Most books on military vehicles are one of two types, the wordy ones that make you wish they had more pictures and the picture books that make you wish they had more pictures. This particular new offering from Trackpad, has both words, and quite useful ones at that, and LOTS of pictures. More than you will ever need, Seriously.
The book begins with a brief history of how the Leopard 1 became THE tank for the Australian Army in the 1970’s after the venerable Centurion was slated for retirement due to long term maintainability issues. The Centurion had been in service with Australian Forces since 1951 and was quickly becoming outdated with the technological innovations of the 1960’s and many had seen service in Vietnam and were becoming old and tired.
“While on one hand the possibility of upgrading Centurion was being considered, the Army was also undertaking an extensive examination of possible replacement vehicles. The initial study indicated that any one of several different vehicles might be suitable. To narrow down the options, an evaluation team led by the Director of Armour visited various countries from 22 March to 6 May 1971 to appraise each vehicle. The vehicles examined were the Chieftain and Vickers MBTs in the UK, AMX-30 in France, Leopard 1 in the Federal Republic of Germany, and M60A1 in the United States. Information was also gathered on the Swedish Strv 103 (S-Tank) and the Japanese Type 74 (ST-B1). “
It goes through the selection process and even lists some of the other considerations and why they were ultimately not chosen. The story continues through the trials phase and the finalists and into the selection of the Leo 1 as the new Australian MBT, for various reasons not the least of which was the M60A1’s issue with exposing the commander from the waist up during engagements. The Leo 1 also showed a significant advantage ultimately over the US M60A1 in mobility and manoeuvrability cross country among other various issues.
From there through the first year and the twenty five year history of the vehicle in Australian service, including information on specialty vehicles, unit markings and even training, this book offers an ENTIRE operational history and all with accompanying photos and descriptions.
What you get
288 pages of Aussie Leopard awesomeness! There are far TOO many photos to give you an accurate count but this reviewer’s estimation is on average about 8 photos per page. Yes, that’s right. So doing the math on that gets you in the neighbourhood of 2000 photos or so. In addition to that you get scale drawings of the tank, dozer blade and other mine clearing devices. Again, meat and potatoes folks.
The book is broken down into chapters that take you from the process that selected the Leo 1 as Australia’s new main battle tank to the retirement and replacement of the Leo 1 with the M1A1 Abrams. Each chapter is pretty straightforward and delivers exactly what you expect to get from the title, with LOTS of photos to boot!
Chapter 1 Choosing a new tank (before Leopard)
The process that lead to the Leo 1 over the US M60A1
Chapter 2 Leopard AS1 (build standard)
The specifics of the LEO AS1 as it was designed and set up for the Australian Forces including the alternate designs for the chassis (recovery & engineering)
Chapter 3 A New era begins (the first year)
Delivery of the first vehicles to the armor training center and field units
Chapter 4 AS1 into service (a pictorial view)
Photos of the vehicle in service with great callouts
Chapter 5 AS1 Attachments (dozer and mine clearing)
Covering all of the “add-ons” (tankers call them strap ons) of the AS1 family
Chapter 6 Special Purpose vehicles (recovery and bridging)
All of the variants of the AS1 family, comprehensive
Chapter 7 The AS1 Era (the next 25 years)
Training and service after the first year
Chapter 8 Camouflage (colourful variants)
German green to Aussie 4 colour and 2 color schemes in full colour with scale colour pattern drawings for making your own masks.
Chapter 9 Leopard Markings (Identification)
Great explanations (w/photos) of the layout and placement of unit markings, comprehensive
Chapter 10 Ammunition (Delivery to the target)
Types of ammo both training and real deal, (actually an amazing read, tons of info)
Chapter 11 Crew Dress (Changing Fashions)
From trousers and sweaters to full on tank suits
Chapter 12 Maintenance (repair and refit)
Maintenance history both minor and major during the life of the vehicle
Chapter 13 Modifications (Continual Refinements)
“she may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts” in service modifications
Chapter 14 Training Equipment (Teaching the Crews)
Specially designed vehicles used to train crews
Chapter 15 Transportation (Getting Around)
1 Technical Data
2 Approved Modifications
3 MBT Complete Equipment Schedule (CES) Stowage
4 MBT Life Cycles
5 Refit Schedules
6 Unit Issues
7 Army Registration Numbers and Fates
The history of the Leo 1 in Australian Service is a very interesting story and a good read. The short of it was that it beat out the US M60A1 for several reasons, but we’ll let you read up on that yourself (no spoilers here!). What is interesting is some of the finer points of the trials that are mentioned in the book. About how each vehicle performed in specific tests and some of the more interesting failures that occurred and ultimately swayed the decision in favour of the Leopard AS1. The deep wading trials photos are some really intense pictures!
The operational history is interesting, covering the abandonment of the Combined Arms approach to field doctrine. The Combined Arms approach, for those not in the know, is the integration on the battlefield of infantry and armour units. Something that was commonplace years ago has become a piece of history and as a result has led to tactical battlefield issues and vulnerabilities. Over time and in certain units this problem has been rectified over repeated war games, namely the 1st Brigade’s. Again, no spoilers check it out for yourself.
The photos are the real meat and potatoes of this book though. Gorgeous full colour shots of every part of the tank you can dream of. Detailed shots of specific parts and systems so you can seriously geek out and detail the heck out of your next build. They even included technical drawings of the tank in 1/35 scale!!
There is also plenty of older b&w photos of the LEO1AS1 in service and in trails too. Shots in motion, static, doing the famous “leaping leopard” too. Shots of the AVLB in trials and Leos loading onto and off of HETS. There are even some great interior photos as well. Dozer blades, mine plows, you name it this book has it! There is even a whole section devoted to special purpose vehicles! What I really liked were the generous call outs with the photos. These seemingly irrelevant blue boxes are filled with great info and descriptions that this reviewer has found seriously lacking in other reference guides.
The appendices are a great addition to this material in this book covering unit markings and insignia as well as camouflage schemes layout and registration numbers and more! If there was one criticism that this reviewer could give it would be make the pictures bigger. But honestly that’s it.
To say that this book is extensive would be a serious understatement. This is one of the MOST comprehensive books on any military vehicle that this reviewer has ever seen. From inception to retirement this covers the ENTIRE history of the Leo 1 in Australian Service and does it with style. I honestly do not know what more you could have crammed into this. From tons of photos to blue prints and line drawings (in scale no less!) this book really has it all.
Even if you are not a kangaroo hugger, this is a must for any fan of the modern Leopard family of tanks. From all of the photos of the vehicle to the blue prints of the track-width mine plow and other mine clearing devices this is a great resource for modellers as well as just armour enthusiasts. Even you “modern armour only” guys will want to pick up this book and have it for light reading in your down time. It really is that good.
Highs: An amazing amount of info packed into one book. Tons of pictures and drawing for the enthusiast or the builder. Lows: Pictures could be bigger, but not a deal breakerVerdict: Awesome. This is an amazing offering for the enthusiast or the modeller, with tons of info on the history and service not to mention an amazing array of photos from initial trials to end of service.
About Damon (didgeboy) FROM: WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES
I have been "building" models, collecting and starting mostly, since I was a kid and really started getting into it in my teens. The Tamiya kits if the 80's were what did it for me. I actually became a tanker in the US Army just to get a chance to study the Abrams up close (and drink German beer). I...