While the German government once again blocked the supply of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine (this time from Spain), German gunsmiths presented the latest development at Eurosatory 2022 – the main battle tank Panther KF51 from Rheinmetall, which will replace Leopard 2, produced since 1979.
On the other hand, Panther KF51 is a direct development of time-tested ideas and Leopard 2. Even the silhouette of the tank is a bit like the silhouette of Leopard 2A5 (1995), moreover, Panther KF51 uses Leopard 2 chassis which houses a new tower with a new 130 mm gun Rheinmetall Future Gun System (FGS).
According to the manufacturer, the new 130-mm gun is 50% more efficient and has a longer firing range than the modern standard 120-mm tank gun. In addition, the gun is combined with a machine gun for 20 shots, which allows you to significantly increase the rate of fire. Of course, FGS can use modern high-precision and programmable ammunition.
In addition to the main gun and a 12.7-mm machine gun paired with it, there is another 7.62-mm machine gun from the rear of the Panther KF51 turret, which is controlled by the Natter RCWS combat module. This is a kind of modern fully automatic anti-aircraft machine gun that will protect the tank from drones, including kamikaze drones.
Interestingly, the Panther KF51 has its own kamikaze drones. In the tower, next to the loading machine, are hidden four launch containers for Israeli barrage ammunition HERO 120 from UVision. These “birds” weighing 12.5 kg can be in the air for 60 minutes and hit targets at a distance of 40 km. The 3.5 kg warhead is designed to destroy enemy tanks over long distances.
The new tank is equipped with a modern protection system, as it composes reactive, active and passive elements. Panther KF51 has a touch threat detection system that distinguishes the types of ammunition that threaten the tank, and activates the corresponding protection. In addition, the machine has mine protection, protection against TAPS attacks from above, a fast smoke curtain installation system and traditional composite armor.
Despite the automatic charging system, the Panther KF51 still has an optional seat for the fourth crew member who must take control of the tank’s digital systems. Alternatively, this place can be taken by the company or battalion commander.
The weight of the new tank is 59 tons, compared to 66.5 tons in the Leopard 2A7. Given that the chassis of the tanks are the same, it is believed that the maneuverability and speed of the Panther KF51 will be better than its predecessor.
However, the most important advantage of the Panther KF51, according to Rheinmetall, is the total digitalization of the tank. From the development process, which will allow you to make changes in the design and easily update systems, to the integration of all electronic systems of the machine, optics, fire control systems and others under one software architecture. In the future, this digital architecture should support even artificial intelligence.
According to Rheinmetall, while developing the Panther KF51, they intended to create a new platform from scratch for further development. KF51 is only the first representative of a new generation of combat vehicles.
For reference only. The previous German tank, called the Panther, was the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther medium tank. And it was one of the best tanks of World War II, which very well fired Soviet T-34s. So it seems that Rheinmetall is proud of its new development and has high hopes for it.
We remind that Rheinmetall has been trying to sell us weapons since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The German government is blocking all producer initiatives. But the government is not forever, and Rheinmetall has been operating in the arms market for 133 years. So, the hope that someday tanks like the Panther KF51 will appear in the Armed Forces remains.
Weight – 59 tons
Range – 500 km
Speed - 65 km/h
The main weapon – 130-mm gun Rheinmetall Future Gun System (FGS)
Ammunition – 20 shots in the machine gun
Additional weapons – 1 12.7-mm machine gun, 1 7.62-mm machine gun in the Natter module RCWS, 4 HERO 120 kamikaze drones
Crew – 3-4 people