By Micaal Ahmed
On December 10, 2014, stunning graphics, engaging video productions and tank demonstrations were staged in Munich to welcome the new variant of the Leopard 2 main battle tank (MBT). This impressive tank is built by the only Western company that has continually produced brand new MBTs over the past decade: Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW). However, the company’s innovation and designs go well beyond combat efficiency on a battlefield.
In 2008, the company introduced the Leguan, a new bridge laying system that can be mounted on the Leopard 2 MBT chassis, and it immediately became a resounding success story across the defence world. In everyday life, whether we drive over them or walk under them, bridges hold an importance that we don’t really think about. And, when it comes to the military, to logistics and to strategic planning, the ability to quickly cross from one side of an undriveable obstacle to another in a war zone can mean the difference between life and death.
Further proof of the Leguan’s utility on the battlefield is the continued rise in sales among allied nations. In June 2014, Sweden signed a contract for the Leguan bridge layer; just six months later, Switzerland became another buyer. In 2016, the Bundeswehr (German armed forces) signed a contract for the procurement of seven Leguan bridge layers, which it plans to bring into service in 2019. Last December, the Netherlands also chose KMW’s Leguan bridge laying system for its armed forces.
Leguan fulfils the conditions of the trilateral design and test code for military bridging and gap crossing. Possessing extraordinary power-to-weight ratio, the bridge laying system is based on a “simple” yet effective design using an aluminum box-type frame bridge with a track way at the top.
The launching system consists of the laying mechanism, a support blade, hydraulics and the control system. Leguan has certain additional remarkable characteristics as well, including horizontal (cantilever-type) launching, automatic launching within a few minutes, one-man and two-man operational abilities and an integrated test system.
Furthermore, this launching system can be carried by a variety of wheeled vehicles as well as mounted on the chassis of a main battle tank chassis such as the Leopard 2.
The Leguan is a versatile system that can be configured into several different options. For example, it can lay a bridge with a total length of 26 metres (in under six minutes) or it can create two bridges of 14 metres each (in under five minutes), in all weather, day or night. This is made possible by the interaction of the bridge elements with the landing gear, the laying device and the optronics. Some of the other technical characteristics included with the system are built-in monitoring systems, GPS or hybrid navigation system, advanced day cameras, uncooled thermal sight, laser range finder, and optional night vision rear view and side view cameras.
In addition, with a Commanders MG-Mount and a multi-grenade launcher, the combined system can be used to fight back and defend itself if necessary.
While the tank chassis mounted MG-launching system combination is designed for combat purposes, the Leguan also provides a platform variant that can be utilized for disaster relief and civilian operations: the Leguan Wheeled variant. This bridge layer system, specially designed for use with trucks, can lay 26-metre (launched within 20 minutes) and 14-metre bridges in all weather, day and night, but it requires a bit more time to install (20 minutes and 15 minutes, respectively).
The Leguan has already proven its reliability and performance within the defence world. The Leopard 2 armoured vehicle-launched bridge (AVLB) variant was an active part of several exercises conducted by the Singapore Armed Forces in Australia in the fall of 2011–2014. The Leopard 2 AVLB was also an active part of a comprehensive multinational exercise in the spring of 2012. In a recent combat operation, the Leguan proved itself when the U.S. Army 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s Leopard 2 installed a portable bridge in al-Awashra, in the Kirkuk province of Iraq, to allow both U.S. and Iraq Army units and the town’s civilians freedom of movement after a bridge was destroyed by Daesh fighters.
In conclusion, KMW has produced another top-notch armoured vehicle system to enhance the combat efficiency of user nations. If there is one lesson Canada has learned from experience in years of waging modern asymmetrical counterinsurgency warfare, it is that mobility is as important as firepower and protection. The Leguan gives commanders that freedom of movement.