A video released today by Germany’s Rheinmetall showed a tank with a 130mm turret besides a new hull front as part of its MBT Advanced Technologies Competence demonstration, a possible indication of what will go into the future Main Ground Combat System (MGCS).
The demo tank looks like the latest iteration of its advanced technology demonstrator for the British Army’s Challenger 2 Life Extension Project (LEP). A joint venture was formed between Rheinmetall Defence UK (55%) and BAE Systems Land UK (45%) in 2019 to take forward the Challenger 2 LEP.
A Tweet accompanying the video said “Rheinmetall’s 130mm smoothbore technology for MBTs embodies a significant lethality leap in times of increasing threats. Combined with a state-of-the-art auto-loader, this system is the latest evolvement in Rheinmetall’s MBT Advanced Technologies competence.”
The 130mm smoothbore gun for MBT’s is the most significant advancement in Western MBT design since World War II. Current NATO MBTs are built around the 120mm turret.
The Russian Armata T-15 was the first to break away from the 120mm gun standard by being equipped with a 125mm turret offering significantly improved shooting performance over the 120mm guns of the current Leopard 2 and the UK’s Challenger 2 MBT.
The new 130mm turret, if accepted by the MCGS project could mean a major change in NATO standard tank turret size. The video shows a projectile fired from the 130mm gun piercing through several layers of armored sheets. Besides, the tank moves at a fast pace through cross-country indicating good mobility with the new gun in place.
The hull front in the upgraded Leopard 2 is flatter compared to the current Leopard 2 tank. This may have been necessitated by requirement of armor and to accommodate the gun.
Rheinmetall's Weapons and Ammunition division launched a 130mm demonstrator programme in 2015 to counter improvements in armor of enemy tanks and armored vehicles. The 130mm/L51 turret was first shown at Eurosatory event in 2016. Company executives had then commented that the increase in caliber would allow the firing of more lethal projectiles effectively enhancing the gun’s armor-piercing capacity by a factor of two.
Rheinmetall has also commenced developing a new 130 mm armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) round with elongated rod penetrator, which is supposed to be made of a new tungsten alloy. The new APFSDS round also features a semi-combustible cartridge case and new propellant.
The 130mm smoothbore gun of Rheinmetall is also being considered as part of the modernization of the UK's Challenger s besides the US M1A1 Abrams MBTs.