Wednesday, February 21, 2024

4 arguments in favor of the development of a Leclerc 2 tank ahead of the Franco-German MGCS program

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The design of a Leclerc 2 tank as an interim solution, pending the MGCS, would have four arguments to put forward: meet the immediate needs of the army, have a versatile platform for specialized tracked armored vehicles, expand the French industrial offer on the international scene and, counter-intuitively, reduce the pressure and the risks of failure of the MGCS program.

Among the many lessons inherited from the conflict in Ukraine, the central role of the battle tank in land maneuver, whether offensive or defensive, is probably the one which most contradicted many certainties inherited from the end of the Cold War, as well as the two Iraqi wars.

For many armed forces, until recently, the battle tank was a heritage on the verge of obsolescence, faced with the multiplication and densification of threats, with the arrival of increasingly efficient anti-tank systems, including including in the hands of the infantry.

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In Ukraine, however, as was the case in Nagorno-Karabakh two years earlier , it quickly became clear that despite these threats, and the central role taken over by artillery, the battle tank, and more generally heavy armored vehicles had retained this unique ability to pierce enemy lines, as well as to repel enemy attacks.

In fact, and even if the phenomenon had restarted several years ago, all the major world armies and European armies in particular, have once again put the heavy tank at the heart of their planning.

Thus, while the battle tank market experienced a period of dead calm for nearly 20 years, it has experienced meteoric growth over the last three years, including for armies which, until recently, were considering very seriously to remove this type of armor from their inventory.

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France is no exception, even if the Army has done everything to maintain such a capacity, including during the years 2010-2015, the most critical in budgetary and political terms.

Thus, the Army has maintained 3 cuirassier regiments each armed with around fifty heavy Leclerc tanks while two armored regiments have a company of Leclercs alongside their Infantry combat vehicles, for a total of 220 Leclerc in service to date.

In addition, 200 of these tanks, delivered during the 1990s, are being modernized, in particular to integrate the infocentric SCORPION combat bubble alongside the Griffon and Serval replacing the venerable VAB, and the Jaguar which replace the AMX-10RC and ERC-90.

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Above all, Paris and Berlin launched, in 2017, a joint program aimed at developing the replacement for the Leclerc, but also the Leopard 2, by 2035.

Designated Main Ground Combat System or MGCS, this program, like its FCAS counterpart for the replacement of the Rafale and Typhoon combat aircraft, encounters numerous industrial and political difficulties, to the point that its sustainability is today more than threatened. , as are the target deadlines.

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If the trajectory followed by Paris and Berlin was reasonable and coherent in 2017, when it began, the context and the threat have evolved considerably since then, to the point that it could be relevant to consider accelerating the MGCS program to respond to it. .

However, given the difficulties encountered by the two countries in their collaboration, such a solution seems difficult to implement, opening the way to a second alternative, the design and construction, over a short period of time, of a direct successor to the Leclerc tank, which we will call in this article “Leclerc 2” to mark its direct lineage.

As we will see, France would, in a very factual way, have every interest in engaging in such an approach, both to meet the short and medium term needs of the Army, and to have a platform Versatile tracked form capable of accommodating its emerging high-intensity needs. It would finally make it possible to seize real industrial opportunities in Europe and around the world.

What could the Leclerc 2 tank be?

Like the Challenger 3 launched across the Channel, a Leclerc 2 program would aim to integrate new capabilities resulting from technological advances developed in recent years into the existing Leclerc platform.

This would involve, for example, providing the armored vehicle with advanced communication and cooperative engagement capabilities, as well as new generation vetronics, like that which equips other programs of the same type, such as the German KF-51 Panther .

The lethality of the tank should also be extended, whether by embedding a larger caliber gun 140 mm ASCALON gun , or by providing the tank with additional strike capabilities by equipping it with medium-range anti-tank missiles like the Akheron MP.

The survivability of the tank would also be increased, with the native integration of a soft kill / hard kill protection system like the new APS Prometeus from Nexter which should already equip the Leclerc MLU, Jaguar and Griffon , as well as a system of multispectral camouflage like the Salamander .

This survivability would be increased by equipping it with a remotely operated turret equipped with a small caliber cannon for close protection, particularly against drones and in an urban environment.

Finally, like the trajectory followed across the Atlantic with the AbramsX, it could be relevant to equip the tank with hybrid electric propulsion to increase its combat autonomy, and giving it stealthy movement capabilities.

A Leclerc 2 tank could benefit from the technological advances made on the EMBT demonstrator, such as its turret.
A Leclerc 2 tank could benefit from the technological advances made on the EMBT demonstrator, such as its turret.

Beyond a simple stacking of new capabilities, it would above all be a question of increasing the efficiency of the tank based on technologies actually available now.

This would allow rapid production and entry into service before the end of the decade, while reducing industrial and technological risks, development costs and production costs to the strict minimum.

It would thus be possible to meet the needs of the Army, but also to have a competitive and attractive offer on the international scene, both against the South Korean K2 Black Panther Panther a possible KF- 51 Panther or American AbramsX .

A critical need for the Army

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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