Rheinmetall Unveils the Advanced Technology Demonstrator with The Next-Generation 130mm Cannon

Issue 100

On July 31, 2020, German defense company Rheinmetall has released a video on the company's official twitter account showing a new 130mm smoothbore gun. The news release 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."

Rheinmetall unveiled the first prototype of its next-generation 130mm L/51 gun at Eurosatory 2016 in Paris, stating that the development of the 130mm technical demonstrator (TD) launched in 2015 by the Group's Weapons and Ammunition division to address the emerging necessity of gaining significant performance enhancements against modern armored vehicles.

According to the German company, the 130mm live-fire demonstrator showcased superior energy and output performance compared to the standard 120mm L/55 cannon in a direct live-fire test with modern targets. Rheinmetall states that the new weapon provides a 50% improvement in performance over the current 120mm cannon thanks to the increase of 8% in caliber. Financed entirely by the Rheinmetall, the new 130mm L/51 smoothbore gun weighs around 3,000 kilograms without mounting components and has a barrel length of 6.63 meters. It uses a brand new 130mm armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) round with elongated rod penetrator made of a new tungsten alloy, which presumably requires an autoloader. The new APFSDS round also features a semi-combustible cartridge case and a new propellant. Designed for integration in new main battle tanks, the L/51 has a vertical sliding breech mechanism with a chrome-lined smoothbore barrel, increased chamber volume, and a muzzle reference system (MRS).

Moreover, the demo tank unveiled in the video is a British Challenger 2 MBT fitted with a modified turret based on Rheinmetall's advanced technology demonstrator for the British Army's Challenger 2 Life Extension Project (LEP). In addition to the new 130mm gun, the modified turret has extra (possibly spaced) armor at the front, and sides that is flatter compared to the Challenger 2 LEP demonstrator displayed at DSEI 2019.

According to the company's statement, the system will be compatible with the European Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) project and can serve as a combat performance upgrade to all Leopard 2 user nations. Rheinmetall also plans to offer the 130mm L/51 to the US Army Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) program.