Rheinmetall unveiled its new KF51 Panther main battle tank at Eurosatory 2022, after teasing the concept prior to the French defense exhibition. Rheinmetall describes the Panther as a “first of its kind”, “radically new” concept for a main battle tank, being the first MBT designed around a digital architecture that complies with NATO’s Generic Vehicle Architecture standards.
The Panther’s main weapon is Rheinmetall’s autoloaded 130mm Future Gun System, with a 12.7mm coaxial machine gun. The turret has multiple options for the integration of remote controlled weapons systems, giving the Panther flexibility in close quarters and anti-drone self defense. Notably, the Panther can be optionally equipped with the HERO 120 loitering munition for engagement of non-line-of-sight targets. A fully digitized architecture connects the Panther’s sights with the fire control computer and weapons, allowing for hunter-killer and killer-killer operations alike. The digital architecture also provides growth room for future integration of artificial intelligence into decision support.
While the autoloader reduces the turret crew to the tank commander and gunner, the Panther is designed with an optional additional crew station in the hull for a company commander, drone operator or wingman pilot. All crew stations can conduct the same tasks and roles with no functionality loss, with sensor and weapon control assignments capable of being “instantly” passed between crew members. According to Rheinmetall, the duplication of turret and weapon controls into the hull crew stations will serve as the basis for future developments that include unmanned turrets and remotely operated Panthers.
Rheinmetall claims that on and off-platform sensors are coupled with active, reactive and passive protection on the Panther in an “integrated survivability concept”. Notably, Rheinmetall says the Panther is equipped with the company’s Top Attack Protection System to counter top attack threats, coupled with an active protection system against large-caliber kinetic energy threats (read: MBT-caliber armor piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot shells), increasing protection without affecting system weight. Soft-kill measures are handled by Rheinmetall’s ROSY multispectral smoke obscurance system.
Despite the touted added firepower and protection, Rheinmetall claims that the combat weight of the Panther will be 59 tonnes, allowing for better mobility compared to current upgraded Western MBTs. The Panther can also fit tunnels of the AMovP-4L profile without requiring preparation, something Rheinmetall claims cannot be done with upgraded MBTs.
Rheinmetall is now seeking partners to join its “Panther Leap”, with personnel from tooth to tail of user nations offered a chance to “enable the future” through the company’s “innovative” design approach.