The German armaments group Rheinmetall is presenting the new KF 51 main battle tank at the Eurosatory 2022 armaments fair in Paris. It is to replace the aging tank "Leopard 2" and will be called "Panther" in the future. The group refers to the higher mobility as well as more firepower and more protection.
The armaments company Rheinmetall has surprisingly presented a newly developed main battle tank. At the Eurosatory armaments fair in Paris, CEO Armin Papperger presented an armored vehicle called "Panther" - the legitimate successor to the "Leopard 2", reports the "Handelsblatt" and the "Welt" unanimously. For a long time, experts considered it to be the world's strongest battle tank, but the "Leopard 2" is slowly getting on in years.
Germany and France therefore want to develop a new main battle tank together. Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and the French Nexter, which have merged to form KNDS, as well as Rheinmetall have been commissioned to do this. In the meantime, however, the leadership is actually with KNDS, which may also be a reason for Papperger's deviating from the armaments cooperation. According to the "Handelsblatt", the group feels left out by its rival in the project.
The Rheinmetall engineers therefore designed a model themselves: According to Rheinmetall, the "KF51 Panther" - as it is officially called - is an in-house development that was carried out independently of the Franco-German tank project. "The Panther is thus appearing on the world markets as a potential successor to the Leopard battle tank and similar combat vehicles," the company said.
Visually, the vehicle is based on the "Lynx" armored personnel carrier, but the "Panther" is larger and, at 59 tons, significantly heavier. In terms of weight, however, the Panther is slightly below the "Leopard 2", which should increase mobility in the field. Compared to the "Leopard 2", Rheinmetall has also upgraded its armament.
The "Panther" is equipped with a cannon with a caliber of 130 millimeters, which enables stronger and longer-range ammunition than the "Leopard" and thus achieves a more than 50 percent higher effect, explained CEO Papperger. In addition, the ammunition no longer has to be balanced into the gun barrel by hand. This is done by a so-called loading machine.
He also promises better protection against enemy fire for the three-person crew and digital networking with other weapon systems. From the point of view of military experts, the latter in particular will become significantly more important in the future. As the "world" says, the Panther is to be equipped with accompanying drones, operated by one person on board. Incoming guided missiles and projectiles or kamikaze drones destroy a so-called distance-active protection system immediately before impact.
A major advantage of the "Panther" is that it can be deployed much more quickly than the new battle tanks in the networked ground combat system MCGS (Main Ground Combat System), which Germany and France are currently laboriously awaiting for 2035.
According to reports, the first countries from Eastern Europe are said to have expressed interest in the new battle tank. However, the Rheinmetall boss would like to see the Bundeswehr as a reference customer. It is to be extensively upgraded after the Russian attack on Ukraine. This also includes a new main battle tank, which according to previous plans will come from KNDS/Rheinmetall from 2035. Part of the 100 billion euros reserved by the government for the armament is earmarked for this.
The new tank is also a message to Russia. In 2015, the T-14 Armata tank was shown in Moscow, which initially made the NATO military nervous. He was credited with a technique superior to that of the leopard. Not much is left of the myth of the "best battle tank in the world" - and apparently there are only a few copies instead of the announced four-digit numbers. Nevertheless, Russia's tank developers should not be underestimated, they say. At 125 millimeters, the Armata has a larger caliber than the "Leopard" and, like the "Panther", has an unmanned turret, which means greater safety for the crew.