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The Lince (meaning "Lynx") was a Spanish main battle tank development program during the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was intended to replace the Spanish Army's M47 and M48 Patton tanks which it received through a military assistance program between 1954 and 1975. The Lince was also intended to complement the AMX-30E tanks manufactured for the Army during the 1970s. Companies from several nations, such as German Krauss-Maffei, Spanish Santa Bárbara, and French GIAT, bid for the development contract. Focusing on mobility and firepower, the program put secondary priority on protection and aimed for a tank lighter and faster than its competitors. The vehicle's size was also restricted by the Spanish railroad and highway network. To achieve a sufficient level of firepower and protection, given the size requirements, the Lince was to use Rheinmetall's 120mm L/44 tank-gun and German composite armor from the Leopard 2A4.

The Spanish government decided to upgrade its AMX-30Es in the late 1980s, which distracted attention from the program. The Lince was eventually cancelled in 1990 when Spain adopted a large number of North American M60 Patton tanks retired from Europe in accordance with the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. These tanks replaced the M47s and M48s, and fulfilled Spain's need to modernize its tank forces in the short term. Prototypes were not manufactured and no announcements were made on who would receive the contract. Four years later, the Spanish government managed to procure and locally manufacture the Leopard 2, fulfilling the long term modernization goal established in the Lince program.


During the 1950s the Spanish Army was supplied by the United States with 552 M47 and M48 Patton tanks as a mutual defense pact against a potential Soviet invasion of Western Europe. The first tanks were delivered in 1954, and the fleet was upgraded in the 1970s to equal the capabilities of M60 Patton tanks. Spain was, however, interested in replacing these tanks as early as the 1960s with the French AMX-30 or German Leopard 1. It was eventually decided to purchase the French tank and by 1975 the Spanish Army had 299 AMX-30s, designated as AMX-30Es. 280 of these tanks were manufactured by the local company Empresa Nacional Santa Bárbara (now Santa Bárbara Sistemas) who received the AMX-30 patent from the French company GIAT. As the first batch of production of AMX-30s ended, the Spanish Army and Santa Bárbara began a research program for an eventual modernization of the AMX-30 to correct deficiencies such as mechanical reliability, armor protection and the fire control system. In fielding the AMX-30E, the Army found their upgraded M47s and M48s to be outdated; their earliest M47 tank was more than 30 years old. They required a modern tank that could complement their AMX-30Es and started looking for a replacement for their Patton fleet.


In 1984, the Spanish Ministry of Defense declared its intent to set aside 120 billion pesetas (1.1 billion dollars) for a future tank program and attracted interest from five foreign companies. German company Krauss-Maffei and Spanish company Santa Bárbara presented a joint bid in mid-1984 that would produce a tank based on 1970s technology. The French government proposed to cooperate with Spain in designing a tank complete with new technology—they would later develop this program on their own as the AMX-Leclerc. However, the French admitted that there would be restrictions placed on Empresa Nacional Santa Bárbara when it came to exporting the tank. The Italian government proposed a similar deal for a cooperative tank design. The American company General Dynamics and British company Vickers offered the M1 Abrams and Valiant, respectively; the Spanish government rejected their offers the following year because of the low likelihood of local production and export of the tank. By late 1985, the only offers still under consideration were those from the German-Spanish collaboration and the French and Italian governments. Krauss-Maffei's Lince bid provided the clearest technical designs. The tank would be forty-ninetonnes and equipped with a 120-millimeter main gun. It could fire this gun on the move and aim at targets with effectiveness in day and night operations. Fitted with a 1,200horsepower (894.84 kW) engine, the Lince could travel as fast as 70kilometers per hour (43.50 mph) on the roads. Although heavily based on the Leopard 2A4, the Lince was smaller and lighter, trading protection for mobility. Specifically, the Lince prioritised enhanced mobility over the irregular Spanish terrain. Furthermore, size restrictions were imposed due to the existing capabilities of Spain's railroad and highway network. Although the reduced armor conflicted with the problems that the Spanish had with AMX-30E's thin armor, the Lince used a multi-layer armor similar to that of the German Leopard 2A4, providing greater protection than standard armor for a similar weight. The protection was further enhanced by the low profile turret, again similar to that of the Leopard 2A4.

In early 1986, the Ministry of Defense declared that it would choose a contract within a matter of months. News sources cited that Krauss-

A Lince in Spain

Maffei would most likely gain the contract, although the French might get it due to past and existing French armament contracts with Spain. Apart from producing the French-designed AMX-30, the Spanish government also had a contract for Mirage F1 fighter planes and Puma utility helicopters in 1979. In early 1987, France again offered Spain the contract to co-develop and co-produce the AMX-Leclerc. This time they added the lucrative term of joint export. Despite the offer and ongoing collaboration with the Italians, Spanish investment in the German-Spanish Lince program grew up to 200 billion pesetas (1.8 billion dollars). However, the Spanish government did not announce any winner for the contract. This indecision led Krauss-Maffei to freeze their bid for the Lince. Krauss-Maffei also cited the loss of millions of dollars due to failures on part of Santa Bárbara Sistemas, who would manufacture the Lince.

Decline of the programEdit

The Spanish Ministry of Defense agreed to modernize the Army's AMX-30Es in 1987 and alloted 16billion pesetas (155million dollars) to the program. Army upgraded their entire AMX-30E fleet to EM1 and EM2 standards. This upgrading program posed a threat to the Lince program. Around the same time the Spanish government expressed interest in acquiring American M60 Patton tanks that were being retired from Central Europe, in accordance with the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. In October and November, the Spanish government began to negotiate for 400 to 500 M60A1 and M60A3 tanks, and planned to upgrade their acquired M60A1 tanks to M60A3 standards. In December, the United States agreed to transfer 532 M60A1 and M60A3 tanks to replace Spain's M47s and M48s. After receiving 50 of the 272 A1s, Spain canceled procurement of these tanks and opted to only receive the 260 M60A3s. Due to the modernization of the AMX-30, the decision to replace older Patton tanks with the M60A3 and Krauss-Maffei's criticism of the management of the indigenous tank program, the Lince was canceled in 1989. Management issues in Santa Bárbara Sistemas also played their part, including yearly negative balances and the reduction of factory personnel. However, unlike the planned Lince, the M60s only satisfied Spain's immediate need to modernize the army's tank fleet in the short term. They were not a long term modernization solution as Spain's M47s and M48s had already been upgraded to equivalents of the M60.

As a result, Spain negotiated with Germany over the procurement and local production of a large number of Leopard 2A5s; a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the two in 1995, and the Germans loaned 108 Leopard 2A4s to the Spanish Army for five years starting from 1998. In 2005, the Spanish Ministry of Defense declared intentions to buy the tanks instead of renting them. The local production terms in the Memorandum allowed Santa Bárbara Sistemas to start producing Leopard 2Es in 2003, and the first platoon of tanks was delivered in December 2003. In comparison to the smaller Lince, the Leopard 2A4 weighs 55 tonnes (61.1 tons) and is powered by a 1,500 hp (1,103 kW) diesel engine. The greater weight of the Leopard 2A4 is due in part to its thicker armor, affording greater protection and balancing out the loss in mobility as compared to the Lince.

Comparison to the alternativesEdit

Lince Leopard 2A4 Leclerc M1A1 Abrams M60A3 Patton
Weight 49 t (54.01 tons) 55 t (60.63 tons) 55.6 t (61.1 tons) 57.10 t (63 tons) 55.6 t (61.1 tons)
Gun 120 mm L/44 smoothbore (4.72 inches) 120 mm L/44 smoothbore (4.72 in) 120m mm L/52 smoothbore (4.72 in) 120 mm L/44 smoothbore (4.72 in) 105 mm M68 rifled tank-gun (4.13 in)
Ammunition 40 rounds 42 rounds 40 rounds 40 rounds 63 rounds
Road range 550 km (341.75 miles) 500 km (310.69 mi) 550 km (341.75 mi) 450 km (280 mi) 480 km (298 mi)
Engine output 1,200 hp (894.84 kW) 1,500 hp (1,110 kW) 1,500 hp (1,110 kW) 1,500 hp (1,110 kW) 750 hp (559.27 kW)
Maximum velocity 70 km/h (43.50 mph) 68 km/h (42.25 mph) 71 km/h (44.12 mph) 64 km/h (40 mph) 48.28 km/h (30 mph)

See alsoEdit

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