The way ahead

Shifting from technology to market requirements, Moritz Walter points out that Rheinmetall’s analysis shows that for newly built MBTs the unmanned turret solution should be the preferred option, while for current MBTs upgrade the manned one is definitely the most probable. That said, the upgrade option would definitely require a wholly new turret, as the 130 mm gun fitted with its autoloader that would not fit in existing turrets.

Christoph Henselmann also clarifies the appearance of the 130 mm on a video showing a Challenger 2 fitted with the new gun. “In April 2020 we had a window of opportunity when the Challenger 2 was in Unterlüss and no further tests were planned, to install the 130 mm on it, following the clearance from the UK customer. The British tank is a little wider than the Leopard 2, making things easier,” he says. Within the limited three weeks time the work concentrated on verifying how the 130 mm gun is well balanced inside a current 120 mm turret, checking stabilisation.

The main objective for Rheinmetall is the MGCS programme, in which the 130 mm competes against Nexter’s 140 mm proposal. “We consider that currently the overall 130 mm system has a TRL 2-3, the weapon more towards 3 while the autoloader being closer to 2,” Christoph Henselmann says, explaining that in February 2021 Rheinmetall started for the first time direct negotiation between the industries of both France and Germany. “In two years time, in late 2022, we expect the bi-national customer to decide which will be the main armament calibre, but simultaneously we are working on an upgrade solution for in-service 120 mm platforms,” he adds, stressing that the weapon system for manned turrets will not be completely identical to the one being proposed for the MGCS, the fitting of the 130 mm gun in a manned turret being less optimised that in an unmanned one, thus requiring some adaptations.

Rheinmetall also maintains a close eye on developments ongoing over the pound, and has already presented its solution to the US Army, as a potential candidate for what is currently referred to as Optionally Manned Tank.

“Both 130 mm systems will reach TRL 6 in the mid of the current decade, allowing for qualification of the gun system inside the weapon system,” he announces. “At this stage, although the development is not completed, we can safely say that the 130 mm allows a considerable increase in performances even at longer combat ranges, and we are more than confident that we are able to fulfil the requirements to double that range,” Christoph Henselmann concludes.


Photo courtesy Rheinmetall