Germany hopes that its next tank won’t even weigh 50 tonnes – Technology Org

The German main battle tank Leopard 2A7 weighs around 64.5 tons, while the Leopard 2A7+ weighs more than 70. Tanks are large chunks of hardened steel, advanced weapon systems, and have “sex appeal”, but such heavy machines are incredibly difficult to deal with. . That is why the Bundeswehr is dreaming about its next tank weighing no more than 50 tonnes.

The Rheinmetall Panther KF51 - projected weight of this tank is still 59 tons, but the one after it should weigh less than 50 tons.

The Rheinmetall Panther KF51 – the projected weight of this tank is still 59 tonnes, but the one after it should weigh less than 50. Image credit: Rheinmetall Defense via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The reason why the Leopard 2A7+ weighs so much is because it has to. This MBT is designed to face serious threats posed by Russian and Chinese equipment. Modern anti-tank missiles, including highly portable shoulder-fired ones, can deliver blows from multiple sides.

You cannot save any weight by making the top armor of the tank a little bit thinner. Tanks now have thick steel armor, cladded with bricks of active protection. Then there are guns, ammo and all the other things. However, such incredible mass is really cumbersome.

The problem is that a 70-tonne machine is very difficult to move. First, there is a problem with logistics. 70-tonne cargo is a challenge for a regular truck, but also for air-transport systems, rails and other machines.

Then there is a problem of mobility. Yes, tracks can support that weight, but can the road? It doesn’t really matter, because the Leopard 2A7+ is expected to operate mostly off-road.

But being so heavy it can sink into mud in no time. Furthermore, it needs a more powerful engine, which will drink more fuel and move with more weight. And when such a massive tank gets stuck, it will be incredibly difficult to free it with other equipment. It just makes sense that modern tanks need to go on a diet, but how can they lose weight without compromising survivability?

Well, that’s a challenge for the German Rheinmetall Protection Systems to tackle. This defense industry giant has thought of a system called StrikeShield, which will build on the Active Defense System. It is a hybrid armor system, finding a balance between active and passive protection.

In short, sensors of the system detect an incoming projectile and select the active module to intercept it. The incoming missile or a round is destroyed mid-air and the lighter composite armor only needs to deflect fragments of the destroyed munitions. All of those active modules would be replaceable as they would be destroyed during active combat.

Active protection for tanks is already being developed and tested in multiple countries. The idea itself is not new. But it will be interesting to see how active armor can maintain or increase the expected level of survivability while also helping tanks lose weight. And, of course, anti-tank gun manufacturers will soon be looking for solutions that will address the challenge of active protection.


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