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Rheinmetall identifies markets for KF51 Panther tank

Rheinmetall has conducted 300 test firings of the KF51 Panther's Future Gun System since 2016. (Rheinmetall)

Rheinmetall is targeting Leopard 2 operators with its KF51 Panther main battle tank (MBT), company officials working on the vehicle told defence journalists in Berlin on 5 December 2022.

Alexander Kuhrt, Rheinmetall's director for its tracked vehicle product portfolio, expressed confidence in the Panther's prospects on a NATO market estimated by the European Defence Agency at 500–800 or more vehicles in 2025–35, including upgrades, growing to 5,000–8,000 or more MBTs after 2035.

Kuhrt said the Panther was designed to protect NATO's eastern flank by defeating Russian tanks and is built around its 130 mm gun main armament, with the “meeting of the end of the lethality of the 120 mm gun” that arms the Leopard 2.

Tobias Schmidt, Rheinmetall's Future Gun System (FGS) programme director, said the 130 mm L52 FGS was designed for a 40–50 tonne vehicle and had an effective range of over 3,500 m against 1,000 mm of rolled homogeneous armour. He reported that 300 test firings of the FGS had been conducted since 2016, including less than 100 in 2022. He said seven shots had been fired in a single day from a rig at Rheinmetall's Unterlüß range without adjustments having to be made.

In addition to the FGS, the Panther is equipped with a 12.7 mm co-axial machine gun, a Natter lightweight remote-controlled weapon station (RCWS) with a 7.62 mm machine gun and counter-unmanned aerial vehicle system, and a launcher for Hero loitering munition. Kuhrt presented a concept of a Panther air-defence version with a Skyranger turret.

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