Leopard 2A-RC 3.0, EMBT…: Will the interim tanks have the skin of the MGCS program?

KNDS announced that it will present several models of intermediate generation tanks, the EMBT, the Leclerc Evolved and, above all, le Leopard 2A-RC 3.0, latest evolution of the European champion of battle tank exports, on the occasion of the Eurosatory 2024 exhibition, one of the main world events devoted to land armaments.

The new capabilities promised by these new tanks, such as the KF-51 Panther from Rheinmetall and the M1E3 Abrams from the American GDLS, outline a profound evolution of the tank, towards a lighter, better protected, more mobile and interconnected armored vehicle, summarizing the technological advances made over the last 20 years.

However, the question arises of the place of these very promising tanks, in an equipment plan, in France and Germany, supposed to target the arrival of armored vehicles from the MGCS program around 2040, and about which Paris and Berlin , as well as their respective manufacturers, recently came to an agreement, after five years of hesitation, tensions and more or less accepted differences.

Key lessons from the war in Ukraine, and the performance of Western tanks in combat

Considered by many Western armies as close to obsolescence only a few years ago, the battle tank has, in just a few years, regained the favor of military staffs, including in Europe, in particular since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Char leopard 2A4 in Ukraine
Western tanks sent to Ukraine have shown a greater ability to protect crews than Soviet models, but they are often handicapped by their high mass, consumption and complex maintenance.

Thus, over the last two years, orders for new heavy tanks, signed or announced by European armies, far exceed all orders placed for this type of equipment over the last 30 years.

Some countries, such as Poland and Romania, have even taken the decision to equip their armies with a very powerful fleet of tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and mobile artillery systems, in formats forgotten since the end of the cold War.

Today, orders mainly relate to iterative evolutions of models that entered service during the Cold War, the Leopard German 2A8 and the American M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams, as well as the K-2 Black Panther South Korean, of more recent design, but belonging to the same generation.

In the longer term, French and German launched, in 2015, the design of a new generation common land combat system, called MGCS, intended to provide technologies, and above all radically new employment doctrines, entirely built around cooperative commitment and the arrival of drones and automated systems.

In the opinion of the Chief of Staff of the French Army, General Schill, the technologies necessary to make the MGCS will not be sufficiently mature before 2040, perhaps even beyond, while this program, which was initially scheduled to deliver its first tank in 2035, is now aiming for a deadline of 2045, or even 2050. These additional delays would probably have gone unnoticed only a few years ago.

MGCS program
The MGCS program must make it possible to design much more than a simple replacement for Leclerc and Leopard 2.

Today, however, the rise in international threats, and especially the war in Ukraine, its lessons and feedback, and the highlighting of the reality of the Russian threat to Europe, are leading to modernization of the Western tank fleet, a priority in the short and medium term, incompatible, therefore, with the MGCS timetable.

This is how an offer, outside of national programs, has recently appeared, relating to models of intermediate generation battle tanks, intended to meet the needs for interim solutions between the tank fleets inherited from the Cold War today. now in service, and the promise of an MGCS due in 2045 or 2050.

The supply of intermediate generation battle tanks is rapidly expanding in the West

This interim offer appeared, on the public stage, for the first time in 2022, on the occasion of the previous Eurosatory exhibition, with the concomitant presentation of the KNDS EMBT, essentially a new turret developed by Nexter (which has since become KNDS France). ), and the KF-51 Panther from German Rheinmetall.

If the French model mainly served as a technological demonstrator, without real commercial ambitions, this was not the case for Panther, which was accompanied by a vast communication campaign, including political, to try to make it an economical, immediately available and 100% German alternative to the MGCS program, in which Rheinmetall also participates.

Leopard 2A7HU
Le Leopard 2A7HU is at the origin of Leopard 2A8 ordered by Germany, Norway and the Czech Republic, and selected by the Netherlands and Lithuania.

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  1. As you suggested, this article interested me a lot and it is very informative. It raises the following questions on my part:

    The dissensions and oppositions between Rheinmetall and KMW are ancient history and public knowledge: Rheinmetall would have wanted to get its hands on its German competitor upon the death of the latter's charismatic leader, the family controlling KMW wanting everything except Rheinmetall from where the KNDS alliance

    According to your sources and your analysis, what is the real project of KNDS Deutschland: erase the French competitor from the heavy armored market by absorption and create a German monopoly in the segment, or try to add to the undeniable qualities of the Leopards the no less undeniable ones? qualities of Leclerc resulting from the know-how of French industry.?

    Is the family controlling KNDS Deutschland totally aligned with the vision of the German Ministry of Defense – a major and historic customer – or is it sincerely trying to create a Franco-German champion of heavy armor?

    I am still doubtful about a sincere desire for cooperation from our German “friends” who sabotaged all common projects, bought American or Israeli and excluded France and Italy from the European Iron Dome project.

    At the same time, Rheinmetall was so hated at KNDS Deutschland.

    As for France, we can only be taken aback by noting that the modernization of the Leclerc does not even integrate Soft Kill Hard Kill systems.

    The speeches of the General Staff on the problem of armored weapons are frightening as they are frightening in their refusal to see the reality outlined by the Ukrainian conflict

    France no longer has armored vehicles that can survive on the Kharkiv side…

    • As I perceive things, it is, in fact, possible that the “ Leopard 3” is a German-style exit strategy from the MGCS. This, when we look at the EMBT presented jointly, we see a real group strategy emerging from KNDS, with two complementary models commercially speaking. So I don't think that KMW is fundamentally hostile to Nexter, nor to the French BITD. I think they apply the same strategy as MBDA, namely agreeing to develop similar products for the two countries, while seeking to make them complementary. Thus, the RCH-155 is not a competitor to the Caesar, the Boxer is not a competitor to the VBCI, and the Leopard 2A-RC 3.0, is not a real competitor to EMBT. On the contrary, each has its own differentiated specificities, and its entries into certain markets: Europe for KMW, Middle East and Asia for Nexter.
      Even in Germany, it is more Scholz and Rheinmetall who try to tackle the French BITD, while KMW and Pistorius are more constructive and intelligent on this type of issue.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
    In the event of a miraculous appearance of political will in France, how long would it take to industrialize a modern Embt-style tank?

    Marc Chassillan, in the latest issue of Raid devoted to armored vehicles, affirms, if I understood his words correctly, that the French BITD has all the skills to quickly produce an innovative heavy armored vehicle.

    What do you think?
    And what about propulsion?
    Hybrid to be quieter and less dependent on fossil energy?

    • Exactly. KNDS did the job. If the Leclerc Evolved remains in the demonstrator state, without being exported, we will only have ourselves to blame. Because the tank has everything to succeed, a super gun, a super turret, an innovative concept of cognitive management, the 1500 hp MTU engine from the Leclerc EAU... It even has its chances in Europe, with certain armies like Belgium, Greece , Croatia and even Spain.


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