The question of “which tank is best” depends entirely on the terrain and concept of employment one faces, but most observers agree that the Leopard 2 by Rheinmetall/KMW would finish at or near the top in almost all circumstances. It’s also one of the most widely-bought modern tanks, thanks to second hand deals at fire sale prices that have divested the German and Dutch armies of most of their vehicles. As DID has pointed out, those moves position the German firms as natural choices when the time comes to field a successor. Meanwhile, a secondary business of maintenance and modifications offers plenty of opportunities.
On Nov 30/07, The NIS news bulletin reported that the Dutch defence ministry was preparing sign a contract with Germany’s Rheinmetall Land Systems in late 2007 for 10 of its AEV-3 10 Kodiak engineering tanks. Switzerland’s RUAG pioneered the design with Rheinmetall, and launched the new Leopard-2 based “Geniepanzer/ Kodiak” platform as a cooperative venture in January 2007. They can perform combat engineering in difficult terrain, and have attachments that are especially useful for mine clearance operations.
The deal went through in January 2008, but the Netherlands wasn’t the only customer – the deal now involves Sweden as well, via separate but coordinated contracts.
Built on a Leopard 2 chassis, the 62-ton Kodiak is equipped with a high performance hinged-arm excavator with a quick-release coupling for deploying additional combat engineering tools. One of those tools is a bulldozer blade with adjustable cutting and tilt angles as well as a double-winch system consisting of two 9 t capstan winches. Another is a mine-plough for clearing lanes through minefields. To defend itself, the Kodiak is armed with a remote control weapon station and smoke grenade launcher, and features the same level of anti-landmine protection as the Leopard 2 main battle tank.
Sweden will receive 6 “ingenjÃ¶rbandvagn 120” vehicles, and deliveries will alternate between the 2 counries for the first 12 vehicles. Sweden wants the vehicles so they can be put to use in the EU’s Nordic Battelgroup by 2011, though a 2012 operational capability is more likely.
When DID first put this article up, we asked for a translation of the FMV release, and Per Bjorklund (s_m_d_a, hotmail address) donated his professional services. Interestingly, the FMV release says that prior efforts to cooperate with Switzerland and Denmark (also Leopard 2 owners) fell through, adding:
“After a long journey with many snags on the way the success of this collaboration is extremely satisfying. Co-operating internationally was the only way to get a affordable project, says Lars Ã-stlund, project manager at FMV for the development of the new tracked engineering vehicle AEV 3 Kodiak, or “ingenjÃ¶rbandvagn 120″, which is the Swedish designation.”
The Swedish base consists of recycled Leopard 2 chassis, almost certainly Stridsvagn 121/ Leopard 2A4s. The main bodies will be stripped at a workshop in SkÃ¶vde, then sent back to Switzerland where they cut up the front, installing modules, attachments for the excavator arm, and other elements.
Shared systems between the Swedish and Dutch vehicles will be almost 95%, with markings, radio equipment, and additional bomblet protection for the Dutch vehicles as the only areas that differ. All technical demands, maintenance systems, schedules and manufacturers responsibilities has been harmonized with Holland, and all non-country specific items are shared 50/50 between the two countries. Technical documentation, maintenance preparations and verification constitute a significant share when so few systems are bought, and the Swedish FMV says that collaboration with Holland will reduce their total acquisition cost by 20%.
The Netherlands will acquire 10 basic AEV-3 vehicles, 7 equipment packages for minebreaching, 5 additional construction equipment packages, documentation & maintenance ‘concept’, and initial training. These will not be new vehicles, however – 10 ‘surplus’ Dutch Army Leopard 2s will be converted, out of the 73 remaining following a pending sale to Portugal.
The Dutch acquisition has an investment budget of EUR 75.5 million (including 19% VAT taxation): EUR 68.1 million is reserved for the acquisition contract, and EUR 7.4 million is intended for spare parts, special equipment & testing gear. Operating costs of the 10 Kodiaks is estimated at EUR 1.3 million/ year.
The Dutch armed forces currently depend on 14 remaining engineering tanks based on the Leopard 1 chassis, which were projected to reach the limit of their lifespans in 2008. The Kodiaks will not enter active service until 2012, but new components are not available for the existing Leopard 1s. The Dutch plan to renovate 10 of the Leopard-1 variants using existing reserve components, until the Kodiaks arrive.
Contracts & key Events
Dec 23/11: RUAG begins late deliveries to the Swiss armed forces. The firm says that:
“Delivery of the units to the Swiss Armed Forces was delayed to iron out problems with the power shovel hydraulics that surfaced during endurance tests under extreme military operational conditions. The system was optimised jointly by Rheinmetall and RUAG and successfully subjected to a battery of tests involving other components.”
Nov 22/11: Rheinmetall Defence hands over the 1st Kodiak AEV-3 to the Swedish FMV procurement agency, at an official ceremony in Kiel, Germany. This event is the start of further deliveries to Switzerland and the Netherlands, and Rheinmetall says the project remains on-schedule. Rheinmetall Defence.
Jan 16/08: The Swedish FMV defense procurement authority, and The Netherlands Ministry of Defence procurement authority, have placed about EUR 100 million in orders with Rheinmetall for 16 Kodiak AEV-3s – 10 systems for the Dutch Army, and 6 for the Swedish Army. The vehicles will be delivered during 2011 & 2012.
Although both governments have signed separate, equally valid contracts with Rheinmetall, the program is being carried out jointly on the basis of a harmonized central plan. Based on a bilateral agreement between the two countries, the two nations have effectively harmonized their procurement programs, particularly with regard to the configuration of the vehicles and uniform logistics. Both countries already field variants of the Leopard 2 main battle tank: Dutch Leopard 2A6s and Sweden’s Stridsvagn 121 (2A4)/ 122 (2A6+). Dutch MvD release [in Dutch] | FMV release [Swedish – thanks Per Bjorklund for translation!] |Rheinmetall release.
Nov 28/07: DID Benelux member David Vandenberghe refers Defense Industry Daily to a Dutch MvD parliamentary document [PDF format], which discusses the pending Kodiak order and adds that participation with Sweden has offered economies of scale in acquisition. On Nov 30/07, The NIS news bulletin reports on the topic.
* Swedish FMV Procurement Agency (March 13/08) – Converted Leopard With Claws
* Dutch MvD, Defensie Krant (Jan 17/08) – Prototype Genie-/Doorbraaktank Doorstaat Testen. Article in Dutch, on page 5 of the PDF. Includes pictures.