Panzer 96

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Pz96 Tranche III.
Type Main battle tank
Place of origin
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Service history
In service 1996-present
Used by Austrasien
Production history
Designer REST AG
Designed 1984-1996
Manufacturer RKW
Unit cost $10 million
Produced 1996-present
Number built 1,000
Weight 70 tonnes
Length 10.61 m (gun forward)
7.58m (hull only)
Width 3.5m (hull)
Height 2.49m
Passengers 4 (commander, gunner, driver, radio operator)

Armor Modular "special" armor
top-attack ERA
Active Protection System
14cm Pzk M-91 L/39
Engine REST AG TC98 turbocompound
1,350 kw
Power/weight 19.3 kW/tonne
Transmission REST AG semi-automatic transmission
Suspension Active hydropneumatic
Ground clearance Variable 0.1-0.5m
Fuel capacity 2,000 l (internal)
500 km (road)
Speed Road: 70 km/h
Off road: 45 km/h

The Panzer 96 (Pz96) is an Austrasian main battle tank, designed and produced by a partnership between RKW and REST AG. Design began in 1982 and production started in 1996; more than 1,000 have been produced, and acquired by the Austrasian Panzerwaffe. The Panzer 96 incorporated a number of next-generational technologies, especially vehicle electronics, and concepts but has been controversial because of its cost - each vehicle costs $10 million to produce.


The Panzer 96 was developed by a partnership between state arms manufacturer RKW and the industrial giant REST AG in response to a requirement issued by the OKH for a new generation main battle tank in 1982. The requirement was driven by three main factors: technical intelligence estimates provided by military intelligence, operational research conducted by the Osterode Armour School, and studies conducted by RKW and industry in the 1960s and 1970s. Consequently, planners believed that that a major leap in tank technology would occur between 1990 and 2000, and having anticipated these advances, incorporated design aspects such as active suspension and a high-performance 140 millimetre main gun.

Design Requirements

Major Design Criteria by Category
Armament Protection Mobility Crew Comfort and Sustainment Cost and Technology Risk
  • APFSDS capable of penetrating >750 mm RHAe plus heavy ERA @ 3 KM
  • Defeat dug-in Anti-Tank team @4 km
  • Ph w/APFSDS greater than 50% @ 3 km against moving or stationary targets
  • Hunter-Killer FCS capable of 24 hr operation
  • Compatibility with future guided munitions
  • Protected across frontal arc from <120 mm APFSDS @ 1km
  • Protected across frontal arc from <152 mm tandem-shaped charge
  • Protected roof from <155 mm EFP
  • Protection for crew from artillery delivered anti-tank mines
  • Compatibility with soft and/or hard-kill active defense systems
  • Reduced IR, acoustic, radar signature
  • Segregation of crew and energetic materials
  • Neutron radiation hardening
  • <MLC 80
  • Maximize engine-to-wheel efficiency
  • >18 kW power-to-weight ratio
  • Four man crew
  • Redundant crew stations
  • Full CBNR protection
  • Improved habitability during hot weather, buttoned-up operations
  • Two man minimum operational capability
  • Leverage new technology to support modernization of Austrasian defense-industrial base
  • Concurrent development of vehicle and key vehicle subsystems
  • Stagger production of high-risk subsystems via Tranches
  • Build-in growth margins for future armament, armor, automotive and vetronics upgrades


The tank uses a conventional layout, with two men located in the turret and two in the hull, consistent with the Panzerwaffe's historical preference for an extra crewman. The biggest innovation in the configuration is the use of an extremely low profile turret. This has given the Panzer 96 a profile of 2.35 metres, which is low for its size, and helped control weight while retaining crew situational awareness and a large protected arc.


The Panzer 96 mounts the high-power Austrasian 120 millimetre gun as its primary armament and a Dnieugan 8.76mm general purpose machine gun as its coaxial weapon. The armament represents an increase in firepower over previous designs, both Austrasian and international, and was chosen as a response to the growing proliferation of special armour and explosive reactive armour.


The Panzer 96 fields a modular armor design. The tank is built around a cast steel superstructure supporting modular armour. The armour modules can be rapidly removed and replaced, either for repair, to decrease weight, or because more advanced armour has been developed as a replacement. The tanks armour modules incorporate composite "special" armour which provides effective multi-hit protection against shaped charge and kinetic threats. Internally ammunition is stored in segregated compartments with blow out panels and hydraulics have been eliminated completely. A fast acting halon fire suppression system is fitted in both the crew and engine compartments.

Active defence

All Panzer 96 in Austrasien service have been equipped or retrofitted with the hard-kill active protection system Panzerhemd. This system provides protection from rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles, HEAT shells and mortars. The system includes four two-colour mid-wave infrared warning sensors for detecting "hot" threats like ATGMs or muzzle blasts in the presence of ground and clutter and four long-wave infrared warning sensors for detecting "cold" threats like mortar bombs against the background of the sky. Supplementing Panzerhemd are four laser warning sensors. Each sensor can detect and provide an azimuth bearing (accurate to within 1 degree) on laser illuminators and laser rangefinders over a 45 degree sector. They can also detect and provide bearing on indirect illuminators striking the ground in the vicinity of the tank. Each module also includes a high-sensitivity detector for intercepting low power laser beamrider signals, though it can only indicate which quadrant the threat is illuminating the vehicle from.


The tank is propelled by a gas turbine engine connected to an efficient and a reversible semi-automatic transmission - a seven speed forward gearbox and three speed reverse gearbox - with a triple-differential steering system. A turbine were chosen over a diesel engine because of it's superiority in cold weather, low noise and the lack of visible smoke. The transmission and steering system was designed by REST automotive systems engineers to achieve the highest possible mechanical efficiency and notably features no hydraulics. To mitigate the high fuel consumption of turbine engines while idle, a small 100 hp microturbine is also installed in the powerpack which produces enough electricity to drive all the tanks electrical systems. The tanks hydro-pneumatic suspension system was chosen because of its inherently superior dampening characteristics compared to spring suspensions provided a better ride and more stable firing platform. Hydro-pneumatic suspensions variable height control was also considered essential for offsetting the limited main gun depression permitted by the low profile turret.


The Panzer 96's vetronic systems are produced by ElektronWerke. The system, which is named 'Ria', was based around two common electro-optical/infrared modules for the commander and gunner, in an independent periscope and stabilized hard mount respectively. Earlier tranches incorporated a 2nd Generation forward looking infrared and a low light level television sensor and a laser rangefinder, whereas later tranches replaced the LLTV with a short-wave infrared imager and 3rd Generation staring FLIR. Both sight modules are wired to a common processor which provides automatic target tracking, ranging, engagement and IR aided target recognition for rapid area search. These systems mean that the Panzer 96 can fight "hands-off" engagements, where the commander/gunner are only required to lay the sights on target and depress the firing stud. The system also allows the crew to geo-lock any target or location desired by laying the sights and ranging it, after which the tanks navigation system will then automatically keep the gun pointed towards the targeted position.

An electro-optical/infrared drivers vision system is mounted on the hull to provide better visibility for the driver at night and in low-visibility conditions. Following the Tranche III upgrade this was further enhanced with a stereoscopic EMCCD that provides the driver with high quality 3D colour vision at a range of light levels.


The Pz96's hull and turret are cast as single pieces from high strength steel alloy at REST's foundry in Eisenburg and the Nordwerk foundry in. Final assembly of the Panzer 96 occurs at RKW's main factory in Altbrück. Major subcomponents manufacturers include Rinmetall and ElektronWerke.

Variants and upgrades

First entering production in 2011, the Panzer 96 Tranche III represents the definitive model of the Panzer 96 produced to date. The Tranche III upgrades focused primarily on the Pz96's electronic subsystems, taking advantage of the advances in microelectronics that had been made in the preceding decade. With production of new build tanks winding down significant emphasis has been placed on upgrading older Tranche I tanks still used by some units, with the Panzerwaffe aiming to retrofit all Tranche I & II Pz96s with the Tranche III enhancements by 2020.

The heavy Panzer 99 used by the Panzerwaffe's elite Heavy Armoured Battalions is derived directly from the Panzer 96 but features a number of modifications including a larger hull, new powerpack and a highly advanced fire control system.

Vehicle data

Panzer 96 Tranche III
Average unit cost $15 million URD Manufacturer Reichskonstruktionwerk SG
Proliferation Austrasia Production 1996-Present
Production to date 1,000 Crew 3 (commander, driver, gunner, radio operator)
General Characteristics
Combat weight 65,000kg (loaded) Height over hull 2.35m
Hull length 7.75m Length with gun forward 11.5m
Width over skirts 4.1m (including skirts) Ground clearance Variable, 0.1-0.70m
Mean Maximum Pressure (Ground) 125 kPa
Type Feed Ammunition Traverse Elevation Maximum effective range
Rinmetall 14.5cm PzK M-85 L/45 Rinmetall Automatic cassette loader 34 rounds 360° (60°/sec) +15° to -5° (25°/sec) 3,000 m (APFSDS)
20mm automatic cannon (co-axial) Linkless feed 1,000 rounds 360° (60°/sec) +15° to -5° (25°/sec) 2,000 m
8.76x74mm general purpose machine gun (co-axial) 500-round box magazine 5,000 rounds 360° (60°/sec) +15° to -5° (25°/sec) 1,500 m
Fire Control
Vision Systems Gun Stabilizer
"Ria" common electro-optical modules
SWIR active/passive range-gated camera
Large format QWIP LWIR starring array
Hull azimuth rate
Turret azimuth rate
Turret roll
Driver's vision system Battlefield management system
Stereo EMCCD day/night "Landsturm 10"
Fire control Radios
Digital closed-loop fire control computer
Automatic target tracker
Automatic shot tracker
CO2 laser rangefinder
Muzzle velocity sensor
Muzzle reference system
V-band short range network radio
VHF ground-ground BLOS radio
UHF ground-air LOS radio
HF long range NLOS radio
HF NVIS receiver
Armor & Protection
Assembly Structural armor Spall liner
Welded "Special" laminate armor Boronated plastic
Add-on armor Lightweight anti-tandem ERA
CBRN protection Overpressure
Neutron/gamma detector
Chemical agent detector
Boronated anti-radiation liner
Fire suppression Active protection system Concealment
Automatic halon fire extinguishers in crew and engine compartments
Halogenated fuel
Self-sealing fuel tanks
"Panzerhemd" hard-kill active protection system smoke dischargers
Turret front Glacis Lower front hull
1500 mm LOS thickness (MAX) (RHA + Special laminate) 1300 mm LOS thickness (RHA + Special laminate) 1300 mm LOS thickness (RHA + Special laminate)
Rear turret Top turret Side turret
50mm LOS thickness (RHA) 200mm LOS thickness (RHA + High density ceramic) 650mm LOS thickness (RHA + Special laminate)
Powerplant REST AG G99 gas turbine
Output 1,200 kW,
17.1 kW/Tonne
Fuel capacity 1,500L internal
Transmission REST semi-automatic 7-forward 3-reverse
Steering Steering wheel, electro-mechanical
Brake system Electro-mechanical eddy current/friction multi-disk
Type Road wheels Sprockets
REST Automotive hydropneumatic Sixteen Rear
Type Center guide, double pin
Width Shoes per track Ground contact length
800mm 85 5.6m
Maximum level road speed 60kph Gradient 60% Maximum vertical obstacle 120cm
Maximum off road speed 55kph Side slope 40% Maximum fording depth 2.1m unprepared
15m with umbilical
Average cross country speed 40kph Minimum turning diameter Pivot Maximum trench-crossing distance 280cm
Operational range 500km road