Swiss Army Leopard 2A4 (Pz 87WE) Main Battle Tank
Swiss Army Leopard 2A4 (Pz 87WE) Main Battle Tank

Swiss Army to Retire 25 Leopard 2A4 (Panzer 87 WertErhaltung) Main Battle Tanks

The Switzerland’s Federal Council supports a proposal by the Security Policy Commission of the National Council (to decommission 25 Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks. The Swiss Army has 134 tanks of type 87 Leopard 2 A4 (Panzer 87 WertErhaltung, Pz 87WE) modernized within the 2006 armament program and 96 other tanks that have not been renovated and are immobilized. On February 23, 2023, two German ministers wrote to the head of the Swiss Department of Defence, asking her to resell these disused tanks to Rheinmetall, the German company that produced them. The Switzerland’s Federal Council supports this proposal and empowers the head of the Swiss Department of Defence, to defend it during parliamentary deliberations on the Dispatch on the Armed Forces 2023.

The Swiss Army decided to purchase Leopard 2 tanks over the M1A1 Abrams after trialling both tanks between August 1981 and June 1982. The Swiss decision was made in August 1983 and the funding was approved by the government in 1984. Thirty-five of the tanks were delivered by Kraus-Maffei by June 1987. Eidgenössische Konstruktionswerkstätte Thun started license production of 345 additional vehicles in December 1987. The Leopard 2A4 was licensed and manufactured in Switzerland as the Panzer 87 “Leopard” or Pz 87. This version included Swiss-built 7.5 mm MG 87 machine guns and communications equipment and featured an improved NBC protection system.

Swiss Army Leopard 2A4 (Pz 87WE) Main Battle Tanks. (Photo by Schweizer Armee)

The Pz 87WE is a Swiss modification and upgrade of the Pz 87. The modification significantly improves protection through the addition of the Leopard 2A6M’s mine protection kit, thicker armour on the front glacis, and a turret equipped with a Swiss-developed armour package using titanium alloy. Further improvements enhance survivability and combat capabilities, such as a turret electric drive similar to the Leopard 2A5, a driver rear-view camera, an independent weapons station for the loader, and enhanced command and control systems. The fire control system is upgraded, using the Carl Zeiss Optronics GmbH PERI-R17A2 fire control system. A remote weapons station containing a fully stabilised Mg 64 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine gun is fitted to the tank.

On 3 March 2023 it was reported that Germany sought to purchase an unknown number of Switzerland’s 96 reserve tanks to backfill those given to Ukraine by other allies. Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger later confirmed in an interview the company sought to purchase 36 of these tanks. On 28 March 2023, the security board of the Swiss National Council recommended that 25 Leopard 2 in storage should be sold to the German manufacturer Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann so that Germany can replace some of its own tanks now serving in Ukraine. As of this day, Switzerland keeps 96 Leopard 2 in storage. As the tanks’ sale requires decommissioning, the Bundeswehr waits for approval by the Swiss parliament.