KYIV, UKRAINE — As we have repeatedly said: Leopard tanks for Ukraine are good news, especially against the background of the upcoming Ukrainian offensive. But on several occasions, we published reports comparing German and Russian tanks. We even opined in a report that Leopard tanks do not have dynamic protection installed known as explosive reactive armor [ERA]. According to opinions in the Russian media, the ERA is an advantage for Russian tanks over any Western tank.
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Whether ERA is an advantage remains to be seen. But there is already proof that our reports are being confirmed regarding the combat capabilities of the tanks on the front in Ukraine. A photo of a Ukrainian Leopard 2A4 tank with Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armor mounted has appeared. This Soviet-era dynamic armor was developed sometime in the mid-1980s.
In one of our reports, we said that one of the advantages of the Russian T-90M against the Leopards of Ukraine will be precisely the presence of ERA on the T-90 hull. Why do we think so? These German Leopards were not created for the conditions of the war that is currently being fought in Ukraine. They were created in the Cold War era based on the lessons learned from World War II. Then the engineers did not imagine that the tanks would face IEDs, ATGMs, and suicide drones.
We need to go much deeper into our analysis, and before explaining what Kontakt-1 is, we need to understand exactly what Ukraine got. Kyiv received tanks produced between 1985 and 1992. According to some reports, the delivered Leopard tanks changed hands several times before ending up in Ukraine. I.e. were resold.
The Leopard 2A4 is the most common German tank. It was very well designed for its time – an automatic digital fire control system, handling different ammunition, and a much-improved turret. But the tank’s armor is being questioned because of, as we said earlier, the current battle in Ukraine.
A report is circulating on the web, which is said to be a declassified British report of the Ministry of Defense of the Kingdom, specifically concerning the Leopard tanks. The turret, according to the report, provides protection equivalent to 350 mm of steel against sub-caliber rounds. To counter HEAT projectiles, the equivalent available to the Leopard is 700 mm. Russian experts argue that this is not enough in both cases.
What do non-Russian experts say?
Mr. J.S. Sodhi is a military analyst and a reserve lieutenant colonel. However, his assessment approaches that of his Russian colleagues. He pays close attention to the tank’s turret, identifying it as the tank’s weakest point. It is for this reason, Sodhi says, that the Leopards have very good firepower. As in nature, so among humans, there is a balance in engineering – better firepower means less protection in this area.
Let us recall that Turkey suffered a serious defeat in Syria after their Leopard 2A4s were destroyed in one attack. Then ten Turkish Leopards left.
The armor block of the German Leopards is made of two components – an articulated frame of light alloy with a thickness of 240 mm and sheets of rolled homogeneous armor with a thickness of 80 mm. This is a problem according to the expert.
So the time has come to say a few words about the armor that the Ukrainians [Poles] have integrated into the German Leopards planned for delivery or already delivered to Ukraine.
Dynamic armor consists of blocks. Each block consists of two 4S20 explosive elements. This is actually a plastic explosive placed between two steel plates. You can see the picture of the Kontakt-1 unit to get a better idea.
The whole idea hinges on counteraction on the battlefield. It is assumed that the explosive of the anti-tank missile is detonated on impact with the armor. However, if the tank has ERA, the detonation is explosive-explosive [because of the explosives in the blocks]. In this way, a cumulative jet is manifested.
During the collision, the Kontrakt-1 blocks move in a direction intersecting the trajectory of the cumulative jet. A splash of energy is produced. Scattered energy results in a drastic reduction in the ability of cumulative ammunition to penetrate armor by 50–80%.
Is it enough?
Russian experts say that Kontakt-1 will not help the Ukrainian Leopards. The reason is that this is the first version of dynamic protection, and currently, the last one is Kontakt-5. Neither Ukraine nor Poland has the Kontakt-5 technology, which provides greater protection and reduces cumulative munitions capabilities to around 80 percent.
In reality, all older Russian tanks such as the T-55АМВ, T-62МВ, T-64БВ, T-72Б, T-80UD, and T-80У are equipped with Kontakt-1. In contrast to Ukraine, the modernization of tanks, mainly T-80 and T-90, is currently carried out in Russia with dynamic protection of the fifth-generation Relikt. This armor is said to be twice as effective as the Kontakt-5.
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