water courses of up to 2.25 meters without preparation.
(German Gepard image). The pulse-Doppler search and acquisition radar of the German and Belgian Gepard is a Siemens MPDR-12 that is capable of detecting aerial vehicles up to 15 km away, even in low flight. It operates in the S-band in a range of six frequencies with a high possibility of eliminating fixed echoes. The radar has a rectangular parabolic antenna that rotates at 60 rpm and is installed in the rear part of the turret. This antenna is retractable and is normally worn lowered while driving.
(German Gepard image). The radar has an integrated Siemens-Albis MSR 400 Mk.XII IFF system. The information obtained by the radar is offered on a 15 cm diameter PPI type screen equipped with two distance scales of 8 and 16 km. Using these scales, the distance and direction of the target are determined, but not its altitude. The system is completed with a high resolution screen to specify distances. Once the target is located, the vehicle commander selects the radar echo corresponding to the target to be hit and it is transferred to the tracking radar manually. From this moment the target is “engaged” and is automatically followed by the tracking radar.
(German Gepard image). The pulse Doppler tracking radar is from the firm Siemens-Albis and operates in the Ku-band, having two frequencies selectable by the operator. It has a range of 15 km and its circular antenna is installed in the front of the turret, between the two guns and can traverse in a 180° arc. This radar is associated with a Contraves analog ballistic calculator that analyzes atmospheric pressure, wind speed and direction, vehicle inclination or the variation of the muzzle velocity of the first rounds to correct the guns’ firing.
(German Gepard image). As a complement to the tracking radar, the Gepard has two stabilized, panoramic periscopes from Contraves-Fisba for both gunner and commander and a laser rangefinder. These devices would allow the Gepard to continue fighting in case the radar was disabled. Periscopes have two selectable modes, one with 1.5X magnification and a field of view of 50º and another with 6X magnification and a field of view of 12.5º. These periscopes are used to aim at ground targets, even in motion, thanks to their stabilization system. The laser rangefinder provides the distance to the target in case the radar is disabled, although the distance, azimuth and position angle data can be transmitted to the ballistic calculator by any of the three aforementioned devices.
(German Gepard image). The Flakpanzer Gepard‘s armament is composed of two Oerlikon KDA 35/90mm anti-aircraft guns. These guns have a muzzle velocity of 1,175 m/s with high-explosive incendiary fragmentation (PSD) and incendiary-explosive (MSD) rounds, 1,375 m/s with armor-piercing explosive incendiary (TLD) rounds or 1,440 m/s with Frangible Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot (FAPDS) rounds. The maximum effective range against aircraft, drones and helicopters is 4,000 meters and about 5,500 meters against ground targets. The German and Belgian vehicles also carried two quad 76 mm smoke grenade dischargers, while Dutch vehicles carried two sextuple mounts.
(German Gepard image). The Oerlikon KDA gun works by gas actuation and has a weight of 670 kg. It has a recoil force of 3,000 kg and has a double entry feeding system that allows you to immediately change from one type of ammunition to another via switch. The rate of fire of each gun is 550 rounds per minute and the vehicle carries 640 anti-aircraft rounds and 40 armor-piercing rounds for self-protection against armored vehicles. The anti-aircraft ammunition is carried in two containers located on the floor of the turret, while the armor-piercing rounds are carried externally, in two armored magazines at the rear of the turret. The PSD and MSD rounds are used against aerial vehicles while the TLD and FAPDS rounds are used against armored vehicles. These munitions are equipped with a self-destruct device, which acts 11 seconds after being fired if they have not hit any target.
(German Gepard image). The guns have a continuous muzzle velocity meter that sends the data to the ballistic calculator for better aiming and when a target enters the effective range, a light signal warns the commander that he can open fire. The Gepard have a vertical firing sector from -5º to 85º and can fire horizontally 360º. The turret can rotate up to 90º per second during target acquisition and 56º per second during tracking. On the other hand, the guns can rise 42º per second and traverse 90º per second.
(German Gepard image). Against aerial targets, bursts of 1 or 1.5 seconds in duration are fired, pausing for at least 2 seconds between them to prevent excessive wear of the barrel. If the guns fire uninterruptedly for more than 20 seconds (185 rounds), they would be unusable and would have to be replaced. An aircraft that remains within range of the Gepard for 2 seconds would receive between 25 and 30 hits. The gunner has several firing modes: round by round, bursts of 5 or 15 rounds or continuous fire.
(German Gepard image). The Bundeswehr ordered 420 Flakpanzer Gepards which were delivered in two batches. The first batch was made up of 122 vehicles that entered service in 1976, and the second batch was 298 vehicles that were delivered before the end of 1980. Of the total number of vehicles delivered, 195 were of the B2 variant and 225 were of the B2L variant, which came with a laser rangefinder. These Gepards equipped 11 anti-aircraft artillery battalions, each consisting of 6 batteries of 6 vehicles each. The rest of the vehicles equipped various training units.
(German Gepard image). Between 1996 and 2000, the Bundeswehr modernized 147 Gepards, replacing the original computers with digital ones, installing new communications equipment, an air conditioning system for the crew, and adding new storage boxes. This variant was known as “Gepard 1A2“. The Gepard fleet was progressively replaced by LeFlaSys Ozelot-Asrad self-propelled anti-aircraft missile (SPAAM) systems and in 2010 only 94 Gepards remained in service. Germany withdrew all its vehicles from service in 2012.
(Belgian Gepard image). In 1973, Belgium ordered 55 Gepards which were delivered between 1977 and 1980. These vehicles were identical to the German ones and were in service until the mid-2000s, when they were sold to the Belgian company OIP Land Systems, which keeps them in storage waiting for potential buyers.
(Dutch Gepard image). The Netherlands acquired a total of 95 Gepards which were delivered in 3 batches between 1977 and 1979. These vehicles differed from the German and Belgian ones in having a Phillips radar and carrying 2 mounts of 6 smoke grenade dischargers instead of 2 mounts of 4. In 1996, 60 vehicles were modernized to the German Gepard 1A2 standard under the designation “PRTL 35mm GWI“. Those vehicles including a data link to share information with the German Gepards. In 2006 the Dutch Army retired all Gepards from service and put them into storage, and in 2013 decided to sell the 60 modernized vehicles to Jordan.
(German Gepard image). Total production reached 570 vehicles and only Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands received new vehicles from the factory. The rest of subsequent users have received them from those withdrawn by these 3 countries. The very high cost of the Gepard prevented its sale, since at the time of its appearance, the Gepard cost the same as 3 Leopard 1 MBT. In addition, the maintenance cost was also very high, which made them one of the main victims of the enormous Defense budget cuts after the end of the Cold War. The manufacturer also offered the possibility of installing the turret on the chassis of other tanks in service, but this option was not successful either. However, it seems that its design was taken as an example by the Japanese, who installed a turret of a similar configuration on their Type 87 SPAAG vehicle.
(Romanian Gepard image). In December 2004 Romania received 43 vehicles retired by the Bundeswehr. Of this number, 36 were modernized Gepards and the other 7 were to be used as spares. It appears that currently all 36 vehicles are still in service. In October 2008, 4 Gepards were transferred to the Chilean Army as part of an order for 30 vehicles. Finally, in 2011, the 4 vehicles were returned and the order canceled due to the large costs of modernization and maintenance.
(Brazilian Gepard image). In 2012, Brazil acquired 36 modernized ex-German Gepard 1A2 vehicles from the manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. This modernization included a new EADS digital fire control computer, a new command, control and communications system (C3i), improved systems that improve reaction time and hit and kill capability and the possibility of using FAPDS ammunition. In 2013, Jordan acquired 60 Gepards from the Netherlands for an amount of 21 million dollars. These vehicles were sold in May 2023 to the United States for 118 million dollars for delivery to the Ukrainian Army within the aid program after the Russian attack in February 2022.
(Qatari Gepard image). In December 2020, Qatar contacted Germany for the acquisition of 15 Gepards with a view to their use as part of the security system during the celebration of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. After the end of the event, in early 2023 Germany repurchased all the Qataries vehicles for shipment to Ukraine as part of the aid provided after the Russian invasion of 2022.
(Ukranian Gepard image). The last country to enter the list of Flakpanzer Gepard users is Ukraine. Since April 2022, Germany authorized Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) to transfer 50 vehicles to the Ukrainian Army. The first arrived in July 2022 and in March 2023, there were already 34 vehicles in service. To this figure have been added another 3 vehicles from KMW plus the 15 ex-Qatarians, raising the total to 52. In addition, Germany has sent some 260,000 35mm rounds to Ukraine. Ukraine will also receive the 60 Gepard purchased by the United States from Jordan. It is believed that 30 of them were delivered by the end of 2023 and that the remaining 30 will be delivered in May 2024. With these new shipments, the Ukrainian Gepard fleet will be 110 units.
(Ukranian Gepard image). The shipment of the Gepard to Ukraine has not been without controversy, since the lack of ammunition has been the cause of political problems. Because the Gepard‘s Oerlikon guns are Swiss-made, this country has refused to supply any ammunition due to its neutrality policy. They have even prevented Germany from sending its stored stock of 35mm rounds to Ukraine, which has forced Germany to contract with Rheinmetall for a new production of 35mm rounds for unrestricted shipment to Ukraine. Brazil also did not want to donate part of its ammunition stock for the Ukrainian Gepard, arguing that they do not want to be involved in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
(Ukranian Gepard image). It seems that the Ukrainian Gepard are being quite effective in their fight against the feared suicide drones (loitering munitions) like the Iranian Shahed-136. It is even claimed that they have been able to shoot down several Kalibr cruise missiles. Of course it is almost certain that some Gepards could have been destroyed by the Russians, since they will have become prime targets. However, the Gepard and similar vehicles may have a new “golden age” thanks to the rise of suicide drones, which can be effectively combated by vehicles equipped with cannons and machine guns with a high rate of fire instead of very expensive anti-aircraft missiles. In fact, systems such as the Polish 12.7mm multi-barreled PGZ WLKM, which can be mounted on light land vehicles or boats, or the American MSI-DS Terrahawk Palladin, consisting of a transportable module equipped with radar and a light anti-aircraft gun, may have a wide market in the near future.

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