TechLeopard 2A6 outperforms Russian firepower: A deep dive into the leading tank in Ukraine

Leopard 2A6 outperforms Russian firepower: A deep dive into the leading tank in Ukraine

Leopard 2A6 hit on the side of the tower by a grenade/cumulative shell.
Leopard 2A6 hit on the side of the tower by a grenade/cumulative shell.
Images source: © X (formerly Twitter) | Ukrainian Front

7:06 AM EST, January 14, 2024, updated: 9:50 AM EST, January 14, 2024

An image of a Leopard 2A6, targeted by the Russians, surfaced online. This specific tank was struck from the front, on the left side of its turret, by a projectile fitted with a shaped charge warhead. Evidence of this is the small hole and remains of melted copper, a component of the shaped charge.

The source of the attack was likely an Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) or a commercial "kamikaze" drone fitted with a PG-7VL grenade from an RPG-7 grenade launcher. It's also probable that the targeted Leopard 2A6 was hit previously and captured in footage.

Most likely, the armor was able to withstand the attack. Moreover, after breaching the armor, the shaped charge's jet causes significantly less damage than a kinetic penetrator. The latter, on penetrating the armor, results in a shrapnel cloud in the interior, causing drastic changes in pressure.

In the context of the Leopard 2, the crew is not seated in a predictable ammunition magazine area, thus reducing the risk of an explosion akin to those seen in Soviet designs. If a shaped charge jet hits, it could melt internal parts or harm any crew member it meets, but the tank is often repairable and can rejoin the battle.

The Leopard 2A6 - Ukraine's armored vanguard

The Leopard 2A6s, produced at the start of this millennium, were designed as the ultimate countermeasure against the latest Russian T-90 family tanks, which are extensive modernizations of the T-72B tanks.

Along with strengthening the armor, the Leopard 2A6s were equipped with a lengthier Rheinmetall Rh-120 L/55 gun. This enhancement allows the acceleration of APFSDS-T penetrators at higher speeds, hence improving accuracy and armor penetration.

This model was also the first to adopt the crew operation in hunter-killer mode. Using their independent thermal panoramic view, the commander locates targets and directs the gun accordingly in this mode. The gunner then fine-tunes the aim and fires. Such a system significantly accelerates the neutralization of detected targets compared to traditional methods, where the gunner handles all tasks based on the commander's data.

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