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Hungarian Leopards on Hungarian soil

Text: Ministry of Defence/defence.hu | Photo: Sztaniszláv Horváth |  14:53 December 6, 2023

One of the state-of-the-art tank types in the world is about to enter service with the heavy infantry brigade of the Hungarian Defence Forces in the coming days. The first Leopard 2A7HU tank with Hungarian marking arrived in Hungary on 5 December to become integrated into the heavy infantry brigade that is declared to NATO but safeguards the security of Hungary. As an important part of the National Defence and Armed Forces Development Program, Hungary has purchased 44 units of this main battle tank, which is the most modern type in the world.

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Defence Minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky said that the new tank allows the Hungarian Defence Forces to enter the 21st century, which is another milestone in the National Defence and Armed Forces Development Program. The minister emphasized that the first five units of the new tank type – custom-made for the Hungarian Defence Forces – are expected to arrive in the next few days. The Hungarian Defence Forces have ordered 44 units of the new Leopard 2A7HU main battle tank, which are going to enter service with the Tata-based Hungarian Defence Forces 1st Armored Brigade. Besides the Leopards, several Leguan bridge-layers and armored recovery vehicles will also arrive in Hungary. The Hungarian Defence Forces will have received the full fleet by 2025. The minister added that this transition from the Soviet military hardware to the more modern technology is also helped by a cooperation agreement concluded with the German KNDS company, in the framework of which we are collaborating with the leadership of the factory on developing complementary services, simulation and maintenance.

This cooperation guarantees that the Hungarian Defence Forces receive not only new items of military equipment, but also a fleet of excellent quality, which the German company supports with important services as well. These tanks have been expressly made to meet the needs of the Hungarian Defence Forces in the Germany-based plants of the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) company as a variant of the Leopard 2A7+ main battle tanks – this is what the HU marking refers to. The Leopards are to provide the Hungarian Defence Forces with important capabilities. First, 12 units of the 2A4HU entered service with the HDF 1st Armored Brigade, and their procurement was consciously implemented in the spirit of preparing for the use of the 2A7HU version.

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“With the help of the Leopard 2A4HU tanks, we have been able to ensure that the soon arriving, world-class 2A7HU main battle tanks are going to be used by perfectly trained, motivated armor crews that are always proud of their Hungarian uniforms”, wrote Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky and General Dr. Gábor Böröndi, Chief of HDF General Staff in their letter of greetings on the occasion of the tankers’ day on 25 July this year.

The 44 Leopard 2A7HU main battle tanks will be equivalent to a battalion-sized subunit in the NATO Force Structure. The raison d’étre of the armor branch of the army has gained significant value in recent years – especially on the basis of the lessons learned of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Modern tanks and their professionally trained and deployed crews have an important role to play in the successful conduct of land operations. Due to Hungary’s geographical features and the defensive core purpose of its armed forces – namely, area defence –, when used with adequate infantry and artillery support, tanks are essential and indispensably important parts of the arsenal of the Hungarian Defence Forces.

The armored hull of the Hungarian Leopard has a length of 7.7 meters, and the tank measures 10.97 meters with gun forward. Its width is 3.76 meters without the add-on armor module, and its height is 3.03 meters. The firepower of the Leopard 2A7HU tank is provided by a L55A1, L/55 caliber-length, 120mm Rheinmetall main gun. This upgraded L55A1 tank gun can already guarantee the efficient destruction of enemy targets on ranges up to 5000 meters. Furthermore, the tank also has a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, a 12.7mm Remote Controlled Weapon Station (RCWS) as well as two banks of eight 76mm smoke grenade dischargers that are also suitable for firing HE grenades. The tank is capable of hasty wet gap crossing up to 1.2-meter depths, and in the event of deliberated crossing, it also has a fording capacity of up to 2.25 meters and deep wading capacity of up to 4 meters.

The Hungarian Defence Forces have procured several different types of multi-purpose armor-piercing projectiles and another two types of short-range training shells for the main gun of the tank. Hungary has concluded a contract with German Rheinmetall AG for the procurement of significant amounts of munitions. Established by the government of Hungary, the Várpalota plant manufacturing artillery shells is also going to join the manufacturing process, together with Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH.

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The armor protection of the Leopard 2A7HU is provided by its vertical armor plate made of composite material and the wedged add-on self-limiting explosive reactive armor (SLERA) module. The combat vehicle is capable of successfully withstanding the threats of modern anti-tank weapons. In the interest of successful military operations on urban terrain, the manufacturer has developed a so-called “Urban kit”, a 360° add-on armor. This add-on armor can be installed and dismantled as need arises, and provides enhanced protection in built-up areas against anti-tank weapons.

The tank’s crew of four consists of a commander, a gunner, a loader and a driver. The driver is seated on the right sight of the armored hull, instead of the traditional central position, because a complementary ammunition rack is installed on the left side of the hull. The turret can accommodate three crewmembers. On the right side of the turret, there is place for the gunner (forward) and, behind (above) him, for the commander. The loader is seated on the left side of the turret. For the most part, the training of armor crews will take place in Tata.

In this October, a new training and simulation center was inaugurated in the renovated cupola building of the HDF 1st Armored Brigade, which also houses the turret simulator of the Leopard 2A7HU tanks. In addition to the reception of cutting-edge high-tech, computer-aided military equipment, the arrival of the new tanks also signals the renewal of the system of training and education in the Hungarian Defence Forces in parallel with the development of their combat readiness. Besides, the Hungarian defence industry is going to receive regular orders through the provision of munitions for our own military equipment, which continues to increase the defence (industrial) independence of Hungary.

Source: András Tóth: The Hungarian type variant of the Leopard main battle tank: the Leopard 2A7HU (HADITECHNIKA 2022/6)