New Rheinmetall Panther Tank

New Rheinmetall Panther Tank

New KF51 Panther tank is a (potential) replacement for German Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank. Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger presented a tank that is considered to become the successor to the Leopard 2 tank at the arms show in France. It is the first main battle cat entirely developed by Rheinmetall.


Panther will utilize 130 mm Future Gun System and sensor-to-shooter links. Main gun will have fully automated ammunition handling system (a.k.a. Autoloader). Future Gun System will have 50% greater kill range than current 120 mm gun.

New 130 mm gun aims at delivering on the target energy of 18 – 20 MJ, which is the level that was in the past obtained with the 140 mm FTMA (Future Tank Main Armament) developed by RGR Armament GmbH, a joint venture formed by then GIAT Industries of France, now Nexter, Royal Ordnance of the UK, now part of BAE Systems, and Rheinmetall Weapons & Munitions of Germany. For comparison, the latest development of subcalibre 120 mm APFSDS (Armour Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot) rounds under development by Rheinmetall deliver a 12-13 MJ on the target.

Thanks to autoloader the 140 mm gun will not have to sacrifice rate of fire compared to the current human-loaded 120 mm gun. Autoloader holds 20 ready rounds, and can fire various types of projectiles such as kinetic anti-tank rounds and programmable air bust projectiles. While previous German tank designs all utilized human loaders, 120 mm gun present on the current Leopard 2 is already at the limit of what a human loader can comfortably handle. Autoloader is thus a good choice, as 130 mm gun with autoloader will achieve higher rate of fire than the same gun with human loader. The full calibre 130 mm round will have a mass of around 40 kg, the APFSDS weighing some 32 kg.

Automatic loader is located in the bustle, and can house 20 rounds in two magazines located to each side of the loader itself. Replenishment of ammunition is done through two ammunition feeds at the rear of the turret, with whole operation requiring around five minutes.

Tank will also utilize HERO 120 loitering ammunition allowing it strike capability against non-line of sight targets.

Machine gun armament will consist of a 12,7 mm coaxial machine gun as well as Remote Controlled Weapons Station. RCWS will have multiple integration options that will provide flexibility in proximity and drone defense. The KF51 Panther presented at Eurosatory 2022 is equipped with Rheinmetall’s new “Natter” (adder) RCWS in the 7.62 variant. By comparison, current Leopard 2 has two 7,62 mm machine guns.

  1. 130 mm smoothbore L52 gun with elevation range of – 9 tp + 20 degrees and fully digital turret drive and stabilization system
  2. 12,7 mm coaxial machine gun to the right of the barrel, holding 250 rounds
  3. Natter RCWS drone protection system, including a 7,62 mm machine gun with 2500 rounds
  4. Tank commander’s SEOSS 2 sight, including a multispectral camera system and a laser rangefinder
  5. Gunner’s EMES sight
  6. Gun autoloader with 20 round capacity.
  7. Hero 120 Starter with four HERO 120 loitering anti-tank munitions.


Panther is claimed to be “The first MBT adopting an integrated survivability concept of on and off-platform sensors coupled with active, reactive and passive protection and a dedicated top attack protection system.”.

  • Reactive and passive protection
    • Sensor-based reactive system
    • Passive protection
  • Active protection
    • Protection against large-calibre KE
    • Protection against ATGM
  • ROSY smoke obscurance system
  • Top attack protection system (TAPS)
  • Mine protection
  • Rheinmetall drones
  • Pre-shot detection capability

Top-attack protection system is intended to protect against the top-attack ATGMs, which are a major threat to tanks as it is impossible to armor a tank all-around.

Unusual protection feature is active protection against large-calibre KE penetrators, which allows increased protection without significantly increasing tank’s weight. StrikeShield active protection system was the first active-kill system to pass independent safety evaluation, confirming it to be safe for friendly troops when used in the combat zone.


Panther will have a combat weight of 59 metric tons, allowing it mobility superior to most Western main battle tanks. This places it in the same category as French AMX Leclerc, which is currently by far the most mobile NATO tank design. Panther will use the same diesel engine as current Leopard 2, which weights 67,5 metric tons (Leopard 2A6 weights 62,3 tons). Range will be more than 500 kilometers.

Situational Awareness

Panoramic SEOSS optical sensor and EMES main combat aiming device allow the commander and the gunner to observe and engage targets independently of each other, during both day and night, while a stabilized daylight and IR optic with integrated laser rangefinder is available to both. Display in fighting compartment gives crew 360 degree view of the surroundings.

Panther also has ability to take over control of air and ground unmanned assets. Tank itself has integral short-range air reconnaissance capability, two small UAVs with a few kilometres operational range and 30 minutes endurance being hosted on each side of the turret, and launched at will to reconnoitre the area ahead of the MBT. These serve to enhance situational awareness in built-up areas.


Addition of autoloader means that crew has been reduced to three, but fourth crew member can still be included if required. Commander and gunner are seated in the turret with driver in the chassis, where an additional operator station is available for a weapons and subsystems specialist or for command personnel such as the company commander or battalion commander.

Crew will be provided with digital networking capabilities, and each soldier will also have access to data from all sensors, weapons, powerpack, and other subsystems, which can be called up as required. This means that each operator station can take over the tasks and roles from others. This may allow development of tanks with unmanned turret or even fully unmanned variants of Panther in the future. The Panther features standard working stations for its crew members, made of a 23-inch main screen on top and two 10-inch screens under it, where information can be retrieved according to the role of each crew member.


Digital bacbone is built to NGVA (NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture) standard, which makes integration easier. As an example Rheinmetall representatives explained that in two days they managed to test on the turret two different commander’s sights from two different providers. The vetronic architecture itself was developed from inception considering the cyber protection. Panther will over time receive spiral upgrades in terms of software capabilities, with the insertion of artificial intelligence elements, the aim being to have for the end of the decade the capability to detect, classify, and identify a target asking confirmation to the crew before shooting. HUMS (Health and Usage Monitoring Systems) are already embedded in the Panther, and may eventually enable automatization of maintenance and logistical functions.

Export Prospects

Currently, governments in Paris and Berlin are investing around $1.6 billion in development costs to create a new Franco-German MBT that will eventually replace the French Army’s Leclerc and German Leopard 2s. The Main Ground Combat System or MGCS project brings together Nexter of France with the other giant of the German land systems industry, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), within a partnership known as KNDS. Rheinmetall is also involved in MGCS, but appears to be unhappy with its status in the program in which KNDS is the lead partner.

Panther also appears to be a far more significant upgrade than MGCS which is basically a Leclerc turret on Leopard 2 hull. And since Leopard 2 has been a massive export success, Rheinmetall should be able to capitalize on that. Panther will also certainly arrive sooner than MGCS which has faced delays and issues common to multinational programs. This will allow it significant export advantage as Leopard 2 has been a huge export success, and current geopolitical instability is making governments look at renewing their tank fleets. Poland, once a potential MGCS customer, has instead opted to buy 250 US-made M1A2SEPv3 Abrams tanks, while handing over old T-72 tanks to Ukraine. Other former Warshaw Pact members are doing the same, and thus their tank fleets might require replacement.

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