LEOPARD 1 MBT gallery 1

(German Leopard 1 image). After extensive testing of the first 50 pre-series Leopard MBTs, the vehicle was finally ready to be built in large numbers, delivering the first units in September 1965. Externally, the rear of the hull had to be modified to get more space for the engine and to reposition some of the radiators. The turret was also new, taller with two protrusions, one on each side, where two optics elements for triangulation were installed. These elements were part of the new optical range-finding system that greatly improved the accuracy of the gun. Finally, the new battle tank entered service with a weight of 40 tons and a unit cost of 250,000 dollars.
(German Leopard 1 image). The entire family of Leopard 1 vehicles were manufactured by the companies Krauss-Mafei and MaK (Maschinenbau Kiel GmbH). Krauss-Mafei built almost all Leopard 1 battle tanks and some specialized vehicles, and MaK built almost all specialized variants and very few battle tanks. The German production lines were closed in 1979, but reopened in 1981 to meet orders from Greece and Turkey. In Italy OTO-Melara was commissioned to manufacture 720 Leopard 1A2, 67 Bergepanzer 2 ARV and 28 Pionierpanzer PiPz-1 AEV for the Italian Army. In addition, it also assembled the 64 Biber bridge launchers purchased in Germany.
(German Leopard 1 image). The new Leopard 1 was a tank with a conventional internal layout. The driver was located at the front of the hull, moved to the right to make room for the ammunition stored in the hull. Behind it was the fighting compartment with the turret in the center, and at the rear of the hull was the engine and transmission compartment. The tank was operated by 4 crew members, driver, loader/radio operator, gunner and commander, the last three being located inside the turret. The loader was to the left of the gun and the gunner opposite on the right with the commander behind him. The crew accessed the vehicle through 3 hatches, one located in the hull for the driver, and two located in the turret’s roof, one on each side of the gun. There was also a belly escape hatch behind the driver’s seat.
(German Leopard 1 image). The driver had 3 observation periscopes for a 130º arc of vision, the center one replacable by an image-intensifier or infra-red sight. The loader had two fixed periscopes and the gunner had a TEM 2A rangefinder with magnification of x8 and x16. It also had a TZF 1A telescope with magnification of x8 mounted coaxially with the gun, a B-171 IV infra-red target acquisition sight and an extra periscope. The commander had 7 periscopes for all-around observation, one of which could be exchanged for an image intensifier for night observation. It also had a TRP-2A turret surveillance periscope with magnification of x6 up to x20 as observation, range-finder and target acquisition device. This element can be exchanged with an infrared sight for night observation.
(German Leopard 1 image). The night-fighting capability of the original Leopard 1s was assigned to an AEG-Telefunken XSW-30-U infra-red/white searchlight. This element was kept in a transport box in the mid-rear of the turret, being mounted for use to the left of the gun, on the mantlet. It had an effective range in optimal weather conditions of about 1,500 meters, but in fog or snowfall its range was drastically reduced.
(German Leopard 1 image). The Leopard 1 has a ZF 4 HP 250 planetary-gear shift transmission with hydraulic torque converter. It has 4 forward and 2 reverse gears and a double differential steering. The clutch has a torque converter with mechanical interlock. The undercarriage is made up of 7 dual light metal rubber-tired road wheels with 4 return rollers on either side, drive sprockets at the rear and idlers at the front. The suspension is made up of torsion bars with shock absorbers on road wheels 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7. The vehicle has Diehl tracks with rubber-bushed pins and removable rubber pads, replacable by snow grousers.
(German Leopard 1 image). Mobility was one of the key features in the Leopard 1, for which the powerful MTU MB-838 Ca M-500 engine was selected. This 37.4 liter V10 engine developed 830 hp and could use fuel oil or JP4 and gave excellent acceleration and off-road mobility. Its consumption on the road was 1.65 l/km and off-road was 2.20 l/km. This reliable engine would be maintained throughout the production run of all battle tank variants as well as specialized vehicles. This powerpack consisted of the engine, transmission and cooling system. The compact design made it easy to change if necessary, and could be replaced in about 20 minutes by well-trained mechanics.
(German Leopard 1 image). The dynamic performance of the Leopard 1 has remained practically the same for all variants of the battle tank, since the same engine has been maintained and they have not suffered a considerable increase in weight. The maximum speed on the road was 65-68 km/h and off-road about 40-45 km/h. It could overcome vertical obstacles of 1.15 meters and trenches of 3 meters in width. The fording capability was up to 2.25 meters depth with minimal preparation and up to 4 meters with the installation of a snorkel tube. The Leopard 1 could climb 60% slopes and drive on 30% side slopes.
(German Leopard 1 image). The passive protection (armor) of the Leopard 1 can be considered a bit “weak” when compared to other battle tanks of the time such as the British Chieftain, the American M-60A1 or even the lower weight Soviet T-62. Protection was considered less important than mobility or firepower and only full protection against 20mm ammunition was provided. The armor was made of steel, with a thickness of between 10 and 70mm of RHA (rolled homogeneous armor). The Leopard 1 was fully prepared to operate in polluted environments, for which it had a combined ventilation and NBC protection system for overpressure of 0.003 bars inside the crew compartment. In addition, a complete filtering system prevented the entry of external contaminated air.
(German Leopard 1 image). The armament chosen for the Leopard 1 was the new British 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7A3 L/52 rifled gun, a very accurate, proven gun with good anti-tank capabilities. This gun could penetrate up to 150mm of armor at a distance of 1,000 meters. The gun was composed by a single-piece barrel with a screwed-on breech ring and a bore evacuator. A semi-automatic breech mechanism opened automatically after a round was fired. The empty cartridge cases are ejected into a spent cartridge container placed under the breech. Two 7.62 mm MG-3 machine guns, one coaxial and one on the commander’s hatch, and 8 smoke grenade dischargers completed the armament. The ammunition carried was sixty 105mm rounds distributed in the turret and hull and 5,500 7.62mm rounds.
(German Leopard 1 image). The original Leopard 1 used three different types of ammunition, APDS for anti-tank purposes, HESH/HEP for general use, and HEAT with anti-tank capability. It could also use an illuminating round, although it ceased to be used in the 1980s. Also in the mid-1980s, the high explosive rounds were consumed without being restored, leaving only the anti-tank ammunition in stock. However, the L7A3 gun could fire standard 105mm ammunition used by Canada, France, Israel, UK, USA and West Germany. In the mid-1980s, during the modernization that resulted in the A5 variant, the Leopard 1 was able to use APDFS rounds, greatly improving its anti-tank capability.
(German Leopard 1 image). The initial order from the German Ministry of Defense was for 1,845 Leopard 1s to be delivered in 4 different batches between 1965 and 1970. The first batch consisted of 400 vehicles manufactured between September 1965 and July 1966. The second batch consisted of 600 vehicles manufactured between July 1966 and July 1967. The third batch consisted of 500 vehicles manufactured between July 1967 and August 1968. And the fourth batch consisted of 345 vehicles, delivered between August 1968 and February 1970. As production progressed, some small modifications were incorporated, such as the installation of a ballistic ring on the front of the turret ring, installation of protected shock absorbers or new brakes with ventilated discs, among others.
(German Leopard 1A1 image). In 1972, during the manufacture of the Leopard 1 ordered by Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway, a series of improvements began to be included that would be added to the German tanks and that would end up forming the A1 variant. The improvements included were; installation of onboard fording equipment, gun shroud, which would later be exchanged for a thermal sleeve, side skirts, and a stabilization system for the barrel. This last improvement was the most important and the one that most stood out from the A1 variant.
(German Leopard 1A1 image). The stabilization system ostensibly improved the first-round-hit capacity, but in these early days, the tank had to stop to fire with a good chance of success. However, some crews were able to score a hit while on the move, but this was unusual. Probably the combination of the excellent mobility and the stabilization system made this new system seem more effective than it was, but of course, it was a very positive development.
(German Leopard 1A1 image). Another element of great importance incorporated into the Leopard 1A1 was the gun shroud or thermal sleeve. This element protects the barrel from small misalignments due to climatic effects such as extreme cold or heat that can affect accuracy. This element consisted of 3 parts mounted around the barrel that were attached to it by metal straps and rubber bands.
(German Leopard 1A1 image). The most visible external modification on the A1 variant were the side skirts. These were made up of 4 tiltable pieces on each side. They were primarily designed to protect the vehicle against shaped charge shells, which would cause them to explode before reaching the armor, losing much of their destructive power. In addition, it also protected the vehicle from dust in the dry season.
(German Leopard 1A1 image). Regarding the new fording equipment, it allowed to cross watercourses up to 4 meters deep. It had a hydraulic system that sealed the interior of the vehicle and prevented the entry of water. In addition to this system, for deep fording it was necessary to install a snorkel that fitted to the commander’s hatch. This element was not usually carried in the vehicle and had to be requested from the command. In any case, it was a method created to be used only in cases of extreme necessity, preferring passage through floating bridges such as the SSB M-3 or similar.
(German Leopard 1A1 image). Improvements for the A1 variant also saw the use of new tracks and some snow grousers were placed on the glacis plate. Usually the vehicles were prepared for the installation of side skirts, although they were not installed at first. These improvements were gradually introduced, without being able to differentiate externally which vehicles carried these modifications and which did not. In the case of the tracks, these were changed for the new ones at the time the original ones were replaced due to wear and tear. By 1974 all Leopard 1s in service were already modified to the A1 variant.
(German Leopard 1A1A1 image). In 1975 another upgrade of the armor added to the turret of the Leopard 1A1 began. This gave rise to a new sub variant called A1A1 that would end up being the most numerous and the one that was in service the longest. In total, 1,845 Leopard 1s were converted to this variant, which saw service with the Bundeswehr well into the 1990s.
(German Leopard 1A1A1 image). Again, the development of Soviet RPG-7 shaped charge projectiles was taken into account to add separate armor pieces from the turret, gun mantlet and other vital parts by means of rubber separators. This Blohm & Voss armor drastically reduced the effectiveness of these projectiles and protected the tank against contact fuzed missiles and even against some medium caliber projectiles. With this modification, it can be said that the entire German Leopard 1 fleet, except the A4s, were standardized, with practically the same combat capabilities.
(German Leopard 1A1A1 image). Between 1980 and 1985, more than 500 Leopard 1A1A1s incorporated the new PZB-200 Passive Sight and Observation Device system. This system was a product of the German firm AEG that consisted of a camera, a monitor and the control unit. This system greatly improved night-fighting capability, not so much in range as in the visible sector of the battlefield.
(German Leopard 1A1A2 image). The PZB-200 system camera was installed on the gun mantlet inside a protective basket and sent images to screens available to the gunner and commander. The camera was only installed in anticipation of night action, although the basket was a permanent mount. They were also installed in almost 150 other Leopard 1A2 and A3.
(German Leopard 1A1A2 image). Since the mid-1980s, the radio sets of the entire Leopard 1 fleet and all Bundeswehr vehicles in general have been changing. The SEM 25/30 radios were replaced by the new SEM 70/80/90 digital radios that allowed much more secure communications and were more resistant to interference. A cleaning system for the driver’s periscopes was also installed.
(German Leopard 1A1A2 image). Due to the installation of these new elements in different periods, the A1A1 variant gave rise to 3 new sub-variants. Tanks that mounted only the PZB-200 image intensifier were renamed Leopard 1A1A2. Those that also carried SEM 80/90 digital radios were renamed Leopard 1A1A3, and those that subsequently received upgrades to their light intensifier were designated Leopard 1A1A4.
(German Leopard 1A2 image). In April 1972 the Bundeswehr was in full reorganization and it was decided to acquire another batch, (the fifth), of 232 battle tanks that incorporated all the improvements of the A1 variant plus other new ones. The most outstanding was the incorporation of a new cast turret with reinforced armor. New 5 meter long tow cables, a new driver’s BM-8005 passive light intensifier and smaller air filters for the engine and ventilation system were also fitted. This new variant was designated as A2.

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