KF51 Panther – Rheinmetall presents its own main battle tank with a 130mm gun
Bang at the gun fair. Rheinmetall features a full-fledged main battle chariot. The KF51 Panther is the West’s first response to Putin’s T-14 Army. And it threatens the Franco-German project of a joint super tank.
At the Eurosatory 2022 arms fair, Rheinmetall surprisingly presents a full-fledged main tank. The KF51. Rumored to face Putin’s T-14 Army. The KF51 is the first Western development of a main tank from the Cold War. Rheinmetall does not hesitate to name it: the KF51 bears the traditional name Panther. And thus it takes the name of Panzerkampfwagen V (Sd. Kfz. 171) of the German Wehrmacht.
With the KF51, Rheinmetall offers all countries that want to modernize their armies a modern alternative. There is also a less beautiful side to development. Germany and France are jointly developing a tank. He too is said to be the answer to the Russian T-14 Army. But the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) suffers from delays and rivalry. Among other things, Rheinmetall was effectively expelled from the “partners” in the management of the project. The panther is also an answer to this. Visually, it is based on the Lynz infantry fighting vehicle. Like the Panther, the Lynz is a purely industrial development without the involvement of the Bundeswehr bureaucracy. The Panther is heavier, larger and more heavily armed than the Lynz. The main tank weighs 59 tons, which is below the level of the Leopard 2. It is also equipped with a 130MM caliber tank gun instead of the 120MM.
Completely new tower
Rheinmetall is reluctant to go into details. But the Panther is likely to move away from the outdated concepts of Cold War tanks. It will adopt innovations that are already common in lighter armored personnel carriers and that already use the T-14 Armata. This should include a self-contained tower that does not require a crew. Associated with this would be better protection for the smaller crew in a special survival pod. It will have its own drone and hard kill system.
Of course, the panther is also a message for Putin, but in reality for the whole world. The Franco-German “super tank” MGCS will be delivered in 2035 at the earliest, given the usual delays in such cooperation, 2040 is more realistic. As the T-14 is already under construction, albeit in small numbers, there is a long waiting period during which the companies involved in the MGCS cannot offer a suitable tank. Countries that want to rearm in the face of the threat from Russia should be put off with a rather expensive modernization of their old Cold War tanks.
Fastest tanks on the market
The panther will push into this gap. It can be assumed that it can be delivered before 2030. Conditions should be similar to those of the Lynz. This means that production is not tied to Rheinmetall’s existing facilities, but can be set up in the customer’s country, so that many units can be delivered in a relatively short time. It can also be assumed that the tank will not remain the same, but that other models will be presented on the KF51 platform. Rheinmetall is committed to finding best practice solutions in export models. This means that maximum performance is sought with reasonable effort. This should make the Panther easier to build and maintain than models developed under the auspices of the weapons bureaucracy. It should also be much cheaper.
For the MGCS, the Panther greatly complicates the situation. It can hardly be assumed that countries ordering the Panther will want to change the system after just ten years, the Panther is taking potential customers away from the MGCS. At the same time, the pressure on the project grows. The higher costs and late delivery now have to be measured against the panther. MGCS clearly has to overcome it.
Pantera: a name with tradition
When it comes to naming, Rheinmetall stays true to tradition. Since World War II, German tanks have been named after the big cats. It is politically controversial, but the Panther name has a ring, like the AK47 in assault rifles. The state project for a tank howitzer avoided the Nazi-era name, hence the embarrassing name “Panzerhaubitze 2000”. The German Wehrmacht reacted to the T-34 with the Panther. Soviet development featured the unique tank concept in the years 1941 to 1943. At that time, the Panther was superbly armed, had excellent off-road capabilities, and was popular with its crews.
But its first use in 1943 on the Kursk front was premature. The Panthers faced more technical problems than the Soviets. Once these initial problems were addressed, it became apparent that the Panther was superior to the T-34 in terms of performance, at least if you ignore the engine. But there was one thing that German designers could not imitate. The T-34 was designed for ease of production and could be produced in large numbers by unskilled workers. The Panther, on the other hand, was a masterpiece of craftsmanship and never managed to match the production numbers of the Russian T-34 or the American Sherman.