The Canadian Leopard C1 Tank

The Canadian Leopard C1 Tank
The Canadian Leopard C1 Tank

The Canadian Leopard C1 Tank Background

When 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group was moved from Westphalia to Lahr on the Rhine frontier with France, some policy-makers apparently sought to do away with Canada’s tanks entirely.

For some years, the brigade continued to use their Centurion tanks, an excellent tank in its day but one that could not be used on long road moves. In 1975, the Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, visited Germany to ask the Chancellor for his support for getting Canada special trade status with the European Common Market. He was told to come back to discuss the matter once Canada had replaced its antiquated tanks.

The contract for the Leopard tank acquisition followed quickly. Consideration had been given to totally rebuilding the Centurions with new power pack as the Israeli army has done with their Centurions. Before the order could be delivered Canada negotiated a deal with the German Government to lease 35 Leopard 1A2’s to train their crews on the new tanks.

The first rented Leopards showed up in the spring of 1977. They were German leopard 1A2’s that were surplus and sitting in operational German stock. The Royal Canadian Dragoons went on to win the Canadian Army Trophy for Tank Gunnery in June of 1977, with the rented Panzers.

The Canadian Leopard C1 Tank Photo Gallery

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The Canadian Leopard C1 Tank Service

To replace its British-supplied 105 mm armed Centurion MBTs, Canada selected a modified version of the German Krauss-Maffei (which on 1st January 1999 became Krauss-Maffei Wegman) Leopard 1A3 fitted with the Belgian SABCA computerized fire-control system.

The Canadian order comprised 114 MBTs, six Beaver Armoured Vehicle Launch Bridge and eight Taurus Armoured Recovery Vehicles and was valued at C$187 million. The first Leopard 1A3s, called the C1 by Canada, were handed over in June 1978 by Krauss-Maffei and, under the terms of the contract, Krauss-Maffei took back the entire fleet of Canadian Centurion MBTs. Some of the Centurion turrets, complete with 105 mm L7 guns, were subsequently purchased by Austria for use in the static defence role.

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The Canadian Leopard C1 Tank with mine plough

By the middle of 1979, Canada’s NATO forces had 114 their Leopard tanks. The first unit that received them was the Royal Canadian Dragoons, stationed un Lahr, Then West Germany. These tanks arrived painted German pea green colour with Canadian black maple leafs stenciled on the side of the mantlet.

The Canadian C1 Leopard MBTs and variants were deployed in Canada and in Germany, but in 1993 the C1’s were returned to Canada following the withdrawal of all Canadian Forces from Europe. The Leopard C1 is no longer in service, however a number were upgraded to The Canadian Leopard C2 Tank with its official roll out in November 23 1999.

The Canadian Leopard C1 Tank Combat History

Bosnia: 1996

2 Leopard C1’s sent to Bosnia from the Royal Canadian Armoured School , crewed by members of the RCD’s, one each with mine rollers and mine plough for IFOR Mission,1996. Add on MEXAS mounts added, but no armour mounted. These Leopards were originally stationed at CFB Petawawa with trials MEXAS armour fitted.

Kosovo: 1999

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The Canadian Leopard C1 Tank KFOR

There were only 5 Leopard C1s sent to Kosovo. Third troop C Squadron from the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) with an administration troop was deployed to Kosovo with their Leopard C1 MEXAS tanks as part of the 1 PPCLI Battle group between August and December 1999, they were relieved by a troop from the Royal Canadian Dragoons.


Special thanks to our site Admin Canadian Army SGT (Ret’d) Anthony Sewards for the information contained on this page. All images are copyright Anthony Sewards.