First of all, it attracted attention with its design, and secondly, according to its creators, it will change "the rules of warfare on the battlefields of the future." According to them, the latest combat standards, protection and reconnaissance capabilities are applied in the tank. It is able to interact with other systems and has high mobility.
Rheinmetall has taken the next step in its tracked product renewal campaign launched in 2016, replenishing the Lynx KF31 and KF41 infantry fighting vehicles with a new main battle tank, for which they even revived the name of their fascist past - the Panther.
As far as can be judged from the disclosed data, the German "Panther" is a response to the Russian tank "Armata". The crew of the KF51 Panther is three people: the commander and gunner are in the turret, and the driver is in the main part of the hull. An additional place is also equipped there, which can be occupied by a specialist in weapons and subsystems, in particular, he can control drones, or a company and battalion commander. The latter, if necessary, can take control of the tower and weapons from this place.
Unlike the KF51, the turret of the Russian tank is uninhabited, and the crew is located in a separate compartment behind the frontal armor plate. Rheinmetall could not abandon the traditional layout of the tank, following the example of Russian tank builders, but they said that in future modifications they intend to create an uninhabited tower, and then a completely unmanned tank.
The mass of the new tank reaches 59 tons. Its maximum range on one gas station is about 500 kilometers. That is, the KF51 is six tons heavier than the Russian counterpart, but has the same power reserve.
A feature of the new tank was the 130-millimeter Rheinmetall Future Gun System gun, presented at the same exhibition in 2016. For the first time, the Germans moved away from the usual 120-mm cannon, which is on the Leopard 2 tanks and the American M1 Abrams, licensed in Germany. The weight of the gun with auxiliary systems reaches 3 tons. The Russian "Armatov" gun 2A82 weighs 2.7 tons. In terms of power, it exceeded the German 120-graph paper by 17%. The new gun from Rheinmetall is about 30% more powerful than the Russian one.
The Germans equipped the new gun with an automatic loader, which is absent on other mass-produced German tanks. 32 shells are loaded into the machine gun on the Russian gun. In German - 20. The rest of the ammunition, after emptying the machine, must be loaded manually. For the new weapon, various ammunition options have been created that allow strikes against all existing and even predicted targets.
Paired with a cannon is a 12.7 mm machine gun. There is also an additional turret, which can be equipped with remote-controlled weapons for close combat and defense against drones. At the Eurosatory exhibition, the KF51 model presented had a turret with a 7.62 mm machine gun.
A launcher for the Israeli HERO-120 unmanned aerial strike vehicle can also be integrated into the tank's weapon system. It is equipped on the tower. The missile is 1.5 meters long and weighs 12.5 kilograms, of which 3.5 kilograms are for the warhead. Hero-120 is equipped with an electric motor, flies at a maximum speed of 120 kilometers per hour for a distance of up to 40 kilometers. This homing munition enhances the KF51's ability to hit targets beyond line of sight.
The Panther has a comprehensive protection system that includes active, reactive and passive technologies. The active defense seems to be a variation on the Russian system installed on the Armata, which is capable, among other things, of shooting down sub-caliber projectiles flying towards the tank.
The tank uses the NGVA (NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture) digital architecture distributed today in the North Atlantic Alliance. In NATO countries, on board any new vehicle, they are striving to create their own digital IP network. Thus, all combat units of the theater of operations are united through the Internet.
All systems of the KF51 tank are connected to the NGVA digital architecture through special interface gateways. Additional sensors can also be integrated, which the company says will recognize and neutralize emerging threats soon after they are detected. Designed to operate in a hostile electromagnetic environment, the KF51 is said to be well protected against cyber threats.
Thanks to the panoramic optical sensor SEOSS and the main combat aiming device EMES, the commander and gunner can observe and hit targets each from their own combat position. They also have stabilized daylight and infrared optics with a built-in laser rangefinder. The image is displayed. The crew has an all-round view, and can also, without leaving the tank, use unmanned aerial reconnaissance systems and exchange the received data with other network members.
Rheinmetall does not report the timing of the launch into mass production.