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Successor to “Leopard 2”: Rheinmetall introduces the “Panther” main battle chariot.

Successor to “Leopard 2”
Rheinmetall introduces the “Panther” main battle chariot.

German armaments group Rheinmetall presents the new KF 51 main battle tank at the Eurosatory 2022 armaments fair in Paris. It will replace the old “Leopard 2” tank and will be called “Panther” in the future. The group refers to the increased mobility, increased firepower and increased protection.

The Rheinmetall armament group surprisingly presented a newly developed main tank. At the Eurosatory arms fair in Paris, CEO Armin Papperger presented an armored vehicle called “Panther” – the legitimate successor of the “Leopard 2”, unanimously reported “Handelsblatt” and “Welt”. For a long time, experts have considered it the most powerful tank in the world, but the “Leopard 2” is slowly moving forward over the years.

Germany and France therefore want to develop a new main tank together. Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and France’s Nexter, which merged to form KNDS, as well as Rheinmetall were hired to do so. In the meantime, however, the leadership is actually with KNDS, which could also be a reason for Papperger’s abandonment of arms cooperation. According to “Handelsblatt”, the group feels excluded from its rival in the project.

Rheinmetall designs the model for the successor to Leopard 2

Rheinmetall engineers then designed a model themselves: according to Rheinmetall, the “KF51 Panther” – as it is officially called – is an in-house development that was made independently of the Franco-German tank design. “The Panther is therefore appearing on world markets as a potential successor to the Leopard tank and similar combat vehicles,” the company said.

Visually, the vehicle is based on the “Lynx” infantry fighting vehicle, 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 on the pitch. Compared to the “Leopard 2”, Rheinmetall has also improved its armament.

More range and firepower and better protection

The “Panther” is equipped with a gun with a caliber of 130 millimeters, which allows for stronger and longer-range ammunition than the “Leopard” and thus achieves an effect greater than 50 percent, explained CEO Papperger. Additionally, ammunition no longer has to be manually balanced in the gun barrel. This is done by a so-called loading machine.

It also promises better protection against enemy fire for the three-man crew and a digital network with other weapon systems. From the point of view of military experts, the latter in particular will acquire significantly greater importance in the future. As the “world” says, the Panther must be equipped with accompanying drones, operated by a person on board. Guided missiles and incoming projectiles or kamikaze drones destroy a so-called remote active protection system immediately before impact.

A major advantage of the “Panther” is that it can be deployed much faster than the new main tank in the Main Ground Combat System (MCGS), which Germany and France are currently eagerly awaiting for 2035.

First interest from Eastern Europe for the successor of “Leopard 2”.

According to reports, early Eastern European countries are said to have expressed interest in the new tank. However, the Rheinmetall boss would like to see a reference customer in the Bundeswehr. It needs to be extensively updated after the Russian attack on Ukraine. This also includes a new main tank, which according to previous plans will come from KNDS / Rheinmetall from 2035. Part of the 100 billion euros reserved by the government for armament is earmarked for this.

The new tank is also a message for Russia. In 2015, the T-14 Armata tank was shown in Moscow, which initially unnerved the NATO military. He was attributed a technique superior to that of the leopard. There isn’t much left of the “best tank in the world” myth – and apparently there are only a few copies instead of the announced four-digit numbers. However, Russian tank developers shouldn’t be underestimated, they say. At 125 millimeters, the Armada has a larger caliber than the “Leopard” and, like the “Panther”, has an unmanned turret, which means greater safety for the crew.

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