Author Topic: Leopard 1s for Ukraine  (Read 2148 times)

Offline apophenia

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Leopard 1s for Ukraine
« on: June 11, 2023, 09:34:47 AM »
According to Oryxspioenkop, delivery of some 130+ Leopard 1A5s is pending for Ukraine (funded by Berlin with ex-Danish, -Dutch, and -German origins). All of these tanks are armed with L7A3 or L7A4 105 mm L/52 guns. Hardly ideal when dealing with T-72B3s let alone T-90s. Still, the Leopard 1A5 is what is on offer.

Although slightly smaller than a Leopard 2, the Leo 1 still makes a pretty big target compared with most Russian MBTs. That raises questions about what can be done quickly (and comparatively easily) to improve frontal arc protection. First, an acknowledgement that steel Leopard 1 hull armour and 1A5 turret armour are in no way comparable to C-Technologie composite armour which forms the basis for Leopard 2 protection.

My question relates to whether it is feasible and/or advantageous to apply Leopard 2A5-style appliqué armours over the lesser armour protection of the Leopard 1A5?

Specifically, I'm wondering about the comparatively simple Keilpanzerung (wedge armour) modules applied to the turret front of 2A5s. As I understand it, IBD's Keilpanzerung are a 28 mm thick construction of two steel armour plates sandwiching a 'rubber' central layer. The purpose is to absorb kinetic energy from an impacting APFSDS round while also deflecting its course. With luck, the original inner armour can then withstand the final impact (or further deflect) the 'dart'. With that out of the way, the key question emerges ...

Assume that Leopard 2A5-style Keilpanzerung has been applied to our Leo 1A5. Before its Ukrainian crew can close to 800 m effective gun range, an RU T-72B3M looses a 125 mm Svinets round. The Ukrainian tank's Keilpanzerung takes the impact, absorbing some of the KE of the Svinets 'dart' while also deviating it slightly from its original course. Is the 50-to-70 mm thick armour of the original, underlying Leopard 1A5 turret strong enough to protect its crew from whatever punch that 'dart' still has?

I realize that, without range testing, we're working with best guesses here. That said, what do we think?

__________________________________

Image My take on Keilpanzerung applied to a Leopard 1A5.

Armour additions beyond the Keilpanzerung are forward hull and ad hoc ballistic track skirts covered in Ukrainian ERA 'blocks' (as would be the not-visible-here front glacis plate) Slat armour covers the engine area and aft parts of the suspension. I have also shown hinged turret side add-on panels although I don't know how realistic that is.

My image is based on a preserved Danish Leopard 1A5-DK-1. That adds another wrinkle to the protection question since Leopard 1A5-DKs retained the 1A3-style welded-steel turret (whereas ex-Dutch and -German Leopard 1A5s being sent to Ukraine will have cast turrets). Other than moving the smoke discharger cluster aft (to clear the add-on armour), no other changes have been made to the 'base' Leopard 1.
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Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Leopard 1s for Ukraine
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2023, 07:30:42 AM »
What about the Modular Expandable Armor System (MEXAS) appliqué armour kit?



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Offline Old Wombat

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Re: Leopard 1s for Ukraine
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2023, 09:35:55 AM »
I was thinking that earlier, wouldn't a whole bunch of MEXAS kits be the quickest & easiest way to improve the survivability of Ukrainian Leo 1's?

Hello? Canada, are you out there? ???
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Offline apophenia

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Re: Leopard 1s for Ukraine
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2023, 05:05:46 AM »
What about the Modular Expandable Armor System (MEXAS) appliqué armour kit?

Yeah, MEXAS is my go-to for Leopard 1s as well but I doubt that there's many such kits out there.

Since MEXAS is considered obsolete, I doubt that IBD would be willing to make more. Redesigning the kit for AMAP could work but would also chew up time that can't really be spared.

BTW, attached are 'inside' views of the Leopard 2A5 wedge armour sections.

... Hello? Canada, are you out there? ???

Qui, mais ...

But there are a few problems there. The Leopard C2 MEXAS haven't been operational since 2011. They had been offered for sale to Jordan. When that deal fell through, the tanks were sent back to Canada where they were sent to museums, used as gate guardians, blasted as range 'hard targets', or gone into storage. In Canada, the latter means that the tanks are now next to useless ... though open-air storage in Alberta wouldn't have effected the MEXAS kits much.

The next thing is that Canada's Leopard C2 was an updated C1 fitted with ex-Bundeswehr cast-and-appliqué turrets from Leopard 1A1A1s. [1] I've found it hard to pin down the exact models of the Leopard 1s slated for Ukraine. If the Dutch or German examples have cast turrets, Canada may have a few MEXAS kits that could be scrounged up from storage. And that would be a good thing. The problem is: Canada only ever had 25-odd MEXAS kits to begin with. Say there are 10 kits left in storage. That leaves us with ~120 Ukraine-bound Leopard 1A5s with Duran Duran-era armour protection  :P

______________________________

[1] A long-standing puzzle for me is whether that 1A5 polycarbonate appliqué was replaced by the MEXAS turret kit or was it simply overlaid? Does anyone know the answer?
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Offline apophenia

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Re: Leopard 1s for Ukraine
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2023, 05:10:05 AM »
OT side note on why Leopard 1s?

The obvious answer is that the Leopard 1A5s and -DKs are readily available and, as stored vehicles, sending them to Ukraine takes nothing away from donor nations' readiness.

I note that some journalists are puzzling over why the older Leopard 1A5s would be sent to Ukraine at all. Tankers will already know the answer - the Leo 1s' rifled gun can fire spin-stabilised HESH rounds (AFAIK, there is no 120x570mm NATO HESH round). This explains why, in Afghanistan, when superior Leopard 2A6Ms arrived, Leopard C2s remained in action. A C2 could pop an L35 HESH round at a mud brick wall and the 2A6M could not.

Of course, an L35A2 HESH round is going to be just as effective against any concrete emplacements the RU create or adapt in Ukraine. And the beauty from the ZSU side is that angle-of-attack and strike velocity are largely irrelevant. L35 rounds only hold 2.1 kg of RDX. But HESH does its damage to reinforced concrete by blast, spalling, and shock wave effect. And, of course, both blast and fragmentation are also going to have "secondary anti-personnel effects" for anyone unlucky enough to be exposed.
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Re: Leopard 1s for Ukraine
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2023, 02:52:22 AM »
I've found it hard to pin down the exact models of the Leopard 1s slated for Ukraine.

Reportedly Leopard 1A5s whereas the Canadian Leopard C1s were equivalent to Leopard 1A3s
« Last Edit: June 14, 2023, 02:58:16 AM by GTX_Admin »
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Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Leopard 1s for Ukraine
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2023, 03:04:40 AM »
I note that some journalists are puzzling over why the older Leopard 1A5s would be sent to Ukraine at all. Tankers will already know the answer - the Leo 1s' rifled gun can fire spin-stabilised HESH rounds (AFAIK, there is no 120x570mm NATO HESH round). This explains why, in Afghanistan, when superior Leopard 2A6Ms arrived, Leopard C2s remained in action. A C2 could pop an L35 HESH round at a mud brick wall and the 2A6M could not.

Of course, an L35A2 HESH round is going to be just as effective against any concrete emplacements the RU create or adapt in Ukraine. And the beauty from the ZSU side is that angle-of-attack and strike velocity are largely irrelevant. L35 rounds only hold 2.1 kg of RDX. But HESH does its damage to reinforced concrete by blast, spalling, and shock wave effect. And, of course, both blast and fragmentation are also going to have "secondary anti-personnel effects" for anyone unlucky enough to be exposed.

Of course, it could also be interesting if someone did a Leopard 1A6 style conversion with modified with additional armour on the turret and equipped with a 120 mm L/44 gun:



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Offline apophenia

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Re: Leopard 1s for Ukraine
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2023, 11:23:07 AM »
Of course, it could also be interesting if someone did a Leopard 1A6 style conversion with modified with additional armour on the turret and equipped with a 120 mm L/44 gun:

It would indeed  :smiley:

A few years back, Ukraine's state-owned Morozov Design Bureau (KMDB) in Kharkiv was offering an L/50 smooth-bore gun firing NATO 120 mm rounds (as well as Ukrainian-made ATGMs). That KBM2 gun was used in Morozov's T-55AGM upgrade proposal (and in a Polish PT-16 prototype?). That makes it sound like the KBM2 gun might actually fit into a Leopard 1 turret without major mods.

I not sure how much, if anything, remains of those Kharkiv works. And there may be other issues to contend with.

Compared with the Leo's original L7A3/'A5, this Ukrainian smoothbore would be longer (6.00 m versus 5.55 m) and heavier (2,630 kg vs 1,282 kg) - and with a 6 metre barrel, with much of that out in front of suspension support. Still that KBM2 weighs 687 kg less that a complete Rh 120 gun system.

FWIW, the KBM2 used a modified 125 mm 2A46M breech mechanism and was intended for a bustle autoloader. AFAIK, the gun was originally conceived of as an unsuccessful Morozov entry into a Turkish MBT upgrade contest. I'm not sure if gun development continued long after that.
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Offline M.A.D

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Re: Leopard 1s for Ukraine
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2024, 03:51:05 PM »
It's only my thought, but I think this Russian-Ukraine Conflict has reiterates to me as to an additional reason as to why the Soviets/Russians have doctrinally kept their MBT designs to a spacific weight margin. Where as I always excepted the Western narrative that Soviet and as a consequence Russian MBT were small/lighter due to scale of economy, so that they could build vast numbers (quantity vs quality) as exemplified by the said amount of Leo2 getting bogged hull deep in the mud of the fertile Ukraine. I'm picturing the smaller, lighter and less ground pressure exerting Leo1 faring better. After all, where as in the West, we have a tendency to remember all the sexy stuff about the Eastern Front during WW2, the Russians have never forgotten the inhospitable environment of their own country....
On top of this is also the reality that as much as many have made issue of the Leo1 being armed with 'an obsolete L7 105mm gun', it's acknowledged that there are reasonably few tank on tank engagements, instead the MBT in theatre are more employed in the direct and indirect gun fire support or from what I can see, plain harassing fire.

Regards
Pioneer
« Last Edit: January 24, 2024, 04:48:06 PM by M.A.D »

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Re: Leopard 1s for Ukraine
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2024, 01:16:57 AM »
Ukrainian Leopard 1s in action:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZNW_UkAd6g" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZNW_UkAd6g</a>

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6uuZyyMHks" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6uuZyyMHks</a>
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Offline Old Wombat

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Re: Leopard 1s for Ukraine
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2024, 02:34:25 PM »
It's only my thought, but I think this Russian-Ukraine Conflict has reiterates to me as to an additional reason as to why the Soviets/Russians have doctrinally kept their MBT designs to a spacific weight margin. Where as I always excepted the Western narrative that Soviet and as a consequence Russian MBT were small/lighter due to scale of economy, so that they could build vast numbers (quantity vs quality) as exemplified by the said amount of Leo2 getting bogged hull deep in the mud of the fertile Ukraine. I'm picturing the smaller, lighter and less ground pressure exerting Leo1 faring better. After all, where as in the West, we have a tendency to remember all the sexy stuff about the Eastern Front during WW2, the Russians have never forgotten the inhospitable environment of their own country....
On top of this is also the reality that as much as many have made issue of the Leo1 being armed with 'an obsolete L7 105mm gun', it's acknowledged that there are reasonably few tank on tank engagements, instead the MBT in theatre are more employed in the direct and indirect gun fire support or from what I can see, plain harassing fire.

Regards
Pioneer

Have you paid attention to the Soviet/Russian tanks also getting well bogged down in the mud? ???

The principle reason that Soviet/Russian tanks are built small & low (the "lightness" is just a by-product of this) is because they are built for attacking ... that's it, no defensive doctrine worth mentioning whatsoever.

A smaller, lower tank is, theoretically, more difficult to hit as it advances.

Western tanks are designed for a doctrine of manoeuvre, which includes attack, defence & fire-support (the Russians have only begun to learn this use, due to their developing shortage of artillery), so they tend to be bigger & taller.

Still, from memory, the Abrams & Challenger tanks both have about 40% less exposure of the vehicle in prepared, hull-down defensive/ambush positions compared to the smaller T-80 or T-90 tanks in equally prepared, hull-down defensive/ambush positions.
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Offline apophenia

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Re: Leopard 1s for Ukraine
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2024, 04:46:32 AM »
It's only my thought, but I think this Russian-Ukraine Conflict has reiterates to me as to an additional reason as to why the Soviets/Russians have doctrinally kept their MBT designs to a spacific weight margin. Where as I always excepted the Western narrative that Soviet and as a consequence Russian MBT were small/lighter due to scale of economy, so that they could build vast numbers (quantity vs quality) as exemplified by the said amount of Leo2 getting bogged hull deep in the mud of the fertile Ukraine. I'm picturing the smaller, lighter and less ground pressure exerting Leo1 faring better. After all, where as in the West, we have a tendency to remember all the sexy stuff about the Eastern Front during WW2, the Russians have never forgotten the inhospitable environment of their own country....
On top of this is also the reality that as much as many have made issue of the Leo1 being armed with 'an obsolete L7 105mm gun', it's acknowledged that there are reasonably few tank on tank engagements, instead the MBT in theatre are more employed in the direct and indirect gun fire support or from what I can see, plain harassing fire.

A few thoughts on this ...

First, as Guy noted, no vehicle escapes Bezdorizhzhya. If there is a weight issue here, it is primarily that Ukraine's bridges weren't built to accommodate heavier Western tanks. But for the mud season, everyone has to wait it out.

IIUC, the weight/armour protection of the Leopard 1 series was dictated by Bundeswehr operational theories of the day. For defensive tanks in 1965, those were survival through fire-and-manoeuvre rather than relying upon armour protection (which BWB then thought was almost certain to fail). So, the end result may resemble the Soviet approach but it was arrived at from a completely different starting point.

As for the Russians remembering their own "inhospitable environment", that was, in part, a result of the Red Army becoming the second-best army in Finland during the Winter War. (Reality becomes highly memorable when you've just been handed your own ass on a plate!)

As for the direct fire support role, you are right that the L7 still has a role to play. Beyond simple availability, this is mainly because NATO didn't bother that much with 120 mm HE (hence all the tungsten and DU penetrators). Sweden solved the problem for their strv 121s by repurposing 120 mm mortar shells. NATO followed suit. So, 120 mm HE does exist ... just not in the same numbers as 105 mm. That will change as the percentage of 120 HE produced is increased. In other words, the L7's HE advantage is temporary.

I don't know if this helps ... but, for Ukraine, think of the Leo 1s as ideal BMP plinkers (to avoid wasting 120s in overkill) while retaining a DFS capability to back up infantry.
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