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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

The New KF-51 Panther Looks Like One Tough Tank

KF-51 Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

While Russian and Ukrainian tanks are fighting it out in the plains of the Donbas, the German Rheinmetall AG presented the KF-51 Panther main battle tank.

In the ongoing Eurosatory 2022 international defense and security exhibition that is taking place in Paris, Rheinmetall revealed the KF-51 Panther with all its interesting features.

The KF-51 Panther 

The KF-51 Panther is a main battle tank that sets new standards in all major armored warfare concepts (lethality, protection, mobility, networking, and reconnaissance), according to the manufacturer.

The KF-51 Panther was named after one of the greatest tanks that fought in World War Two, the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther. Built by Nazi Germany in an attempt to counter the heavier T-34 and KV-1 Soviet tanks, the Panther became a staple of the Wehrmacht, and around 6,000 tanks were built.

KF stands for Kettenfahrzeug, which is German for “tracked vehicle.”

Rheinmetall AG is an automotive and defense company that has been making weapon systems for more than 130 years.


When it comes to weapon systems, the KF-51 Panther’s main feature is the 130mm Rheinmetall Future Gun System. The manufacturer boasts that the gun offers “superior firepower against all current and foreseeable” mechanized targets.

“The Rheinmetall Future Gun System (FGS) consists of a 130 mm smoothbore gun and a fully automatic ammunition handling system. The autoloader holds 20 ready rounds. Compared to current 120 mm systems, the FGS delivers over fifty percent greater effectiveness at significantly longer ranges of engagement. The FGS can fire kinetic energy (KE) rounds as well as programmable airburst ammunition and corresponding practice rounds,” Rheinmetall AG stated in a press release that accompanied the KF-51 Panther’s debut.

In addition to these munitions, the KF-51 Panther’s 130mm gun can accommodate special munitions for long-range strikes and against multiple targets (for comparison, the M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams in use by the U.S. military has a 120mm main gun).

But the KF-51 Panther’s 130mm main gun isn’t the only weapon system on board the main battle tank. In addition to the main gun, the KF-51 Panther sports a 12.7mm coaxial heavy machine gun (.50 caliber similar to the venerable M2 Browning machine gun currently in use in the U.S. military) and the ability to launch a HERO 120 tactical loitering munition.

“A 12.7 mm coaxial machine gun complements the main weapon. Several options for the integration of remotely controlled weapon stations (RCWS) offer flexibility for proximity and drone defence. The KF51 Panther presented at Eurosatory 2022 is equipped with Rheinmetall’s new ‘Natter’ (adder) RCWS in the 7.62 variant,” Rheinmetall AG stated.

“Integrating a launcher for HERO 120 loitering munition from Rheinmetall’s partner UVision into the turret is equally possible. This enhances the KF51’s ability to strike targets beyond the direct line of sight,” the German automotive and defense company added.

The HERO 120 is similar to the Switchblade 600 loitering munition the U.S. military sent Ukraine and is designed to take out enemy tanks and armored personnel carriers and fortified positions.

All of the KF-51 Panther’s weapon systems are linked both to the commander’s and gunner’s optics, who can aim and fire them through a fire control computer that is fully digitalized.

According to Rheinmetall AG, all this allows the KF-51 Panther to employ both a “hunter-killer” and a “killer-killer” function and facilitate fast target engagement. The company plans to incorporate artificial intelligence in the future to further improve the main battle tank’s fire control.

Armor and Survivability 

The KF-51 Panther is based on a fully integrated, comprehensive, weight-optimized protection concept that uses active, reactive, and passive armor to protect against a wide gamut of threats, including enemy tanks, anti-tank weapons, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and mines.

To counter anti-tank weapons, especially ones that can strike from above—like the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile that has been wreaking havoc on Russian tanks in Ukraine—Rheinmetall AG has designed the Top Attack Protection System (TAPS). In addition, the ROSY smoke/obscurant system can quickly conceal the KF-51 Panther from enemy observation.

“Thanks to its pre-shot detection capability, the KF51 Panther can recognise and neutralise threats at an early stage. Designed to operate in a contested electromagnetic environment, the KF51 is fully hardened against cyber threats,” Rheinmetall AG claims.

Mobility and Logistics

The mobility of the KF-51 Panther is closely related to that of the popular Leopard 2 main battle tank, which can be found all across Europe.

Weighing just under 60 tons, the KF-51 Panther has a maximum operational range of approximately 310 miles (500 kilometers).

When it comes to logistics, which is always an important consideration for potential buyers, Rheinmetall AG says that the KF-51 Panther will have a highly interactive supply chain that will allow potential operators to share in the production of the main battle tank, thus helping to create and/or preserve sovereign capabilities and capacities.

The KF-51 Panther definitely made a promising debut. It remains to be seen whether the main battle tank will live to the expectations it so strongly set.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.