Belgian Leopards Given Royal Farewell

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Belgium celebrated its independence day July 21 with four Leopard 1A5 tanks ending the military part of the traditional parade in front of the Royal Palace in Brussels. The Belgian army has phased out tracked vehicles to go completely wheeled and most of the armor during the parade was various versions of the Piranha 8 x 8 vehicle, including four direct fire 90s armed with 90 mm guns participating for the first time and an interesting-looking mine-clearing version with a plow.

Leopard 1 being transported to Brussels (Guy Verbruggen, Belgian Defense)

The Dutch army participated with the only other tracked vehicles on parade, a pair of CV90 armored infantry fighting vehicles. There were also two Dingo 2 protected reconnaissance vehicles from Luxembourg jointly procured with the Belgians.

Also taking part were members of the Canadian Royal 22nd Regiment wearing their red uniforms and Canadian black bear hats, who were invited to commemorate the unit's fighting in Belgium during the two world wars.

In addition to F-16s, the aerial flyby included two Belgian NH90s -- one in army colors and the other the naval version -- a German CH-53, a Dutch CH-47, and a French A400M (the Belgian aircraft will not be delivered until 2019).

In the old days, an entire battalion of Leopard 1s participated in the independence day parade, and although with 40 tanks it was only two-thirds the size of a U.S. tank battalion, it was still an impressive sight, especially as it speeded up around the corner after driving past the king, tearing up the road on the way.

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