Department of Defense Consideration of West Germany's Leopard as the Army's New Main Battle Tank

PSAD-78-1: Published: Nov 28, 1977. Publicly Released: Nov 28, 1977.

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In 1972, the Army began developing the XM-1 main battle tank to replace the M-60 tank. Two earlier efforts to develop a new tank were terminated because of cost and complexity problems. The first, the MBT-70, was a bilateral effort of the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany. Afterward, the Army began developing its XM-803 tank. Meanwhile, Germany completed its Leopard 2 tank in 1974. Interest in the Army's development of its new tank was heightened by the emergence of weapons standardization as an issue of increasing importance in the Western Alliance. The evaluation of a weapon system commanding so much international interest warranted greater involvement by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to dispel concern that the Leopard might not receive fair consideration.

In January 1977, only 3 weeks after the Leopard's tests were complete, the United States announced that, by agreement with West Germany, the Leopard and the XM-1 would not be comparatively evaluated. Why the evaluation was abandoned has not been made public. Test preparations and actual testing of the Leopard were objective. The report on the tests showed the two tanks to be about equal in mobility and firepower, but the XM-1's armor protection was judged markedly better. This difference was likely attributable to the haste with which the Leopard's original armor was redesigned to U.S. requirements and, with more time, the differences could have been narrowed and perhaps eliminated.

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