Discover technical features of new German KF51 Panther MBT tank from Rheinmetall
Analysis of new Generation MBT (Main Battle Tank) in 2022, Part 3/4. German Company Rheinmetall unveils a new concept of Main Battle Tank with its KF51 Panther, the latest member of the Rheinmetall family of tracked armored vehicles (KF is short for "Kettenkraftfahrzeug", i.e., tracked vehicle). The Panther is the first of a new MBT family. In the near future, there will be further innovations that support environmentally friendly peacetime operations and further optimization in terms of automation and effectiveness. In this article, Army Recognition explains the technical features of the new German-made KF51 Panther.
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The German company Rheinmetall has developed the KF51 Panther, a new generation of MBT Main Battle Tank. (Picture source Rheinmetall)
The external design of the KF51 seems standard for an MBT but it features many new and modern technologies. Indeed, the KF51 has a crew of three, but if necessary a fourth crew member can board the vehicle as Specialist Crew Station Operator. Two crew stations are located in the chassis, with one dedicated to the driver and an optional station dedicated to a company commander, a drone operator or a wingman pilot.
The KF51 Panther fulfills the core capability of “dominate and destroy”. With the Rheinmetall Future Gun System consisting of a 130 mm cannon, a fully automated ammunition handling system, and additional armament options namely for HERO 120 loitering ammunition, the Panther has concentrated firepower for long-range strikes in multi-target engagements.
The KF51 Panther has a fully integrated, comprehensive, weight-optimized protection concept, incorporating active, reactive, and passive protection technologies. Without a doubt, the concept's most compelling feature is its active protection against KE threats. It increases the level of protection without compromising the weight of the system.
To increase its protection, the KF51 Panther is also fitted with the Rheinmetall Top Attack Protection System (TAPS) wards off threats from above, while the fast-acting Rosy smoke/obscurant system conceals the KF51 from enemy observation. Moreover, its digital NGVA architecture enables the integration of additional sensors for detecting launch signatures. Thanks to its pre-shot detection capability, the KF51 Panther can recognize and neutralize threats at an early stage. The standout survivability feature is undoubtedly the active KE protection, which increases protection levels without affecting the system weight. As a system designed to operate in a contested electromagnetic spectrum, the Panther is fully cyber-hardened.
The KF51 Panther integrates the latest technologies of protection, firepower, and mobility. (Picture source Rheinmetall)
The KF51 Panther is fitted with a two-man turret which is armed with the 130mm Rheinmetall Future Gun System (FGS) consisting of a 130 mm smoothbore gun and a fully automatic ammunition handling system. The autoloader holds 20 ready rounds. Compared to current 120 mm systems, the FGS delivers over 50 percent greater effectiveness at significantly longer ranges of engagement. The FGS can fire kinetic energy (KE) rounds as well as programmable airburst ammunition, and corresponding practice rounds.
The secondary armament of the KF51 Panther consists of a 12.7 mm coaxial machine gun that complements the main gun. Multiple Remote Controlled Weapon Station (RCWS) integration options give flexibility in proximity and drone defense. The optional HERO 120 loitering ammunition capability expands the Panther’s strike capability to non-line-of-sight targets and can be mounted depending on role and mission requirements. All weapons are connected with targeting sights and the fire control computer through the fully digitized architecture, allowing for hunter-killer and killer-killer operation, seamless target engagements, and future AI (Artificial Intelligence) decision support.
The KF51 Panther presented at the Eurosatory defense exhibition in June 2022, was equipped with Rheinmetall's new "Natter" (adder) RCWS in the 7.62mm variant. Integrating a launcher for HERO 120 loitering munitions from Rheinmetall's partnership with the Israeli company UVision into the turret is equally possible. This enhances the KF51's ability to strike targets beyond the direct line of sight.
The second armament of the KF51 includes a 12.7mm coaxial machine gun as well as HERO 120 loitering ammunition (Picture source: Army Recognition)
Thanks to the panoramic SEOSS (Stabilized Electro-optical Sighting System) optical sensor and EMES main combat aiming device, the commander and gunner are both able to observe and engage targets independently of each other, both day and night, while a stabilized daylight and IR optic with integrated laser rangefinder is available to both. In addition, via a display in the fighting compartment, the crew has a 360°, round-the-clock view of the vehicle's surroundings.
The KF51 Panther is designed to control assigned unmanned aerial vehicles such as on-board or off-board drones, loitering ammunition, and a range of unmanned ground vehicles. The fully digitized system and common crew stations are the enablers for true Human-Machine Teaming and control of wingman UGVs that cover capabilities such as platoon-level air and drone defense.
The KF51 Panther has a combat weight of just 59 tons providing far greater mobility than current systems. This puts it in a battle-winning weight category and it also fits the tunnel profile AMovP-4L without preparation: a requirement that no current MBT upgrade fulfills. Consequently, the KF51 Panther excels in tactical and strategic mobility.
In terms of mobility, The KF51 Panther is built on the mobility concept of the Leopard 2 MBT. With an operational weight of just 59 tons, it delivers far greater mobility than current systems and has a maximum operating range of around 500 kilometers.
KF51 Panther's potential "partner": the KF41 Lynx IFV (Picture source: Army Recognition)
The KF51 Panther has a crew of three. But if necessary, a fourth crew member can board the vehicle as Specialist Crew Station Operator (Picture source: Rheinmetall)