The Leopard 2A8 main battle tank is the latest advancement in the Leopard 2 series of tanks manufactured by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall in Germany.
This tank represents an enhanced version of the Leopard 2A7, incorporating cutting-edge improvements. It boasts an advanced armor protection system, believed to feature the latest generation of multi-layer armor.
To showcase the Leopard 2A8 concept, a demonstrator was presented at the international defense exhibition IDET in Brno, Czech Republic, in May 2023. This demonstration highlighted the tank’s advanced capabilities and technological advancements.
On May 24, 2023, the German government confirmed the procurement of 18 Leopard 2A8s. These tanks will replace the Leopard 2A6s previously sent to Ukraine as military aid.
Simultaneously, the Czech Ministry of Defense announced that Defense Minister Jana Sernochova had been authorized to initiate negotiations with Germany regarding the potential purchase of 70 Leopard 2A8 main battle tanks (MBTs).
The decision to acquire these tanks was deemed strategic by the budget committee of the German Bundestag, given that the Leopard 2 tank is considered the primary weapon of the German armored forces. The initial contract includes an option to acquire up to 105 additional Leopard 2A8 tanks for a total of 2.3 billion euros.
In anticipation of future needs, the manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann has proposed a production rate of 2 additional battle tanks per month beginning in June 2026. This plan is contingent on the German government choosing to purchase additional vehicles.
This large-scale acquisition aligns with the anticipated requirements of the Bundeswehr, as the current inventory of Leopard 2 tanks stands at 328, significantly fewer than during the Cold War. Therefore, this planned purchase will substantially enhance Germany’s military capabilities.
As of now, no variants of the Leopard 2A8 have been introduced. It is important to note that the pictures accompanying this article are demonstration models and provide only a glimpse of the future design of the Leopard 2A8.
The Leopard 2A8 main battle tank concept was held at the 16th Middle East Military Police Defense Exhibition (IDEX 2023) at the Abu Dhabi International Convention and Exhibition Center.
1. Main parameters and indicators
Primary armament: 120mm/L55 smoothbore gun, 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and “Raphael Trophy” active protection system (APS) countermeasure launcher
Onboard Armor: A new generation of active and passive all-around armor to protect against modern ATGW anti-tank-guided weapons and RPG rocket-propelled grenade threats.
Equipment country: Germany, Czech Republic
Weight: 65 tons-67 tons
Onboard equipment: collective NRBC system, power pack preheating, crew compartment heater, fire suppression system, electric bilge pump, thermal imaging system, auxiliary power unit, crew compartment cooling system and commander’s panoramic sight
Car crew: 4 people
Tank Volume: Length: 7.7m, Width: 4.0m, Height: 3.0m
Maximum driving distance: 450 kilometers
Front view of a Leopard 2A8 tank demonstrator with the driver on the right
2. Vehicle Equipment
The Leopard 2A8 tank is equipped with a 3-man turret and retains the main armament of the Leopard 2A7+, equipped with a 120mm/L55 smoothbore gun. The L55 gun is produced by the German company Rheinmetall and is an upgraded version of the L44 gun.
The L44 gun was equipped on all early versions of the Leopard 2 tank. The L55 smoothbore gun is known for its longer barrel, which is 1.3 meters longer than the L44 gun, allowing the L55 to achieve a higher muzzle velocity, thereby improving accuracy, range and penetration.
The L55 smoothbore gun can fire various ammunition, including APFSDS, High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) and multipurpose, multipurpose ammunition. The gun can also fire DM11 ammunition. A unique feature of the DM11 is its ability to be programmed to detonate at specific points on its trajectory.
This programming can be done either at the point of launch or in flight, controlled by the tank’s fire control system. This feature makes the DM11 highly versatile and effective in various scenarios. The L55 smoothbore gun can be used against lightly armored vehicles, infantry in the open or concealed, and fortifications or buildings.
Programming the shell to explode at a specific point on the ground or after penetrating a target can have a greater effect than traditional high-explosive rounds. The Leopard 2A8’s secondary armament consists of a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun mounted to the left of the primary armament.
The radars of the “Raphael Trophy” active protection system are installed in each turret corner.
3. Design and Protection
The layout of the Leopard 2A8 is similar to previous versions of the Leopard 2, with the driver on the front right side of the hull, the turret in the middle, and the engine at the rear.
It has a crew of 4, including a driver, gunner, loader and commander. The driver has 3 periscopes for better visibility. The central periscope can be replaced with a passive night vision periscope for low-light operation.
The driver enters and exits the vehicle through a one-piece hatch. The turret accommodates the remaining three crew members: commander, gunner and loader.
The commander and gunner are on the turret’s right side, while the loader is on the left. Both the commander and loader have entry and exit hatches. The turret design was slightly revised by integrating new armor and adding an APS system. Improved armor was also installed on the front of the hull.
The Leopard 2A8 variant has enhanced armor protection, significantly improving its defense capabilities. This modern model features the latest generation of multi-layered armor, a complex fusion of steel, tungsten, composite filler and ceramics, all contributing to its sturdy defensive structure.
Additionally, it comes with an additional passive armor kit that further strengthens the defenses. Advances in protection are particularly noticeable in areas such as the top of the turret and the underbelly of the tank, increasing protection against mine blasts.
A notable addition to the Leopard 2A8’s defense system is a modification incorporating the famous “Raphael Trophy” Active Protection System (APS), colloquially known as the “European Trophy.” This cutting-edge system further enhances the tank’s resiliency, adding an active, responsive layer of defense against incoming threats.
Its radar system is a key Raphael Trophy active protection system element. This radar provides 360-degree coverage and is adept at detecting incoming threats. Its sophisticated design allows multiple targets to be tracked simultaneously, from which initial data on the speed and trajectory of each threat is gathered.
One radar is mounted on each side of the front and rear of the turret. Along with radar threat detection and tracking, a “countermeasure device” quickly comes into play. This subsystem fires a dense explosion of armor-piercing projectiles (metallic projectiles) that neutralize incoming threats at a safe distance from the vehicle. Boxes containing countermeasures are installed on each side of the turret.
Suspension per side consists of 7 dual rubber tire wheels and four return rollers per side, drive sprocket at the rear and idler at the front.
The Leopard 2A8 is powered by a powerful 1,600 hp engine, an upgrade from the 1,500 hp engine used in its predecessor. The move to newly built hulls for the Leopard 2A8 models may have something to do with this enhanced engine, perhaps suggesting a design tweak to accommodate the increased horsepower better.
The tank has a top road speed of 70 km/h. Fuel efficiency and large capacity fuel tanks equip the Leopard 2A8 with an estimated operational range of approximately 450 km without refueling, an advantageous feature for sustained operations in remote or remote areas.
Maneuverability is a key strength of the model. With its ability to climb up to 60% grades and pass 30% slopes, the Leopard 2A8 excels at handling a variety of challenging terrain. Vertical obstacles up to about 1.15 meters do not pose an obstacle, and the tank is able to cross trenches of about 3 meters.
When it comes to water obstacles, the Leopard 2A8 has demonstrated impressive wading capabilities, and it can safely cross waters with a depth of about 1 meter without any preparation. With the necessary preparations, the hull can navigate in water as deep as 4 meters, a testament to its versatile and adaptable design.
5. Combat equipment
The Leopard 2A8 incorporates advanced optics, fire control systems and combat equipment to improve its combat effectiveness, targeting and crew safety. The optics of the tank are the best.
It includes a commander’s panoramic periscope for 360-degree visibility and a third-generation thermal imaging module for the commander and gunner, enabling high-resolution vision in various lighting conditions, including nighttime and adverse weather.
The Leopard 2A8 has a sophisticated fire control system (FCS) that provides a high first-round hit probability, even when the tank or target is moving.
The system includes a laser range finder, a ballistic computer and the ability to provide weather data to the launch solution. FCS also allows the Leopard 2A8 to engage moving targets on the move with a high degree of precision.
The Leopard 2A8 is also equipped with an APU (auxiliary power unit), which allows the system to run and charge the battery when the main engine is not running. This reduces fuel consumption and increases the tank’s endurance on the battlefield.
The Leopard 2A8 is equipped with an NBC overpressure system that provides substantial protection to the occupant against nuclear, biological and chemical threats. This advanced system can maintain an internal pressure of 4 millibars (4.0 hPa) higher than the external environment, creating a safer habitat within the tank.
A robust fire protection system is also part of the Leopard 2A8’s safety features. Behind the driver on the right are 4 Harlan fire extinguisher bottles, each weighing 9kg. Connected by a complex network of pipes and hoses, these extinguishers are detected by an automatic fire detection system when internal temperatures exceed 82 degrees Celsius (180 degrees Fahrenheit) or are manually activated via a control panel in the cab. In addition, there is a spare 2.5 kg halon fire extinguisher under the main gun to ensure multi-layer fire safety.
The L55 smoothbore can fire armor-piercing, high-explosive anti-tank and multipurpose ammunition, including fin-stabilized shell-piercing shells.