For the future of the Leopard 2 main battle tank (MBT), Rheinmetall is seeing a three step program:
- Modernization of the Leopard 2 with new technologies including an high-pressure 120 mm gun
- Upgunning the Leopard 2 with the new 130 mm gun being developed by Rheinmetall
- Replacing the Leopard 2 with the Main Ground Combat Systems
Another possibility is an increase in barrel length, mentioned by Autobild.de, the first source to mention the 130 mm gun. Autobild.de is not a military related source, but they were invited to a presentation of the MBT Technologieträger prototype. According to them, an increase of 1 meter in barrel length is a possibility (but my original interpretation of their words was that they talked about switiching the Leopard 2 Revolution prototype from L44 to L55 gun). If this makes sense, given the drawbacks affiliated with a longer gun barrel, is questionable in my opinion.
A third option would be upgrading the L55 gun, but only by using more modern components instead of lengthening the barrel. As the barrel has to be replaced on a regular base (due to barrel wear), a cheap option would be the replacement of the gun barrel with a more modern one, which due to better manufacturing processes (such as a higher pressure for autofrettaging) and/or better metallugry can deal with higher pressure ammunition. This has been done in the past at least by the US and probably also by some Leopard 2 users.
|Rheinmetall announced to develop a new/upgraded 120 mm and a new 130 mm gun|
Rheinmetall has at least confirmed that the new gun will be marketed beginning in 2016, so we might see a few further posts about this topic in this year.
A possibility for both tank guns mentioned by Rheinmetall is also the use of new technologies, such as an ETC gun. Already in the year 2000 an ETC gun prototype managed to outperform a L55 tank gun using a projectile of the same weight. This was published in the European Forum on Ballistics of Projectiles, article "Status and Results of the German R&D Program on ETC Technologies". The LKE II (DM53 prototype) fired from the L55 gun reached a muzzle velocity of 1750 meters per second (mps) at 21° centigrade, whereas a projectile with the same mass, fired from the ETC prototype gun with 110 KJ of electrical energy added, managed to reach a muzzle velocity of 1822 mps and an energy output of 14 MJ.
|Please note that this rendering shows a Leopard 2 Revolution|
The contract between Germany and France for the development of the MGCS was signed originally in 2012, despite becoming only wider known after the new Russian T-14 Armata MBT was revealed in May of 2015. It is understood that the MGCS is currently in the conception phase; different concepts are being made and evaluated, while new technology is being researched and tested. The conception phase is expected to last at least until 2017.