Can the French Army turn to the KF-51 tank? Panther from the German Rheinmetall?

That's it... they cracked... It is probably in these terms that the vast majority of readers, at least the most measured among them, have approached this new article with its slightly provocative title.

Indeed, the new KF-51 tank Panther presented by its designer, the German Rheinmetall, during the Eurosatory 2022 exhibition, is today the main tool in the hands of its CEO, Armin Papperger, in an attempt to derail the Franco-German MGCS program which aims to design, precisely, the replacement of the French Leclerc tank as well as the Leopard 2 German. Developed in its own funds, the Panther is offered by Rheinmetall to anyone showing an interest in acquiring a new heavy tank, including in assemblies that are to say the least improbable.

How, in this case, can we even imagine that France could turn to this armored vehicle, even though it is developing the MGCS and modernizing the Leclerc?

As often, the point of view from which one approaches a problem significantly conditions the reasoning and therefore the conclusion that one can bring to it. Thus, today, the French authorities, like the country's public opinion, actively support the concept of a global army for the French armies, namely an armed force with the majority of the capabilities required to respond to a field of very extensive use.

This is how the Army has both forces adapted to symmetrical high-intensity engagement and to the projection of forces in an asymmetrical environment, how the Navy has a naval air component that is the envy of many other countries and know-how in terms of naval supremacy and very broad power projection, and that the Air Force is able to support these two armies in all employment scenarios.

What's more, France has a two-component deterrent, which is also technologically very advanced, giving it a weight roughly equal to that of China in this area. What is even rarer, France has a Defense industrial and technological base, or BITD, which is also global, giving it great autonomy of action and decision-making regarding the use of its armed forces, as well as a major asset on the international scene thanks to arms exports.

To reinforce the Leclerc tank fleet, can the Army turn to the KF-51? Panther from Rheinmetall?
The Army will only modernize 200 of its 226 Leclercs still in service

To achieve this, France devotes several billion euros each year to financing the BITD's Research and Development programs, so as to maintain weapons that are as efficient in the field as they are attractive on the export scene, which allows it to in particular to garner significant budgetary and tax revenue linked to this last aspect and making it possible to reduce the budgetary burden on public finances, in particular thanks to certain star export equipment such as aircraft Rafale, the CAESAR gun, the Scorpène submarine or the FDI frigate. In this context, the question posed in the title of this article probably appears unnecessarily provocative.

However, as long as we study the subject methodically and objectively, it appears that the design of certain equipment, in particular heavy tanks, generates costs in France that are far from being offset by export earnings, but also far from offering a sufficiently significant operational or political benefit to justify such developments, rather than turning to solutions proposed by international partners, and which could prove to be more economical and less restrictive both for the acquisition and for the implementation of this equipment. We continue ?

There are 75% of this article left to read, Subscribe to access it!

Metadefense Logo 93x93 2 MBT Battle Tanks | Defense Analysis | Armed Forces Budgets and Defense Efforts

The Classic subscriptions provide access to
articles in their full version, and without advertising,
from 1,99 €.

For further


    • Ah good ! Only one thing counts, the industrial independence of our country and that we do not have to lie down in front of foreign states to act where the necessity demands it! And by that, we have to master all the armament sectors, whatever the cost! We have largely sufficient economic margins to do without the Germans or other European or transatlantic lesson givers. This does not please the profiteers of globalization, but we see the limits of this extra-national drift every day. We spend "without counting" astronomical sums to "help" or buy internal or external social peace, which would be better used to promote our industries, our infrastructures and therefore also our independence!

      • That's the whole question: is it better to give 500 German tanks to the army, or 250 French tanks, with the same budget (€10 billion)?
        The question arose in 1993 for the Navy, which preferred to acquire 48 Hornets and not 12 Rafale M. But in the case of the tank, it should also be taken into consideration that the political influence linked to export/import is relatively very low because the use of the tank is much more specific and rare than that of an airplane of fight. Furthermore, it is clear that if Dassault has so far exported its combat aircraft very well, exports of tanks are much less so, especially as competition is getting tougher and tougher.
        In short, we can naturally support the concept of global BITD, but we must admit that this will have a very significant effect on the formats of the French armies.

  1. Given the qualities of South Korean K2 and the production capacities of South Korean industry, wouldn't there be an interest in turning, like Poland, to Korea to quickly obtain what we sorely lack?

    Are there prospects for possible collaboration with the Korean BITD or do Korea's ties with the USA prohibit any global cooperation with France?

    • Yes, by the way, it's in the article. But as Hanwa already has a major partner in Europe, we can assume that the negotiation margins would be lower than with Rheinmetall which seems ready to do anything to have a first reference for the KF51.
      On the other hand, K2 would probably bring less added value than Panther, in particular due to the integration of a double hardkill APS against tense shots and plunging threats.

  2. When we observe the methods of Mr. Papperger to impose himself in the initial Franco-German agreement, then to leave France and Nexter only a minor role in the so-called "common" project and finally to prevent the success of the MGCS, one can only doubt the possibility of obtaining anything from Rheinmetall The idea seems to make the FRG the only tank builder in Europe
    The magazine RAID recently published an HS on armored vehicles, regretting the lack of timely modernization of the Leclerc. However, the author seems to suggest that France still has the know-how to create a successor to the Leclerc.
    Beyond the problem of costs and amortization of investments on a large number of armored vehicles produced, what do you think?
    The Leclerc itself was not powered by a German MTU turbine?

    • Unless I am mistaken, the Leclerc ATF is French motorized. It is the one in the UAE that is motorized MTU

      • As a result, the export model does not benefit from the main strength of the tank (which is beta): an insane speed at start-up (hyperbar engine)
        This feature makes the tank extremely difficult to target and hit for the opponent.

    • Yes, the author is Mr. Chassillan, one of the greatest experts in Europe on the subject. There is no doubt that we could do it, simply by assembling existing technological bricks. However, the question is whether it is appropriate to do so. This is the whole subject of the article.
      Thus, if it is necessary to invest €5 billion to develop an MBT today, and if we start with a fleet of 250 MBTs, we have a distributed R&D cost of €20 million per machine, i.e. the price of a second tank. And as the export market is very difficult, there is no indication that we could “remake” ourselves in exports, as in the case of Rafale for example.
      Furthermore, the operational added value of a national MBT is highly debatable, whereas it is much less so for other equipment that can be used in contexts of exclusive sovereignty.

  3. Great article as usual.
    Afterwards, I remain unconvinced of the interest of a large fleet of tanks.
    The Ukrainian conflict has, in my opinion, above all demonstrated that without air domination it's a hassle.
    We have a fantastic aerial domination tool with the Rafale. Increasing its operational volume to 350 copies seems more interesting to me tactically speaking.
    With this zoizo, more artillery and more fire support and suddenly a real hell for an attacker.
    Let's not forget the military doctrine that has allowed us to win all our battles: speed is life.
    In Syria, the Rafaleentered the contested areas like butter (S300/400), threw away the BGUs and returned to the boat.

    I see more of a future like this than cohorts of armored vehicles shooting at each other all day long. 🙂 .

  4. Very relevant analysis. We can add (on the basis of your previous articles) that an important part of the program (electronics, communications, etc.): could be provided by French actors. It remains to reconcile the French preference for lighter and more mobile tanks than those favored by the Germans.

    • Specifically, the Panther is lighter than the Leo2. But you will have understood, the goal here is not to promote the Panther, than to question the dogma of the global BITD.

  5. Thank you all for your informative comments.

    It seems to me that reflection on the dogma of the global BITD is necessary but that it must take into account recent lessons:

    – if you include certain foreign products, American or German for example, you can no longer export freely, so you no longer amortize your R&D costs on possible sales abroad

    – at worst, you stay stuck in the water because you no longer produce paracetamol or other drugs or masks. chips and you depend on the goodwill of your suppliers today who tomorrow will light up the Courbet or ban you from the Taiwan Strait

    So yes the unit cost is high but at least you have the product….

    The BITD is expensive but it is the price of national independence

    There are savings to be made elsewhere and, as many excellent articles on this site show, now is the time to rebuild a National Defense


    • One thing is certain, these exchanges are constructive and relevant, and I do not regret for a second the activation of comments to subscribers.
      To follow up on your comments, the problem today is that industrial and technological planning is based on short-term operational, industrial and political considerations, and only rarely integrates real objective reflection on exports and therefore on the concept budget balance and sustainability. This is linked to many factors, notably the way the budget works, but also to a certain conservatism that is very difficult to move, even with solid arguments. Very often, direct and short-term interest supplants healthy medium-term thinking. The most telling example is the decision by DA to dismantle the M2000 line, not for lack of perspective, but for fear that the government (Fillon at the time) would turn again towards the 2000 to the detriment of the Rafale. We can well imagine how successful a line of 2000 Rafalises would have been since 2015-2016 against the Gripen C and F16 block 70.

  6. The citizen who is concerned about questions of defense can only feel dread and consternation in front of the French military landscape which he sees himself forced to contemplate: armies reduced in number and which do not manage either to recruit, nor to retain , equipment for which the sampling qualification is most often used, under-equipped and under-armed vehicles and buildings, glaring lack of ammunition of all categories, etc.
    I remember an excellent article, I believe by Michel GOYA, in DSI on the theme: who could France face victoriously? Iran? , Turkey?: the answer was not obvious, it seems and the hypothesis of a crushing defeat was not ruled out….
    After years where the "peace dividend" has made it possible to do almost anything, can we hope for a return to a salutary lucidity and pragmatism? strengthen the strengths of the BITD and invest to fill the gaps?

  7. Hi,

    Thank you for this stimulating article and the accompanying comments.

    Perhaps a crazy idea, but I'm testing: is it realistic to offer Rheinmetall a production under license?

    In the idea:
    – a long-term partnership;
    – to have a chain in the hexagon;
    – less “fear” of the imbalance with Germany in the tank of the future.

    • This is what the Hungarians got on the KF41 Lynx so nothing excluded it, on the contrary since Rheinmetall is desperately looking for a credible reference to launch their tank. We could also discuss with the Italians who want to acquire 125 tanks and 200 VCI. There could be interesting industrial and commercial synergies to emerge.

  8. Question to the expert on the subject and wouldn't NEXTER have the means to design a tank alone like the Caesar?

    • Technologically speaking, no problem. It is besides Nexter who developed the EMBT turret. But it is a demonstrator, not a prototype to prepare for production.

      • Who is able in France, on the one hand, to design and produce the propulsion system of a new tank and, on the other hand, especially to propose a solution more economical in fuel consumption than that of an Abrams, For example?

        Building a tank with only electric propulsion – and not hybrid – is this conceivable today?

        • Mary,
          I don't think there is a reservoir of energy as efficient as a tank of oil to move such a mass.
          Electricity also poses other logistical problems in the absence of equipping the tanks with CNR (mini reactor)….

  9. Pass the sovereignist spontaneity of developing alone a replacement for the Leclerc, the solution for the rapid extension of the fleet of rafaleIt's attractive!
    And to manufacture quickly under license to wait for the MGCS in 2045.
    Still, we would still be entitled to hope for a little more reciprocity from our friends across the Rhine…..

    • You will understand, the Panther is used here as an illustrative example to reflect on the relevance (or not) of focusing on a global BITD. for example, there was much criticism of the decision to turn to the German FA HK416 or the Italian BRF. Yet it was the same reasoning.

      • We know where the project of acquisition of 1770 tanks by the Indian authorities is.

        11 professionals, including KNDS, had been interested….
        But the timing of the first deliveries would be perfect for our two countries….

        • I can't see the Indians, accustomed to the T-72 or T-90S at less than $4 million per unit, turning to Leopard $2 to $15 million or towards K2 at $10 to $12 million. For this price, they will carry out local development with technology transfer from the Russians who are just waiting for that to finance the continuation of the Armata family...

Comments are closed.


Last articles