Tag Archives: armor

Configuring a Leopard 2 for Borgundy

As mentioned previously, the Leopard 2 has a ton of available upgrade options. So let’s go to our local KMW Dealership and select our optional extras. Since I’m sticking with various catalog options, I’ll list the model or project where you can find the option.

We’ll start with the turret, since there are a few different configurations available. There are basically no old stocks of Leopard 2A4s that people are looking to part with, so we’ll have to go with new-build units. We’ll also select the gunner’s sight mounting above the horizontal axis of the main gun, as on the Leopard 2A5 and subsequent models. We’ll also opt for the lengthened turret bustle, as seen on the Strv. 122 and some other exported models. We’ll also opt for the electric turret drive for both traverse and gun elevation, again, as pioneered on the Leopard 2A5.

One of the key things that got the Leopard through our gauntlet of armchair1 testing is the gun. We’ll opt for the Rheinmetal 120mm L55A12 smoothbore, the finest gun in the west.

Now, let’s talk armor. As always, we’re using the best and latest composites. Our inserts will be those of the German Leopard 2A7. We’re going to opt for the standard 2A5+ wedge applique on the turret front. We’re also going to take the roof protection kit that the Swedes got on the Strv. 122. We’re also opting for a glacis applique package, again with those modern composites. We’ll add the armored housing for the commander’s sight that’s popular on some of the later export models, including the Strv. 122. And of course, we’re going to opt for spall liners.

We’re not done. There are a bunch of other supplemental packages that we can add or remove as needed. There’s a mine protection kit that was first seen on the Leopard 2A6M. There’s no good reason not to get the belly plate these days. And then there’s the flank protection. The skirts come in two sizes, with the older ones being about 150mm thick and the newer ones about 325mm thick. We’re going to take the newer, thicker ones. We’ll also take advantage of the mounting points on the sides of the turret in the newer Leopard 2 models to mount some nice AMAP modules for side protection.

Our armor changes listed above will necessitate some other, minor structural changes. The roof protection setup means we’ll need to redesign the hatches on the turret roof. The new ones are slide-opening. Again, this can be seen on the Strv. 122 or the Leopard 2HEL. We’ll also opt to add the roof storage boxes for the crew’s carbines that the Danes opted for on the Leopard 2A5DAK. Internally, we’re going with shock mounts and a protective kevlar cover for our ammo rack. This will protect against splinters and provide some measure of blast dampening, but will reduce reserve ammo capacity from 27 to 21 rounds.

On to the sensors! For the commander, we’ll select the PERI R17A3 sight, which comes with the Attica GL 3rd Generation FLIR system and an eye-safe laser rangefinder. This is a pretty standard addition on the Leopard 2A7 and related models. We will also put the Attica GL into the gunner’s sight, replacing the older WBG-X FLIR. We’ll also take the opportunity to upgrade to an eye-safe laser rangefinder for the gunner. Further, like the Leopard 2HEL, we’ll add a crosswind sensor for improved targeting system efficacy.

We are not done. There are many more internal systems to pick. We’re going to go back to the Bundeswehr’s A7 and A7V for some of the other systems in the turret, specifically the ultracapcitors and the integrated air conditioner/NBC system. These are in the right rear portion of the turret bustle, replacing the turret hydraulics on older model Leopard 2s. We’re also going to use the upgraded Steyr M12 APU, capable of generating 20 kW. We’re going to round out the electronic systems suite with a battle management system and the SOTAS-IP Communication system.

Because RWS are the hot, not-so-new thing, we’re going to fit one, namely an FLW 200 RWS with an M2HB heavy machine gun. This will replace the loader’s machine gun mounted on the roof.

We’re also going to select a few extras to provide more protection. These are Saab’s Barracuda multispectral camouflage system and Rheinmetall’s ADS Gen 3 active protection system. Barracuda makes the tank harder to spot visually, and reduces the thermal signature. And ADS is a fast-reacting, relatively3 safe for nearby infantry active protection system to intercept those pesky rockets.

And there you have a Leopard 2A7 BOR model. It’s pretty great. I’m also going to talk briefly on support variants, since the Leopard 2 has several. We’ll want an armored recovery vehicle and an armored bridgelayer. For bridging, we’ll go with the Panzerschnellbrücke Leguan, and for armored recovery, we’ll go with the Wisent 2. The Wisent 2 also comes in an armored engineer vehicle version, and we’ll buy those as well.

  1. It’s a very comfortable armchair. 
  2. Ordered by the Bundeswehr and in production as this goes to press, so I can have some too. 
  3. Still dangerous, but tests show an ADS interception of an RPG-7 rocket is less dangerous than the detonation of said RPG-7 rocket. 

More on the Namer

We picked the Namer as our IFV of choice. But I have more to say about it, and a few things I might like to tweak. First, let’s take a good look at the turret.

namer ifv turret

This is from a presentation, so it’s a trifle incomplete. We can see most of the mechanisms though. Note that the popup missile launcher has a pair of MATADOR rockets installed here. These could also be Spike 2 ATGMs. There’s also no indication (at this stage) of an autoloader for the Trophy install, or any indication of the autoloader assembly for the mortar.

Still, it’s a great turret. I really like the firepower in the Namer IFV. We could debate caliber until we’re blue in the face, but 400 rounds of 30x173mm plus two rockets or missiles is very solid. However, I’m a good armchair strategist, and I can always find things I might like to tweak given the opportunity. We’ll go through these in order of ease of doing.

  1. Side skirts. The skirts on Namer aren’t very thick. Thicker skirts would help protect against incoming RPG fire better. Given the vehicle’s size, this is an obvious threat vector, so let’s armor up.

  2. Engine change. The Namer currently uses the AVDS-1790, which generates 1,200 hp. We also know the Namer is very heavy. The CEV version (which has Trophy but no turret) weighs 63.5 tonnes, and the turret is going to mean even more weight. To improve mobility, we’d like ours built with the MTU 883 engine, which makes 1,500 hp. This is the engine used on the Merkava 4, so this change should be pretty easy to do.

  3. Glacis work. Due to being a newer, liquid-cooled engine, the MTU 883-based powerpack is smaller than the one built around the AVDS-1790. A smaller powerpack means there’s more room for glacis armor, so let’s fill the void. There is no such thing as too much armor.

  4. APS change. I like Trophy. It’s combat proven. But IBD Disenroth1 has a system called AMAP-ADS. The Gen 3 version reacts considerably faster than Trophy (0.56 ms for ADS compared to 300-350 ms for Trophy). In Swedish tests, ADS also has a smaller danger space for nearby infantry. Further, in the turret picture above, we note a lack of reloads for Trophy. We can fit a whole bunch of ADS effectors on the Namer, and we’d like to do so.

  5. Additional missiles. Given the deletion of trophy from the turret, it might be nice to see if we could get more missiles in there.

  1. Now a subsidiary of Rheinmetall. 

MBT Roundup 2018 Addendum

It appears that I have made a minor screwup, dear reader. In my 2018 MBT roundup, I neglected to come down on a choice for Borgundy. Also, I completely left out the Merkava 4. I will rectify them both here.

To make our comparison easier, it will help to pick a winner from our roundup. It is a tossup, and we don’t have much in the way of political or pricing configurations to throw in. But let’s break it down anyway. As far as I’m aware, the Abrams has never been offered for export with the depleted uranium armor. That said, it’s been offered with arrays of similar weight, so it shouldn’t be terribly worse off. Sweden’s testing showed that even with some supplemental armor on M1A2, Leopard 2A5 had overall better protection. Abrams could also really use a gun upgrade or else we’d be stuck hoping the US will sell their latest antitank rounds. The Abrams has been fitted with an L55 gun, but there were stabilization issues and the US Army hasn’t paid to fix them yet with a new stabilizer. We could, but that violates my COTS rules. So the Abrams is out.

My COTS rules also give the Leopard 2 the win over the K2, though here it’s much closer. The superior gun and some of the available protection options make the Leopard the better buy given the rules I have set for myself. Clearly Samsung Techwin could work up a solution and present it for evaluation (fixing the gun problem is pretty simple, really), but as I am limited to armchair analysis, I have to make do with what I have. The K2’s lack of a good top-attack armor protection solution is problematic, as is its acceptance of more weaker zones on oblique shots in the pursuit of less weight. So the Leopard 2 is our champion.

Let’s now throw the Merkava 4’s hat into the ring. I know it hasn’t been compared in any trials, but that’s part of the fun. I’m pretty confident the Israelis would export it if someone asked. The Merkava is a big, heavy, generally well-protected tank with some unique design features. These features are based on Israel’s experience in the Yom Kippur war, among others. These features include a front-mounted engine, door at the rear of the hull for easy resupply, removable ammo racks at the rear of the hull to allow the Merkava to evacuate soldiers, and a 60mm mortar in the turret.

The Merkava 4 has a 120mm L44 smoothbore gun. The MG253 on the Merkava 4 has a longer than standard recoil length, and should be able to take higher pressure ammunition. As far as I am aware, the Israelis do not use depleted uranium in their APFSDS rounds. Admittedly, they don’t have much in the way of modern armor threats to prepare for these days.

On to the comparison. I would expect the Leopard’s L55 gun to be able to get better penetration than the L44 gun on the Merkava, even with enhanced ammunition in the Merkava. I would certainly expect the L55A1 gun to do better. Advantage Leopard.

In terms of protection, it’s hard for me to adequately gauge protection levels. Merkava 4 seems to have better protection on the sides and roof of the turret. It also seems to lack wide skirts like those available on the Leopard 2. Also, the Israeli armor arrays are optimized towards the threats they face, which tend to be lots of ATGMs, and not much in the way of APFSDS threats. We’d expect Merkava, with all of its heavy side and roof protection and very large frontal profile to be less well protected towards the front.

I’d also like to talk a little about ammunition stowage. The Leopard 2 has 15 ready rounds in the rear of the turret. There’s another 22 or 27 (depending on version) rounds stored in the front hull, next to the driver. This provides good protection across the frontal arc, but does leave the ammunition vulnerable to side hits. No blow out panels or bulkheads are provided. The Merkava 4 has ten ready rounds in a pair of drums which can present rounds to the loader. Remaining rounds are stored in cases at the rear of the hull. These can be removed to facilitate evacuating wounded. There are no bulkheads or blowoff panels for the Merkava’s hull ammo storage either. Given its location, the ammo storage on the Merkava is vulnerable to side hits as well as wider-angle shots from the front arc that penetrate the side armor and hit the front of the storage area. It’s a small thing, but I prefer the storage arrangement on the Leopard 2. I also prefer the Leopard 2’s larger ready ammo supply.

Merkava 4 has an in-production active protection system. The Leopard 2’s has been trialled, but none have been ordered yet by Germany. At least one user has placed orders, though.

Overall, I think the Leopard 2 is the better buy. It’s better suited for tank v. tank combat, which is the first mission of Borgundy’s MBT Corps. Leopard 2 has the better main gun. It has very good frontal armor, and adequate side protection considering that we do not expect to fight an irregular war with extremely well equipped terrorists.1 Plus, the Leopard 2 has a number of available configurations, and is more easily tailored to the customer’s needs. Additionally, it’s protection is more forward oriented. And of course, Leopard 2 has a ton of excellent upgrades available.

  1. I.e. we are not fighting Hezbollah anytime soon. 

2018 IFV Roundup

In the spirit of my revisiting of MBTs in 2018, let’s also take another look at IFVs. Happily, this field is a little more saturated, and has some interesting options available.

Of course, I’m also not about to throw away perfectly good data. The Czechs looked at ASCOD 2, Lynx, Puma and two versions of CV9030 (one with a manned turret, one with an unmanned turret). That’s most of the in-production contenders from the West. So let’s see which won what and go from there, shall we?

And then the Puma swept the competition. It had better reliability than all other test vehicles, being the only one not to have to repeat a test due to a breakdown. It has better protection than its rivals. It has better mobility than its rivals too. And, while all vehicles were armed with a 30mm gun, the Puma was significantly more accurate. The Puma had 37 hits out of 40 shots fired, and the next-best competitor did about half as well.

That’s pretty good. However, the Puma is the most expensive of the lot, and the Czechs might like to look at some other variants besides a pure IFV. They may end up buying Puma IFVs and something else for the more utility-type roles.

Of course, I wouldn’t just write a new roundup to simply say, “I agree with the Czechs.” Even though I totally do. Of the vehicles tested, the Puma has proven to be tops. Best by test. However, the Israeli Namer IFV was not in the test (certainly its present form wasn’t ready yet), and that’s worth a look. And, as always, we’re assuming both are available and marketed.

First, a brief run down of Puma. The Puma weighs 43 tonnes with all armor modules installed. Some modules can be removed to permit the Puma to make weight for transport in an A400M. It has a 30mm autocannon with 200 rounds of ready ammo, a 5.56mm1 machine gun with 1,000 rounds of ready ammo, and a two-tube launcher2 for Spike ATGMs. It has a crew of three and carries six dismounts. It has an MTU 890 V10 engine that makes about 1,100 hp. It exceeds STANAG level 6 protection on the front, meets level 6 on the sides (the highest level for KE threats), and makes STANAG 4 on the bottom against mines (confusingly, level 4 is the highest for mines). It also has an integrated soft-kill active protection system (i.e. a DIRCM). Annoyingly the STANAG levels for KE protection make no mention of what sort of shaped charge threats they can counter, and there’s no separate scale for that either.

And now for Namer. Namer weighs about 60 tonnes in its APC form, and the Israelis haven’t updated the approximation for the IFV version. It has a 30mm autocannon with 400 ready rounds, a 7.62mm machine gun with 700 ready rounds, two Spike ATGMs, and a 60mm mortar. The turret also comes equipped with the Trophy hard-kill active protection system. Namer has a crew of three and carries nine dismounts. Namer is powered by a 1,200 hp AVDS-1790 engine.

For the Namer, the Israelis haven’t released information on its protection level (and STANAG only goes up to level 6, which is merely being able to stop 30mm APFSDS), so we’ll have to guesstimate. Namer weighs about as much as a Merkava, but it lacks Merkava’s big tank turret. The Israelis say they’ve put the weight into protection, which makes sense. There aren’t many other places where that weight could go. Also, the APC version of the Namer has been shot at with Kornet missiles in Lebanon. Kornet is a modern Russian ATGM, but it was not able to penetrate the frontal armor. It did penetrate the side armor, but did not harm any of the soldiers inside. This is pretty impressive, so I’ll give a win to Namer in the protection category.

Firepower is mostly a wash. The Namer has twice as many ready rounds, but I don’t have a good notion of how many we can expect to use in an engagement before resupply. So I don’t know if it actually matters. Both have a pair of Spike ATGMs. We haven’t seen a comparative test between the two, so we don’t know if one or the other has an accuracy advantage. Namer also comes with a mortar. I’ll give it a firepower edge, conditional on the lack of head-to-head shooting competition.

In terms of mobility, the Puma is the clear winner. It has only 100 less horsepower while being several tonnes lighter. There were notions of putting the 1,500 hp MTU 883 in the Namer, but that hasn’t been done yet. We would like to look into this as well. The Puma is also easier to move to the battle by far. Again, it is lighter, and armor modules can be removed to get it in an A400M. The Namer is going to have to be transported with one’s tanks. Clear win for the Puma in both strategic and tactical mobility.

Tactical mobility is always to be prized. In the case of strategic mobility, it can also be quite useful. Here, however, I am not so sure. As I have commented previously, IFVs should operate in conjunction with tanks. Deploying tanks in quantity somewhere is going to require naval transport or rail transport or both. And if you’re already doing that for the tanks, you may as well load the IFVs on there too.

For me, this is not a hard choice. I like Puma, but I like the Namer more. I like carrying nine dismounts, and I like having as much (or more) armor on my IFVs as on my tanks. Yes it’s heavy. That’s why we call them Heavy Brigades, right?

  1. Plans have been announced to replace this with a 7.62mm MG, though they’re not finalized yet. In any case, this would be easy enough to have done. 
  2. Integration and testing are in progress. We’re seeing these actually on demo vehicles now which is good. Nothing like a client to move the ball faster. 


Despite being designed in 1960, the M113 has remained popular. It’s a big, tracked aluminum box. So it’s easy to fit stuff in. And lots of things can be put in a nice aluminum box. Lots of these, like command vehicles, mortar carriers, ambulances, and the like aren’t frontline vehicles. So the M113’s increasingly marginal protection wasn’t that much of a concern. It’s adaptable and low cost. But there’s not a lot of weight capacity for more protection if the vehicle is to be used in urban operations, and the powerplant is pretty old.

Enter FFG. FFG cut their teeth upgrading old M113s, and they finally figured they might be able to offer something better. This is the PMMC G5, seen below.


The G5 is actually somewhat larger than the M113, having a payload capacity of 14.5 cubic meters, as opposed to the M113’s 8.3 cubic meters. Where the M113 can handle 2.4 tonnes of payload, the G5 can handle up to 8.5 tonnes of payload. Gross vehicle weight of the G5 is 26.5 tonnes.

The G5 also has a semimodular design. The modules have a floor and roof, plus internal stuff, and can be switched out with a crane. It’s not quite as modular as Boxer MRAV, but it’s still a solid feature.

The G5 faces stiff competition, being somewhere in between a full-featured, turretless derivative of an IFV like the CV90 Armadillo or simpler M113 refits. The PMMC G5 has only been entered into one procurement contest, in Denmark, where it lost out to the Mowag Piranha V.

As for what I think, I am a fan of the concept. Whether or not I’d go with it for Borgundy really depends on cost compared to some other options, and the sort of boring details of proposals that never gets leaked. Specifically, how the cost of a cheap additional vehicle plus spares compares to additional variants of more expensive vehicles (plus more of the spares that you’re already ordering).

American Mortar Carriers

Mortars are awesome, and a bigger mortar means more range and explosive power per shell. But a bigger mortar is a lot harder for troops to carry. The biggest commonly in use today are the 120 mm mortars like the Soltam K6. This weighs 319 lbs, and breaks down into the following components:

  • M298 cannon assembly (110 lbs)
  • M190 bipod assembly (70 pounds)
  • M9 baseplate (136 pounds)

That’s not going to be easy for infantry to haul. And it’s pretty natural, especially for motorized or mechanized infantry, to want to put mortars in a carrier vehicle. Let’s look at a couple American options. The basic idea here is pretty straightforward: take an APC, fit a retractable roof, and mount the mortar in the back. Surprisingly simple for units in the US Army inventory.

Our first example is the M1064. It’s based on the classic M113 APC. While the M113, even with the A3 improvements, is pretty vulnerable to modern battlefield threats these days, in the artillery role it’s perfectly adequate. The mortar is the 120mm M121, an American licensed copy of the K6. The M1064 also has a ring mount for a machine gun, and usually has an M2 mounted. Ammunition capacity is 69 mortar shells and 600 rounds for the M2.

The Israelis operate a similar system to the M1064, the Keshet. The key difference is that it’s equipped with the CARDOM mortar system, which automates the aiming of the mortar using a computerized fire control system. I would expect the number of stowed shells carried to be similar to the M1064.

Next we have the M1129, based on the Stryker APC. Again, there’s a retractable roof exposing a 120 mm M121 mortar. Some versions are also equipped with an additional, smaller mortar for dismounted use. This may be a 60mm or an 81mm mortar. If the M1129 is only equipped with a 120mm mortar, it will carry 60 120mm mortar shells. If a dismountable mortar is also carried, the supply of 120mm shells is reduced to 48. If a 60mm mortar is carried, 77 shells for it will be carried as well. On the other hand, if an 81mm mortar is carried, a supply of 35 shells will be provided for it. Note that if a dismount mortar is provided, this mortar cannot replace the 120mm for mounted use, and the vehicle crew is sufficient to use only one of the two provided mortars.

Here’s a handy chart of ammo capacities. The designations M1129-60 and M1129-81 are my own, used here for convenience. What dismount mortar, if any, is carried on an M1129 is based on its tasking in the organization table (i.e. whether it belongs to a rifle company, rifle battalion, or RSTA1 squadron) and is not indicated in its designation.

120mm shells69604848
81mm shells35
60mm shells77

In terms of deployment, each company in a Striker Brigade Combat Team has two M1129-60s and each battalion has four M1129-81s as an organic component. An RSTA squadron gets six M1129s. A mechanized infantry battalion will get 6 M1064s. In the future, an AMPV-based mortar carrier will replace the M1064.

  1. Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition. They’re organized in the cavalry model (hence “squadron” instead of “battalion”). One RSTA squadron functions as the recon element for a brigade. 

Sweden Chooses an MBT: Looking back at the ’94 contest

Yes, it’s been about 24 years since Sweden made its choice. And it’s no secret that they ended up going with a variant of the Leopard 2A5 with improved armor (or, more technically, an armor package that was proposed but the Germans didn’t opt for because of budget cuts). But I found a presentation on the trials, complete with previously-classified armor comparisons. The comparisons are twenty four years old, but they’re actual hard data, and I love data. No guesstimates here.

Continue reading

MBT Roundup 2018

A few years ago, I wrote an MBT comparison for our procurement games. Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about the Leopard 2 and the M1 Abrams, we’ve seen some upgrade programs for both tanks, I’ve gotten enough data on the South Korean K2 to write on it, and Russia has introduced the T-14. Also, I love tanks. So let’s do another roundup. As always, I’m limited to open source guesstimates only.

The T-14 has a brand new 125mm gun, which can handle higher pressure rounds. So it’s almost certainly better than previous Russian guns. Whether it’s better than the latest Western stuff depends on whose propaganda you’re reading. I’m inclined to guess it’s going to be similar to the latest Rheinmetall options. Possibly a bit better because it’s newer.

Both the K2 and the newest Leopard 2 variants use the longer L55 version of Rheinmetall’s 120mm smoothbore, which gives more velocity than the Abrams’ M256 (a derivative of the Rheinmetall L44). Which would be better if all other things were equal, but they aren’t. The Americans use depleted uranium APFSDS rounds, which work better than tungsten (which Germany and South Korea use), all other things being equal (they still aren’t). Overall, tungsten sabot rounds from the L55 and depleted uranium sabot rounds from the L44 are about equal as far as armor penetration estimates are concerned. New rounds continue to come from the Americans, and there’s a plan to upgrade the L55 to the L55A1 which can take higher chamber pressures. Also, the Americans have finally added the capability to interface with datalinks on gun rounds in the SEPv3 Abrams, and this is present on the guns for Leopard 2 and K2. So this is very roughly a wash. Some magical person might be able to point to specific advantages of one option or another against specific targets, but this is all I’ve got with unclassifed, dodgy sources.

Damn it, this is classified too! UGH. In all seriousness, this too will be a wash in the main, because everyone’s got about the same technological problems, even if they come at it a little differently. Abrams and Leopard 2 have been receiving consistent upgrades, so their frontal armor should be just as good as the newer K2. T-14 has unclear amounts of protection on the turret, but only the gun is mounted there. Hull frontal protection should be good across the board too, given upgrades. Note that the Leopard 2 and Abrams have excellent side protection kits, should you wish to use them in cities full of scumbag insurgents. T-14 seems to have some quality skirt options as well, but K2 lacks similar levels of optional side protection. In terms of active protection, T-14 comes fitted with hard-kill APS systems from the factory, Abrams is getting Trophy kits installed (they’ve passed trials and money is allocated), K2 is fitted for but not with hard kill kits and the Germans are still trialing their hard kill setup. I should also point out that in the past the Americans have been reluctant to offer up their best armor technology in export models. The Abrams with export-level armor would be expected to be less good than the latest Leopard 2 variant or K2.

So you’ve been hit, and your armor is penetrated! That really sucks. Now what?
T-14 isolates the crew completely from the ammo. There are also blow-out panels on the bottom. Not sure about the turret, it might get wrecked, or there might be venting measures there. So those are all good things. On the other hand, the T-14 has the smallest crew compartment, so that means any penetration there is going to cause more problems. There’s always a bigger IED.

Abrams has the vast majority of it’s ammo in the turret bustle, again with blow-out panels. There’s also hull stowage for six more 120mm rounds, also with blow-out panels. Alternatively, if lots of hull hits from RPGs are expected, this can be emptied of ammo without too much difficulty. It’s only six rounds. Abrams has the biggest protected volume, which is why it uses fancy exotic materials for protection, but it also makes it very difficult to wound everybody.

Leopard 2 and K2 both have blow-out panels for their ammo stowage in the bustle. However, both have a large hull ammo rack (about 20 rounds or so) next to the driver up front. Neither has much in the way of bulkheads isolating this ammo and neither has blow-out panels for this stowage. Protect that hull, guys. Crew compartments are moderately sized, and should provide reasonable levels of safety due to dispersion. Leopard 2 is bigger internally than K2, and gets a bit of a nod here.

Also, while not strictly a survivability thing, more room means easier to jam upgrades in. So in order of most upgradeable to least: Abrams, Leopard 2, K2, T-14.

Tactical Mobility
Also known in some cultures as “driving around the battlefield.” Everybody’s got a 1,500 hp engine. K2 and T-14 should have a significant advantage from being 10ish tons lighter than the latest Leopard 2 and Abrams variants. Both K2 and T-14 have had transmission problems recently, however. Abrams has the gas turbine engine, which comes with some maintenance advantages because of the fewer small parts, but it is a very thirsty beast. The latest Abrams tanks have protected auxiliary power units, but I don’t have much data on how much this improves fuel economy. The Leopard 2 has a pretty boring twin-turbo diesel powerplant that seems to work well.

Strategic Mobility
Once again, the lighter tanks get the points here. I would be inclined to argue that the difference doesn’t matter for the purposes of ship-based transport, but a win is a a win.

The bureaucrats always get to put in their two bits. NATO-related stuff is going to torpedo the notion of a T-14 buy. Also, it hasn’t even passed Russian trials yet, and we don’t like being early adopters of anything. Otherwise, it comes down to who your friends are. America may not sell you the best and latest depleted uranium stuff if they don’t like you enough. The Germans may not support you with spare parts if you go off to war with the stuff. South Korea is new on the market and doesn’t have the same ability to bundle deals like the others.

I did find the approximate unit cost of a K2 on the internet. Unfortunately, costs of the others are going to be determined by upgrade package, which is kind of a bummer. Also, for all tanks, a lot depends on the terms of the purchase and what other equipment is included (spares, weapons, training tanks, etc.). So I’ll go out on a limb and say that a similar level of outfitting is going to cost about the same for new builds, and I think that’s pretty reasonable. I can’t adequately work out who might offer the best package deal. However, unlike the other two western competitors, there are a ton of old Abrams tanks sitting in the American desert. So the Americans ought to be able to give you a better deal on overhauled and upgraded tanks, and they probably will be available faster. Also, given relative labor costs, there might be advantages to the K2 or the T-14.

So which do we go with? Whichever one can get us the best pricing deal and meets the political obligations. I don’t see much difference overall with any of the options, at least not in any way that matters. MBTs don’t really have different schools of thought like IFVs do, so which one is not a big deal. They all provide reasonable quality; it remains to get them in reasonable quantity. One might argue that the large stock of old Abramses gives that an advantage, if modifying is cheaper than buying new. Or one might argue for the extensive, already-trialled options list available for the Leopard 2, or the newer K2 with more standard features and lower lifecycle costs from having a smaller crew.