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German Rheinmetall Continues Development of 130mm Tank Gun


German Rheinmetall Continues Development of 130mm Tank Gun

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Rheinmetall Debuts KF51 Panther Main Battle Tank at Eurosatory 2022
Rheinmetall Debuts KF51 Panther Main Battle Tank at Eurosatory 2022

Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger unveiled the significant strides made in the ongoing development of a cutting-edge 130mm tank gun. This milestone follows the signing of a research and development contract several weeks ago, underscoring Rheinmetall’s commitment to advancing military technology. The 130mm tank gun represents a notable advancement over its predecessor, the 120mm gun, which is currently deployed in thousands of tanks worldwide. With an 8 percent increase in caliber, Rheinmetall’s latest innovation boasts a staggering 50 percent boost in kinetic energy. Funded entirely by the German defense giant, this formidable weapon weighs over 3.5 tons and requires specialized infrastructure including an automatic loader and a redesigned turret.

Rheinmetall asserts that the new 130mm gun has the capacity to deliver between 18 and 20 megajoules of energy onto a target, offering a 50% longer effective range compared to its 120mm counterpart. Versatility is a key feature, with the ability to fire armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) ammunition, programmable air burst high explosive (HE), and practice projectiles. During a recent test firing, the Rh-130 demonstrated its rapid firepower, with three rounds discharged in just 16 seconds. The autoloader, equipped with two conveyor-based magazines each capable of holding ten rounds, ensures sustained firepower. Additionally, provisions are made for expedited reloading, with replenishment of the autoloader’s magazines possible within five minutes.

While the Panther KF51 main battle tank remains a potential candidate for integration with the 130mm cannon, ongoing agreements suggest that the Panther EVO variant may opt for a different armament. However, the possibility remains for the Bundeswehr to consider the Panther tank with the 130mm gun as an interim solution on the path to future ground combat systems such as the MGCS. Looking ahead, Rheinmetall anticipates further advancements in armor technology, awaiting a new NATO standard that will define future requirements for penetration capabilities. With an estimated timeline of eight to 10 years for final development, Rheinmetall remains at the forefront of innovation in armored warfare, poised to shape the future of military technology.

The Panther KF51 (KF is short for German “Kettenfahrzeug”) is a German main battle tank (MBT) that is under development by Rheinmetall Landsysteme (part of Rheinmetall’s Vehicle Systems division). It was unveiled publicly at the Eurosatory defence exhibition on 13 June 2022. The KF51 is based on the hull of the Leopard 2A4, but with a new turret mounting an autoloaded 130 mm calibre main gun. Where the design of the KF51 departs from that of the preceding generation of Western MBTs is by the introduction of a new two-person turret fitted with an autoloaded main gun. The Panther has a combat weight of 59 tonnes making it lighter than most Western MBTs developed prior to 2022. On 5 December 2022, Rheinmetall announced its plans to target mostly existing Leopard 2 operators with the KF51.

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