Even though the Belgian Army (Belgisch leger/Armée Belge) has deployed on UN missions and maintained a sector (BSD - Belgische Strijdkrachten in Duitsland) in West Germany during the Cold War as part of NATO's Northern Army Group (NORTHAG), it is rare to find a book on Belgian armor. This Model Foto Focus book adds to the Trackpad catalog of Leopard titles and expands on their coverage of Belgian armor which is very much welcome. Great coverage of the early usage of the Leopard 1 by Belgium and leaves me hungry for Part 2 with the Leopard 1A5 (BE).
The Belgian Army was one of the first export users of the Leopard 1 and it replaced their fleet of M-47 Patton tanks. Initially nearly identical to the German Leopard 1, except for the FN MAG loader's and coaxial machine guns, they were upgraded with improved fire control which allowed the Belgian Army team to score top marks against other NATO teams in several of the Canadian Army Trophy tank gunnery competitions which were held in Germany during the Cold War period. In additional to the mostly internal modifications, there were later external modifications which made it more distinguishable from other Leopard 1s. The early Belgian Leopard 1s were deployed at home and in the BSD sector of West Germany. The later 1A5 version was also deployed in Kosovo as part of KFOR.
The book is a soft cover landscape format of 92 pages with mostly color photographs. It covers the early years of the Leopard 1(BE) prior to the 1A5 upgrade. Full coverage of all aspects of the early Belgian Leopard for modellers and general armor enthusiasts.
An introduction explains the procurement of the Leopard 1 by the Belgians and the units that received them. This is followed by details of the production and upgrades, including the AVLS/SACT improvements to the fire control system. Disposition at the end of the Cold War is covered a bit but there should be more in Part 2 that covers the Leopard 1A5(BE).
The subsequent chapters are:
1. Leopard 1(BE) In Service - photographs of the Leopard 1(BE) in field use
2. Leopard 1 AVLS - walk around of preserved Leopard 1(BE) that was not upgraded to 1A5(BE)
3. Running Gear - details of the tracks (including the early type), roadwheels, etc
4. Hull Front - details of front hull fittings, lights, etc
5. Both Sides - details of the hull sides and bins that were mounted on pioneer tool mounts
6. Hull Rear - details of hull rear fittings, exhaust and engine intake
7. Inside the Hull - details of the engine compartment, main section with turret removed and the driver's station.
8. Leopard 1 AVLS - Turret - details of the cast turret, gun and fire control upgrades
9. Leopard 1 AVLS - Turret Interior - details of the gun, controls sights and turret floor
10. AVLS - Uparmour Trials -pictures of Leopard 1(BE) with trial fitting of Blohm & Voss armour
11. Leopard CRAC - details of tank modified to train infantry in anti-tank tactics
12. Brazil - pictures of tanks that were sold to Brazil
13. In Preservation - pictures of Belgian Leopards at Brasschaat and other locations in Belgium followed by a chart of Leopards with delivery date and disposition
Every effort has been made to cover all angles and details. Text and picture descriptions give a great history of the early Belgian Leopard. Fantastic detail for the modeler wanting to make their Belgian Leopard more accurate. Merely in presence, this book is a very welcome sight but it's 92 pages are packed with a level of detail not seen in most armor books. This is due in large portion to the preserved Leopards in the collection of the Gunfire Museum at Brasschaat and the painstaking effort by the author to capture every detail.
Highs: Fantastic coverage of the early Belgian Leopard. It is great to see them in a perfect preserved state.Lows: Would like to see more pictures of the Leopard 1(BE) in the field but those who like Belgian armour know they are hard to come by.Verdict: Fantastic coverage of the early Belgian Leopard 1 but also great details useful for any cast turret Leopard. Trackpad is doing a great job filling a void in Belgian armor coverage.