Hungary has agreed to join the German land systems manufacturer, Rheinmetall, in developing the Panther KF51 main battle tank (MBT), a concept that the company unveiled at the Eurosatory trade fair last year.

Both parties signed the €288m ($315.6m) contract in Zalaegerszeg, Hungary, according to a 15 December 2023 press release.

A demonstrator vehicle will be constructed and qualified, paving the way to full-scale production. Rheinmetall is co-operating in the project with the state-owned Hungarian holding company N7, which also holds a 49% stake in the joint venture (JV) Rheinmetall Hungary.

“The Panther KF51 is the world’s most advanced MBT,” the CEO of Rheinmetall, Armin Papperger, asserted. “It sets a new standard for the combat effectiveness of mechanised formations, while delivering a high degree of future adaptability.

“At the same time, in our accustomed manner, we’ll be empowering our local JV Rheinmetall Hungary and further strengthen the national defence industrial capabilities of our partners.”

The Panther KF51 complements the existing Hungarian fleet

Rheinmetall intends to integrate its L55A1 120-millimetre (mm) smoothbore gun to the new Panther, which also features in the latest variants of the Leopard 2. This will ensure logistical homogeneity with Hungary’s existing fleet of four Leopard 2A4HU units.

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Nevertheless, the Panther KF51 will already be equipped with an autoloader. Moreover, the turret architecture will enable subsequent retrofitting of the company’s new 130mm gun, which enables a 50% longer kill range to be achieved (than 120mm) with an unparalleled rate of fire due to the autoloader performance.

Leading intelligence consultancy, GlobalData, tells us that the Hungarian Government is simultaneously in the process of procuring Leopard 2A7+ and more 2A4 units (four of which will be second-hand for training purposes), both from the German JV KNDS.

In conjunction with this procurement plan, the country is also acquiring Rheinmetall’s Lynx infantry fighting vehicles and Buffalo armoured recovery vehicles besides the country’s indigenous Gidran armoured vehicles in support of its MBT fleets.

Hungary’s military land vehicles sector its highest valued segment in its defence market. GlobalData estimates there to be a compound annual growth rate of 2% until 2028, at a total value of $838m.