GLOBAL DEFENSE MARKET
EUROSATORY NEWS: New Tank Armed with 130mm Gun Makes Debut
Rheinmetall imagePARIS — German automotive and arms company Rheinmetall has rolled out a new main battle tank, built nearly from scratch, that it says will set “new standards” for armored vehicles.
The KF51 Panther debuted June 13 during the Eurosatory 2022 international defense conference in Paris. The tank features a new armament system, comprehensive situational awareness tools and a completely digital architecture, making it ideal for the fast-changing scenarios expected in future battlefields, according to the company.
The vehicle was not developed by request of any Rheinmetall customer, but a company spokesperson said on the sidelines of Eurosatory that the KF51 Panther will be marketed towards NATO companies.
The KF51 Panther is entirely brand new, minus some elements of its chassis that are derived from the Leopard 2 main battle tank’s chassis made by Rheinmetall, the spokesperson said.
The vehicle was developed in parallel to the Main Ground Combat System, a joint French and German project to replace both their Leopard 2 and Leclerc main battle tanks. Although the countries are still refining the requirements of the replacement tank it will need, Rheinmetall decided to debut a Leopard 2 replacement now, the spokesperson said.
“There are 19 nations that use Leopard 2 at the moment, but only maybe one or two countries that will be involved with the Main Ground Combat System project,” he said. “So, what should we do with the other ones? One idea was to develop this type of tank.”
The main feature of the tank is its Future Gun System, which consists of a 130mm gun and fully automatic ammunition handling system — giving the KF51 Panther an improvement in effectiveness and range over current systems that use 120 mm armaments, according to the company. An autoloader carries up to 20 rounds ready for fire in the back of the vehicle separate from the crew.
Several options exist for lethality, the spokesperson said. Along with a coaxial machine gun that complements 130 mm weapon, larger ammunition can be put into the back of the autoloader, remote-controlled weapon stations can be attached, and launchers for loitering munitions can be integrated, he explained.
The KF51 Panther holds a crew of three people, including a commander and gunner sitting in the turret and a driver in the chassis. A fourth crewmember is available to house a weapons or subsystem specialist — or even battalion commander — when needed, the Rheinmetall spokesperson said.
In addition, as a “fully digitized tank," the battle management system can share a common operating picture with other platforms on the battlefield, he said. Operations can also be transferred between crew members digitally.
Because both the turret and weapons are controllable from inside the chassis, Rheinmetall is planning variants of the KF51 Panther that will include unmanned turrets, the spokesperson said.
Optical sensors and radars are located all around the KF51 Panther that provide 360-degree situational awareness to crewmembers inside, he noted. Along with active protection, the system provides both sensor-based reactive and passive protection, the spokesperson said.
“If a threat comes closer, it is detected by the radar and verified by the optical sensors,” he explained. “If the passive elements of the [KF51 Panther] aren’t enough, directed energy … is pushed out, and it destroys the incoming target.”
Rheinmetall plans to have the KF51 Panther ready for production in 2025.
Topics: Global Defense Market