This is the first modern German main combat tank in more than 40 years. The KF51, or “Panther,” is loaded to the gills with cutting-edge innovations such a more powerful main gun, a computerized computer network, and advanced armor. The Panther can even defend against “top-attack” missiles like the Javelin missile, an American-made weapon that is wreaking havoc on Putin’s forces in Ukraine.
Germany’s Rheinmetall displayed their KF51 Panther fighter jet at France’s Eurosatory arms expo on Monday. The event occurs every two years and serves as a platform for European armaments manufacturers to promote their newest innovations. The Panther, shown at the top of this article, was recently launched by Rheinmetall, and it sports a digital-camouflage design in shades of gray, black, and bright yellow.
Panther is a common name since it accurately describes the animal. In 1942, German engineers developed the Panzerkampfwagen V, or “Panther,” to fight back against Russian tanks like the T-34 medium tank. The Panther was a top contender for greatest tank of the war, but it suffered from serious problems with its mechanics and dependability. The Panther first saw action in the 1943 Battle of Kursk and went on to see action in numerous other conflicts, including D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, on both the Eastern and Western fronts.
The Leopard 2 was a contemporary of the American M1 Abrams tank
And its successor, the KF51, is its spiritual heir. Over a dozen armies around the world are still using the Leopard 2 today after it first appeared in the 1980s. The Leopard II has been refined over many years, with the most recent iteration being the Leopard 2A7 used by the German military. Unfortunately, as is the case with many improved systems, there comes a moment when further improvements are impracticable. Creating something brand new is the only option for moving forward.
The new tank is called a Panther. The overall contour of the hull suggests newer, heavier armor along the front and sides, but it appears to use the same fundamental hull design as the Leopard 2. The Panther’s engine compartment has the same general shape as the Leopard 2’s. However, the Panther is said to still be equipped with a 1,100 kilowatt/1,500 horsepower engine, the same amount of power as is available in the Leopard 2.
The Panther’s turret is larger, has sharper angles, and extends further out over the engine compartment to accommodate the new 130-millimeter main gun and its heavier ammunition. The KF51 is the first mass-produced tank to sport a main gun larger than the industry standard 120 millimeters. The end of the Cold War and improved ties with Russia rendered the larger 130-millimeter caliber unneeded, despite having been tested by NATO countries in the 1990s. This was especially true of the United States, Germany, and France.
The new gun, dubbed Future Gun System (FGS)
It is a direct response to the 2015 introduction of the Russian T-14 Armata tank. Rheinmetall asserts that the “kill range” of FGS is “50 percent longer” than that of traditional 120-millimeter guns. The new gun has a barrel length that is 52 times the diameter of the barrel, or 130 millimeters if you believe Europäische Sicherheit & Technik. That’s the equivalent of 22.1 feet in length, or 6,760 millimeters. There is also a shroud on the barrel that looks very futuristic, but its use in the tank remains unclear.
The KF51’s main gun is autoloading, just like the Leopard 2’s. This means the tank will have a commander, gunner, and driver instead of the usual four. (There are four people required to operate an American M1 Abrams tank since a human loader is used instead of an autoloader.) However, Rheinmetall claims that the KF51 can accommodate a fourth crewmember who can serve as either a company-level commander or a drone operator.The KF51’s main gun is accompanied by a 12.7 millimeter (.50 caliber) coaxial machine gun. Compared to the 7.62 millimeter machine guns commonly mounted on previous tanks’ coaxial turrets, this cannon is considerably larger and heavier. To avoid wasting 130 mm gun rounds on less strongly armored targets like trucks, light armored vehicles, artillery pieces, and ground personnel, the gunner can switch to the larger machine gun.
The Panther has several other cutting-edge upgrades. With the tank’s exterior digital cameras, the crew can see their surroundings in all directions without putting themselves in danger of being shot at. Tank crew members can use an onboard remote to fire a second 7.62mm machine gun at ground or airborne foes. Tanks may perform their own local reconnaissance thanks to the KF51’s ability to launch four reconnaissance quadcopters from the turret. The turret incorporates a drone launcher that can discharge four Hero 120 loitering munitions. The Hero 120, produced in Israel, can stay in the air for an hour and carries a nine-pound bomb. Panther tanks equipped with Hero 120 may now fire on foes hidden behind cover, such as those hiding in the woods.
The Swedish NLAW and the American Javelin are only two examples of top-attack weapons that have shown devastating effectiveness in Ukraine. Most Western tanks are just as defenseless against top-attack guns, and Panther’s technology is the first of its kind. It is unclear how the new defense system operates, although it has been speculated that the quadcopters will move to destroy incoming projectiles.
The fact that KF51 only weights 59 tons is fascinating
That’s skinny by today’s standards and will result in a quick, nimble tank. An increased gun size, loitering munitions, and drones are not included in the 73.6-ton weight of the newest M1 Abrams variant. According to Rheinmetall, the tank is protected by both active defenses (active protection systems that shoot down incoming anti-tank rockets and missiles) and reactive defenses (explosive tiles that distort a molten anti-tank shaped charge). KF51 could reduce its overall weight by relying more on active and reactive defenses, which are lighter, than heavier passive defenses.
The key issue is whether or not new tanks, like the KF51, are indeed needed. Russia’s armored troops, using obsolete tanks and poorly trained crews, have performed dismally in their invasion of Ukraine. The Russian tank army has been severely depleted and no longer represents a significant threat. However, the KF51’s cutting-edge innovations and larger cannon put it ahead of the West’s current generation of tanks, which date back to the 1970s and 1980s. A sure bet, but a costly one, is to outgun the enemy.