Revolution did not happen
The growing threat from Russia and China, developing fundamentally new Tanks, clearly showed that Western tank builders will not be able to rest on their laurels. The appearance of the T-14 tank based on the Armata tracked platform created for Europe and the United States the risk of repeating the 60s, when the birth of the T-64 tank (with all the disadvantages of this vehicle) automatically made Western tanks obsolete.
For the sake of fairness, we note that some steps towards increasing the capabilities of NATO countries have already taken. The German army received the first tank last year Leopard 2A7V... And this year, for the first time, the US ground forces received production tanks M1A2 SEP V3 Abrams. In the first case, the emphasis is on the balance of firepower, mobility and security. And the modernized Abrams, among other things, received the Israeli Trophy active protection complex, capable of intercepting enemy ammunition using radar and striking elements.
At the same time, the West clearly understands that this is not enough. Neither the Leopard 2A7V nor even the M1A2 SEP V3 Abrams revolutionized tank building and offered nothing that we would not have seen on other tanks in one form or another. Now European and American tanks can still withstand existing threats, however, we repeat, this situation may change in the foreseeable future. A fundamentally new solution is needed.
Knight of the "fourth reich"
One of the possible responses to the "eastern threat" was the development of new guns of increased caliber. Recently, the German concern Rheinmetall presented a demonstration video of its new development, a 130 mm tank gun with the symbol Next Generation 130.
Development has been known for a long time. A demonstration sample was presented back in 2016 during the Eurosatory international defense exhibition. The total mass of the gun is approximately 3000 kilograms, the barrel length is 6,6 meters. According to the developers, the new gun will have 50% more power than the 120mm / 55 Rheinmetall L55 tank gun, which the Leopard 2 is equipped with. The gun has a vertical wedge breechblock, an electric firing mechanism and a larger chamber. The barrel was equipped with a heat-insulating casing and a barrel bend control system. According to the bmpd blog, two types of promising unitary shots will be used for shooting. The first is an armor-piercing sub-caliber projectile (APFSDS) with an elongated tungsten core and a partially combustible sleeve using a new type of propellant charge. The second is a multipurpose high-explosive fragmentation projectile with programmable air detonation (HE ABM), which is created on the basis of a similar 120-mm DM11 projectile.
Experts expected that the 130-mm gun would be installed on the Leopard 2 tank: some major media outlets even wrote after the demonstration that it was a German vehicle. In fact, the British Challenger 2 tank participated in the tests.
Here, however, one nuance should be noted: the word "British" can already be used only conditionally. Last year, the German concern Rheinmetall acquired 55 percent of the shares of BAE Systems, which produces Challenger 2 tanks. Or rather, produced: back in May 2009, BAE Systems announced that it was curtailing the production of tanks due to extremely limited demand. Apart from Britain, only Oman ordered the tank: 18 units in 1993 and 20 more in 1997. The total number of Challengers 2 built is just over 400 vehicles. A modest figure, it should be noted. One way or another, we can state the end of British tank building, at least in the form in which it existed before.
The recent trials of a 130mm tank gun can be seen as an attempt by Rheinmetall and BAE to revive the stalled Challenger tank fleet modernization program. Recall that the British Ministry of Defense had high hopes for the Challenger 2 Life Extension Program (CR2 LEP), aimed at dramatically increasing the combat capabilities of the tank. However, last year it became known that the UK Department of Defense had suspended the tender.
It is also pertinent to recall that in 2019 BAE Systems spoke about a new version of the Challenger, called Black Night and painted black (the functionality of this step is not entirely clear). It can be called "advanced" modernization: one of the improvements should be the installation of an active protection complex. Again, today the prospects for this development in connection with the current economic situation in the UK are dubious.
Together and separately
As for the 130-mm Rheinmetall gun, it is difficult to say anything specific about its prospects now. With a high degree of probability, the future of the gun will directly depend on how the development program of the new-generation Franco-German tank MGCS (Main Ground Combat System) is advanced. For which, it must be assumed, the project was started. Earlier, The Drive noted that, according to the requirement for the MGCS, the gun must be at least 50 percent more effective than the existing 120 mm samples. In general, the fate of the program directly depends on how relations between France and Germany develop. And will the European Union not face challenges that will shake its foundations again?
It is also important to say that the Rheinmetall gun is not the only option for the European tank gun of the future. Last year, the French company Nexter tested a modified Leclerc main battle tank with a 140mm gun. As part of the tests, the vehicle fired 200 successful shots.
According to Nexter, the new gun will be 70 percent more efficient than NATO's existing 120mm tank guns. And with a high degree of probability, it will also be more powerful than the 130mm Rheinmetall gun. In any case, this is a potentially more revolutionary development that could "perfectly" fit into the overall concept of the European tank of the future, which, among other things, should have much more firepower than the Abrams or Leopard equipped with 120mm cannons.
The increase in the firepower of the MBT is being considered not only in the EU countries. Earlier there was information about the possible equipping of the Russian T-14 tank based on the "Armata" with a 152 mm cannon instead of the standard 125-mm 2A82 gun. Against its background, the 130mm Rheinmetall gun also does not look like something potentially advanced. On the other hand, it must be assumed that the installation of a new gun on the T-14 is not a question for the next years. And perhaps not for the next decades. One way or another, specific conclusions about the capabilities of new tank guns can be made after the detailed characteristics of the presented samples are known.