Latest SABCA News
Aug 10, 2023
Creative Commons license It took months of negotiation, but this week German tank-maker Rheinmetall announced it would refurbish for Ukraine an additional 30 stored Leopard 1A5s from a batch of 50 that previously belonged to Belgian company OIP Land Systems. The 40-ton, four-person Leopard 1A5BEs are unique. When, in the mid-1990s, Belgium upgraded 132 of its 334 1960s-vintage Leopard 1s to the new A5BE standard, it gave the tanks locally-developed SABCA fire-controls. Other countries’ Leopard 1A5s generally have German EMES-18 fire-controls. Both the EMES-18 and SABCA systems include thermal imaging sights, a laser rangefinder and a ballistic computer. Leopard 1s with either EMES-18 or SABCA fire-controls can shoot their 105-millimeter rifled main guns while on the move out to a range of two miles or so. The difference is in the details. The Belgian army considered the SABCA as sufficiently superior to the EMES-18 that it decided the benefit of a unique tank variant (slightly greater accuracy) as greater than the costs of a unique variant (higher price and a smaller industrial base). Other armies disagreed. When the Canadian army upgraded its SABCA-equipped Leopard 1s starting in 1996, it swappped out the Belgian fire-controls for ... German fire-controls. Specifically, the very same EMES-18s the SABCA systems had displaced in the Belgian tanks. The problem, for Ukraine, is that it’s getting at least 135 ex-Danish and ex-German Leopard 1A5s with EMES-18 fire-controls. The EMES-18 and similar EMES-15 fire-controls also equip Ukraine’s 85 or so Leopard 2 tanks. All that is to say, there are lots of EMES systems in use in Ukraine and around the world. In comparison, there are very few SABCA systems. The SABCA fire-controls could prove difficult to support. There already are indications the uncommon SABCA systems on those 50 Leopard 1A5BEs that Rheinmetall got from OIP Land Systems are in bad shape. There’s a reason Germany expects to pass on to Ukraine just 30 of the 50 ex-Belgian tanks. Technicians plan to strip 20 of the tanks in order to free up parts for repairing the other 30. There’s a good chance the fire-controls are a major driver of this cannibalization. Freddy Versluys, the head of OIP Land Systems, seemed to think the SABCA fire-controls weren’t even worth keeping. He said earlier this year he expected any buyer to spend 350,000 euros per tank to replace the fire-controls in the ex-Belgian Leopard 1s. Whether they roll into battle with their original SABCA fire-controls or replacement EMES systems, the ex-Belgian Leopard 1s should be accurate, long-range shooters. The question is how supportable the tanks will be. In any event, firepower isn’t the Ukrainian Leopard 1A5s’ biggest problem. A far greater problem is their thin steel armor, which maxes out at just 70 millimeters. That’s too thin to offer much protection against anything more powerful than a Russian heavy machine gun. Follow me on Twitter . Check out my website or some of my other work here . Send me a secure tip .
SABCA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
When was SABCA founded?
SABCA was founded in 1920.
Where is SABCA's headquarters?
SABCA's headquarters is located at Chaussée de Haecht 1470, Brussels.
What is SABCA's latest funding round?
SABCA's latest funding round is Corporate Majority.
Who are the investors of SABCA?
Investors of SABCA include La Societe Federale de Participations et d'Investissement and Sabena Aerospace.