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The £4million German tank being embarrassed in Syria

A German-made tank, which Berlin once dubbed one of the best in the world, has had its shortcomings embarrassingly exposed on the battlefield in Syria. 

Photos from the Turkish military operation dubbed ‘Euphrates Shield’, which began in August 2016, show the charred remains of one of the Leopard 2 tanks which was reportedly blown up with mines. 

The images – taken from an ISIS video published in January 2017 – show the tank with its turret completely blown off. 

Other pictures from the same conflict show Leopard 2s standing idle in ditches and snow after being severely damaged.

The 1970s-built armoured vehicles have been shown to be vulnerable in combat after being deployed to fight Kurdish soldiers backed by Britain and the US.

ISIS claimed it destroyed 10 of the Leopard 2 tanks, dubbed invincible in some quarters, and while the terror group’s estimates are regularly exaggerated, analysis of fighting around al-Bab in Syria puts the figure at ‘at least eight’. Pictured: The remnants of one of the German-built tanks as shown in a January 20, 2017 Isis video recorded near al-Bab. It was reportedly blown up by a mine. In the background is a destroyed Kobra armoured personnel carrier

Photos from the Turkish military operation dubbed 'Euphrates Shield', which began in August 2016, show the charred remains of one of the Leopard 2 tanks which was reportedly blown up with a mine. The images - taken from an ISIS video published in January 2017 - show the tank with its turret completely blown off

Photos from the Turkish military operation dubbed ‘Euphrates Shield’, which began in August 2016, show the charred remains of one of the Leopard 2 tanks which was reportedly blown up with a mine. The images – taken from an ISIS video published in January 2017 – show the tank with its turret completely blown off

Turkish German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks are stationed in a field near the Syrian border at Hassa. Operation Olive Branch aims to oust the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Turkey considers to be a terror group, from its enclave of Afrin. So far close to 200 Turkish and Kurdish fighters have been killed during the mission, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

Turkish German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks are stationed in a field near the Syrian border at Hassa. Operation Olive Branch aims to oust the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Turkey considers to be a terror group, from its enclave of Afrin. So far close to 200 Turkish and Kurdish fighters have been killed during the mission, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

This picture shows what is claimed to be a Leopard 2 tank that was completely obliterated in northern Syria during Operation Euphrates Shield. Its turret can be seen on the slope at the side of the dirt track. It was reportedly destroyed by a mine during fighting near al-Bab. It was first shown in an ISIS video released in January 20, 2017, and was still visible in the same spot in satellite images from February 7, 2017. Pictured inset is the registration plate of the tank - identifying it as a Leopard 2

This picture shows what is claimed to be a Leopard 2 tank that was completely obliterated in northern Syria during Operation Euphrates Shield. Its turret can be seen on the slope at the side of the dirt track. It was reportedly destroyed by a mine during fighting near al-Bab. It was first shown in an ISIS video released in January 20, 2017, and was still visible in the same spot in satellite images from February 7, 2017. Pictured inset is the registration plate of the tank – identifying it as a Leopard 2

Pictures and videos from the conflict in Syria show that, in spite of its £4million price tag, V12 twin-turbo engine, shell made from hardened steel and tungsten and top speed of 42mph, the Leopard 2 is not faring particularly well on the battlefield. Pictured: A seriously damaged Leopard in Syria during Operation Euphrates Shield 

Pictures and videos from the conflict in Syria show that, in spite of its £4million price tag, V12 twin-turbo engine, shell made from hardened steel and tungsten and top speed of 42mph, the Leopard 2 is not faring particularly well on the battlefield. Pictured: A seriously damaged Leopard in Syria during Operation Euphrates Shield 

A soldier examines the destroyed Leopard 2 with its broken turret as it sits stationary in the snow in northern Syria, surrounded by debris. It is believed to have been destroyed during Euphrates Shield 

A soldier examines the destroyed Leopard 2 with its broken turret as it sits stationary in the snow in northern Syria, surrounded by debris. It is believed to have been destroyed during Euphrates Shield 

The German-made tank (pictured during Operation Euphrates Shield), which Berlin once dubbed one of the best in the world, has had its shortcomings embarrassingly exposed on the battlefield in Syria

The German-made tank (pictured during Operation Euphrates Shield), which Berlin once dubbed one of the best in the world, has had its shortcomings embarrassingly exposed on the battlefield in Syria

This Leopard 2 tank was shown wrecked in an ISIS video from December 22, 2016, purportedly recorded in the al-Bab area of Syria during Operation Euphrates Shield. Its number plate has been highlighted as part of efforts by observers to track the German-built tanks in Syria 

This Leopard 2 tank was shown wrecked in an ISIS video from December 22, 2016, purportedly recorded in the al-Bab area of Syria during Operation Euphrates Shield. Its number plate has been highlighted as part of efforts by observers to track the German-built tanks in Syria 

In late 2016, the tanks were sent into Syria to support Turkey's intervention against ISIS. As the terror group was flushed out, the Turkish Army turned its attentions to the Kurdish fighters, though the Leopard did not stand up to the test of battle. Pictured: One of the apparently damaged tanks shown in a 2016 ISIS video 

In late 2016, the tanks were sent into Syria to support Turkey’s intervention against ISIS. As the terror group was flushed out, the Turkish Army turned its attentions to the Kurdish fighters, though the Leopard did not stand up to the test of battle. Pictured: One of the apparently damaged tanks shown in a 2016 ISIS video 

While the tank’s design dealt capably with conditions during the Cold War against Soviet fighters, the Leopard 2 has proved to be a feeble force in the battle in the Middle East, practically disintegrating under intense fire. 

Given that the tanks are widely operated by NATO members – including Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, Greece and Norway – it is particularly embarrassing to see them so easily destroyed by Syrian terrorists when they are expected to match the Russian Army.

Meanwhile Angela Merkel’s government has come under domestic pressure after images showed Turkey deploying its £4million Leopard 2 tanks during the current offensive in northern Syria, codenamed Operation Olive Branch. 

Olive Branch is Turkey’s first major operation in Syria since Euphrates Shield, targeting Kurdish forces including those from the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria – also known as Rojava. The cause of Rojava has attracted many foreign fighters – including Britons. 

Olive Branch is Turkey's first major operation in Syria since Euphrates Shield, targeting Kurdish forces including those from the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria - also known as Rojava. The cause of Rojava has attracted many foreign fighters - including Britons. Pictured: Where fighting is currently ongoing 

Olive Branch is Turkey’s first major operation in Syria since Euphrates Shield, targeting Kurdish forces including those from the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria – also known as Rojava. The cause of Rojava has attracted many foreign fighters – including Britons. Pictured: Where fighting is currently ongoing 

So far close to 200 Turkish and Kurdish fighters have been killed during the mission, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

At the turn of the century, when the political relationship between Turkey and Germany was less fraught, Berlin sold 354 of its retired Leopard 2 tanks to Ankara, according to The National Interest. 

It is understood the sale was agreed under a number of conditions – one of which being they would not be used by Turkey against the Kurds. 

While it’s not clear whether the terms were ever officially agreed, until 2016, it appears the tanks were steered clear of any Kurdish conflict. 

Britain ‘turned down offer of Leopard 2s two years ago’ – but a deal for the tanks could still be on the table 

The Ministry of Defence reportedly rejected an offer from manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmannr to buy between 100 and 400 secondhand Leopard 2 tanks in 2015.

It had been made as Britain began the £700 million search to upgrade its fleet of Challenger 2 main battle tanks.  

‘They made that offer to us and we should have taken it but there was an arrogance: we invented the tank, we have to have a British tank,’ a defence industry source explained.

Britain operates 227 Challenger 2 tanks, supported by thousands of armoured vehicles. Pictured: One of the tanks during a training exercise in Kuwait 

Britain operates 227 Challenger 2 tanks, supported by thousands of armoured vehicles. Pictured: One of the tanks during a training exercise in Kuwait 

Speaking to The Times, the source went on: ‘There was a worry about negative press headlines.’

The MoD was also reportedly concerned about moving away from the Challenger 2, for which an entire support network exists. 

But the deal – which has not been completely killed – would mean Britain would have a fleet of Leopard 2s at a time when the tank is receiving bad press for its performance against terrorists in Syria. 

The source added that Britain will not necessarily buy new tanks – could still take up the Leopard 2 offer.   

‘If it turns out that buying second-hand would work out cheaper overall then finance is king,’ the source explained. 

‘If it is cheaper they will go that way.’

The MoD could still buy as many as 200 of the tanks for £2 million each. 

Britain operates 227 Challenger 2 tanks, supported by thousands of armoured vehicles.

A spokesman for the MoD said the government is committed to extending the lifetime of its Challenger 2 fleet. 

But in late 2016, it was sent into Syria to support Turkey’s intervention against ISIS. 

As the terror group was flushed out, the Turkish Army turned its attentions to the Kurdish fighters, though the Leopard did not stand up to the test of battle. 

This is in spite of its £4million price tag, V12 twin-turbo engine, shell made from hardened steel and tungsten and top speed of 42mph. 

The 1970s-built armoured vehicles have been shown up to be vulnerable in combat after having been deployed to kill Kurdish fighters, who are backed by Britain and the US. They are pictured here with Turkish soldiers standing on them stationed in a field near the Syrian border at Hassa, in Hatay province on January 25, 2018, as part of the operation "Olive Branch", launched on January 20

The 1970s-built armoured vehicles have been shown up to be vulnerable in combat after having been deployed to kill Kurdish fighters, who are backed by Britain and the US. They are pictured here with Turkish soldiers standing on them stationed in a field near the Syrian border at Hassa, in Hatay province on January 25, 2018, as part of the operation ‘Olive Branch’, launched on January 20

On January 24, there was outrage over the use of the Leopard 2 (pictured) which were sent in to attack Kurdish soldiers in the Syrian cities of Afrin and Manbij

On January 24, there was outrage over the use of the Leopard 2 (pictured) which were sent in to attack Kurdish soldiers in the Syrian cities of Afrin and Manbij

One of its manufacturers, the now-defunct Maschinenbau Kiel, was the successor to Deutsche Werke, a firm which built U-boats and trains for the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. 

When compared to the most famous tanks from that era, the Leopard 2 stands up very well. 

The Tiger I tank, of which 1,347 were built by Germany during the war, could manage only a 28.2mph maximum speed compared to the Leopard’s 42mph. The Tiger tank also had an operational range of just 121 miles compared to the Leopard’s 340.

History of a weapon that changed warfare forever: How the tank went from an idea to a winner of battles

The idea of an armoured vehicle to be used in battle goes back to at least the Renaissance.

Florentine polymath Leonardo Da Vinci is often credited with the first viable plan for a tank. 

And in the 15th century, a Czech general named Jan Žižka reportedly employed armoured wagons containing cannons during battles. 

But the weapon as we know it was first put onto the battlefield in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme – and was designed as a means of breaking through fortified trenches.

The weapon as we know it was first put onto the battlefield in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. Pictured: The Mark I tank 

The weapon as we know it was first put onto the battlefield in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. Pictured: The Mark I tank 

Named the Mark I, the tank was extremely simple compared to modern designs.

Just 32 of the new vehicles were deployed during the Somme and they achieved only minor successes.

A year later, at the Battle of Cambrai, tanks made their first major impact in warfare. 

The British deployed 476 of the armoured vehicles against the Germans to great effect, but failed to exploit the victory.  

During the Second World War, however, the tank became crucial to warfare.

The main Soviet tank during the Battle of Kursk was the T-34 (pictured), which was first produced in 1940. It had a 76.2mm gun and could travel at 33mph

The main Soviet tank during the Battle of Kursk was the T-34 (pictured), which was first produced in 1940. It had a 76.2mm gun and could travel at 33mph

The most famous of the Allies' tanks was the M4 Sherman (pictured), a medium tank produced by the United States

The most famous of the Allies’ tanks was the M4 Sherman (pictured), a medium tank produced by the United States

One of the Allies' adversaries was the legendary Tiger I tank (pictured), which had an 88mm main gun and top speed of 28.2mph

One of the Allies’ adversaries was the legendary Tiger I tank (pictured), which had an 88mm main gun and top speed of 28.2mph

The Nazi Blitzkrieg – or ‘lightning war’ – strategy depended on heavy armour penetrating deep into enemy territory with support from the air as a means of encircling opposing forces.

The conflict saw the engagement of perhaps the most famous tanks in history – including American Sherman, Russian T-34 and German Tigers.

In 1943, during the Battle of Kursk, over 8,000 Nazi and Soviet tanks went head to head in the biggest tank battle in history. 

The main Soviet tank was the T-34, which was first produced in 1940. It had a 76.2mm gun and could travel at 33mph. 

One of its adversaries was the legendary Tiger I tank, which had an 88mm main gun and top speed of 28.2mph.

The Nazis also produced the Tiger II heavy tank, of which only 492 were made.

Its armour was up to 185mm thick alongside an 88mm gun and it wreaked havoc when first deployed against the Allies at Normandy in 1944. 

The Abrams is a third generation tank - with the first and second generations broadly corresponding to the Second World War and earlier Cold War - and comes with hull armour as tick as 700mm

The Abrams is a third generation tank – with the first and second generations broadly corresponding to the Second World War and earlier Cold War – and comes with hull armour as tick as 700mm

The most famous of the Allies’ tanks was the M4 Sherman, a medium tank produced by the United States. 

It had up to 178mm of armour and a 75mm M3 gun, making it one of the most popular tanks of the time (49,234 were built in total). 

After the Second World War, the Cold War spurred continued development of the tank – which became heavier, larger and much better armoured. 

Guns also grew bigger and were given more sophisticated targeting technology. 

Tanks were also given new kinds of weapons – like the US M551 Sheridan (first built in 1969), which was equipped with MGM-51 Shillelagh anti-tank guided missiles. 

One of the tanks considered to represent a significant development in technology, however, is the Russian T-14 Armata (pictured)

One of the tanks considered to represent a significant development in technology, however, is the Russian T-14 Armata (pictured)

As the Cold War progressed – in 1979 – the US produced the M1 Abrams main battle tank, which remains in use to this day.

The Abrams M1 is a third generation tank – with the first and second generations broadly corresponding to the Second World War and earlier Cold War – and comes with hull armour as thick as 700mm. 

The earliest models feature a 105mm main gun and are capable of travelling at about 45mph.

Later models – including the M1A1 and M1A2 – come with 120mm guns. 

The future of tanks – the fourth generation – is currently uncertain. 

One of the tanks considered to represent a significant development in technology, however, is the Russian T-14 Armata. 

A main battle tank, the T-14 was first produced in 2015. It has 900mm of armour and a 125mm gun while being able to travel at up to 56mph.    

In December 2016, Islamic State claimed it destroyed 10 of the Leopard 2 tanks (pictured in Germany), dubbed invincible in some quarters, and while the terror group's estimates are regularly exaggerated, Bellingcat's analysis of the clash had the figure at 'at least eight'

In December 2016, Islamic State claimed it destroyed 10 of the Leopard 2 tanks (pictured in Germany), dubbed invincible in some quarters, and while the terror group’s estimates are regularly exaggerated, Bellingcat’s analysis of the clash had the figure at ‘at least eight’

The Tiger’s weaponry, meanwhile, was weak in comparison – an 88 millimeter main gun compared to the Leopard’s 120mm cannon.   

A 62-tonne German tank encased in a shell of hardened steel and tungsten, powered by a V12 twin-turbo engine and with a top speed of 42mph… but it’s being blown to pieces in Syria

Designer: Krauss-Maffei

Cost: £4million 

Production: 1979–present 

Units built: 3,480 

Specifications

Weight: 62.3 tonnes

Length: 10m 

Width: 3.75m (148inches)

Height: 3m 

Crew: Four

Armour: Composite including hardened steel and tungsten 

Weapons: 120 mm Rheinmetall L/55 smoothbore and MG3A1 

Engine: V12 twin-turbo diesel

Fuel capacity: 200 litres

Operational range: 340 miles (550km)

Top speed: 42 mph (68km/h)

 

On January 24, there was outrage over the use of the Leopard 2, which were sent in to attack Kurdish soldiers in the Syrian cities of Afrin and Manbij.

But previously the tank had spectacularly flopped in December 2016 when pictures emerged of it being blown to pieces in the then ISIS-held city of al-Bab.

Islamic State claimed it destroyed 10 of the Leopard 2 tanks, dubbed invincible in some quarters, and while the terror group’s estimates are regularly exaggerated, Bellingcat’s analysis of the clash had the figure at ‘at least eight’.

The tanks were shown with their turrets blown clean off and destroyed by bombs, mines or mortar fire.

While during the Cold War they were deployed in numbers, they appear to be being picked off as they are sent in to battle alone. 

Berlin-Ankara ties have only recently started to recover from a deep crisis after Germany criticised the human rights situation in Turkey, particularly amid a mass wave of arrests following a 2016 failed coup.

Germany has been particularly angered by Turkey’s arrest of several of its citizens, including dual-nationality Die Welt daily journalist Deniz Yucel, who has been held for 11 months.

News weekly Der Spiegel reported that Turkey wanted Berlin to allow German arms maker Rheinmetall to overhaul its fleet of Leopard 2 battle tanks with better armour and defence systems, after several were destroyed by Islamic State group jihadists in 2016.

Germany had hoped that this would aid efforts to free Yucel, wrote Der Spiegel, although the government has denied any link.

Industrial powerhouse Germany is a major global weapons exporter, a sensitive issue for many voters who believe that profiting from military conflicts is unethical.

The far-left Die Linke and Greens opposition parties have demanded a halt to all military cooperation with Turkey.



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