Leopard – The Greatest Ever MBT?

KUALA LUMPUR: As we wait for the arrival of the first batch of PT91 main battle tanks from Poland, another Discovery channel programme, The Greatest Ever, also arrived on the local satellite channel, Astro.

In one of the episodes last week, it proclaimed Germany’s MBT, the Leopard, as the Greatest Ever MBT even surpassing the US-made Abrams. For more information on the Leopard click here.

Last December, Singapore which spends about US$7 billion a year on defence compared to us (around US$1.6 billion, if you add the amount allocated for defence in the Malaysian Plan) announced it is buying 66 refurbished Leopard 2A4 tanks from the German Army, plus 30 additional tanks for spares. The tanks will enter service with the Singapore Army in 2008.

It is expected that these tanks will be refurbished up to the current A6 version of the Leopard, with additional armour, longer gun (L55 120mm gun) and Singapore’s own battlefield management system (already installed in the Bionix II APCs).

The Discovery programme proclaimed that the Leopard is the greatest ever MBT because it had the best combination of armour, firepower, mobility and serviceability compared to the other candidates including the Abrams.

The people who made up the list are historians, analysts, tank collectors and even writers like Tom Clancy. If I remembered correctly Abrams came second and the T34 came third.

Interestingly another programme by the National Geographic channel called Top Ten ranked the Abrams as the best MBT ever.

Personally, Malaysian Defence believed that the Leopard is great MBT but not the greatest. Why? Simply it had not been proven in the battle field, the ultimate arbiter of any weapon. It was for these same reason that the Nat Geo panel ranked the Leopard lower than the Abrams.

It is not the fault of the Leopard of course, for not being thrown into combat, but any weapon must first proved itself in combat before it could be considered to be the best in its class (unless you are talking about nuclear weapons of course).

Take the Russian T34 for example. Although it was small and technologically backwards compared to the German tanks in World War II but it proved it was not a pretender in the battlefield.

I believe the Discovery programme placed the T72, the forerunner of the PT91, at number five of the top ten MBT. All of the commentators, UK and US, cited its propensity to burst into flames even if hit only once, for the low ranking.

Why was it chosen in the top ten list in the first place? Simply because, it was the quintessential Russian MBT, that not only spawned a host of newer variants from Russia, Poland and China but also it was the tank that NATO forces stood ready to defend against during the Cold War years and thousands more remained in service to this day.

So did we bought a Proton to face a Volkswagen? It is too early to say but if the Army employed the PT91 in the way that MBTs should be used in the battlefield, Malaysian Defence believes that it will able to cope even with greatest ever MBT.

The question therefore is not whether the MBT will do the job or not but whether it will be allowed to do the job in the right way.

–Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2205 Articles
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  1. well we may not spend as much as our southern neighbor Singapore (i really hope the goverment increases defense expenditure to at least 5 -6 %) but having our first main battle tank regiment is a start i guess. and the tank itself looks quite good and advanced. but you guys are the experts so i’ll leave it to you guys to decide.

  2. YES i agree with that.. The government must increase defence expenditure noy 5-6% but 8-9%.

  3. The PT-91M have not been proven in combat as well.

    Just because its “ancestor” went through a few fights does not equate to the newer variants with the same “veteran” status.

    singapore Leopard 2A4, is now officially upgraded to Leopard 2A4 EVO.

  4. how good or great the MBT is,it surely can be defeated with an anti tank missle,like TOW,metis etc so why worry with ur southern neighbour,what ur army need to do is prepare to purchase the best anti tank missile money can buy n and in big volume,as in 3 missile to 1 leopard MBT,so senang lah to counter MBT,but MBT to detect a good mobile anti tank team is not easy

  5. to win battle,is not what ur enemy have n u must have,but in the unconventional school of thought teaches us to have tools that will devastate what ur enemy have..that is a winning fomula.

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