The Norwegian Ministry of Defense has begun Arctic trials for the German Leopard 2A7 and South Korean K2 Black Panther tanks to determine which of them will become the country’s next main battle tank (MBT).
Participating defense firms Hyundai Rotem and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann have sent two tanks each, modified to meet the Norwegian Army’s requirements and qualify for the testing and evaluation stage.
In a press release, Norwegian defense materiel agency Forsvarsmateriell said that the MBT aspirants will undergo extensive mobility and firing trials while navigating snowy terrain for four weeks.
In addition to performing in a harsh winter environment, the defense ministry wants to ensure that the participating tanks have “technical features” that will allow them to cope with powerful Russian Army tanks.
“I see that there are two suppliers who take this really seriously, and it is important to me,” Norwegian Army chief Major General Lars S. Lervik remarked. “This means that we will get the best possible tank and at the best possible price.”
Forsvarsmateriell clarified that the winter tests are only a part of the evaluation stage; no winner will immediately be chosen after the trials.
In 2020, the Norwegian government announced the opening of a competition for the country’s new main battle tank to replace the Norwegian armed forces’ existing fleet of Leopard 2A4NO tanks.
A total of nine models have been proposed to the government, but only the modified versions of the K2 Black Panther and the Leopard 2A7 tanks were selected as finalists.
The winner of the approximately 19 billion Norwegian kroner ($2.2 billion) contract is expected to be chosen by the end of 2022, with the first deliveries targeted for 2025.
The two participating tanks reportedly have an equal chance of being chosen, since Norway has successful experience of using the Leopard 2A4 and also purchased 24 K9 Thunder howitzers from South Korea.
“We are replacing the 40-year-old tank system we have today with a digital tank,” Lervik stated. “This means that we can cooperate with all parts of the Army and the Armed Forces in general.”