Tanks for the taking

I came across an interesting story from Canada, about a fleet of Leopard 1C2 tanks that has essentially been for sale on the international market since 2015.


In my mind, a fleet of 52 relatively lightweight but battle proven tanks should be a no-brainer decision for many of our “new NATO” allies, but I decided to dig a little deeper. Upon comparing the performance facts, the Leopard 1C2 doesn’t stand up too well to other tanks currently on the market.

The main gun on the Leopard 1C2 is still the 105mm rifled gun, which is not confidence inspiring when compared to a Russian 125mm smoothbore in terms of range.

The armor is thin, which is why the Leopard 1C2 is almost half the weight of a modern M1A2 SEPV3.

The tanks are old. They were manufactured in the 60s, and while upgraded to include fire on the move and night vision capabilities, they are still well into their golden years so to speak.

But, all of those things make the Leopard 1C2 one of the most non-threatening tanks on the market. If you have a border with Russia, and want to have tanks but not threatening to Russia tanks, the Leopard 1s make sense as they are an older design than the T-72.

So, a country like Estonia, which has purchased some CV90 infantry fighting vehicles, might be interested in Leopard 1C2s if the price was low enough to add a medium weight tank to create a true combined arms capability. A country like Lithuania, which has a number of Boxer fighting vehicles, could also benefit. Latvia just purchased a fleet of CVRTs from the UK, probably doesn’t need to add the Leopard 1C2 to the mix.

Poland, is a firm pass. Poland is only interested in Leopard 2A4 or newer, or the production of more PT-91 “Twardy” (Hardened) tanks. The rest of the geography of eastern Europe makes an older tank like the Leopard 1C2 not very attractive to all of the NATO allies all the way south to the Black Sea.

Greece, has plenty of tanks although it maintains a fleet of Leopard 1s is probably not interested in Canadian versions. Turkey, has upgraded its Leopard 1s to a Turkish only model, but given the countries organic tank production capabilities doesn’t seem as a promising buyer either.

Iraq…is already rocking out Abrams, although the Leopard 1s would be a great addition for open desert warfare against Isis, but little use inside Iraq’s urban areas.

That leaves South America and Africa, and Brazil does maintain a fleet of Leopard 1s, so that could be a possibility, but the odds of Brazil getting into a land war where it needs a larger tank fleet are also “really dang small” so there is no pressure on Brazil right now to make a purchase a smart move.

In short, unless Canada wants to give them away to either Estonia or Lithuania for the cost of shipping, I think that fleet is headed to the breakers. There just isn’t enough performance to be gained by any nation interested in tanks right now for a sale to go through in the traditional NATO route, and other markets don’t seem interested at all. With Ukraine selling T-84s, and the cost of T-72 hulls on the international market being what they are, there just isn’t much room for the Leopard 1s from a cost/value perspective.

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