Sometimes providence does things well. This is essentially what German manufacturers involved in the production of battle tanks must be thinking today, while according to a Bundeswehr report, the initial objective for a first delivery of the new battle tank resulting from the program Franco-German MGCS, is now no longer reachable. Indeed, if the intervention of the French and German defense ministers made it possible to lift, at the end of last year, the industrial blockages surrounding the SCAF combat aircraft program, the same problems remain around industrial and technological sharing in within the MGCS program, exacerbated since the arrival of Rheinmetall. The fact is, today, 4 of the major pillars of the program, including that concerning the main armament of the armored vehicle as well as the armor technology used, are the subject of a territorial dispute between the French Nexter and the German Rheinmetall, without the arbitrations having been carried out to date. According to the Bundeswehr report , this situation now prohibits respecting the objective of delivery in 2035, without however specifying when it could actually begin to be delivered.
It would be very risky today, it is true, to announce a date, as the unknowns remain so important. For the French Nexter, there is no question, in fact, of seeing its initial technological attributions revised downwards due to the arrival, in 2019, of a second German industrialist in the program. As such, it must always respect, according to the bases of the agreement which gave rise to it, strict parity between French and German industries, the two countries contributing equally to its financing. On the German side, on the other hand, the perspective is different, especially since national manufacturers have not won their case regarding the first pillar of the FCAS program, which remains led by the French Dassault Aviation. Furthermore, from this point of view, the principle of "best athlete" put forward by Paris regarding the FCAS, should also apply to the MGCS, an area in which Rheinmetall and KMW believe they have much greater experience than Nexter due to of the installed Leopard 2 fleet, and recent commercial successes in this area.
Fundamentally, both points of view can be justified, depending on whether one has a French or German bias, which also explains the freezing of the program today, each being convinced that they are within their rights. For German manufacturers, the FCAS program, and especially its NGF combat aircraft, being with a strong perceived French connotation, it is logical that the MGCS is a program with a perceived German image, especially since the industry across the Rhine has an excellent international image and export market shares much higher than that of Nexter. In fact, by presenting the MGCS as the successor to the Leopard 2, German manufacturers believe that it will benefit from very effective image transfer to win in competitions. France, for its part, explains that it has already made numerous concessions in this program to "make room" for Rheinmetall, and that the industrial sharing around the FCAS is much more balanced than presented by German industry. As a result, stalemate was inevitable at this point. But a question remains: is this impasse manipulated by German industry itself, which has already called for the program to be postponed for 10 years, or is it really fortuitous?
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