Germany to replace the Leopard 2 with its new KF51 Panther tank
BERLIN, GERMANY — The German battle tank arsenal, which barely hovers around three hundred Leopard 2s, will dwindle even further with the announced deployment of units to Ukraine. This comes at a time when these weapons are reawakening interest among Western arms procurement authorities.
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Local land systems company Rheinmetall revealed a few months ago its ability to renew these arsenals, amid the war in Ukraine, and recently offered more details.
The latest edition of the world’s largest military industry trade show, Eurosatory, held last June in Paris, had the KF51 Panther main battle tank among its stars. It is an armored vehicle with an operational weight of “only 59 tons”, its developer emphasizes, and with mobility based on the Leopard 2, although “much larger than current systems and has a maximum operational range of around 500 kilometers”.
With it, the source added, 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 did Rheinmetall offer?
Rheinmetall offered new details last month about this new weapon, which is currently undergoing an exhaustive test program to validate its components, according to information gathered by the European Defense Review.
The company’s vice president of main battle tanks, Mr. Alexander Kurth, explained at the time that Rheinmetall decided to completely rethink the concept of the main battle tank in the design of the KF51, with which they intend to go beyond the current tanks [Leopard] still based on technology in the 1980s.
130 mm gun
The KF51 Panther has a new weapon that surpasses the 120mm smoothbore gun of current tanks, which have reached their limits and are no longer as lethal against the increased protection of the new tanks that Russia is developing. Therefore, it has adopted an innovative 130 mm smoothbore gun, which can also be loaded with ammunition fully automatically. Rheinmetall estimates that this weapon is 50% more effective than current 120mm systems.
Armor and communication
Its defenses have also been overhauled, especially now that so-called stray munitions [also known as suicide drones or kamikazes] have been proven capable of destroying armored vehicles, as evidenced by the conflict in Ukraine, among other hit-and-run weapons in rotation.
Creating flexible networks to distribute all available information and data is also important through developments such as artificial intelligence. Mr. Kurth revealed that the new tank had received a boost since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago, although development began in 2016.
Rheinmetall’s top executive also highlighted the use of small drones on board to increase its close-in reconnaissance capabilities.
Like the Leopard 2 users, the new main battle tank uses the same undercarriage, power supply, and some 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 sideways, in addition to overcoming 2.5-meter wide ditches, 1.1-meter high steps, and 1.2-meter water deep without prior preparation.
360º 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 those of the commander’s sight and that of the gunner.
It can also be used to plan or control an action, being complemented by two other 10-inch screens to offer a more complete view and to 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 360-degree images generated by the dome’s two side cameras.
Up to 8000 units
The positions of the crew members are configured in such a way that from each of them, it is possible to carry out all actions so that everyone can perform any function at any moment. Thus, if necessary, the commander or gunner can divert the tank from its course or the driver can fire from his own.
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 happening these days with the delivery of Western tanks to Ukraine may disprove these predictions one way or another.
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