The German arsenal of main battle tanks, which is barely around three hundred Leopard 2, will be further reduced with the announced deployment of units in Ukraine. This comes at a time when these weapons are again arousing the interest of Western arms procurement authorities.
Local ground systems company Rheinmetall revealed its ability to renew these arsenals a few months ago, amid the war in Ukraine, and has recently offered more details.
The latest edition of the largest military industry fair in the world, Eurosatory, held last June in Paris, had the KF51 Panther main battle tank among its stars. It is an armored vehicle with an operating weight of “only 59 tons”, highlights its developer, and with mobility based on the Leopard 2, although “much greater than current systems and with a maximum operating range of about 500 kilometers”.
With it, adds the source, they hope to create a ” game changer for future battlefields” thanks to its “new standards in all areas: lethality, protection, intelligence, interconnectivity, and mobility.”
What has Rheinmetall offered?
According to information collected by the European Defense Review, Rheinmetall offered new details last month about this new weapon, which is currently undergoing an exhaustive test program to validate its components.
The company’s vice president of main battle tanks, Alexander Kurth, then explained that Rheinmetall decided to completely rethink the main battle tank concept in the design of the KF51, with which they intend to go beyond current [Leopard] tanks, still based on technology from the eighties.
The KF51 Panther features a new weapon that outperforms the 120mm smoothbore on current tanks, which have reached their limits and are no longer as deadly against the increased protection of the new tanks Russia is developing.
Therefore, it has adopted an innovative 130mm smoothbore gun, which can also be automatically loaded with ammunition. Rheinmetall estimates this weapon is 50% more effective than current 120mm systems.
Shielding and communication
Their defenses have also been revised, especially now that so-called stray munitions [also known as suicide drones or kamikazes] have been shown to be capable of destroying armored vehicles, as demonstrated in the Ukraine conflict, among other impact weapons in rotation.
Creating flexible networks to distribute all available information and data is also important, thanks to advances such as artificial intelligence. Mr. Kurth revealed that the new tank had received a boost since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago, although development started in 2016.
Rheinmetall’s chief executive also highlighted the use of small onboard drones to increase its close reconnaissance capabilities.
Like users of the Leopard 2, the new main battle tank uses the same landing gear, power supply, and part of the hull construction of the old tank.
The armored car will be able to develop at 70 kilometers per hour and accelerate from 0 to 40 kilometers per hour in eight seconds. The Panther KF51 is prepared to face a slope of 60% and 30% if it is lateral, in addition to overcoming ditches 2.5 meters wide, steps 1.1 meters high, and waters 1.2 meters deep without prior preparation.
360-degree screens and cameras
Working with it is facilitated by a 23-inch main screen that offers a view of the entire environment thanks to the 360º front camera with which it is equipped. In it, you can also see other points of view, such as the commander’s sight and that of the gunner.
It can also be used to plan or control an action, complemented by two other 10-inch screens to offer a complete vision and serve as an alternative in case of failure of the main one, as well as two more at the height of the main one, which offers images of 360 degrees generated by the two side cameras of the dome.
Up to 8000 units
The crew members’ positions are configured in such a way that from each one of them, it is possible to carry out all the actions so that everyone can perform any function at any time. So, if necessary, the commander or gunner can steer the tank off track, or the driver can fire from his.
The manufacturer estimates a market of between 500 and 800 units of its new battle tank by 2035 and between 5,000 and 8,000 after that date.
The news that is taking place these days with the delivery of Western tanks to Ukraine can refute these predictions in one way or another.