Saturday, March 2, 2024

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

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That’s it… they fell for it. .. It is probably in these terms that the vast majority of readers, at least the most measured among them, approached this new article with a slightly provocative title.

Indeed, the new KF-51 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, to try to derail the program Franco-German MGCS which aims to design, precisely, the replacement of the French Leclerc tank as well as the German Leopard Developed with its own funds, the Panther is offered by Rheinmetall to anyone showing an interest in acquiring a new heavy tank, including in arrangements that are improbable to say the least .

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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 is often the case, the point of view from which we approach a problem significantly conditions the reasoning and therefore the conclusion that we can draw from it. Thus, today, the French authorities, like the public opinion of the country, actively support the concept of a global army for the French armies, namely an armed force having the majority of the capabilities required to respond to a field of very extensive use.

This is how the Army has forces adapted to both high-intensity symmetrical engagement and the projection of forces in asymmetric environments, and how the Navy has a naval aviation component envied by many other countries. and know-how in terms of naval supremacy and very broad power projection, and that the Air Force is capable of supporting these two armies in all employment scenarios.

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What's more, France has a two-component deterrent, which is also very technologically 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 Defense Industry, also global, giving it great autonomy of action and decision regarding the employment of its armed forces, as well as a significant 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 Defense Industry'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 equipment for exports such as the Rafale plane, the CAESAR cannon, the sub -marin Scorpène 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, notably heavy tanks, generates costs in France far from being offset by export revenues, but also far from offering an operational or political benefit significant enough to justify such developments, rather than turning to solutions proposed by international partners, and which could prove more economical and less restrictive both for the acquisition and for the implementation of this equipment. We continue ?

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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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    • Ah good ! Only one thing matters, the industrial independence of our country and that we do not have to lie down in front of foreign states to act where necessity requires it! And therefore, we must control all arms sectors, whatever the cost! We have ample economic margins to do without the Germans or other lesson-givers from Europe or across the Atlantic. This does not please the profiteers of globalization, but we see every day the limits of this extra-national drift. 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 Hornet 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 a combat aircraft. 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 a global BITD, but it must be admitted 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, would there not be an interest in turning, like Poland, to Korea to quickly obtain what we are sorely lacking?

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

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

  2. When we observe Mr. Papperger's methods 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, we can only doubt the possibility of obtaining anything from Rheinmetall The idea seems to make the FRG the only tank manufacturer in Europe The RAID magazine recently published a
    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 over a number important number of armored vehicles, what do you think?
    The Leclerc itself was not powered by a German MTU turbine?

    • Unless I'm mistaken, the Leclerc ATF is French motorized. It is the one from the UAE which 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 particularity makes the tank extremely difficult to target and hit for the opponent

    • Yes, the author is Mr. Chassillan, one of Europe's leading experts 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. That's the whole point 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, or 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 the Rafale for example.
      Furthermore, the operational added value of a national MBT is very questionable, while it is much less so for other equipment which can be used in contexts of exclusive sovereignty.

  3. Great article as usual.
    Afterwards I remain unconvinced of the interest of a large tank fleet.
    The Ukrainian conflict, in my opinion, above all demonstrates that without air domination it is difficult.
    We have a fantastic tool for air domination with the Rafale . Increasing its operational volume to 350 copies seems more interesting to me tactically speaking.
    With this zoizo, no more artillery and no more fire support and suddenly real hell for an attacker.
    Let us not forget the military doctrine that allowed us to win all our battles: speed is life.
    In Syria, the Rafale entered the contested areas like butter (S300/400), threw away the BGUs and returned to the boat.

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

  4. Very relevant analysis. We can add (based on 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 tanks that are less heavy and more mobile 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 , but to question the dogma of the global Defense Industry.

  5. Thank you everyone for your informative comments.

    It seems to me that reflection on the dogma of the global Defense Industry 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 are left with your mouth in water because you no longer produce paracetamol or other medications, masks. of 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….

    Defense Industry is expensive but it is the price of national independence

    There are savings to be made elsewhere and, as many of the excellent articles on this site show, it is now 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 defense issues can only feel fear and dismay at the French military landscape that he is forced to contemplate: armies reduced in strength and which fail to recruit or retain loyalty. , equipment for which the sampling qualification is most often used, under-equipped and under-armed machines and buildings, glaring lack of ammunition of all categories... 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 dividends” made it possible to do just about anything, can we hope for a return to a healthy lucidity and pragmatism? strengthen the strengths of BITD and invest to fill the gaps?

  7. Good evening,

    Thank you for this stimulating article and the comments to match.

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

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

    • This is what the Hungarians obtained regarding the KF41 Lynx so nothing excludes 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 IFVs. 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 single tank like the Caesar?

    • Technologically speaking, without any problem. It is also Nexter which developed the EMBT turret. But this is a demonstrator, and not a prototype to prepare for production.

      • Who is capable in France, on the one hand, of designing and producing the propulsion system of a new tank and, on the other hand, above all of proposing a solution more economical in fuel consumption than that of an Abrams, For example?

        Manufacturing a tank with purely electric propulsion – and not a hybrid – is this conceivable today?

        • Marie,
          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 if the tanks are not equipped with CNR (mini reactor)….

  9. Beyond the sovereignist spontaneity of developing a replacement for the Leclerc alone, the solution of the rapid extension of the burst fleet rafale attractive!
    And to quickly manufacture 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…..

    • As you will have understood, the Panther is used here as an illustrative example to reflect on the relevance (or not) of focusing on a global Defense Industry. 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 the status of the project to acquire 1770 tanks by the Indian authorities.

        11 professionals, including KNDS, were interested….
        However, 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 the Leopard 2 at $15 million or the 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...

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