Leopard 2 prototype 120 mm

In this post I’ll look at another Leopard 2 prototype (yes, again!). This one can be found in the Musée de Blindés in Saumur, France. In contrast to the prototype I discussed on this site earlier (you can find that post here) this specimen is equipped with a 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. During the trials some ten turrets (no. 1-10) were fitted with a 105 mm gun whereas the other seven (no. 11-17) received a 120 mm gun.

The 120 mm gun is distinguishable by its bulky fume extractor on the barrel.

This particular vehicle features an alternative/updated headlight layout having the headlight mounts integrated into the fenders. Compared to the earlier layout the headlights don’t stick out as much. It’s particularly interesting that the hull still features the original Bundeswehr registration number (although the front one has been painted over). These plates would have been painted onto the vehicle together with the Hoheithszeichen (the black and white cross) when it was trialled by the army.

It’s quite interesting to note that the original Bundeswehr registration number “Y-647083” is still present. This number seems original and fits the series of other known registration numbers for Leopard 2 prototypes. Even though the camouflage scheme this vehicle is painted in is incorrect for its time-period – the NATO scheme only came into existence during the 1980s – I reckon that the green areas are still the original colour and the black and brown coloured bands have been applied at a later stage in the museum. This also clarifies why the front registration number has been painted over.

Identification

An inscription on the hull quickly identifies this vehicle as prototype no. 10 which was trialled together with turret no. 7 in Munster starting in September 1973 [1]. It should be noted, however, that T-7 is equipped with a 105 mm gun — which is clearly not currently installed. Instead, judging from a marking on the turret side, turret no. 17 is mounted.

Peculiarities

A non-typical feature of the turret are the rectangular metal plates welded on top of the gun mantlet. These plates most likely served as mounting points for measurement equipment.

In literature there exist a couple of photographs of a prototype showing measurement equipment fitted in a wooden construction mounted to the gun mantlet. The image below shows the relevant piece of a photo taken during extreme condition trials conducted in Arizona, USA in May 1975.

Wooden construction mounted to the gun mantlet | Source: Kampfpanzer Leopard 2 Waffen-Arsenal Band 69

Another interesting detail of this vehicle are the two mounts on the glacis plate. Judging from available photos, only very few prototypes featured these mounts — or they were randomly added when the need arose. Whereas all prototypes featured a gun travel lock for the turret’s 6 o’clock position, the mounts on the glacis plate are part of a forward facing gun travel lock.

The ‘A’ shaped construction of the lock is missing, but is clearly visible in the image below:

Turret 06 mounted on an unknown hull traversing a tactical bridge | Source: Wikipedia

Hope you liked it, that’s it for this time 😉

[1]
W. J. Spielberger, Der Kampfpanzer Leopard 2. Koblenz: Verlag Wehr & Wissen, 1981.