German defense company Rheinmetall has a prototype of a 130mm smoothbore gun for a future main battle tank (MBT). According to the company, the increase of 8 percent in caliber results in 50 percent more kinetic energy over the 120mm gun from Rheinmetall.
The 130mm gun, which was financed entirely by the German company, weighs more than 3.5 tons, compared to the approximately 3-ton 120mm gun, and uses a cartridge of more than 30 kilograms at about 1.3 meters long. Given these enhanced parameters, Rheinmetall engineers believe the weapon can only be used with an automatic loader and a new turret design.
Rheinmetall is waiting for a new NATO standard, which will identify what level of armor has to be penetrated by weaponry going forward. While the engineers hope to receive this standard by the end of this year, they will likely have to spend eight to 10 years finalizing the development of both the gun and ammunition.
After the show, the gun will take place in shooting trials. Should the trials be successful, the company may set a similar worldwide benchmark for the 130mm gun as happened with the 120mm smoothbore gun, which in its short barrel version was also produced under license in the US for the Abrams MBT.
Rheinmetall is developing a new armor-piercing fin-stabilized round for the gun, which will feature a semi-combustible cartridge case, new propellant and a tungsten penetrator. Another munition variant is a new 130mm high-explosive air-burst round, based on the 120mm round currently in production.
According to a November 2015 presentation by Armin Papperger, chief executive officer of Rheinmetall, which builds key components of the Leopard 2 and the American M1A2 Abrams, the journey toward MGCS will be an incremental evolution. The first step will be to upgrade the Leopard 2 with a new digital turret core system, new situational awareness system and an Active Defense System (ADS).
The tank will also need a new high-pressure 120mm cannon and new ammunition. Papperger expects that the new gun and ammunition will yield twenty percent better performance than the current L55 120mm cannon.
There are significant drawbacks to a longer cannon—which is one of the reasons the U.S. Army retains the shorter L44 120mm cannon for its Abrams. It’s possible that Rheinmetall is using new materials to increase the pressure within the cannon without increasing the cannon’s length.
In the medium term, Germany will have to refit the Leopard 2 with a new 130mm cannon.
Papperger said that work on the MGCS concept development has already started. The new main battle tank is in a concept development phase between the German and French governments and industry. The concept development phase should be completed by 2017.
The new MGCS’s focus on increased firepower is directly being driven by Russia’s Armata program.
The Armata series armored vehicles—particularly with their focus on active protection systems (APS)—are forcing Western designer to focus more direct fire weapons.
SOURCES – Defense News, National Interest