Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank

By: the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.  | 
This Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank has been fitted with a SIMFIRE practice system, which permits the tank crew to simulate main-gun fire. See more tank pictures.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank was post-war Germany's first tank designed and built in West Germany.

In 1955, ten years after the end of World War II, the Federal Republic of Germany was allowed to rearm and was invited to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).


In 1957 Germany and France, and later Italy, agreed to cooperate in designing and building a new Main Battle Tank (MBT). Two design teams were formed in Germany and one in France. The first prototypes, both from German teams, were ready for testing in 1960.

In 1962 trials between the French design, the AMX-30, and German tank prototypes were conducted. The following year the German government decided that the Standardpanzer design, now known as the Leopard, was more suitable for its needs. Thus, the design partnership ended.

France sent the AMX-30 into production. Italy first thought to design and build its own MBT, but then decided to buy the American M-60 MBT as a replacement for its M-47 medium tanks.

Given Germany's history of successful tank production and use, it would seem logical that the Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank would be an extension of the technology developed for the Panther and Tiger series of tanks. In fact, it is not.

Following Germany's unconditional surrender in May 1945, the Allies made certain that all military production facilities were completely dismantled. So the Germans had to begin from scratch when they designed and built the Leopard tank.

The Leopard 1 is an MBT of 1960s derivation. It is heavily gunned and armored, although less so than the Soviet MBTs it was designed to face.

The Leopard 1 has a conventional hull divided by a fireproof bulkhead into an engine compartment aft and a crew compartment forward. The entire turret is cast in one piece.

The commander and gunner are in the turret on the right. The loader is on the left in the turret and hefts shells into the main gun's breech, which opens and ejects the empty shell on recoil. The driver is in the front of the hull on the right-hand side.

The tank can be sealed and overpressurized for use in a nuclear-biological-chemical warfare environment.

To learn about the Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank's equipment, continue to the next page.

For more information about tanks and the military, see:


Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank Equipment

West Germany's Leopard 1 MBT has also been used by the armies of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Greece, Italy, Libya, the Netherlands, Norway, and Turkey.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank carries a maximum armor of 2.75 inches and a minimum of .33 inch on the top of the hull. Turret armor ranges from 2 inches on the front to 2.4 inches on the sides and rear.

The turret mantlet, which furnishes additional armor protection for the turret front, is also 2.4 inches thick.


An 830-horsepower Daimler-Benz V-10 diesel engine gives the Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank a power-to-weight ratio nearly equal to the French AMX-30 MBT, even though the latter is 4.4 tons lighter.

The Leopard 1 is capable of sustained road speeds of 40 miles per hour and has a range of 372 miles. The engine is designed so that it can be extracted and replaced in the field within 20 minutes.

The Leopard's main armament is the British 105mm L/7 main gun, which can fire an armor-piercing projectile at nearly 4,500 feet per second. The tank also carries two 7.62mm NATO machine guns, one coaxial and one mounted on a ball pivot atop the turret for antiaircraft use.

The coaxial machine gun, originally intended for estimating range for the main gun, was later replaced by an optical gun sight.

The Leopard 1A3 MBT wears a new, all-welded, spaced-armor turret. Note the wedge-shaped mantlet, distinguished from
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

There have been four models of the basic Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank. The first was the Al, fitted with a gun stabilization system, new tracks, and a thermal heat sleeve on the main gun. This version was later modified to A1A1 standards with the addition of bolt-on, or appliqué, armor.

The Leopard 1A2, the second model, has a stronger cast-steel turret, an upgraded nuclear-biological-chemical protection system, and night vision image intensifier equipment.

The third model, the 1A3, was fitted with new spaced armor and an integral storage bin at the rear of the turret. The new turret armor comprised a series of sloped planes and had a distinctive wedgelike mantlet.

The final model of the Leopard 1 was the 1A4, which was given a new fire control system.

The Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank was also manufactured in Italy by OTO Melara. Nine other countries -- Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Turkey -- have also used the Leopard 1.

A total of 6,325 Leopard 1 tanks of all configurations, including armored recovery vehicles, armored engineer vehicles, bridge layers, antiaircraft vehicles, and training vehicles, were built, 3,602 for West Germany alone.

To learn about Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank specifications, see our final section.

For more information about tanks and the military, see:


Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank Specifications

The Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank was the first tank designed and built in post-World War II West Germany.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank was originally manufactured in Germany and later in Italy. In addition to West Germany, nine other countries have used this post-World War II tank. Find specifications for the Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank below.

Date of service: 1965


Country: Federal Republic of Germany

Type: Main Battle Tank

Dimensions: Length, 7.09 m (23.26 ft); width, 3.25 m (10.7ft); height, 2.6 m (8.5 ft)

Combat weight: 42,400 kg (46.7 tons), model 1A4

Engine: Daimler-Benz MTU MB 838CaM500 10-cylinder diesel

Armament: One 105mm 1/7 main gun; two 7.62mm NATO machine guns

Crew: 4

Speed: 64 km/h (40 mph)

Range: 600 km (372 mi)

Obstacle/grade performance: 1.15 m (3.8 ft)

For more information about tanks and the military, see:


Frequently Answered Questions

Is the Leopard 1 still used?
Yes, the Leopard 1 is still used by several countries around the world.