Leopard 1A5BE MEXAS: Abandoned Potential

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Welcome again to another suggestion for a Belgian Leopard 1 variant. This time we’ll be looking at the very last one, the 1A5BE MEXAS an upgrade that was applied to at least a single vehicle but eventually never made it to full-scale production.


The Leopard 1A5BE (MEXAS), also sometimes designated Leopard 1A6BE was a further upgrade to Belgium’s fleet of Leopard 1 tanks. As the name implies, it integrated a MEXAS armor kit onto the turret and hull in an attempt to further increase the survivability of the vehicle on a modern battlefield. At least one vehicle has certainly received this armor package with a second seemingly being prepared for it. However, the added weight of the armor package revealed that the turret electric drive system was not powerful enough to support it, resulting in several mechanical failures. This, combined with the cost resulted in the Belgian government cancelling the upgrade program, with the second vehicle most likely never receiving its armor. The one vehicle that did receive the armor package never had it removed and continued to rest of its service life with the upgrade. So technically speaking the upgrade did enter service with the Belgian army. This single upgraded vehicle has also been preserved and can currently be view in the Brussels military museum.


The Leopard 1A5BE MEXAS as displayed in Brussels.

This further upgrade did nothing to improve the systems of the tank. The main armament still consists of the trusty L7A3 cannon with a coaxial armament of an FN MAG machine gun. A second machine gun can be mounted on the commander’s hatch as is seen in the above image. The vehicle reaps all the benefits of the 1A5BE upgrade that it had already received and as such features an advanced fire-control system with integrated thermal sight and laser rangefinder. Belgian Leopard 1s were in service until 2015, which means that they also benefitted from advanced locally produced rounds by MECAR. At this time those rounds would have likely been M1060A1, A2, and possibly even A3. Especially the latter 2 rounds should give it a noteworthy firepower upgrade over its German counterpart. While I’m not aware what the exact weight of the armor package is, it is likely substantial and would almost certainly have a negative impact on the mobility of the vehicle. It should still be more maneuverable than its close relative, the Canadian Leopard C2, thanks to the lack of heavy composite sideskirts.


General characteristics:

  • Crew: 4 (driver, gunner, loader, commander)
  • Weight: 42t(?)
  • 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
  • Laser-rangefinder
  • Ballistics-computer
  • Thermal imager


The Leopard 1A5BE MEXAS would be a rather unique variant of the Leopard, similar to the Leopard C2, but still different enough to be interesting. This vehicle could sit at the very end of the Belgian leopard line in the suggested BeNeLux tree (Although the presented Leopard with Cockerill 3105 turret could still follow it). Given its nature as a one-off vehicle it could of course also serve as a premium, squadron, or event vehicle in a variety of trees. The armor upgrade will provide the vehicle with a bit more survivability, something that will certainly be welcomed as an upgrade over the rather flimsy Leopard 1A5. Combine this with the tank’s admirable systems and potentially very powerful rounds and you get a vehicle that can be very lethal in the right hands. This vehicle should be something fun and unique for no matter what tree it comes to.


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