It will carry a 130mm cannon and drop HERO 120 loitering munition

Panther KF51: this is the latest generation combat tank that will replace the Leopard 2

The German company Rheinmetall today presented a new main battle tank, that will replace the already famous Leopard 2, in service since 1979.

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Named Panther KF51, following the German tradition of putting names of felines to their main battle tanks (in this case they reuse the nickname used by the 1943 Panzer V Panther), Rheinmetall published today after 3:00 p.m. CMT the following video showing how this armored vehicle will be:

The official presentation was made at the same time at Eurosatory, a defense exhibition held in Paris, discovering a vehicle that was covered with a tarpaulin. On its website, Rheinmetall refers to the Panther as a radically new MBT concept not constrained by yesterday’s technology. Drawing on some of the latest technologies, the Panther was designed from the ground up to deliver the highest lethality on the battlefield, combined with an integrated survivability concept and connected by a fully digitised NGVA data backbone to enable next-generation operational capabilities and automation. This enables a reduction in crew size, which paves the way for unmanned turret options and Human-Machine Teaming.”

One of the most notable details of the Panther is its 130mm Future Gun System (FGS), a larger caliber than the 120mm Rheinmetall L55 gun that the latest versions of the Leopard 2 have been using. The German company has also announced another new feature of the Panther compared to its predecessor: “a fully automated ammunition handling system”.

According to the German company, the new FGS gun, “developed by Rheinmetall, enables a 50 per cent longer kill range to be achieved (than 120 mm) with an unrivalled rate of fire due to the autoloader performance.” As for the armament, there is another important novelty: the Panther will carry a 12.7mm coaxial machine gun, instead of the already classic 7.62mm MG3 that the Leopard 2 carried.

In this image published by Rheinmetall we can see the inside of the turret:

  • Atpoint 1 we see the new 130 mm gun, which will be called L52 and will be smooth-bore, like the L55 of the Leopard 2, and will have an elevation range of 9-20º, and the fully digital, high-precision turret drive and stabilization system.
  • At point 2 we see the 12.7 mm coaxial machine gun (which will be mounted to the right of the barrel), which will hold 250 rounds and will be easily accessible from the outside .
  • At point 3, at the rear of the turret, we see the Natter RCWS drone protection system, which will include a 7.62mm machine gun with 2,500 rounds.
  • At point 4 is the tank commander’s SEOSS 2 sight, which will include a multispectral camera system and a laser rangefinder.
  • At point 5 we see the EMES sight of the gunner. Rheinmetall does not offer any further data on this scope. The Leopard 2, from its first versions, was already equipped with a viewfinder of this type.
  • At point 6 we see the gun autoloader, which will carry up to 20 projectiles ready to load and will have unloading and resupply capacity.
  • Finally, the point 7 shows the HERO 120 Starter, equipped with four HERO 120 loitering munitions, a type of smart munition manufactured by Israel and that is halfway between the anti-tank munitions and drones.

As you can see in the following screenshot of the Rheinmetall video, externally the Panther has certain similarities with the Leopard 2, both in its chassis and in its turret, which shares the same wedge-shaped armor layout.

Rheinmetall has indicated that the combat weight of the Panther will be 59 tons (the Leopard 2A6 weighs 62.3) and it will have a range of more than 500 km. The German company points out that the Panther “provides far greater mobility than current systems. This puts it in a battle-winning weight category and it also fits the tunnel profile AMovP-4L without preparation: a requirement that no current MBT upgrade fulfils. Consequently, the Panther excels in tactical and strategic mobility.”

Another important aspect of the new battle tank is its computer technology: The Panther is a truly software-defined tank fully enabled to collect and disseminate information on the multi-domain battlefield. Deep integration of modern BMS and software-defined communication systems enables forces to operate in collaborative combat environments such as cross-platform sensor-to-shooter links. The Panther is designed to control assigned unmanned aerial vehicles such as on-board or off-board drones, loitering ammunition and a range of uncrewed ground vehicles.”

Although the Panther will usually carry three crew members, the official dossier of the battle tank published by Rheinmetall, on its chassis there will be a place for an optional fourth crew member. In this image of the dossier we see the place that each one will occupy:

  1. Commander (left part of the turret).
  2. Gunner (right part of the turret).
  3. Driver (right front part of the chassis).
  4. Specialist (front left of chassis). In this position, a company commander or a drone operator may go.

In the following image we can see what the tank commander’s position will look like, highly digitized:

To finish, Rheinmetall has announced: “The Panther is the first of a new MBT family. In the near future, there will be further innovations that support environmentally friendly peacetime operations and further optimisation in terms of automation and effectiveness.”

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