Scope of the Leopard 2A4 upgrade, up to the Leopard 2PL standard
When it comes to the detailed scope of modernization, it is going to cover, above all, the fire control system, and the armour and armament mounted within the turret. The core of the modernization programme is a compromise of three following factors:
• Vehicle weight;
• Improved capabilities, within the area determined by the aforementioned factors.
The main limitation imposed on the programme is related to the requirement, according to which vehicle weight of 60 tonnes shall not be exceeded, since such result would require, as the German experts claim, the whole suspension to be modified, so that it would be capable of properly supporting the increased increased mass of the tank. This means that within the 4 tonnes of weight increase, 75% of that mass is going to be used to improve the ballistic protection level for the turret. The remaining mass margin is going to be used for modernization of other key parameters of the tank.
In the light of the limitations described above, the companies resigned from improving the hull armour.
The turret is going to be retrofitted with additional modular IBD Deisenroth Engineering armour, placed in a way that would close the gap for the EMES-15 targeting device, however, without any changes made to the special armour insert, except for the gap above. The armour layout will still enable the driver to exit the vehicle, at any position of the turret. IDB is also going to deliver the spall liners. The works are planned to be realized in collaboration with the Polish Rosomak S.A. company. The assumption is that the Polish entity shall ultimately be able to license-manufacture the required elements of the armour.
Leopard tanks are additionally going to be fitted with a new Deugra fire/explosion protection system. According to the Rheinmetall company, in total, the resistance of the turret is going to be higher than in case of the Leopard 2A5 tank.
No plans have been made to improve strength of the bottom part of the hull. or to apply a new protective driver’s seat that would minimize the effects of the potential explosion under the vehicle. The hull of the Polish Leopard 2A4 tanks is not going to go through any significant changes. The modernization will include installation of a day-night observation system for the driver, along with the auxiliary power unit. The driver is to have a new day-night observation system at his disposal, featuring a KDN-1 Nyks reversing camera, manufactured by PCO.
The new, 17 kW APU will provide additional power for the newly installed systems. This is a change which is relevant in a situation, in which the hydraulic drive units for the turret and the cannon are replaced with the electric counterparts. In a longer run this increases the modernization potential, providing a power reserve that may be required for the prospective BMS system and other components, e.g. broadband communications features that are an indispensable element which should be implemented in case of the vehicles that operate in a net-centric battle awareness environment.
The remaining changes within the hull of the vehicle are related to modifications of other systems and to the general weight increase. The above requires replacement of the rescue equipment, including ropes and hooks that are used to recover the vehicles from the battlefield, since these elements are now to withstand load imposed by pulling a 60 tonnes tank.
The key changes implemented in the Leopard 2PL tank include the fire control and observation systems, as well as the armament. The 120 mm tank cannon is going to be tailored to use the DM63A1 ammunition with a sabot round, and the DM11 high-explosive programmable round. Using the DM63A1 ammunition, in the light of the increased pressure and recoil, requires the recoil mechanism to be customized. Changes need to be made also to the casing container. In order to utilize the DM11 ammunition, L-44 programming system is going to be added. This module will be interconnected with the tank’s fire control system. The cannon will also feature an electronic trigger.
Fire control system is going to be modified, particularly within the scope of the applied optronic observation and targeting devices. EMES-15 gunner’s sight and PERI R-17 commander’s sight are expected to be replaced with the Polish KLW-1 Asteria Gen-III thermal vision cameras, provided by the PCO company. Moreover, PERI R17A1 system used in case of the Leopard 2A4 tanks will be modified by the Airbus DS Optronics company, so that it is compliant with the R17A3 standard. The above means that the system would be fitted with a laser range finder. Identical optoelectronic solution is being used in the latest variety of the Leopard tanks, the 2A7 version. Commander’s station will be fitted with a multifunction-display, allowing the user to transmit the video from the PERI R-17A3 and EMES-15 targeting devices, carry out a full test of the turret systems, and controlling their operation, and operation of the protection systems.
The turret and cannon motors will be replaced with the electric EWNA system provided by the Jenoptik Defence & Civil Systems ESW company. Elements of this device are going to be manufactured by the ZM Tarnów facility in Poland. All of the devices listed above will be coupled by a serial CAN-BUS communications bus, interconnecting all of the digital components of the tank.
The modernization programme does not include installation of the BMS system on the Leopard tanks. No plans have been made regarding the communications devices used so far, or within the scope of expanding the current system with a broadband digital link. The issues described in the present paragraph are, most probably, going to be covered by an annex to the agreement which may be signed, once the Armament Inspectorate of the Ministry of Defence selects the final BMS system that would be acquired for the land forces.