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Rheinmetall’s MBT Panther KF51 set to dominate the modern battlefield

“The Panther is the first of its kind: a radically new MBT concept not constrained by yesterday’s technology.”

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The modern battlefield is described as a multi-domain battlefield in which the war is not just limited to the physical realm. Information warfare has emerged to be the dominating characteristic of the modern battlefield. Meanwhile, the Russia-Ukraine war has renewed the importance of land warfare for Europe. In such a scenario, Rheinmetall’s latest addition to the Main Battle Tanks, the Panther KF51 is being very highly regarded in the defense circles across the globe.

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Rheinmetall unveiled its latest defense innovation at the Eurosatory 2022, which was held in Paris from June 13 to 17. Eurosatory is an international weaponry trade exhibition held every two years.

Rheinmetall claims that the Panther KF51 is a first of its kind Main Battle Tank based on a radically new concept that derive its strength from some of the latest technologies. The Panther has been designed to deliver highest lethality on the battlefield, combined with an integrated survivability concept and connected by a fully digitized NGVA—NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture data backbone to enable next-generation operational capabilities and automation.

The connectivity, digitization and automation offers a reduction in the typical crew size required to operate a tank. The tank features an autoloader to feed ammunition to the main gun. It paves the way for unmanned turret options and Human-Machine Teaming. While its predecessor Leopard-2 required a crew of four, the Panther KF-51 requires only three persons to operate; commander, gunner and driver.

The Tank features a Future Gun System (FGS) comprised of a 130 mm caliber main gun and optimized sensor-to-shooter links offering a much longer range and 50 percent more effectiveness. The tank offers fully automated ammunition handling system that provides unmatched rate of fire and the option for additional armament HERO 120 loitering ammunition. Furthermore, the tank is armed with a 12.7 mm co-axial machine gun that complements the main gun. That is not all, Multiple Remote Controlled Weapon Station (RCWS) integration options further increases the fire power of the tank and defense capabilities against drones. Lastly to ensure the optimal functioning of all the weapon systems, all weapons of the tank are supported by 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 decision support. All these capabilities ensure that the tank offers unmatched lethality.

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The Tank itself is highly protected with the help of an integrated survivability concept of on and off-platform sensors combined with active, reactive and passive protection and a dedicated top attack protection system. The Panther features a pre-shot detection capability, enabling it to strike first. The Rheinmetall TAPS (Top Attack Protection System) provides protection from aerial threats. The ROSY smoke obscurance system is also integrated in the survivability system, which fully connects with the digitized architecture to allow additional defense measures. The foremost survivability feature of the tank is the active KE protection, which ensures increased protection without affecting the system weight. Moreover, the Rheinmetall strike shield—an active protection system will also be fitted to defend against threats such as anti-tank weapons and suicide drones.

The combat weight of the tank is just 59 tons, making it lighter than many MBTs currently in use by Western armies. It is powered by 1475 horsepower diesel engine to ensure improved mobility.

The Panther is well equipped for information warfare too, it is being marketed as a truly software-defined tank fully enabled to collect and disseminate information. Panther KF51 is fully digitized and features a digital architecture complying with the NGVA standard.

The private venture design aims to replace the widely used Leopard 2 by the German army. It will also likely attract interest from other European countries to modernize their armored forces, keeping in view the growing hostility between the NATO and Russia.

Although, initially Rheinmetall is focusing on the German market, reports suggest that at least one east European country has expressed interest in the latest MBT. The Panther is destined to redefine the Land Warfare and more particularly the tank warfare as it is being regarded as the most advanced tank in the world.