Limits: Netherlands’ ambition for Leopard 2A8 battalion hindered

In response to a question from a parliament member, the Netherlands’ Defense Minister, Kajsa Ollongren, announced that the country’s existing defense budget does not leave room for the planned acquisition of a Leopard 2A8 tank battalion. To give you some perspective, the total projected cost, including the tanks, their upkeep, and staff, is a hefty sum of 315 million euros every year over 15 years. 

Germany showed Leopard 2A8 tank to the public for the first time
Photo credit: Dzen.ru

The acquisition of the Leopard 2A8 battalion, according to Olongren, would require a significant increase in the Netherlands’ defense budget. In its current state, the planned military expenditure for 2024 is already a substantial 21.4 billion euros.

Germany invited the Netherlands

In May of 2023, the German government informed the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann corporation of their plans to invest in the acquisition of 123 Leopard 2A8 tanks. This significant venture was part of a framework agreement valued at 2.9 billion euros. 

The German government didn’t stop there. They aimed to not only upgrade their military capabilities but also extend an invitation to countries potentially interested in acquiring a new fleet of ‘Leopards’. The Netherlands was one such country that had earlier shown interest in forming its own tank battalion. However, a year later, there was no significant response from the Dutch government. They attributed their inertia to the pressing ‘current issues’ they were dealing with. 

Discussions have now surfaced around the recent parliamentary elections held in the Netherlands. The result of these elections is crucial as it determines the formation of the new government. This government will ultimately decide on the investment in tanks for their army. However, there’s a catch – the transition of power post-elections is not progressing as hoped. In fact, the process is likely to drag on for an unreasonable duration – a full two months, at the very least. 

German Army will receive Leopard 2A8 tanks, not the Leopard 2A7+
Photo credit: Esut.de

Saving money

Interestingly, Dutch government officials are currently considering the concept of “cost-effectiveness” and contemplating the acquisition of land-based robotic warfare systems, as opposed to tanks. They acknowledge, however, that even a comprehensive collection of military robots can provide only about a third of the combat potential that a fully equipped tank battalion could.

Lost tank fleet

The chronicle of how the Netherlands inadvertently eliminated their tank fleet, and their current efforts to rebuild, is a worthwhile narrative to revisit. In the aftermath of the “Cold War”, the Dutch military proudly boasted a total of 441 Leopard 2A4 tanks. However, by the mid-90s, that figure had plummeted to a mere 200. Surprisingly, the Dutch were enthusiastically selling their surplus war machinery. 

Panzer 87 or Leopard 2A4 Swiss
Photo credit: Fighting Vehicles

Fast forward to 2011, the Netherlands found themselves with just 73 Leopard 2A6NL tanks, the product of an upgrade from the Leopard 2A4. Due to budget restrictions, the Dutch army resolved to discard their Main Battle Tanks [MBTs]. Interestingly, that same year, Germany purchased 20 of these tanks for the use of Bundeswehr’s operations. 

By 2015, the Dutch government recognized their mistake in dismissing their tank fleet. As an unconventional solution, they struck a unique arrangement with Germany. This involved the Netherlands reacquiring tanks they had previously sold via rental, as part of an initiative to integrate the armies of both nations. These tanks subsequently became part of the 414th Bundeswehr Panzer Battalion of the 43rd Mechanized Brigade of the Dutch Land Forces, which is an integral part of the 1st Bundeswehr Panzer Division.

The unknown Leopard 2A8

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

The Leopard 2A8 represents a significant advancement from the 2A7HU model that Hungary previously deployed in 2018. The enhancements on this superior machine are genuinely astonishing. Among its exceptional features, it proudly includes the Trophy active protection system, also known as APS. Developed by the Israeli firm Rafael, this ingenious system can identify and neutralize oncoming hazards, ensuring that the tank remains secure and protected. 

The enhancements do not end there. The Leopard 2A8 also integrates a 120 mm L55 smoothbore cannon, which is a popular feature in the renowned 2A7+ model. This advanced hardware offers a greater muzzle velocity than the preceding L44 model found in the original Leopard 2 tank, thus positioning the Leopard 2A8 as a formidable force on any battlefield. 

Considering the crew’s comfort, the all-new 2A8 model features a sophisticated cooling system. In addition, the model introduces improvements like an enhanced auxiliary power generator and an external telephone for enhanced communication with non-crew military personnel.

Supposed capabilities of 2A8

As it pertains to maneuverability, the 2A8 is all set to offer its drivers a significant upgrade. With the advanced night vision system, combined with a thermal imager and a low-light amplifier, the operator’s field of vision is broadened, both front and rear, guaranteeing seamless navigation in low-light settings. 

Get ready to see with superior clarity and reach! The state-of-the-art optronics technology enhances the tank’s surveillance capabilities. Alongside the new digitized controls, the operation becomes effortless. Now for the best part: the information and command system in this model are leaps and bounds beyond what you’re accustomed to. What stands out even more is the 2A8’s ability to deploy special ammunition that can be detonated on demand. This feature allows for more tactical versatility, bolsters operational efficiency, and significantly reduces accidental damage. It’s time to get excited about the remarkable advancements headed your way!

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

2A7+ is the last known version

The 2A8 version is not an officially recognized variant of the Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank [MBT], a series of tanks developed by Krauss-Maffei in the 1970s for the West German Army. The Leopard 2 has undergone multiple upgrades over the years, with the most advanced variant being the Leopard 2A7+. 

The Leopard 2A7+ is powered by an MTU MB 873 Ka-501 liquid-cooled V12 twin-turbo diesel engine, which provides 1,500 PS [1,103 kW]. This engine allows the tank to reach a maximum road speed of 68 km/h [42 mph] and a cross-country speed of 45 km/h [28 mph]. 

The operational range of the Leopard 2A7+ is approximately 450 kilometers [280 miles] on roads and 325 kilometers [202 miles] cross-country. This range can be extended with the use of external fuel tanks. In terms of armament, the Leopard 2A7+ is equipped with a 120 mm L55 smoothbore gun, capable of firing a variety of standard NATO ammunition. It also features two 7.62 mm MG3A1 machine guns, one mounted coaxially with the main gun and one on an anti-aircraft mount. 

Leopard 2A7HU technologically superior tanks in the Bundeswehr
Photo credit: Mandiner.hu

The Leopard 2A7+ also boasts impressive defensive capabilities. Its modular armor can be adjusted to meet the needs of specific missions. The tank is also equipped with a sophisticated fire control system, which includes thermal imaging and laser rangefinding capabilities.

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