News 2022

German main battle tank KF51-U Panther received a significant update

Rheinmetall is upgrading its KF51 tank even before it goes into production. Details of the modernization were presented at the Eurosatory exhibition, held from June 17 to 21.

When Rheinmetall first revealed the KF51 Panther tank two years ago, it impressed the defense industry. However, not because of the bright green pixel camouflage or the name, which is similar to the historical model of the Wehrmacht. The main criticism was the presence of a crew-controlled turret, while the trend in tank development had long been moving towards unmanned turrets. Russia, for example, has advanced in this direction with the T-14 Armata tank.

However, Rheinmetall promised that the KF51 would be ready for an unmanned turret thanks to modern electronics. And at Eurosatory an updated version of the Panther was presented - KF51-U.

Rheinmetall calls the new tower the Concept Uncrewed Turret (CUT). It is equipped with a 130 mm cannon, which is also used on the KF51. This gun could become the main armament of the MGCS tank being developed as part of the German-French cooperation KNDS. KNDS would prefer to use its 140mm gun, but the final decision will depend on the choice of caliber for the US M1E3 Abrams tank, which could determine a new NATO standard. Rheinmetall has a good chance, as it already supplies weapons to the American army.

Thanks to the automatic loading system, the gun in the unmanned turret has an ammunition load of 25 shells located in the rear of the turret. As an additional weapon, a 12.7x99 mm BMG machine gun is installed, coaxial with the main gun, which is somewhat surprising, since modern tanks are usually equipped with remote-controlled machine gun modules. However, the KF51-U also has a remote-controlled machine gun mounted on the roof of the KF51-U.

Rheinmetall did not mention the HERO120 loitering ammunition starter that the KF51 had. Instead, the KF51-U has a reconnaissance drone on board, and it is not yet known whether the HERO120 can be launched or a starter installed for it if necessary.

The KF51-U is equipped with reactive armor on the hull to protect against shaped charges and several active protection systems. The hard kill system uses either Rheinmetall's APS or Iron Fist. KF51-U with Iron Fist was presented at the Eurosatory exhibition. This system was developed by Israeli companies IWI and Elbit and competes with Rafael's Trophy system used on the Leopard 2 A-RC 3.0.

Depending on the configuration, the mass of the tank ranges from 50 to 60 tons. The Leopard 2 A-RC 3.0 weighs less than 60 tons, which is becoming the standard for tanks with an uninhabited turret. For comparison, the current Leopard 2A8 weighs almost 70 tons.
World news