Acquisition of the tank Leopard Will 2A8 by Italy be its gateway to the MGCS program?

Since its presentation in April 2023, the new tank Leopard 2A8 by the German Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, records the new control intentions with the regularity of a Swiss metronome. Thus, in addition to the initial announcement of the German Army almost concomitant with its presentation, the Czech Republic declared itself in favor of the acquisition of 70 units in May, followed in June by Norway to replace its Leopard 2A4.

It is now Italy's turn to officially decide in favor of the acquisition of at least 125 Leopard 2A8 to Germany, alongside the modernization of an equivalent number of locally designed C1 Ariete tanks, to bring its overall fleet of heavy tanks beyond 250 units.

Italy confirms upcoming acquisition of tank leopard 2a8

This is essentially what explained the undersecretary of state at the ministry Italian Defense, Isabella Rauti, to the Defense Committee of the Italian Parliament, within the framework of the parliamentary hearings on the subject of the modernization of the Italian armed forces.

The Italian under-secretary also clarified, during this same hearing, that these future acquisitions did not call into question the possible adhesion of Rome to the new generation Franco-German tank program Main Ground Combat System, or MGCS.

The tank Leopard 2A8 is an evolution of Leopard 2A7HU
With modern vetronics, a hard-kill trophy system and reinforced armor, the tank Leopard 2A8 is designed to ensure the interim until the (possible) arrival of the MGCS program

Although still heavily handicapped by the tensions between the KNDS joint venture bringing together the German KMW and the French Nexter, on the one hand, and the German group Rheinmetall integrated into the forceps program by the Bundestag in 2019, Germany has never hidden its ambition to open the MGCS program to other European partners, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and therefore, Italy, having made known their interest in this subject.

Rome still interested in joining the MGCS program

While Rome is considering local construction of the 125+ Leopard 2A8 that it intends to acquire, which requires in-depth cooperation with the German land defense industry, we can expect that Berlin will be particularly benevolent regarding the integration of Italy, and its industrial and technologies partially formatted to German procedures and equipment, to the MGCS program.

More generally, the acquisition of the new Krauss-Maffei tank could very well become the gateway to joining this Franco-German program in the medium term.

It should be remembered in this respect that Berlin showed itself from the start of the program to be more than benevolent with regard to British ambitions to also integrate MGCS, whereas the Challenger 3 evolution of its battle tank which will provide the interim, will be largely provided by Rheinmetall, which will also integrate numerous equipment including the Rh-120 L/55A1 120mm smoothbore cannon already equipping the Leopard 2 since the A6 version, in place of the 30mm rifled L1A120 which equips the Challenger 2 today.

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The Challenger 3 will be the most German of British tanks

However, it is likely that the possibility of seeing other nations join the MGCS program will be very reluctantly received by France, and more specifically by the country's land-based Defense Industrial and Technological Base (BITD), already under tension since the arrival from Rheinmetall.

However, Paris will certainly have a hard time making itself heard by Berlin in this area. Indeed, in 2018, during the competition for the replacement of the F-16s of the Belgian air forces, France openly attached to its proposal around the fighter Rafale, the possibility for Brussels to join the FCAS program.

The blurred contours and contradictions of the MGCS program


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