Lack of ERA on the Leopard 2 tanks gives the T-90M advantage

PANAGYURISHTE, BULGARIA — Undoubtedly, the delivery of over 100 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is not to be underestimated. Although the tanks will arrive in a few months, Ukraine will have a means of offensive action. The promised Challenger 2 and Abrams tanks complement the capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Stridsvagn 122 - 'the best Leopard' that could face the T-90M
Photo credit: Wikipedia

It is believed that the German Leopard 2 tanks are the ones that would successfully oppose the Russian T-90M. In Ukraine, however, we very rarely witness a direct tank battle. The combatant ground units are concentrating their efforts on the use of portable anti-tank missile systems. Hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian tanks were destroyed as a result of such a duel. It is much more efficient, and fast and provides an instant result with accurate aiming.

But, there is no shortage of dogfights between tanks. Recently, published an unequal battle between two Russian tanks and one Ukrainian. What remained outside the scope of our analysis was the line of sight between the three tanks. However, it is precisely this kind of terrain that characterizes the military operations in Ukraine. Direct visibility, especially at a distance of 1,500 meters.

Russia lost a unique T-90M Proryv tank hit head-on by an AT-4
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This could prove to be a problem for the German Leopards of the 2nd series. Unlike the Russian T-90M, the Leopard 2 does not have a dynamo defense against cumulative munitions. This armor is also known as explosive reactive armor [ERA].

At 1,500 meters or less, in direct line of sight, which is precisely the terrain conditions in Ukraine, the Leopard 2’s armor will be penetrated by Russian shells, says Mr. Viktor Murakhovsky, an expert in heavily armored military equipment.

An ERA is a type of armor – a licensed Russian development. The main purpose of this armor is to counteract the ionized gas from the warhead of the enemy projectile, utilizing a strong electric field. Counteraction against the ionized gas occurs by interrupting its jet.

A sheet of explosive substance is placed between two metal plates. In a penetrating weapon attack, the explosive detonates, forcing the metal plates apart to damage the penetrator. In this way, the armor provides a greater path for the penetrator, reducing its destructive effects.

Spanish Leopard 2a4 tanks are the most shooting-accurate in Europe
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All this is achieved by moving the plates themselves on the tank. In this way, they constantly change the angle of attack of the opposing projectile, as well as the angle of the charged jet. The continuous outward movement of the plates changes something else – the direction of the warhead’s impact. Thus the point of impact also changes. With this effect, the penetrating projectile needs a much larger jet, which it no longer has.

Great Britain has developed in the field of dynamic defense against cumulative projectiles. The principle of action is similar to that of the Russians. In the British version, the plates are also two, but the outer plate [sheath] is charged with a huge electrical charge. Thus, if an incoming heat jet from an adversary projectile penetrates the outer shell, the electrical energy of the outer plate is opposed by its electric charge and discharges the jet.

Germany has developed ERA armor on its tanks. Leopard 2A5+ is the version on which a similar type of armor was tested. But the government in Berlin believed that it was dangerous and could seriously damage the tank. However, German sources say that if Berlin wishes, the Leopard 2 could receive “similar armor”.

Some specialists say that Western tanks have ERA armor because of the inserts in the sandwich between two plates of the tank armor. Abrams and Challenger 2 use ceramic plates. Some x-rays show that the ceramic material atomizes the incoming penetration path, disrupting the projectile flow.

Leopard 2 armor is the third generation. However, it is made of high-hardness steel, tungsten, and plastic filler with a ceramic component. Having ceramic components instead of ceramic plates makes the tank more vulnerable to enemy projectiles.

KMW shows Leopard 2A7 tank with Trophy APS in the Czech Republic
Photo credit: Twitter

If it comes to a direct fight between the T-90M and the Leopard 2, everything depends on the crews of the two tanks. If we take them out of the equation, however, the Leopard 2’s lack of ERA armor in line of sight could easily allow a T-90M tank shell to penetrate the Leopard 2’s armor.


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