Late in 2015, Qatar will take delivery from German company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (Stand 08- C20) of the first of 62 Leopard 2A7+ series main battle tanks (MBTs) and 24 PzH 2000 155mm/52 self-propelled (SP) artillery systems, which were ordered under a €1.89 billion contract placed early in 2013. They will replace the now obsolete Nexter Systems AMX-30 MBTs from France, and the 155mm MK F3 SP artillery systems that no longer meet their operational requirements.
Production of the Leopard 2A7+ started at the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann facility in Munich late in 2014, with production of the PzH 2000 being undertaken at the company’s Kassel facility. The first customer for the latest Leopard 2A7 MBT was the German Army, which took delivery of the last of an initial batch of 20 vehicles in December 2014. They were conversions of surplus Royal Netherlands Army Leopard 2A6 MBTs.
Qatar’s Leopard 2A7+ tanks are the most advanced of the breed built to date and will be optimised to meet the high ambient conditions encountered in the Middle East. They will feature the Rheinmetall 120mm L/55 smoothbore gun, a computerised fire control system coupled to day and thermal sights for the commander and gunner, the latest armour package, an air-conditioning system and a roof-mounted FLW 200 remote weapon station (RWS) armed with a .50 M2 HB machine gun (MG) to provide a close-in self-defence capability.
Rheinmetall is a major subcontractor to Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and is providing the main armament for both the Leopard 2A7+ and the PzH 2000, plus a complete suite of ammunition for both systems.
Leopard 2s have been ordered by 18 countries, with a mix of brand new vehicles and surplus vehicles, but Qatar is the first country in the Middle East to have been cleared for export sales. Krauss-Maffei Wegmann has confirmed that the Leopard 2 MBT was tested in Saudi Arabia in June and July 2012, and in the United Arab Emirates between April and October 2011.
It remains to be seen if any future Leopard 2A7 MBT exports are allowed to the Middle East because of the increasingly strict export controls being placed by Germany, not only on complete weapon systems but also the key subsystems that are incorporated into many land platforms.
With the ending of production of the Leclerc MBT in France and the Challenger 2 in the UK, Germany is the only country in Europe currently in production of MBTs that provide a unique ground manoeuvre capability.