Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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France and Germany collaborate to advance their joint efforts in developing a next-generation battle tank.


Germany and France have promised to advance their collaborative project for a new military tank by the end of this year in Évreux, France.

The Armed Forces Ministers of France and Germany, Sébastien Lecornu and Boris Pistorius, respectively, recently held a meeting at the Évreux-Fauville Air Base. This base has been home to a joint Franco-German tactical airlift squadron since 2021. The purpose of the meeting was to revitalize the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) project, which has faced significant delays in the past.

During a meeting, Pistorius informed reporters that the pace has been reduced but is now increasing. He stated that by the end of this year, Paris and Berlin will establish the various pillars and determine the primary country for each one. Pistorius expressed hope that the following year will bring about the crucial step of signing the contract, potentially allowing for additional participants to join the project.

Both ministers refused to disclose information about the pillars.

The MGCS, initiated in 2017 by French President Emmanuel Macron and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, serves as a representation of the cooperative efforts in defense and industry between the two nations. This project is closely tied to another one, the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), which aims to develop a joint French-German fighter jet. Germany takes the lead on the MGCS while France takes the lead on the FCAS.

The French company Nexter, known for its Leclerc tank, and the German company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), which produces the Leopard 2 tank, have merged to form a new company called KNDS. These two companies were previously the top defense companies in charge. In 2019, the addition of Germany’s Rheinmetall caused delays as Paris and Berlin had to adjust to a new balance of power with two German companies instead of one.

Although there are disagreements between Paris and Berlin on various topics such as air defense, trade, and nuclear energy, both ministers emphasized their unity. This comes in response to remarks implying that the success of the Leopard 2 tank in Ukraine, resulting in an increase in orders, has caused the German industry to shift its focus away from the development of the MGCS.

Thursday’s bilateral discussion is part of an ongoing political push: Lecornu was in Berlin in July to meet with Pistorius and will travel to the German capital on October 9 and 10. Both ministers will speak monthly to keep the project moving. 

Following the meeting, the top commanders of the French and German land armies approved a High Level Common Operational Requirements Document (HLCORD), which is a crucial milestone in the development of specifications for the main battle tank. Lecornu stated that significant expectations are beginning to surface.

The original schedule was set for sometime between 2035 and 2040, but Lecornu stated to journalists on Thursday that the undertaking will now extend to 2040 or possibly 2045.

The objective of the MGCS is to take over for the Leclerc and Leopard 2, however the French minister highlighted it as more than just a tank. He described it as a collection of various modules, manned and unmanned, along with laser technology and drones. Artificial intelligence will also have a crucial role in gathering information, coordinating and supporting commands, defending against cyber attacks, and being prepared for electromagnetic warfare.

The project has caught the attention of both Italy and the Netherlands, according to statements from their ministers. However, any other cities wishing to participate must wait for Paris and Berlin to establish the MGCS’s criteria.

Caleb Larson filed a report from Berlin.