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OpinionPitting Rheinmetall K51 Panther versus T-14 Armata

Pitting Rheinmetall K51 Panther versus T-14 Armata

Panther belongs to the third generation of Tanks with fourth-generation technology.

One of Germany’s largest armoured vehicle manufacturers, Rheinmetall, says that their new Main Battle Tank KF-51 Panther will better the Russian T-14 Armata Tank in all respects. So a K51 Panther versus T-14 Armata comparison should be made to verify the claim. Frontier India decided to compare the tanks based on the available information.

130 mm Smoothbore vs 125 mm smoothbore

The main weapon of the Kf-51, Future Gun System (FGS), is a 130mm /L52 smoothbore barrel capable of firing Next-generation KE munitions; programmable multi-purpose HE munitions and Uvision’s HERO 120 loitering ammunition. The FGS has optimized sensor-to-shooter links. Compared to the 120mm guns, the FGS fires 50 per cent longer with a superior rate of fire aided by autoloader performance. The autoloader stores 20 ready rounds.

Assuming the maker is referring to the Rheinmetall Rh-120 gun, that equips Leopard 2 Tanks, which has a range of 4 km. So the FGS can fire six kilometres.

The 125-mm 2A82-1M tank gun created by JSC Zavod No. 9 is located in the uninhabited tower of T-14 Armata. It is also adapted for launching missiles. Russians say that the Armata 2A82 cannon is more accurate than the 120mm L-55 mounted on the Leopard 2 A7, while the wear resistance of the Russian barrel is much better than that of competitors. The tank is equipped with an automatic loader and a range of different types of shells. The T-14 tank “uses guided missiles” from the barrel “, providing armour penetration of 1200 mm (T-90M sports a 700 mm armour to give you an idea). Russian media says the muzzle energy of the Russian cannon is 1.17 times higher than that of the Rheinmetall Rh-120 gun and fires about 7 km. 

Panther KF51 main battle tank,K51 Panther versus T-14 Armata
Panther KF51 main battle tank. Image: Rheinmetall

Armata can be equipped with a 152 mm 2A83 gun if required and is ready for production. In comparison, the French company Nexter showed a 140 mm Ascalon cannon for a tank of the future. The model was presented at the Eurosatory exhibition in Paris. 

Undoubtedly, the T-14 Armata gun has better characteristics based on the information above.

Tank digitization

K-51 Panther maker says the tank is entirely digitized as per the NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture (NGVA) standards. It enables future decision support, automation of systems and the use of Artificial Intelligence in the future. Any of the Tanks 4 crew can operate any function of the tank at any time without prep. 

The Panther is a software dominant tank which can collect and distribute information on a multi-domain battlefield. It has a modern BMS and software-based communication systems enabling cross-platform sensor-to-shooter links. The Panther can control onboard or offboard drones, loitering ammunition and even uncrewed ground vehicles. The fully digitized system and common crew stations help Human-Machine Teaming and control wingman UGVs capable of performing platoon-level air and drone defence.

Armata features a fully autonomous target designation and firing system and smart projectile protection. Russians call Armata an armoured combat computer. Armata is stuffed with electronics and autonomous systems – many functions are fully automated and require only control from the crew.

Armata, too, can network with other tanks, helicopters and UAVs and assign targets to other platforms like a T-90M. 

Crew 

Both Panther and Armata have a three-member crew, but the appearance of an automated loading system in the tank (Western tanks currently have manual loading) and a fourth crew member controlling unmanned aerial vehicles is an undeniable advantage of the Panther.

Tank Defense

Panther has a pre-shot capability and uses active and passive protection with top protection capability. It has both onboard and offboard sensors and defence like UAVs and UGVs.

Armata also has active and passive defence but may rely on an external method for protection against top attacks. It does not carry its own offboard sensors like a UAV or UGV. 

Russian T-14 Tank based on Armata Platform. K51 Panther versus T-14 Armata
Russian T-14 Tank based on Armata Platform. © Sergei Savostianov/TASS

At the same time, Armata has both (Afghanit) active and passive defence systems. 

In Tank defence, K-51 betters Armata due to top attack and offboard sensors and weapons.

Armata appears to have better crew safety as the tank crew sits in an armoured capsule.

Both tanks can operate in an electromagnetic battlefield.

Generational difference

Russians say that Armata belongs to the fourth generation of tanks which is generally characterized by the latest technology and designs to operate in the current advanced warfare environment. Based on the known characteristics, Panther belongs to the third generation with fourth-generation technology. 

Engine

Panther is assumed to use MTU 883 V-12 diesel developing 1,475 hp at 3,000 rpm, which is in use with the Leopard 2 tanks. The Panther can travel 500 km without refuelling. Panther has a combat weight of 59 tons. 

Armata uses a newer engine capable of developing 1500 hp. Armata engine accelerates to 90 kilometres per hour and can travel roo km without refuelling. Armata weighs about 48 tons. 

Both the tanks have an onboard computer that controls the engine and transmission.

Armata definitely has an engine edge with a better power-to-weight ratio.

Paper Panther vs Armata

 K-51 Panther exists only as a concept. It will have to undergo many engineering improvements and tests before entering production. Armata, meanwhile, has been already battle-tested in Syria. However, there is no proof that the tank has been deployed in Ukraine yet. 

1 COMMENT

  1. Your information about the durability of the Russian 125mm cannon is inaccurate unless they have made a major leap forward in metallurgy. The main reason they developed the tube-fired missile was because they were only getting about 20 or so rounds through the tube before cracks appeared in the wall. The high velocity of the cannon was both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. I am an M1 Abrams Master Gunner (Retired), so know a fair bit about the technology. The Abrams was designed from the beginning to be scalable, and so converted to the 120mm, German-designed cannon quite early in its service life, and the smooth bore was necessary to maintain the durability (tube life) requirements of the US Army Armor Corps. Worldwide, the search for a larger bore high-velocity cannon has been going on for over 40 years, with little real success. I suspect the 130mm in the KF51 will be the first real break through design.

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