Briefing journalists in Berlin on 7 October, Rheinmetall revealed that trials of the upgraded LEOPARD 2A4 main battle tanks being delivered to Indonesia have been conducted in-country this summer.
The major component of the upgrade for the 103 LEOPARD 2s on order for Indonesia (of which about 50 have so far been delivered) is a bustle-mounted crew cooling and air conditioning system to cater for local tropical climate conditions, according to Dr. Björn Lach from Rheinmetall Land Systems. The upgraded tank has been given the designation LEOPARD 2RI (for Republic of Indonesia), based largely on the ‘Revolution’ standard unveiled by Rheinmetall at Eurosatory several years ago and features additional enhancements to make the vehicle more suitable for urban warfare and peace support operations. Some of the tanks will be used at the UN Mission Centre in Sentul to prepare crews for future possible peace keeping or peace support missions.
In addition to the LEOPARDs, 42 MARDER 1A3 infantry fighting vehicles and 10 mobile bridgelayers and armoured recovery/engineer vehicles have already been delivered.
In Poland, the programme of upgrading more than 100 tanks to the LEOPARD 2PL standard, the contract for which was signed on 28 December 2015, continues to accelerate, according to Lach. The prototype will be complete by the end of 2017, he said, at which point the customer verification process will start.
The upgrade, which Lach compared to the LEOPARD 2A5 standard, focuses on four main improvement areas: survivability (IBD ballistic protection, a spall liner and new auxiliary power unit); commandability (battle management system, PERI R17A3 commander’s sight with ASTERIA thermal imager from PCO, EMS15 sight with the same thermal imager); mobility (KDN-1 driveback camera and new commander’s display unit); and lethality (new sets of ballistic data and associated equipment, with an option for an upgrade to the main weapon to include the facility for the new DM11 airburst ammunition).
The programme calls for the great majority of the upgrade work to be carried out by Polish industry, with Bumar acting as prime contractor for modernisation to the 2PL standard, service, maintenance and overhaul and through life support. PCO will provide the new night vision and camera systems for the commander’s and gunner’s sights, as well as the rearward-looking camera system, while ROSOMAK will be the main Polish competence centre for protection and survivability solutions.
On the job training for Polish manufacturing personnel will last nine months, four months in Germany for the manufacture of five vehicles, followed by five months in Poland during the manufacture of a further 12. At that point, Lach said, certification of the manufacturing process will be completed and Bumar will commence the upgrade at the rate of 15 vehicles per month, with technical support provided by Rheinmetall Land Systems. Completion of the upgrade programme is scheduled for 31 October 2020, less than five years from programme authorisation, he added.