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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

24 February 2016

Poland Contracts Rheinmetall for LEOPARD 2 PL Upgrade

Poland has recently awarded Rheinmetall a contract for overhauling 128 LEOPARD 2 A4 main battle tanks (MBT) for €220 million. In cooperation with Poland’s Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa (PGZ) and ZM Bumar-Labedy, Rheinmetall, sharing technology and operating in tandem with local industry, will serve as a strategic partner, supplying crucial key capabilities, including electronics and weapon technology. During the course of modernisation, the 128 LEOPARD 2 A4 MBTs, purchased in 2002 by the Polish Army from surplus Bundeswehr stocks, will be upgraded to Leopard 2 PL standard, which corresponds to the German Leopard 2 A5 and A6.

Following Canada and Indonesia, Poland is now the third LEOPARD user nation to turn to Rheinmetall as the technology partner of choice for a major modernisation programme. Besides the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr), armed forces of 17 countries now include LEOPARD 2 tanks in their inventories.

On 28 December 2015, the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish Armed Forces (PAF) awarded PGZ (as general contractor) and ZM Bumar-Labedy (as integrator) a contract to upgrade the combat effectiveness of the LEOPARD 2 A4. Rheinmetall played a key role in preparing the upgrade package, having already established itself as a strategic partner by this point. Recently signed, the contract lays out the details of Rheinmetall’s role in the modernisation package, specifying that the consortium is to deliver a prototype by the end of 2017. Once the PAF have granted authorisation for series production, Rheinmetall will revamp a further five MBTs starting in 2018. The next 12 MBTs will undergo modernisation at Bumar-Labedy under Rheinmetall supervision. After this, the Polish contractors will take charge of the project, retrofitting and shipping the remaining 110 tanks.

The upgrade programme focuses on improving the tank’s main armament and fire control technology, as well as adding state-of-the-art electronic components and enhanced force protection features. The fire control unit software will be adapted for new types of ammunition, which Rheinmetall has also developed and manufactured for the LEOPARD, while the sensor suite will be expanded to include a latest-generation thermal imaging device. Furthermore, the main gun, equipped with an L44 barrel from Rheinmetall (including, among other things, the barrel recoil system, breech and muzzle brake) will be modified to fire two new ammunition types, the DM11 HE (a time-delay shaped charge round), and the DM63 KE (a sabot round with temperature-independent powder).

Made by IBD Deisenroth, the new AMAP protection elements offer improved protection against KE and HE ammunition, and the installation of new mine-resistant seats and a fire extinguisher and suppression system assures optimum protection for the crew. Rheinmetall is also responsible for the new built-in system for controlling and monitoring the vehicle components as well as data distribution. Along with advantages regarding precision and space, new electric turret drives will reduce the risk to the crew. Finally, in order to improve situational awareness to the rear of the vehicle and assist the driver, a video camera will be installed.