Over the past several years modern armour historians and military modellers have been fortunate to have model producers and book publishers focus their attention on the Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank. The Leopard 1 has served around the world since entering production. The Royal Dutch Army was one of multiple nations to join the famous “Leopard Club”. As NATO troops in Europe faced an almost endless line-up of Soviet and Warsaw Pact armour during the Cold War the need for a new modern tank capable of sustaining prolonged combat operations while being outnumbered was highly desired. The Royal Dutch Army saw a genuine need to improve its nation’s armoured forces and eventually selected the Leopard 1 in order to replace their Centurion tank fleet.
Dutch Leopard 1, Armoured fist of the Dutch Royal Army was authored by Willem Smit and first published in 2008. Moving six years forward to 2014 the newly formed publishing company Trackpad Publishing seized an opportunity to re-publish the book in English with additional content. The book contains a detailed account relating to the history of the Leopard 1 prior to entering Dutch service and provides the reader with insight into the decision making processes that went into the development of the Leopard 1.
The chapters related specifically to the Leopard 1 in Dutch service gives the reader an interesting behind the curtain views from the tank acquisition process, technical aspects of the tank, how the tank deployed operationally and during training, and ultimately the significant limitations of the Dutch Leopards.
The book is broken down into seven distinct chapters and an introduction.
This includes the standard acknowledgements and thank you comments related to those who assisted with the development of the book. The introduction also includes very candid assessments that the Dutch Leopard 1 never truly met its potential and was essentially left behind as a result of a lack of effective improvements.
Early Development, Origin of the species- This chapter covers the German development of the Leopard 1 tank. The chapter explains the political and military climate in Europe during the 1950s and 1960s. While generic in nature the information sets the stage for why the Dutch began to look seriously at the Leopard 1.
Chieftain vs Leopard, Time to Decide- This chapter covers the MBT-70 saga and how the Dutch, and other nations, were led down the garden path for the development of the MBT-70. The chapter goes on to explain the options, process, and decision making that the Dutch used when considering a new tank to replace their Centurions. Details of the comparison trials between the Chieftain and the Leopard are provide and gives the rationale as to why the Leopard 1 was selected. With the Leopard selection the chapter continues with details on how the Leopard were organized in the Dutch Army as well as a well laid out section on the modifications undertaken on the initial tanks. The chapter finishes off with a section on the driving and gunner simulators for the Dutch Leopard 1.
Area of operations, The North German Plain- This chapter covers details on how the Dutch Leopards would be used on German soil during time of war. The chapter provides information on the logistics of deploying the Dutch Leopards as well as the complications of German terrain and the very realistic threats posed by the Soviet and Warsaw Pact armoured forces. From the text provided pre-preparedness, training, and mobility would have been the keys to a NATO armoured force response during an enemy attack. The chapter finishes off with describing the Leopard variants used by the Dutch Army including the ARV, Genie tank (Engineer version), the bridge layer, and the Cheetah.
Firing the gun, Combat value of Leopard 1NL- This chapter covers generic technical details of how the Leopard fire control and gunnery systems operated as well as tank ammunition types and capabilities. The chapter also speaks about Dutch tank gunnery training, gunnery competitions, and the Bergen-Hohne training area.
Organization and maintenance- This chapter covers the organizational structure of the Dutch tank Battalions and armoured Brigades. A section also describes the layout of the Reconnaissance Squadron which included Recce vehicles, Infantry vehicles, Mortar vehicles, and Leopard tanks. Maintenance of the Dutch Leopard 1 is explained in simple terms in order to describe the scalable maintenance schedule. A small section is also included on the driving instruction tanks.
Leopard 1V, Problems solved? - This chapter covers the improvements that were required, initiated, implemented, and considered for the Dutch Leopards. These included enhanced armour, ammunitions, and the fire control system. Sadly, the chapter speaks to projects that never materialized on the Dutch Leopards and truly created a downward spiral for the tank. It appears that a series of decisions or lack of decisions critically impacted any true modernization proposals on the Dutch Leopard tanks. This in turn put the Dutch tankers at a significant disadvantage on the modern evolving battlefield from the 1980s to retirement in the 1990s. Looking back at the Introduction statements it is clear that the Dutch Leopard 1V modifications were too little and too late.
Phasing out, End of service- This chapter looks at the political situation surrounding the end of the Cold War and the reduction of CFE reduction of tanks in Europe. The chapter covers the sale of Dutch Leopard 1Vs to Greece and Chile as well as the Dutch BARV and range targets.
Also included in the book is a glossary where a chart of existing preserved Dutch Leopard 1s can be found in addition to additional technical information, foot notes, and references.
When I first began to read this book I was unsure about the amount of generic Leopard information provided as this information is readily available from a multitude of other sources. As I continued into the chapters related specifically to the Dutch Leopards the nexus of the information provided became clearer. The selection of the Dutch Leopards and the subsequent limitations of the improvements undertaken become very clear when taken in the context of the much bigger political and economic issues that were at hand. This is a situation not uncommon with many other nations using Cold War era tanks.
From a military historical perspective I believe the book accomplishes the goal of explaining in details the saga of the Dutch Leopard 1. From a modelling perspective the book provides a good textual and pictorial view of the modifications done to the Dutch Leopards over the years should a modelling project be undertaken.
The images in the book are overall very good and show the unique aspects of the Dutch tanks very well. The layout of the test is easy to follow and it flows very well within each chapter.
I would recommend this book to those who want the full details on the Dutch Leopard 1. While there is currently no specific model kit or conversion for the Dutch Leopard 1 perhaps this book will inspire scratch built projects or a model producer to create a conversion set for existing kits.
Highs: Excellent details on the history of the Dutch Leopard 1.Lows: More photos of the Dutch Leopards in the field would have been desirable.Verdict: A very good book on the Dutch Leopard 1 with no stone left unturned.