From TikTok to Tank Deal: Hungary Joins Rheinmetall’s KF51 Panther Project

Rheinmetall and Hungary Sign Historic Deal for KF51 Panther.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

Rheinmetall unveiled its combat tank demonstrator KF51 Panther to the world in 2022 at the EuroSatory land arms show. Although Rheinmetall launched an initiative to sway the decision to favour the new tank, the German Ministry of Defence has opted for the Leopard 2A8 instead. Despite this, Rheinmetall maintained a positive outlook.

In late August, Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, disclosed via a TikTok Video that Hungary is also contributing to developing the Panther, a new German super tank. In light of recent events, the question emerged whether the Leopard 2 A7HU acquired from the Germans or the Lynx armoured infantry vehicle manufactured in Zalaegerszeg would be the “big cat of the Carpathians”. In reply, the Hungarian prime minister declared that Hungary is assisting in advancing the KF51 Panther (Párduc in Hungarian), a new German super tank. Additionally, he stated that research indicates the Panther will emerge victorious.

This seemingly out-of-thin-air development shocked the public despite some indications that Hungary might have contributed to the Panther’s development.

In the same month, the Hungarian news source Világgazdaság revealed that an unexpected sensation happened at the opening of the Rheinmetall factory in Zalaegerszeg because the Panther was on display there. This was not surprising, considering Rheinmetall Landsysteme, a subsidiary responsible for developing the super tank, also called the KF51. Nonetheless, it was strange that the tank showed up in Hungary because there hadn’t been a decision on its serial manufacture.

The Prime Minister did not specifically state whether Hungary is buying Panther tanks in his TikTok video response to the inquiry but highlighted the soldier’s significance while mentioning the Lynx, Leopard, and Panther. On the other hand, the official statement mentioned Hungary’s collaboration with the Rheinmetall group on the Panther’s development.

The specifications of the Panther were also made public. In contrast to the Leopard 2 family, Hungarian news outlet Magyar Nemzet states that the super tank is built on a more highly digitised system. According to several descriptions, the crew room resembles a spaceship in its design. The Panther uses a new, bigger 130mm tank gun instead of the Leopard’s well-known 120mm gun. With an automated loading system, Rheinmetall intends to replace the traditional NATO practice of manually loading ammunition into tank guns. Soldiers from Hungary are accustomed to this method because it is typical of Soviet-Russian tanks.

KF51 Panther Tank Interior.
KF51 Panther Tank Interior. Image: Rheinmetall

Hungary Signs Up Officially

On December 15, the German company “partnered” with the Hungarian government to develop the KF-51 Panther until it could be produced. Rheinmetall announced that a contract about this matter had been signed in Zalaegerszeg, Hungary, with a roughly 288 million euro value.

More specifically, this initiative involves working with the state-owned business N7 in Hungary, which owns 49% of the capital in Rheinmetall Hungary Zrt.

Rheinmetall stipulated that a demonstration vehicle would be built and tested to pave the path for manufacturing on a larger scale.

According to Armin Papperger, the Chief Executive Officer of Rheinmetall, the business will continue to strengthen its local joint venture, Rheinmetall Hungary, and further enhance the national military-industrial capabilities of its partners.

It is anticipated that this phase of development, which comes before mass manufacturing, will last around fifteen months. The primary focus will be developing a new chassis to avoid potential legal difficulties with Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. The chassis of this vehicle is derived from Rheinmetall’s Buffalo (Bergepanzer 3 Buffel) armoured recovery vehicle, which serves as its inspiration. This, in conjunction with the reduced overall weight of the tank, adds to the Panther KF51’s mobility while concurrently resulting in synergy effects in logistics, maintenance, and training due to the similarities between the Leopard 2 family and the Panther KF51.

This announcement regarding the KF-51 Panther came when the Hungarian Army received the first 44 Leopard 2A7HU tanks after placing an order for them in 2018. This model serves as the basis for the Leopard 2A8.

In contrast to the system demonstration at Eurosatory, the Panther KF51 EVO will be equipped with Rheinmetall’s tried-and-true L55A1 120mm smoothbore gun. This gun is also included in the most recent iterations of the Leopard 2. The existing fleet of Leopard 2 tanks in Hungary will be maintained in a logistically consistent manner as a result of this. Despite this, the Panther KF51 EVO will come pre-fitted with an autoloader from the beginning. A further benefit of the turret design is that it will make it possible to adapt Rheinmetall’s new 130mm gun.  

The Panther K51 is equipped with a significant amount of digitisation and connectivity to networks. In addition, introducing new force protection technologies, such as the standoff protection system StrikeShield, will make achieving a lesser aggregate weight possible.


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