Canadians Unable to Sell Obsolete Leopard Tanks

Canadian Leopard C2. Photo: Skaarup.HA / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Canadian military is stuck with 50 decommissioned Leopard 1C2 after modernizing with the Leopard 2. An attempt to sell the older tanks to Jordan back in February went bust and they have been unable to find another buyer.

The Canadian government limited the list of potential buyers with its policy of not selling weapons to countries it considers “problematic.” As a result, eleven of the Leopard 1C2s will be donated to museums showcasing Canada’s military history. The remaining tanks might be used as target practice for the new Leopard 2s, or they might just be junked.

Canadian Leopard tank.
Canadian Leopard tank.

The Leopard 1C1 was the equivalent of the Leopard 1A3. In 1996, the Canadian military updated the C1 tanks to 1C2s by replacing the turret with the turret from the German Leopard 1A5. This newer turret featured the STN ATLAS Elektronik EMES-18 computerized fire-control system that includes a Carl Zeiss thermal imager. The 105mm L7 rifled guns on the 1A5 turret were not kept but replaced with the guns from the original 105mm guns from the old 1C1 turrets.

Canadian Leopard C2 at the Bovington Tank Museum. Photo: Andrew Skudder / CC BY-SA 2.0
Canadian Leopard C2 at the Bovington Tank Museum. Photo: Andrew Skudder / CC BY-SA 2.0

The rebuilds began in June 1997. The first updated turrets were shipped to Canada in December 1997. GLS prepared the new turrets in Germany, making some changes – like adding a radio ordered by the Tactical Command, Control and Communications Systems project. A subcontractor installed the turrets on the tanks when they reached Canada. The refit was concluded in late 2001.

In all, the Canadians owned 123 Leopard C1 tanks. Only 66 were updated to 1C2s. The official rollout of the updated tanks was in November of 1999.

Leopard 1 Prototype II. Photo: Darkone / CC BY-SA 2.5
Leopard 1 Prototype II. Photo: Darkone / CC BY-SA 2.5

The Leopard 1C2 served in Afghanistan with a squadron of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) in 2006. These were equipped with MEXAS appliqué modular armor. During this deployment, it was determined that insufficient air conditioning was inhibiting the crew’s ability to fight effectively. In April 2007, the military decided to invest in the Leopard 2 tanks.

The German army made twenty Leopard 2A6s available to Canada for their immediate use in Afghnistan. The first arrived in Afghanistan on August 16, 2007. The rest arrived by late September 2007.

The Leopard 2 tank has been modified throughout the years. The 2A6M CAN tank is the Canadian version of the 2A6 tank. The “M” signifies that they have been outfitted with a mine armor package and other modifications specific to the Canadian military.

Canadian Leopard C2 at the Bovington Tank Museum. Photo: Andrew Skudder / CC BY-SA 2.0
Canadian Leopard C2 at the Bovington Tank Museum. Photo: Andrew Skudder / CC BY-SA 2.0

The mine armor is located on the underside of the tank to protect it from exploding mines. The tank also comes with IED (improvised explosive devices) jamming gear, including “T” antenna stands and stand-off slat armor. These tanks also have specialized cooling units and cooling suits for the crew. This version of the Leopard was used until 2011.

The Leopard 2A4M CAN tank was specifically designed for service in Afghanistan using information gathered from troops that served in that country. It was used from 2010 to 2011. The 2A4M is only partially covered with slat armor, unlike the 2A6M which is fully covered.

The 2A4M uses appliqué armor like that found on the newer 2A7+ tanks. The 2A4M also has an all-electric digital turret, a digital central logic/main distribution system, a new commander system control unit, improved brakes and suspension and driver viewing aids.