The government of Hungary and German defence company Rheinmetall have partnered to produce the Panther KF51 main battle tank (MBT) in a contract worth €288 million.
The contract is for the development of a demonstrator vehicle, which will be constructed and qualified to pave the way for full-scale production. Rheinmetall is collaborating with the state-owned Hungarian holding company N7, which also holds a 49 percent stake in the joint venture Rheinmetall Hungary.
“We’re delighted to have reached another important milestone on the path to producing next-generation fighting vehicles in Hungary”, said Armin Papperger, CEO of Rheinmetall.
“The Panther KF51 is the world’s most advanced main battle tank. It sets a new standard for the combat effectiveness of mechanized formations while delivering a high degree of future adaptability. At the same time, in our accustomed manner, we’ll be empowering our local Joint Venture Rheinmetall Hungary and further strengthen the national defence industrial capabilities of our partners.”
Initially introduced at the Eurosatory 2022 trade fair, the Panther KF51 EVO will undergo further enhancements to become a fully operational tank. Unlike the prototype showcased at Eurosatory, the Panther KF51 EVO will be equipped with Rheinmetall’s reliable L55A1 120mm smoothbore gun, which is also utilized in the latest versions of the Leopard 2 tanks. This will ensure compatibility with Hungary’s existing fleet of Leopard 2 tanks in terms of logistics. Additionally, the Panther KF51 EVO will feature an autoloader and its turret architecture will allow for future integration of Rheinmetall’s new 130mm gun.
The Panther K51 is a highly digitalized and networkable tank and is equipped with new force protection technologies such as the StrikeShield standoff protection system. Thanks to its lightweight build, the Panther K51 is highly mobile, while also benefiting from commonalities with the Leopard 2 family in logistics, maintenance, and training. It features a chassis based on the Buffalo armoured recovery vehicle supplied by Rheinmetall, which contributes to its low total weight and overall efficiency.
Rheinmetall developed workstations that are highly integrated and meet the needs of the crew. The Panther K51 is designed to accommodate a crew of three, which supports the future force structures with a reduced number of soldiers. It has two crew stations located in the chassis, with one of the stations dedicated to the driver, while the other is optional and can be used by a company commander, a drone operator, or a wingman pilot.
Its fully digitised NGVA architecture enables seamless sensor and effector integration both within the platform and across different platforms. The assignments for sensor and weapon control can be passed between crew members instantly. Each workstation can hand over and take over tasks and roles from others without reducing functionality. The turret and weapon control are also provided to the chassis-based workstations. Rheinmetall is also planning for future upgrades, including unmanned turrets and remotely operated Panthers.
It was reported in September that the Hungarian government had agreed with Rheinmetall that the Panther KF51 MBT would be fully developed in Hungary and then manufactured there.