The failure of the joint battle tank project (Main Ground Combat System, MGCS) by Germany and France seems to be becoming more and more a reality. After the Handelsblatt spoke yesterday (September 5, 2023) of the possible failure of the MGCS project (see below), thereby confirming a similar report by Deutsche Welle from June 2023 and also members of the German governing parties publicly questioning the cooperation (see below), the Handelsblatt adds today, September 6th: Germany allegedly signed the contracts with Italy, Spain and Sweden to develop a new main battle tank a few days ago! The two German armaments companies Kraus-Maffei-Wegmann and Rheinmetall are said to be in the lead. The Handelsblatt wants to have learned this from circles in industry and politics. France is no longer mentioned in this context.
We have asked the Federal Ministry of Defense for an opinion. As soon as we have it, we will bring it here.
The long ordeal of the MGCS
The Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) is actually intended to replace the German Leopard 2 main battle tank and the French Leclerc main battle tank. Someday… far, far in the future. The German tank manufacturer Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann KMW and the French armaments group Nexter even founded a new holding company called KMW+NEXTER Defense Systems NV (KNDS) in 2015.
But the Franco-German joint project was never under a lucky star and has not really made any progress to this day, even if politicians from both countries and the companies involved claim the opposite from time to time. It was only in July 2023 that German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius tried to breathe new life into the lame project, as can be read in Leopard 2 successor: How the main battle tank continues.
On September 5, 2023, however, the Handelsblatt reported that the Franco-German battle tank project was threatened with extinction. The Handelsblatt writes:
The contrasts between the two countries involved are so great that the success of the so-called Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) is increasingly in question.
The Handelsblatt relies on government and industry circles. KMW (which produced and still produces the Leopard 2 in large numbers and has also sold it to 13 other states) and Nexter (which produced only a significantly smaller number of the Leclerc; this tank was not a great export success) could agree on important issues , only one Arab country bought this tank) not some. In addition, a third company, Rheinmetall, is pushing into the cooperation. The German armaments group Rheinmetall wants to supply its new 130 mm gun for the successor to the Leopard 2 (Rheinmetall also showed this gun in its prototype KF51 Panther). However, the French are probably against the installation of the Rheinmetall cannon in the MGCS. Rheinmetall, which has proven expertise in guns, has been involved in the MGCS since 2019.
The French government is also disappointed with the pace of the MGCS. In general, Germany seems to be too hesitant about defense projects for the French. The year 2035 was originally planned as the launch date for the successor to the Leopard 2, but now you have to expect delivery from 2040, as the Munich Merkur writes.
Germany and France are sharing the cost of development, but Germany is said to be in the lead (France is in charge of the Franco-German FCAS Future Combat Air System fighter jet project). From the special fund for the Bundeswehr, almost 83.5 million euros are planned for the development of the MGCS for the current year.
German defense expert moves away from the MGCS
Andreas Schwarz, SPD member of the Bundestag and member of the budget and defense committee, speaks in a tweet for the further development of the Leopard 2 and against the joint project with the French:
Leopard 2 is constantly evolving, while Leclerc is not
In fact, KMW is constantly developing the Leopard 2 and is currently supplying a new version to the Bundeswehr with the Leopard 2 A7V. In addition, KMW is also developing a Leopard 2 variant A7A1 with a distance-active protection system aka “Hardkill” for the first time. The proven Israeli hard kill system “Trophy” is used. The Bundeswehr is also purchasing a variant with a trophy called the Leopard 2 A8. The engine of the Leopard 2 A8 also delivers 1600 hp instead of the usual 1500 hp.
With the KF51 Panther from Rheinmetall, another potential successor to the Leopard 2 is at least theoretically available.
Panther KF51: Leopard 2 successor with serious vulnerability – detailed analysis