Italy’s La Spezia gears up for Leopard 2A8IT tank production

Italian media reports have indicated that the 14-year-long Italian Leopard 2 A8 IT tank program is getting underway in La Spezia. This pioneering project is currently a trending topic in the Italian Parliament. 

Italy's La Spezia gears up for Leopard 2A8IT tank production
Photo credit: KMW

Distilled from parliamentary conversations, details about the project’s progression suggest that the draft ministerial decree, which greenlights the implementation of the Leopard 2 A8 IT tank program, is presently up for deliberation in the relevant committees of the Chamber and Senate. 

The program commands a budget of a staggering 8.246 billion euros, out of which over 4 billion euros have already been earmarked. This long-term strategy, extending over 14 years, incorporates plans to incorporate 132 combat variant tanks and another 140 specialized tanks that are designed for assorted tasks such as engineering and restoration. 

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

On-the-spot reports intimate that these Leopard 2A8 tanks will be manufactured locally, on a production line in La Spezia that has already embarked on its journey. This production line is expected to include custom features to cater to the needs of the equipment. 

Insiders also certify that the production line employs the standard NGVA [NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture] with an exclusively Italian-made guidance system, combat control system, and optics, supplied by Leonardo. Professional observers anticipate that Italy’s familiarity with the Centuro 2 and Ariete C2 tanks will be instrumental in the construction of the new tank. 

The effective execution of this scheme fits in with the broader plan to enhance the Italian skills supply chain in the tracked sector, partially owing to the Ariete C2. With the introduction of the A2CS [Army Armored Combat System] and the MGCS (Main Ground Combat System), Italy stands to solidify its strategic footprint. Feasibility studies for these are set to kick off shortly. 

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

As of now, the agreements, are intended to stabilize the collaboration between all parties involved – including Leonardo, IDV, CIO, Krauss Maffei Wegman (the entity in charge of the Leopard 2A8 initiative), with whom Leonardo has already penned a strategic agreement, and Rheinmetall [tasked with the special variants and supplying Leopard 2A8 glazing] – remain to be fleshed out.

What do we know about Leopard 2A8?

The Leopard 2A8, a recent development tracing its roots back to the 2A7HU variant ordered by Hungary in 2018, brings promising upgrades to the table. Key among them is the integration of the Trophy active protection system [APS] from the reputed Israeli company, Rafael. This ingenious system can intercept incoming projectiles before they make an impact on the tank. Moreover, it introduces the 120 mm L55 smoothbore cannon, previously seen in the 2A7+. It’s worth noting that the L55 has an advantage over the former L44 with its superior muzzle velocity. 

Leopard 2A7HU technologically superior tanks in the Bundeswehr
Photo credit: Hungarian Defense Forces

If you’re wondering about crew comfort, you’re in for a surprise. This future-ready tank is equipped with a state-of-the-art cooling system. Additionally, it boosts its capabilities with an enhanced supplementary power generator and an external telephone to bridge communication gaps with dismounted troops. 

The driver of the 2A8 won’t be left struggling with visibility issues during night-time operations. Thanks to the combined night vision system – a flawless blend of a thermal imager and a low light amplifier – the driver will have a clear vision of the front and the rear. 

Step into the digital era with the 2A8’s advanced optronics. They offer a broader, more precise view of what transpires at a distance. And here’s the cherry on top: operating the digital controls will be a breeze. The command and information system is an upgrade from its predecessors, offering a decisive advantage in the field. Also, the ability to fire off programmable detonation ammunition strikes a balance between efficiency and minimizing collateral damage.

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

Italy is first

Italy’s Ministry of Defense was a trailblazer, making a pledge even before Germany, to initiate production and commissioning of the Leopard 2A8 tanks, setting a precedent for the future. There’s more to the story though, as interest in these tanks isn’t limited to Italy – several other European nations are also intrigued. You might think the Netherlands would be next in line for the Leopard 2A8s, but last-minute budget complications derailed their acquisition plans. 

Let’s fast-forward to a few days ago when, during a parliament question and answer session, Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren revealed some eye-opening information. It turns out, that the Netherlands’ current defense budget simply cannot stretch far enough to accommodate a Leopard 2A8 tank battalion. Just so you understand, the total forecasted cost, which includes the price tag of the tanks, their maintenance, and personnel, would come to a staggering 315 million euros annually for 15 years. 

German Leopard 2A7 tanks will be produced in Hungary - Russia
Photo credit: Dzen.ru

What it basically comes down to, according to Ollongren, is that acquiring the Leopard 2A8 battalion would necessitate a significant boost in the Netherlands’ defense budget. This is certainly not a simple matter when you consider that the already planned military spending for 2024 amounts to a considerable figure of 21.4 billion euros.

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