With their unique ability to provide a combination of mobility, firepower and protection, MBTs are crucial for defending European territory. Considering a currently tense security environment, especially along the Eastern European borders, it is of utmost strategic importance that Europeans have the required tank capacities to react swiftly and with the needed operational strength.
The number of MBTs in EU Member States has regularly decreased, from 15.000 in the year 2000 to just 5.000 today. Modernisation plans for existing main battle tank assets are limited, with no substantial increase of European MBT capabilities to be expected in the short or medium term. Traditionally, most EU countries use European or Soviet legacy equipment. Since the dependency on Soviet legacy technology raises a number of concerns it can be anticipated that next-generation MBTs should be more procured from sources that can guarantee security of supply in the longer term.
Against this backdrop, the EDA launched in spring 2017 the ‘Optimisation of the Main Battle Tank Capability in Europe with initial focus on Leopard 2 (OMBT-Leo2)’ project. The initiative is an important pilot to test a new innovative Pooling & Sharing concept potentially applicable to other areas. The system works as follows: surplus ‘Leopard’ platforms available in certain Member States (the ‘providers’) are leased/rented them for a defined period of time to one or several other interested Member States (the ‘receivers’). At the end of the transfer period, the MBTs can either be returned to the providers (for further use or subsequent sale to third parties) or be sold to the receivers. The Pooling & Sharing of training, exercises and maintenance between providers and receivers, using already existing facilities complete the concept. This approach requires European industrial partners to be involved in support of its implementation.
As a first step, an upgrade of all participating Leopard 2A4 platforms to the latest Leopard configuration (2A7) is foreseen as part of a comprehensive package including training and logistics support. Receiving countries will nevertheless retain some degree of flexibility : the upgraded Leopard 2A7 they receive will be in line with the technical configuration developed by the Original Equipment Manufacturer and used by all Leopard Benutzerstaaten (LeoBEN) but not automatically equipped with all available features. This leaves the receivers with the choice of equipping their MBTs only with features they deem necessary (e.g. cooling, auxiliary power units, specific mission equipment, additional protection, etc.). The EDA project not only includes the pooling and sharing of the tanks themselves, but also of related services to make it a ‘full capability’ i.e. training and logistics support, including related special Leopard vehicles such as recovery vehicles, combat engineering vehicles or bridge layers.
The idea behind this coordinated and comprehensive upgrade to one single type of platform (Leopard 2A7) throughout all participating Member States is to overcome the complexity caused by the high number of different types of fighting vehicles currently in operation, in anticipation of a future European generation of MBT.
Simon: the source in the small graph on MBTs in European Union… needs to read CODABA and not CODOBA