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TRJE18 In Focus 02 ~ Spanish Tanks


Continuing our NATO Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2018 (TRJE18) coverage we are now focussing on the Spanish tanks supporting the Italian Multinational Brigade, writes Bob Morrison.

Seven of the eight battlegroups, including one of the amphibious task forces, participating in TRJE18 in Norway were multinational and each contained a different mix of capabilities, from light role infantry through to heavily armoured, to give senior commanders an opportunity to train for different scenarios with appropriate troops out on the ground fighting in real time. The Italian-led South (Blue) Force brigade, on the westernmost north-south axis of three, primarily comprised mechanised infantry in wheeled and tracked armoured vehicles but as they were pitted against US Marines and Canadian infantry supported by M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks their commander was allocated Spanish LEOPARD 2E main battle tanks, which are known as the LEOPARDO.

The LEOPARD 2E, of which Spain has 219 including training and recovery variants, is essentially an up-armoured LEOPARD 2A6 produced as a joint venture by Rheinmetall of Germany and Santa Bárbara Sistemas of Spain (now part of General Dynamics) between 2003 and 2008. Powered by a 1480hp 12-cylinder MTU diesel engine, the 63 tonne tank has a top speed of 72km/hr (45mph) and a 500km operational range. The main armament is the 120mm Rheinmetall L/55 smoothbore gun, as used by the German Army’s Leopard 2A6, and secondary armament includes one coaxial 7.62mm MG3 and a second similar pintle mounted weapon in front of the loader’s hatch for air and close defence.

These Spanish main battle tanks and accompanying recovery vehicle have just arrived at Oppdal Airfield on D Day [©BM]

We first caught up with the three Spanish TRJE18 LEOPARDO tanks on this page on D Day on the airfield to the north of Oppdal, where they were preparing to help the Norwegian Home Guard defend the key installation from advancing North (Red) Forces including M1A1 tanks, and we returned next day for what became known as the Battle For Oppdal. We caught up again with the same three tanks, from I/10th Tank Battalion ‘Málaga’ of the 10th ‘Córdoba’ Armoured Regiment, home based in the town of Cerro Muriano about 20 kilometres to the north of Córdoba, on D+2 by which time they had withdrawn to block the crucial mountain pass between Hjerkinn and Folldal; the accompanying photos show all three tanks at various times over this three days.

Spain is also contributing to the Danish-led multinational battlegroup participating in the NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) mission in Latvia and to round this page off (and keep our military modeller regulars happy) I have included a couple of shots of a LEOPARDO taken at Ādaži in November 2017. In the next article in this series I will turn my lenses on the PIZARRO and in due course will look at the Slovenian PANDUR on TRJE18.

{ images © Bob Morrison }

This LEOPARDO (100) was using a pair of light aircraft hangars as cover while watching for approaching US armour [©BM]

The LEOPARD 2E is essentially an up-armoured LEOPARD 2A6 produced as a joint venture by Rheinmetall of Germany and Santa Bárbara Sistemas of Spain [©BM]

The Spanish main battle tank is crewed by four – commander, gunner, loader and driver [©BM]

Behind this LEOPARDO [112] can be seen the accompanying recovery vehicle – I will focus on this at a later date [©BM]

Here 112 was guarding the main access road to the airfield from the cover of a service track – note covered close defence 7.62mm machine gun [©BM]

Left rear view of 112 – the tank has a combat weight of around 63 tonnes [©BM]

Turret traversed in travelling position – the tank has a top road speed of 72km/hr [©BM]

Main armament is a Rheinmetall 120 mm L/55 smoothbore gun – 42 rounds of ammo are carried [©BM]

This is 132 on D+2 blocking the mountain pass between Hjerkinn and Folldal [©BM]

The Spanish tanks withdrew around 65km by road on the evening of D+1 to this new defensive position blocking the Rv29 [©BM]

10th ‘Córdoba’ Armoured Regiment markings on the turret of 132 [©BM]

Two of at least six Spanish LEOPARDO main battle tanks deployed to Latvia [©BM]

Rear right view of the same tank in Latvia – the 12-cylinder MTU diesel engine develops almost 1,500hp [©BM]

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