Twenty Leopard 2 tanks arrived in Afghanistan on Thursday, the first shipment aimed at refreshing the Canadian Forces' aging fleet.
The freshly painted tanksemerged from the mouth of a massive Antonov cargo plane and rolled slowly onto the tarmac in Kandahar Airfield. The tanks, being leased from Germany, will eventually replace aging 31-year-old Leopard 1 tanks currently being used.
The federal government suggests the new tanks might reduce casualties from roadside bombs and mines, but top soldiers concede the tanks aren't specifically designed to thwart such attacks. They say, however, that the heavily armoured tanks will likely help.
'It's another weapon in our arsenal'
The military is toutingthe tanks' tough image, saying they will give soldiers a morale boost and serve to intimidate insurgents.
"A tank is a very impressive machine," said Col. Christian Juneau, the deputy-commander of Canadians in southern Afghanistan. "When you see a tank coming down the field or the road coming at you and you have an AK-47 in your hands, you may be tempted to put that AK-47 on the ground and go back to your family."
"It's another weapon in our arsenal," added Lt.-Col. Stephane Lafaut, incoming commander of the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team."It could give our soldiers more confidence and be a bit of a shock for enemy troops."
The tanks have stronger armour, superior firing capabilities and go twice as fast as theolder generation tanks they will replace.
As many as 100 more of the second-hand machines will come from the Netherlands, with their first shipment set for fall of 2008.