The German Leopard tank is one of the most successful Main Battle Tank designs of the last 50 years. After designing the highly successful Leopard 1 in the early 1960's, Germany entered into a joint venture with America to develop a replacement for the aging M48, but the inability to come to a timely conclusion (both politically and technologically) saw both Countries eventually go their own way, and design their own MBT. This would lead to the M1 Abrams for the Americans, and the Leopard 2 for Germany.
The beginning of the 1990's saw several major events which were to have a major influence on world politics, as well as the military. The major change was the demise of the old Soviet Union, which removed the threat of a major war between NATO and the Soviet Union on North European soil. This forced the NATO partners to drastically reconsider the logistics of their Armies, as the requirement for large, standing Tank Divisions was no longer needed or tenable. Despite this, and because the development of a 'new' generation of MBT's now seems unlikely, the constant upgrading of existing tanks remained ongoing, and MBT's keep proving their worth as a potent show of force.
2009 is the 30th anniversary of the Leopard 2's active service with the German Bundeswehr, and Tankograd Publishing
celebrates this with the publication of this superb reference work. A second volume, covering the export versions of the Leopard 2 is scheduled to be published later in 2009.
This book covers the Leopard 2 from the first designs as an upgrade of the Leopard 1, until the latest upgrades and export versions as of now. With over 319 pages and 679 photos the author, Frank Lobitz, takes the reader on a grand tour of the Leopard, going into fine detail how, and why, the design of the Leopard went as it did.
Published by Tankograd Publishing, the book is in Hardback format, printed on quality gloss paper, and illustrated with relevant photo's at every step, the author's knowledge of, and affection for, the Leopard are evident. The book also contains 97 graphic illustrations, and two sets of 1/35 scale drawings. As with all Tankograd publications, the text is in both German and English, and the lay-out follows the familiar, if sometimes slightly confusing, style of the German text in the left column on the page, and the English text in the right column.
is currently serving in the German Bundeswehr in the rank as Major, and has extensive firsthand experience of the Leopard MBT. Starting as a gunner on the Leopard 1, he graduated to commanding the Leopard 2 before taking command of a Tank Company. He has written an earlier two-volume study on the Leopard 1 MBT, also published by Tankograd Publishing.
Following the design, development, and active deployment of the Leopard 2 in chronological order, the book contains 12 main chapters, and each chapter is broken down in relevant sub chapters. Each chapter generally starts with a written part, which is followed by relevant photographs and/or diagrams to illustrate the text. The detailed breakdown makes it relatively easy to find a specific subject in the Contents, which will please modelers looking for a specific reference. It would not be practical to go into detail on every chapter in this review, but after the listing of the Contents, I will look closer at a few chapters.
Chapter Two: Leopard 2 - First Steps:
- The Way to the Leopard 2
- Leopard 2 - First Steps
- Technical Description
- Leopard 2A0 - 2A4 Series Production
- Specialised Vehicles
- Leopard 2A5, A6, A6M - Combat Capability Improvements
- Leopard 2 in Active Service with the Bundeswehr
- Ammunition, Training, Markings
- Modifications and Further Developments
Whilst he first chapter of the book outlines briefly with the background and history of both the Leopard 1 and 2, this second chapter begins to deal with the vehicle proper. Naturally it starts with the history of the development of the Leopard 2. Three sub chapters chart the predecessors, the failed attempt to design the MBT 70 with the Americans, and the following experimental developments that would lead to the upgrades that would end with the Leopard 2. Illustrated with period photos, including some rare photos of a surviving prototype, all with bi-lingual captions.
Chapter Four: Technical description:
A comprehensive look at the technical aspects of the Leopard 2 in concise format, this chapter describes in greater detail the individual components and assemblies that are mentioned throughout the book. This chapter contains several pages of close-up photographs of the hull and engine deck which are a great reference for modelers, especially the pictures of the opened up side storage lockers which show which tools are stored in them, and their lay-out. Of equal interest, and great use for the ambitious scratch builder, are the photo's of the interior and engine pack (both removed from the engine bay, and mounted), all with comprehensive captions explaining what is shown.
Chapter Five: Leopard 2A0 - 2A4 Series Production:
In this chapter the development of the Leopard 2 versions A0 through A4 are described in chronological order, detailing the various chances that took place and which distinguish one version from the other. Each sub chapter deals with a production batch, and starts with a small overview of features and changes specific to that version. Again the details are shown in many high quality photographs, with informative captions which draw the attention to relevant detail. Each version is also represented with a small side view drawing, which is not to any scale. This is another chapter which is invaluable to modelers who are building a specific Leopard 2, to get even the smallest details correct.
Chapter Seven: Leopard2A5, A6, A6M - Combat Capability Improvements:
Chapter Seven first explains in detail why, and how the various improvements that created the A5, A6, and A6M came to be, and follows with a walk around of close-up photographs for the leopard 2A5. The Leopard 2A6 is then dealt with over just two pages (with one photograph), as the only external different feature is the longer gun barrel. Likewise there is only one page for the Leopard 2A6M, which deals with the 70 vehicles which have been specially upgraded with improved mine protection measures. These include additional belly plate armour, and a new designed driverís seat, suspended in a harness, rather than bolted to the floor.
Chapter Eight: Leopard 2 in active service with the Bundeswehr:
Over some 50 pages this chapter charts and shows the Leopard 2 as it has been in service with the German Army (Bundeswehr). Four pages of text explain how the Leopard related to the changing make up of the Bundeswehr during the 1990's, and the remainder is given to photographs of Leopards from every angle, in every environment encountered, from the training grounds in Germany to KFOR in Kosovo. All types of camouflage are shown, and of particular interest is the final sub chapter which shows the more mundane and backbreaking tasks that are part of every tankers daily life, like track bashing, and gun barrel cleaning.
The rest of the book goes on to cover virtually every conceivable bit of information related to the Leopard 2 and it's specialised variants, in great detail, and includes a detailed look at the available ammunition, a small section on markings, future developments, and a set of 1/35 scale drawings of both the 2A4 and 2A5.
after double checking my measurements, it shows that the drawings are not entirely reproduced in true 1/35 scale. The overall length (rear to muzzle) is 1.3mm too large, the height over the turret roof (2A4) is 0.4mm too large, and curiously, the overall width with
the side skirts is correct, but the hull width (without the skirts) is 3.4mm too small. This latter discrepancy is due to an interpretation error, it refers to the skirts being folded up, rather than removed. Overall any inaccuracies are within acceptable tolerance, as encountered with re-production processes.
Reference books for the Leopard 2 MBT are far and few between, which is surprising, as the Leopard is one of the most successful MBT's of recent years, and has been exported to some 16 other countries as well. Likewise, until recently there were only a few (1/35) models of this tank available, but this is being addressed by HobbyBoss who are in the process of releasing a number of different variants, from different user nations, of the leopard 2. This book fills a major gap in the market, and Tankograd have really marked the 30th anniversary of the Leopard 2 with a superb reference work. 300 hard bound pages, crammed with information and photographs that cover every detail of the 2 series, from the prototypes till the latest 2A6EX. Those who are familiar with the publications of Tankograd know that the reputation for outstanding quality (and exclusive) photographs is well deserved, and this book only cements that reputation further.
Written for the enthusiast, but with undeniable thought for the modeler (I'm glad to see that more and more close-up photos, and even walk arounds, are being incorporated into the Tankograd titles), it is a treasure trove of detail to assist the modeler in his Leopard 2 project, be it simply to assist in making his build more accurate, or scratch building an interior. Listed at a recommended price of 49.00 Euros, this book is perhaps not cheap, but taking into account that it contains 300 pages (5x an 'ordinary' title from Tankograd) and 679 photos, it is undoubtedly good value. This book will be a valuable addition to the reference library of any modern Armour enthusiast, and modelers alike.
Available from all good specialist retailers from late June 2009.
Very highly recommended.