Spain investing EUR 208 Mn to modernize Leopard 2A4 tanks

On August 22, 2023, Spain announced a substantial investment of over €2 billion in its ground forces, the Ejército de Tierra, with a specific budget of €208 million earmarked for the maintenance and modernization of its Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to bolster Spain's military capabilities, which also includes the purchase of 348 VCR Dragón 8×8 infantry fighting vehicles and the launch of the €1.95 billion VAC (Vehiculo de Apoyo de Cadenas) program, as reported by Army Recognition on August 23, 2023.
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Spanish Leopard 2A4 main battle tank, locally known as the 2 E. (Picture source: Wikimedia )

Spain's armored forces comprise a total of 347 Leopard tanks, with 108 being the older 2A4 model and 239 of the more advanced 2A6 variant, locally known as the 2E. About 50 Leopard 2A4 tanks were previously put into reserve due to budget limitations and are stored at the logistics support group No. 41 in Zaragoza. While some of these were intended to be converted into engineering vehicles, this plan was never executed due to funding constraints.

The Leopard 2A4, developed by the German company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), was introduced in the mid-1980s as an upgrade to the earlier Leopard 2 model. It features several enhancements, including third-generation composite armor and a modern fire control system that integrates a laser rangefinder, thermal imaging, and a ballistics computer. Powered by a 1,500 horsepower MTU MB 873 diesel engine, the tank can reach speeds of up to 72 km/h and has a range of approximately 550 km. Its primary armament is a 120mm smoothbore gun, complemented by two 7.62mm machine guns as secondary armament.

In April and June 2023, Spain reportedly delivered 10 Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine, according to open-source intelligence.

The Leopard 2A6 offers several advantages over the 2A4, including a more advanced Rheinmetall 120mm L55 cannon, superior armor modules, and updated sighting and fire control systems. Despite being slightly heavier due to the additional armor, its mobility is comparable to the 2A4. Overall, the 2A6 serves as a more effective and versatile platform for modern military operations.

Unlike several NATO countries that are acquiring new tanks in response to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Spain has chosen to maintain and upgrade its existing Leopard 2 fleet. The government has not disclosed specific details about the upgrades but has emphasized improvements in mobility, protection, and firepower. A framework agreement has been outlined for the maintenance of the Leopard tank family until at least December 31, 2026, with an option for extension, suggesting that these tanks could remain operational until 2029 or beyond.