The heavily protected direct fire capability of a main battle tank is an invaluable tool in the arsenal of any military. The intensity of recent conflicts in Central Asia and the Middle East has shown western militaries that tanks provide protection that cannot be matched by more lightly armoured wheeled vehicles.
Simply put, tanks save lives, providing soldiers with a high level of protection. In Afghanistan, the Taliban’s use of lethal and readily available anti-armour weapons, such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), is a clear threat. Canada’s Leopard 1 tanks have provided close direct fire support and mitigated the threat of IEDs, as well as landmines. The tanks have also provided the Canadian Forces (CF) with the capability to travel to locations that would otherwise be inaccessible to wheeled light armoured vehicles, including Taliban defensive positions.
Renewing Canada’s tank capability will enable the CF to meet current operational needs in the short and long term. Canada’s 30-year old Leopard 1 tanks are due for replacement, and Leopard 2 tanks offer more protection against IEDs and landmines; and are technologically more advanced than their predecessor. Furthermore, by 2012 there will no longer be logistics support and spare parts for the turrets of Leopard 1s, resulting in complete obsolescence by 2015.
A number of options for renewing the tank capability were considered, ranging from refurbishment to surplus to new.
Refurbishing the tanks is not an option as the 30-year old Leopard 1 turrets will be obsolete in 2015. It is also unsuited to operations in hot climates. Acquiring new tanks off a production line was also examined, but delivery would not occur for a few years and the individual tank cost is approximately three times as expensive as procuring and upgrading the same capability that exists on the surplus market.
When examining the surplus tank option, Canada approached six allied nations to enquire about availability. Formal proposals from three nations were thoroughly evaluated by Public Works and Government Services Canada and the Department of National Defence (DND) in terms of price, upgrade costs, delivery schedule, operational performance, survivability and through-life operating and maintenance costs.
Based on this evaluation, the decision was taken to acquire up to 100 surplus Leopard 2 tanks from the Netherlands and negotiate a short-term loan arrangement with Germany to borrow 20 combat-ready Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks to address immediate operational requirements. This decision represented the most balanced and affordable approach for both short-and long-term requirements.
Canada is negotiating government-to-government agreements for both borrowing and acquiring the Leopard 2 tanks. The total project cost of the loaned tanks, the acquisition of 100 surplus tanks from the Netherlands, the requisite upgrades and enhancements to this new Leopard 2 fleet, and an initial acquisition of spare parts is $650 million, which will be funded from existing departmental allocations.
DEPLOYING COMBAT-READY TANKS
The tanks being loaned from Germany are fully operational, and will be deployed to Afghanistan in conjunction with the next rotation of personnel this summer.
These tanks are able to operate in intense heat as their electric turret systems and more powerful engines generate significantly less heat when operating than the hydraulic systems of Canada’s 30-year-old Leopard 1 fleet. They will also be fitted with climate control systems once in theatre.
ACQUIRING A PROVEN, MODERN MAIN BATTLE TANK
The surplus, modern Leopard 2 tanks being acquired from the Netherlands represent a unique opportunity to acquire proven, effective main battle tanks at a fraction of the cost of a similar, new tank. These tanks have been well maintained and stored in climate-controlled facilities. Due diligence has shown that these tanks will serve Canada effectively, well into the future.
In addition, surplus Leopard 2 tanks have been acquired by a number of nations in recent years and have been put into operational service very successfully. This is a proven capability. Their advanced features include significantly increased personnel protection against explosive devices and landmines, an ability to travel considerably faster in difficult terrain, more powerful engines, and stronger firing capabilities.
CANADA’S NEW LEOPARD 2 FLEET
The acquisition of 100 tanks represents the minimum fleet size to support a deployed tank squadron. These 100 vehicles would be broken down into operational and supporting squadrons as follows:
- For deployed operations, the Canadian Forces need two combat-ready squadrons of approximately 20 tanks each: one for deployment and a second for rotation into theatre to allow for depot repair and overhaul of the first.
- An additional two squadrons of 20 tanks each are required for collective and individual training in Canada.
- Individual tank training would be conducted by the squadron based at the Combat Training Centre at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick
- The squadron based at CFB Wainwright at the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre would conduct collective unit training to prepare for deployments.
- The final 20 vehicles will consist of key support vehicles such as armoured recovery vehicles, armoured bridge-laying vehicles and armoured engineering vehicles (i.e. dozer, plough, excavator).
BENEFITS FOR CANADIANS
This acquisition represents a significant opportunity for Canadian industry. Once negotiations are complete, the Dutch Leopard 2 tanks will be transported to Canada where they will receive the necessary upgrades to final Canadian Forces standards.
In the coming months, the Government of Canada will conduct one or more fair, open and competitive processes for the long-term in-service support of this fleet.
The Canadian Industrial Benefits policy will apply as appropriate. In this context, it may apply to future support, repair or upgrade contracts. The Canadian Industrial Benefits policy is the Government of Canada’s way of leveraging benefits to the Canadian economy as a result of our defence procurements.
The Canadian Forces have always planned to retain a direct-fire capability and recent conflicts have confirmed the importance of retaining a tracked tank capability. The Leopard 2 main battle tanks will bring strength, added protection and the ability to access difficult terrain that a wheeled vehicle cannot provide.
This acquisition is a further demonstration of Canada’s New Government’s commitment to renew and transform the Canadian Forces, providing them the equipment they need to do the demanding jobs we as Canadians ask them to do. (ends)
The Canadian press has reported that:
- Canada will pay a total of C$ 650 million over five years for its new tanks, including the cost of the loan agreement with Germany, the purchase of the Dutch tanks, spare parts and upgrades.
- The German tanks will be fitted with extra floor plating and blast-resistant seats before being deployed to Kandahar this summer to replace the old Leopard 1s.
- The purchase is a change of direction for the army and in particular for Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier, who only a few years ago described the Leopard tanks as "millstone around the neck" of the forces.