PARIS — German defense company Rheinmetall has unveiled 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 a plus of 50 percent moreof kinetic energy over the 120mm gun from Rheinmetall, installed in thousands of tanks worldwide.
The presentation at the Eurosatory defense show, taking place in Paris this week, comes as Russia adopts a new generation of armored vehicles — including the Armata MBT — with enhanced protection and a renaissance of classical, mechanized armored forces. Furthermore the French and German ministries of defense decided to develop a joint combat vehicle as a successor to their respective Leopard 2 and Leclerc fleets. It's possible a new tank program could be launched by the two European nations sometime between 2025 and 2030.
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.
For now, 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 very well 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 licence in the US for the Abrams MBT.