On the motorway, I was pleasantly surprised by a convoy of Boxer AFVs. I could not have imagined that an even bigger surprise was waiting for me at the next lay-by. By chance, two low loaders of the Dutch army carrying specialized Leopard 2 variants were parked here. In this short post, we take a quick look at these vehicles – which were on their way back from deployment in Lithuania as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) mission.
The first trailer shows one of ten Dutch “Kodiak” tanks (registration 84-KP-48), built by Rheinmetall Landsysteme and RUAG on the basis of surplus Leopard 2A4NL chassis. This vehicle is a so-called armoured engineer vehicle (AEV) and with its bulldozer blade, excavator arm it can perform work under the most difficult conditions. The vehicle can also be converted for mine clearing duty with breakthrough teeth and a mine plough.
The Kodiak entered service with the Royal Netherlands Army in 2018 to replace their worn-out fleet of Leopard 1 recovery tanks. The introduction of the Kodiak was no smooth sailing, and was accompanied by several teething problems. After testing in 2017, the vehicle was even briefly banned from driving on public roads after a steering cable snapped. Recently, in May 2021, the German Bundeswehr also decided to purchase 44 Kodiaks (Pionierpanzer 3) to replace the obsolete Pionierpanzer 2 “Dachs”.
In October 2020, as part of the “Eager Leopard” exercise at Pabrade, Lithuania, a Dutch Kodiak was deployed together with a German Dachs to dig an anti-tank trench for the Norwegian Battle Company.
The second trailer shows an armoured recovery vehicle (ARV) “Buffel” (registration KU-88-50). This vehicle, built by Rheinmetall, is also based on the Leopard 2 chassis. Of these, the Dutch army has 25 specimens that entered service in 1993/94. This vehicle is equipped with a crane and winch and is suitable for the recovery of a stranded Leopard 2 tank. Several anchorage points for the Leopard 2 power pack (engine + transmission) can be seen on the crane. A Buffalo can carry a spare power pack on its engine deck.
Starting in April 2019, four of the 25 Dutch Buffaloes were modernized by Rheinmetall, guaranteeing their continued combat-readiness until 2040. In December of the same year, it was announced that the remaining 21 vehicles will receive similar treatment in the second phase of the program. The first modernized vehicles were delivered in early 2021, but I am unsure whether the specimen shown has already been modernized.