Sunday, October 17, 2010

Leopard 2 Steals the Show in South Africa

Marking the African debut of the Leopard 2A4, Rheinmetall Defence of Germany took advantage of Africa Aerospace & Defence 2010 (AAD) in Cape Town to put the world’s finest main battle tank through its paces. Daily live presentations on a special test track proved to be a major draw, with the Leopard 2A4’s excellent mobility in rough terrain clearly impressing the crowd.

Rheinmetall has been developing and producing armoured vehicles for over forty years. The Leopard 2 continues to set the global standard for modern main battle tanks, with more than 3,600 in existence, now in service with 16 nations. Although Rheinmetall is not the main contractor for the Leopard 2 MBT, the company has nevertheless played an integral role in its development and production. Moreover, out of a total 2,125 Leopard 2A4 tanks produced, 977 were manufactured entirely by Rheinmetall in Kiel for the German and Dutch armed forces.

By supplying critical subsystems, Rheinmetall contributes decisively to the Leopard’s overall performance. For example, Rheinmetall is responsible for its 120mm smoothbore main armament, still the world’s finest tank gun. This cutting edge weapon is produced under licence in the United States for the M1 Abrams, and is also found in other MBTs.

The Leopard likewise benefits from Rheinmetall’s globally leading ammunition technology. Developing perfectly harmonized combinations of weapons and associated ammunition families is a longstanding core competence of the Rheinmetall Group, blending system integration expertise with unrivalled kinetics know-how.

Developed and manufactured by Rheinmetall and based on the Leopard, the Büffel/Buffalo 3 armoured recovery vehicle forms an integral part of the Leopard 2 family of land systems. Likewise based on the Leopard 2 chassis, Rheinmetall’s highly versatile Kodiak armoured engineer vehicle underscores the Group’s competence and capabilities as a system builder.

In the field of C4I and fire control technology, Rheinmetall possesses a unique selling point. Adapted to the individual requirements of the user, it supplies customized solutions that can be integrated into existing higher-echelon command and control systems.

Furthermore, user nations benefit from Rheinmetall’s longstanding experience in maintenance and system support – even during deployed operations. Made-to-measure logistical concepts guarantee high levels of readiness and reliability for systems in service worldwide. Moreover, the recent integration of MAN’s military truck division means that Rheinmetall now has a tightly woven, comprehensive global service network.

Rheinmetall’s logistical philosophy also embraces the use of existing military resources as well as local contractors, thus providing users with maximum strategic independence.

Rheinmetall Denel Munition of South Africa forms an integral part of the Rheinmetall Defence Group. In particular, the integration of the 155mm L52 main armament from the company’s PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzer into Denel Land Systems’ outstanding G6 artillery system – earmarked for third-party customers – shows the Rheinmetall is willing and able cooperate successfully with the South African defence industry.

With a view to future combat scenarios, Rheinmetall’s MBT Revolution modular upgrade programme is a coherent concept for adapting the Leopard 2 and other tanks for new missions. In particular, the concept includes a fully digitized turret as well as a 360° protection package capable of withstanding the full array of asymmetric threats. 3rd generation optical sight and reconnaissance technology rounds this compelling performance upgrade suite.

Finally, at its Unterlüß competence centre, Rheinmetall boasts the largest proving ground and firing range in Europe. Located near the German Army Armour School in Munster, this sprawling facility gives the company a huge advantage in developing new defence technology solutions – independently and economically.

During the current Afghanistan mission, the Leopard 2 has performed impressively in the face of asymmetric threats such as landmines and IEDs, saving crewmembers’ lives. Today, there is no denying that main battle tanks will continue to play a decisive role in assuring the combat effectiveness and survivability of friendly forces on future battlefields. For the South African National Defence Forces – currently reviewing possible replacements for the aging Olifant tank – this is likely to be a key consideration.

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