TechLeopard 2A6-UA: how Ukrainians modernized their most powerful tank

Leopard 2A6‑UA: how Ukrainians modernized their most powerful tank

Ukrainian Leopard 2A6 reinforced with bar armor.
Ukrainian Leopard 2A6 reinforced with bar armor.
Images source: © X (formerly Twitter) | OSINTtechnical
10:46 AM EDT, October 31, 2023

In reaction to the realities of war, Ukrainians have begun modernizing their Leopard 2 tanks. A video has now surfaced of the modified Leopard 2A6 tank — their most potent variant. Let's delve into the modifications made and the reasons behind them.

In the past, we've seen photos and clips of Leopard 2A4 tanks upgraded with Kontakt-1 reactive armor blocks and other enhancements. But until now, there had been no footage showing altered versions of the Leopard 2A6 or the Swedish Stridsvagn 122. Below, you will find the debut video of a Leopard 2A6 in combat in the Awdijiwka region. Notably, its turret sides have been fortified with rod armor.

Rod armor is a minimalistic and light design created to thwart simple anti-tank grenades, such as the ones from RPG-7 launchers. The steel structure on the tank initiates a gap of roughly 1.6 feet that triggers the premature detonation of the cumulative warhead.

It's essential to understand that the cumulative jet possesses potent armor-piercing abilities, but it has a short reach. Hence, rod armor can deter a hit on the side that could typically breach side armor.

This doesn't apply to modern tandem warheads where the initial charge creates a hole in the first armor layer, and the main warhead detonates upon hitting the core armor. However, 'kamikaze' drone recordings suggest that single-headed solutions are prevalent. Rod armor provides effective defense against these.

Leopard 2A6 - Ukraine's most potent tanks

Leopard 2A6 tanks, manufactured at the start of the new millennium, were intended as the ultimate counter to the latest Russian tanks from the T-90 family. In turn, the latter came about as a substantial modification of T-72B tanks.

The Leopard 2A6, designed to compete with its Russian counterparts, sports reinforced frontal and side armor. This armor is boosted by added layers composed of multiple steel plates with a coating of a rubber-like substance.

Despite its relatively lightweight, this armor considerably amplifies protection levels against cumulative warheads and kinetic penetrators such as APFSDS-T projectiles. With the latter, these additional armor layers interfere with their flight, causing the penetrators to hit the main armor sidewise instead of directly.

However, increasing the armor is not the only way to improve the tank's performance. The Leopard 2A6 also features an elongated Rheinmetall Rh-120 L/55 cannon, capable of propelling APFSDS-T penetrators at a higher speed. This extra velocity enhances the accuracy and penetration of projectiles. Regrettably, this upgrade escalated the tank's weight to over 132,277 pounds.

Lastly, it's worth highlighting that in this variant, the Leopard 2 tanks have been equipped with a hunter-killer mode. In this setting, using his personal thermal imaging panoramic sight, the commander spots targets and directs the cannon at them. Then, the gunner makes the necessary adjustments and fires. This process significantly shortens the time needed to eliminate detected targets compared to the traditional method which relies on data from the commander's sight.

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