Leopard 2 Prototype (PT 10 / T 17). The Mystery Solved.

In this post, we’ll have a look at yet another Leopard 2 prototype. This vehicle can be found in the collection of the Musée de Blindés in Saumur, France. In contract to the prototypes discussed earlier, this one wields the 120 mm gun. During the design and trial period for the Leopard 2 tank, two guns were being considered: a 105 and a 120 mm type, both designed by the Rheinmetall firm. In the end, the 120 mm gun was chosen for the final design.

Of the total 17 prototype turrets, 10 were equipped with the 105 mm gun (T 1 to T 10) and the remainder with the 120 mm gun (T 11 to T 17). Interestingly, only 16 chassis were produced, as PT 12 was never actually build.

This post was originally published in December 2017, but was updated with new information and republished in 2022.

The vehicle we’re looking at is PT 10 / T 17, meaning chassis No. 10 and turret No. 17. This is important to know, as chassis and turrets were interchangeable and a vehicle’s configuration today may not be representable of how it was trialled during the 70s. But more on that later.


Starting at the front of the vehicle, the location of the headlights is of note. Unlike the initial layout, these are now integrated into the fenders. Compared to the initial design, the headlights appear to be better protected. 

The newly integrated headlights were the most noticeable of a suite of changes that were seemingly carried out all at once. Apart from the new fenders, the towing eyes were relocated from the glacis to the belly plate. Turrets were also updated, now featuring all of five handles on either side, instead of the initial two.

It appears impossible to decide on why some vehicles received said updates, and some did not. Later prototypes, e.g. PT 07, 15 and 16, retained the original headlight layout, whereas PT 10, 13 and 14 were all upgraded. Possibly, there is a relation to the extreme condition trials in Canada and the USA in 1975, as all participating vehicles appear to be upgraded. However, I have not been able to corroborate this.

A unique detail of PT 10 are its brackets on the glacis. While all prototypes featured a gun travel lock at the rear, keeping the gun at 6 o’clock, these brackets were part of a forward facing travel lock. They would have accommodated a hinged ‘saddle’ onto which the gun barrel could be fastened. This mechanism seems rather uncommon, and only 2 or 3 of the prototypes were equipped as such. The image below shows the travel lock in use on a chassis mounting turret T 06.

Markings and Camouflage

What is particularly interesting is that on the rear we find the original Bundeswehr registration plate still intact. The number reads ‘Y-647 083’ and fits into the range of other known Leopard 2 prototypes. On the glacis the same registration number can be read, albeit with some difficulty as it has been painted over.

This brings me to the camouflage pattern, which is erroneous and must have been applied by the museum. The typical three-tone NATO scheme only came into live in the 1980s, which is way after this vehicle was trialled. Originally, the vehicle would have been given a coat of all green. It seems that, while the coloured band of brown and black are not original, the green base still may be. 

On the turret’s left side, a marking reads ‘T 17 D’. The meaning of the ‘D’ is unknown to me, but may indicate some form of modification was made to the turret after the fact. A similar marking can be found on T 21, which reads ‘T 21/D’, also on the left turret side.

A Turret for Des(s)ert

Even though PT 10 and T 17 are portrayed together, the two have not always been part of a single vehicle. Records show that PT 10 was paired up with T7 for troop trials in 1973. It was the first vehicle to do so, together with PT 16 / T 9. According to the museum, the vehicle was donated to in this configuration in 1994. As for the turret, that also has an interesting story…

When first looking for identifying features of the turret in 2017, I noticed a number of rectangular metal plates, welded atop the gun mantlet. The plates appear to be non-standard, and at the time I suspected they would have been used to mount something. As it turned out, this was indeed the case, a photo taken during the extreme condition trials conducted in Arizona, USA in May 1975, shows how two pieces of equipment were mounted to the mantlet. 

It was not clear whether the turret in the photo was also actually T 17. Could T 17 have been part of the extensive trials in US? Only very recently, I was able to answer this very question.

A photo made during at the Yuma Proving Ground on 15 September 1975, just recently popped up. It was sharp enough to make out the chassis and turret numbers. The same wooden contraption can be seen on the mantlet as in the previous photo. The turret number is tiny, but readable, and located at the rearmost left corner of the turret. It shows that turret T 17 D, then still “T 17” was paired to PT 13 during the heat trials!

PT13 T17 Yuma via Andrei Btvt 1975 9 15 2
PT 13 / T 17 at Yuma Proving Ground, 15 September 1975. Source: Via @Andrei_bt on Twitter

Note the blue box carried on the turret roof. Its exact purpose is unknown, but have been related to the fault detection system, which was unique to T 16 and 17. The box is visible in a number of other photos taken at the Yuma proofing ground, and serves as an easy identifier for T 17. The four stand-offs to which the box would have been mounted are still visible on the turret roof today.


Lobitz, Frank. Kampfpanzer Leopard 2: Entwicklung Und Einsatz in Der Bundeswehr. Jochen Vollert – Tankograd Publishing, 2009.
Musée des Blindés. ‘[Description Leopard 2 Prototype]’. Facebook, 2022. https://www.facebook.com/Museeblindes/posts/pfbid0LQuCqetrgGiok9VwJuktGhLtbDiMia7f1s7zLpNdwNtjtjnrbtFvxot2Y9jQ3Vqzl.
Spielberger, Walter J. Waffensysteme Leopard 1 Und Leopard 2. Motorbuch Verlag, 1995.