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World Premiere: first Leopard 2A8 tank production model unveiled at Eurosatory 2024.

On June 17, 2024, KNDS showcased the production model of the Leopard 2A8 main battle tank for the first time at the Eurosatory 2024 exhibition. The tank displayed at Eurosatory is equipped with an omnidirectional observation system, an upgraded suspension system, an engine with additional cooling systems, an optional laser beam radiation warning system, and a remotely controlled weapon system with a machine gun.
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The Leopard 2A8 tank displayed at Eurosatory is equipped with features such as an omnidirectional observation system, an optional laser beam radiation warning system, and a remotely controlled weapon system with a machine gun. (Picture source: Army Recognition)

Initially unveiled as a prototype in May 2023 at the International Defence and Security Technologies Fair (IDET) in Brno, Czech Republic, the Leopard 2A8 Main Battle Tank (MBT) is the latest variant in the Leopard 2 series, developed by the German companies Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall. Based on the Leopard 2A7+ with upgrades in armor and firepower, this tank features an advanced armor protection system, incorporating the latest generation of multi-layered armor that combines steel, tungsten, composite filler, and ceramic components. Additionally, it is equipped with the EuroTrophy Active Protection System (APS), an adaptation of the Israeli Trophy system, which provides 360-degree radar coverage and intercepts incoming projectiles.

The demonstrator vehicle displayed at Eurosatory 2024 has a turret with an active protection system, improved PERI with a laser rangefinder, and a 360° local situational awareness system combined with a laser warning system. This vehicle has been used for testing various components and overall configurations.

The primary armament of the Leopard 2A8 is an improved 120 mm/L55 A1 smoothbore gun, an enhancement over the L44 gun, allowing for higher muzzle velocities and improved accuracy, range, and penetration. It can fire various munitions, including the DM11 programmable ammunition, which can detonate at specific points in its trajectory for effectiveness against different targets such as lightly armored vehicles, infantry, and fortifications. This main gun is supported by secondary armaments including a coaxial MG 7.62 mm and a multi-purpose 76 mm grenade launcher.

The design of the Leopard 2A8 is consistent with previous models, featuring a four-man crew of driver, gunner, loader, and commander. It has enhanced armor on the turret and hull, especially in areas like the turret roof and underbelly. Also featuring mine protection, the Leopard 2A8’s passive armor kit and APS provide protection against anti-tank guided weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, allowing for a 360° coverage.

Powered by a 1,500 hp engine, the Leopard 2A8 can reach speeds up to 65 km/h and has an operational range of approximately 400 kilometers. Its torsion bar suspension system, ground clearance of 500 mm, and durable tracks allow the tank to navigate difficult terrains, including steep gradients and water obstacles.

According to KNDS, the Leopard 2 A8 weighs less than 69 tons and measures 8.05 meters in length (11.17 meters with the gun), 4.00 meters in width, and 2.72 meters in height at the turret roof (3.11 meters with PERI).

The Leopard 2A8 includes advanced optics and fire control systems, such as third-generation thermal imaging for the commander and gunner, and a fire control system that enhances targeting accuracy. This system comprises a laser rangefinder and ballistic computer, allowing engagement of moving targets with precision. Additionally, the tank features a crew compartment cooling unit with a capacity of up to 10 kW, and an auxiliary power unit (APU) with a 20 kW output stabilized by ultracapacitors for running systems and charging the battery when the main engine is off, an NBC overpressurization system, and a comprehensive fire protection system, ensuring operational functionality and crew safety in various conditions.

Additionally, the running gear is reinforced, the cooling unit for the power pack is improved, and the ergonomics and slew-to functions are enhanced. Optional features include a remote-controlled weapon station (RCWS) and a laser warning system.

Procurement of the Leopard 2A8 has been extensive. Germany's Federal Acquisition Office signed a framework agreement for up to 123 tanks. Norway committed to acquiring 54 Leopard 2A8s, equipped with the Trophy APS, with deliveries expected between 2026 and 2031. Italy finalized an agreement with KNDS and Leonardo to procure 300 Leopard 2A8 tanks, aiming to replace its Leopard 1 and C1 Ariete tanks. More recently, the Czech Republic approved a plan to purchase up to 77 Leopard 2A8s, indicating broad interest in modernizing armored forces across Europe with this model of tank.

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