- Yes, don’t care how
- Yes, as a researchable vehicle
- Yes, as a premium/event/squadron vehicle
- Belgian/BeNeLux tree
- German tree
- French tree
- I said no
Welcome again to yet another suggestion for a Belgian Leopard 1 variant. This time we’ll be looking at the Leopard 1A5BE, the last MBT to see service with the Belgian army.
Belgium had started its story with the Leopard 1 MBT in 1967, becoming the first export customer of the type. Following a modernization in in the mid to late 1970s, the tanks were set for a long life with the Belgian armed forces. However, by the late 80s they were starting to show their age, new technologies had entered the battlefield and these threatened the effectiveness of the Leopard 1BEs in battle. An upgrade program was started, of which the research phase was completed by mid-1986. This upgrade was intended to upgrade existing Leopard 1BEs with a new set of sights (including a thermal imager) and fire-control system, new electro-hydraulic systems and a muzzle-reference system. The first prototype was completed by 1988, this vehicle was outfitted with mounting points for additional spaced armor, but the latter was eventually not added over maintenance concerns. Later production vehicles also omitted these mountings. SABCA and OIP were jointly responsible for the integration and factory test of the new sight (under the leadership of OIP) and the integration and factory test of the new complete TFCS (under the leadership of SABCA). The new sight was housed on the top-right of the turret, this addition gave the tanks a well-recognizable visual clue to differentiate them from older models, and from their German counterparts. Production was slowly started in 1989, with 5 pre-production models being delivered by the end of 1990. After this, full-scale production was started, which ran until 1997. Only 132 Belgian Leopard 1s were upgraded to the 1A5BE standard, the other 202 were sold. The remaining 132 Leopard 1A5BEs also received a new paint job in the form of the standard NATO three-tone camouflage. The vehicles saw service in Kosovo under KFOR during 2000 and 2001, based in the northern salient of Kosovo on a strategic hill code-named ‘Notting Hill’. The unit was Regiment Gidsen, 17th Mechanised Brigade, which combined the home-based 1st and 2nd Gidsen Regiments into a single unit. The end of the cold war and the following massively decreased military budgets proved to eventually be the thing that ended the Leopard 1s career in Belgium. The vehicles started being retired in the late 2000s, with the last few eventually retiring in 2015. They were replaced by a far smaller force of wheeled Mowag Piranha IIIC DF90s.
The new upgrade gave the Leopards some brand new systems, but did not change anything on the gun or motorization of the vehicle. It is still armed with the 105mm L7A3 rifled cannon, supported by a 7.62mm FN MAG coaxial machine gun. An additional 7.62mm machine gun can also be mounted to the commander’s hatch. It is currently unclear to me what ammo the Belgian Leopard 1A5BEs used, but it seems likely that they were used with ammo produced by the Belgian company Mecar. Judging by introduction times and likely presence of earlier stock, the Leopard 1A5BEs would have probably used M1001, M1050, and perhaps early M1060 rounds. The new sights incorporated a thermal imager which is capable of identifying vehicles up to 2km away, and is capable of detecting them up to 8km away. This is a major improvement in night-time capabilities over the IR headlight which only had a range of about 1200m. Once again a bit of weight was added, and while it is unclear just how much, it probably didn’t affect mobility much compared to the original vehicle. The lack of extra spaced armor should also mean it has a slight mobility advantage over up-armored German models.
- Crew: 4 (driver, gunner, loader, commander)
- Weight: 40t
- Engine: 1x MTU MB 838 CaM 500 providing 830hp
- Length: 9.54m
- Width: 3.37m
- Height: 2.70m
- 1x 105mm L7A3 L/52 rifled cannon
- 1x 7.62mm FN MAG coaxial machine gun
- (optional) 1x 7.62mm FN MAG machine gun on commander’s hatch
- 2-plane stabilizer
- Thermal imager