Italy joins and strengthens the MGCS program, at the cost of a small humiliation for France

The KNDS group and the Italian Leonardo announced the signing of a strategic partnership marking the entry of Rome into the MGCS program, and the future acquisition of Leopard 2A8 by Italy. But, while France had suggested, a few months ago, that it was ready for a showdown with Berlin to integrate Italy into this difficult program, it is Berlin, and not Paris, which is presented as the key partner of Rome in this realization.

When France wanted to impose Italy in the MGCS program

At the end of August 2023, while the MGCS program, which should allow the replacement of tanks Leopard 2 Germans and French Leclerc, was the subject of numerous concerns, indiscretions, made by the French authorities to certain specialized journalists, had led people to believe that France was preparing to start a standoff with Berlin, to allow Italy to join the program.

At that time, for France, it was a question of rebalancing the industrial balance of power within this program which had been in a state of stasis for 3 years, destabilized as it had been by the arrival of Rheinmetall in 2019, and the ambiguous attitude of the German industrialist since then. Furthermore, Germany was then presented, by these same sources, as the force opposing this possibility, precisely so that industry across the Rhine could maintain national control.

Leopard X
Italy will order 125 tanks Leopard 2A8 with KNDS, with a significant industrial component.

Although credible, this hypothesis was however only poorly supported by facts, and in particular the absence of public positions taken on this subject, from the French authorities, nor from the Minister of the Armed Forces, Sébastien Lecornu. A few days later, at the beginning of September, the credibility of this information was damaged, while Germany, Spain, Sweden and especially Italy announced a joint commitment in a European study program concerning, precisely, the future of the battle tank.

On the other hand, Rome had made public, as early as July, its intention to acquire 125 Leopard 2A8 to replace part of its C1 Ariete battle tanks, and thus modernize its armored cavalry. This announcement then led to speculation that Italy intended to use this order like a sesame to join the MGCS program.

On this subject, at the end of September, Sébastien Lecornu, and his German counterpart Boris Pistoruis, jointly indicated regain control of this program, to get him out of the impasse he found himself in. On the other hand, there was no question of Italy. Had Paris failed in its standoff with Berlin?

Rome and Leonardo sign a strategic partnership with Berlin and KNDS for 125 Leopard 2A8 and join the MGCS program

We now know the end of this story, while KNDS and Leonardo have just announced the signing of a strategic partnership paving the way for the acquisition of the 125 Leopard 2A8 Italians, accompanied by a significant industrial component, but also, and above all, allowing Italy, and its major industrialist, to join the MGCS program as a full member.

The press release published by KNDS gives little detail about the participation of Italy and Leonardo in the MGCS program, as well as its financing. As mentioned in a previous article, there is little doubt that this upheaval will make it possible to reorganize industrial sharing in a more efficient way, and thus to contain the barely concealed ambitions of Rheinmetall concerning its KF51 Panther, as an alternative to MGCS itself.

C1 Ram
The Leopard Italian 2A8s will replace part of the C1 Ariete currently in service with Italian armored cavalry units.

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