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As October expires, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) handed-over at its premises in Allach near Munich the first LEOPARD 2 main battle tanks (MBTs) upgraded to the A7 and A7V standards to the land forces of Denmark and Germany, with the former opted for 44 vehicles, while the Bundeswehr is about to receive 104 examples for delivery until 2023.

The A7V ('V' for "verbessert"; improved) is the latest and most capable version of the LEOPARD 2 family that performs the full spectrum of armoured warfare for 40 years. KMW, with the development of the LEOPARD 2 family and the continuing modernisation of the range of its variants, positions itself as a global leader in the design, engineering and modernisation of modern MBTs. KMW's expertise unmistakable culminates with the A4V, this latest variant representing the 'state-of-the-art' of modern MBTs. Its unique performance characteristics triggered a major interest in the platform by the Bundeswehr and the Royal Danish Army. The latter seeks to enhance its combat power to adapt to the spectrum of future mission scenarios. This scheme includes high-intensity warfare for which the A7 offers adequate capability.

KMW is credited with 18 international users of its LEOPARD 2 family and no less than 15 different versions, some of which were specifically outfitted for individual customers like Canada, Greece, Indonesia, Qatar, Spain or Sweden. Next will be Hungary, which opted, in December 2018, for 44 new-construction 2A7+ MBTs.

Unlike most other modern MBTs, the LEOPARD 2, designed in the midst of the Cold War in the mid- to late-1970s and produced since 1979, was permantly upgraded over the years. MBTs like the A7V are hard to find: "Its technological achievements deserve to be treasured," one attendee from the German Army said in Munich. The vehicles on delivery to Denmark and Germany set new standards as a "game changer," as noted by the Danish envoy to Berlin, Friis Arne Petersen. The Royal Danish Army (Haeren), the land-based branch of the Danish Defence (Vorsvaret) of the Kingdom of Denmark, ordered 44 A7s, which are expected to meet the latest battlefield needs of a land force that seeks to improve its warfighting capabilities, including interoperability, mobility, protection, firepower and lethality. The Danish land component originally operated 57 examples of the LEOPARD 2A5DK (equal to the 2A6 minus the L/55 smoothbore gun) plus six 2A4 (for spares) received from German Army surplus as of 2004. With the delivery of the A7 model, the army in its current structure, a mixture of mechanised infantry and armoured cavalry, will be able to further improve its limited, but advanced capability in armoured warfare. KMW informed shortly prior to the roll-out of the first vehicle in Munich that the first six vehicles will be delivered until the end of December, with the delivery of the remaining 38 MBTs completed in 2022.

The main reason for the Danish Ministry of Defence (Forsvarsministeriet; FMN) to decide to go for the A7 is that the LEOPARD 2 family in service with the majority of NATO member states has been continuously adapted to the most actual battlefield needs, using the latest technologies like fully digitalised sensors and C4I means, protection kits, weapons (including self-defence systems) and ammunition. The upgrade of the Danish LEOPARD 2 A5 MBT to the A7 standard was widely described as a "tough job", mirroring a close collaboration between KMW and the Danish project partner. 

Summing up, the A7 and A7V variants employ extra armour and combine third-generation, fully digitised observation devices and C4ISR/BMS systems with a combat-proven weapon system, consisting of Rheinmetall's 120mm L/55 smoothbore gun and related ammunition types. This makes them the adequate combat platforms to operate both in low-intensity and high-intensity conflicts.

Stefan Nitschke

Royal Danish Army personnel celebrating the roll-out of the first LEOPARD 2 MBT upgraded to the A7 configuration at KMW on 29 October. (Photos: Stefan Nitschke)

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