France and Germany sign deal on “new” future European tanks

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French Defense Minister Sebastien Le Cornu (right) and German Defense Minister Oscar Pistorius (left) sign the Main Ground Combat System Agreement on April 26, 2024 in Paris, France. Stian Lecornu x)

PARIS – After lengthy political and industrial negotiations, France and Germany today signed the “first phase” of an agreement to jointly develop the next-generation Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), ensuring a 50/50 split between the two countries for the German-led project. balance.

At a joint meeting this morning, French Defense Minister Sebastien Le Cornou, standing next to his German counterpart Boris Pistorius, explained that “the future of tanks, not the tanks of the future” is is the “core” of the negotiations, “because by 2040 we all need the same tank.”

“Today’s signature is a milestone,” Pistorius said. “We finally succeeded in solving the thorny problem of industrial work sharing. It was a very, very painstaking process [a] A very, very complex task, many thanks to our respective teams.

The two emphasized that the vision for the project was not just the next version of Leopard, but in Pistorius’s words, “but something completely new.”

“We are talking about a partially robotic system, without a pilot, using new technologies and artificial intelligence. This will be a real technological breakthrough for ground combat systems.

The French official said the outcome of the negotiations would be that each country’s role in the plan would be equally distributed “but also their productive capacity”.

The French minister explained that industrial development is divided into eight “pillars”, each of which is the responsibility of one company, and sometimes two. The pillars are Platform, Traditional Fires, Innovative Fires, Connectivity, Sensors, Simulation, Protection and Infrastructure. Lekonou said their allocation would “depend on industrial capacity”.

He acknowledged the lessons learned from another major joint project between the two countries: the SCAF Future Combat Air System. He said it was a mistake to decide on industrial job shares first and then listen to the Air Force in the plan. “We’ve done a lot of work this time to make sure the needs of both our militaries are considered first because the interoperability of our militaries is critical.”

Pistorius said talks with industry would now begin to develop a demonstrator, with the “very ambitious” aim of signing a contract by the end of the year and then submitting it to the German and French parliaments for approval. He added that he had “no doubt” that the German parliament would approve the project.

He confirmed that “after the contract is signed” the MGCS program would be open to other countries, including Italy, which has already expressed interest. He also mentioned Poland as a potential future player.

With Pistorius nodding in agreement, Le Cornu said they could not imagine a situation in which the two allies would not be partners in a conflict, so it was important to have a major interoperable ground combat system.

He also emphasized that “given that the United States has not yet considered replacing the Abrams tank, we are the first country to consider the 2040 tank.” (Despite Le Cornu’s characterization, the U.S. Army said last September that it had decided to give up on the Abrams tank. Brahms’ plans for incremental upgrades were replaced by a more dramatic transformation, dubbed the M1E3).

Lecornu explained that defense contractors KNDS France (formerly Nexter) and KNDS Germany will play a leading role together with Rheinmetall, Thales “and other companies”. But it will be the German Procurement Office that signs the contract with industry.

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