Will France ignore the Leclerc Evolution and its formidable industrial and operational potential?

Unquestionably, the Leclerc Evolution, presented by KNDS, was one of the flagship armored vehicles of the Eurosatory 2024 show, which closes its doors this Friday. This tank achieves, in fact, the synthesis between the Leclerc UAE (United Arab Emirates), more efficient than the French model thanks to its 1500 hp MTU engine, and the EMBT turret, presented in 2022 during the previous edition of this show .

Thus, the Leclerc Evolution can claim to invite itself, without fading, in the new intermediate generation of combat tanks currently being designed, alongside the Leopard 2AX/3, developed by KNDS Germany, from the KF51 Panther of Rheinmetall, the American M1E3 Abrams, and the Russian T-14, especially since it is presented, by its designers, as “ready to produce”, on an international market in high demand.

However, as the order of 18 Leopard 2A8 by the Bundeswehr, had launched the international career of this armored vehicle, ordered, or soon ordered, by four other European countries in just one year, the KNDS France super-tank must, above all, obtain an order from the Army of French soil, to position itself credibly on the international scene.

Unfortunately for the Leclerc Evolution, and the KNDS strategy, the Army, like the Ministry of the Armed Forces, has, for the moment, no intention, nor the means, to acquire the new French tank.

The tank is not the priority of the Army today

And for good reason. By the French Army’s own admission, tanks are not, for her, the priority today. Indeed, it must, within the framework of the LPM 2024-2030, carry out numerous programs, which will be difficult to finance in their entirety, with, in particular, the deployment of the Griffon, Serval and Jaguar of the SCORPION program, the design and order of the VBAE to replace the VBL, the acquisition of the 109 Caesar MkII which must form the backbone of the French artillery, or the modernization of the Tiger attack helicopters and the entry into service of the H- 160M Guépard, for ALAT.

KNDS VBMR griffin
The modernization of the middle segment of the Army, with the SCORPION program, remains the Army's priority for LPM 2024-2030

This forced modernization, the consequence of 25 years of underinvestment in replacing equipment, and intensive use of resources in Afghanistan, the Levant and the Sahel strip, leaves almost no room for maneuver for the state. -major of the Army, to possibly seize opportunities that emerged during this LPM.

Beyond these perfectly clear constraints over the next six years, the Army also suffers from a staff in which the light forces, Legion, marine troops and paratroopers, are over-represented compared to to line units, in particular battle tanks.

Thus, over the last 10 years, the Army has been commanded by a paratrooper (Gal Bosser), a legionnaire (Gal Burkhard) and a TdM (Gal Schill), while the position of Major General has been assumed by two paratroopers. (Gal de La Chesnais and Gomart), a genius (Gal Quevilly), and two horsemen (Gal Barrera and Béchon), but having cut their teeth, essentially, in light cavalry.

Given this tropism for light and maneuver forces, the modernization imperatives affecting all equipment, including the omnipresent range of medium armored vehicles, the recent operational history and budgetary constraints, it is hardly surprising that the capabilities of French line, battle tanks, heavy artillery and mechanized infantry, have hardly been at the center of the concerns of the Army staff.

Thus, while these means are at the heart of the conflict in Ukraine against Russia, they are the poor relations of the efforts made by the Army in the LPM 2024-2030, with a limited modernization of only 160 Leclerc, the order of 109 Caesar MkII called to form the entire 155 mm artillery of the AT and the absence of modernization of the VBCI.

KNDS strategy far from the French expectations that gave birth to it

In addition to these purely military and budgetary considerations, there is a probable political disappointment concerning the strategy, however relevant, established by KNDS, around the Leopard 2A-RC 3.0 and Leclerc Evolution, in preparation for the MGCS.

Leopard 2A-RC 3.0 by KNDS Deutschland
The Leclerc 2A-RC 3.0 tank presented by KNDs Deutschland at the Eurosatory 2024 show. Leaving the global market to this KNDS tank alone would cause a serious imbalance between the French and German parties in the company, and could compromise the industrial balances around the program MGCS.

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12 Comments

  1. Good article, demonstrating the difficulty for the Ministry of the Armed Forces to support its industry. The economic interest is well mentioned, the future government needs to be more attentive to its industrialists than its generals.

  2. No, the industrialists and this is normal, defend their activities..We have seen and we see the excesses of the miltaro industrial complex in the US and in Germany
    It is the military who must allocate the resources.
    We must face, for example, in the Mediterranean more credible scenarios (certainly as much) as a mechanized assault on Strasbourg. The rise in tensions with Algeria is probable with or without RN in the long term.

  3. It is so much easier for our “big” Gamelin heads to prepare for the last (even) lost war than to anticipate and predict the future. Launching a “national defense” loan from French savers would perhaps be a solution to accelerate our land (300 tanks in real) AND maritime (2 PAN at sea) rearmament permanently and one in repair. But we must not rush them too much, let them digest their staff feasts and other regal pleasures.

      • Yes Fabrice and even more so since you sold us a great financing mechanism.

        We are creating a coalition of Leclerc Evolved buyers. We agree on a number all grouped together (like 2 or 3k)

        We pay those of France from the budgetary return.

        QED.

        • We can do this without increasing the deficits, using a solution based on a public-private investment company carrying out the developments and purchases of equipment, and renting them to the armies, to provide a buffer until the return is fully effective. budgetary. This is fully the model of the Defense Base.

  4. I would like to disagree with you on the question of national borrowing.

    Although the State is in debt in France, the French have significant savings.
    In the USA, both the State and citizens are heavily in debt.

    In France there are the savings necessary to finance a massive rearmament effort.

    The question of the creditor is fundamental: if it is French citizens who are creditors of their own State, there is no need to fear the subjective judgments of international markets and rating agencies.

    What poses a problem is more the identity of the debt holder than its level.

    The typical example of this situation is Japan, which is a very indebted country but whose debt is held almost exclusively by Japanese taxpayer citizens, thus ensuring the financial and therefore strategic independence of the country.

    • However, this does not solve the problem of the deficit or the sovereign debt, which is the major obstacle here. Yes it's better. Moreover, the defense base was based on a massive call for savings. But thinking that a national loan is the solution is a mistake. If it were that simple, just think it would have been done a very long time ago. More summarized, the origin of funds is, today, largely secondary to the wall of public finances in this issue. That said, once this wall has been circumvented, if it is possible, yes, favoring a national debt is preferable.

  5. It is rare that I radically disagree with you but the assertion "If it were that simple, remember that it would have been done a long time ago" is only an argument from authority, the inaccuracy of which is repeatedly demonstrated by History.

    Pluralist democracies are based on the principle of will: will of the Nation through the expression of suffrage then will of elected officials.

    It is on this last point that the system has been failing for several decades: do you think that General de Gaulle or even Georges Pompidou would have renounced essential and even vital modernizations of the country, the army or the industry at the time? seen from the pseudo-debt wall?

    Can anyone explain the magic figure of 3% deficit not to be exceeded according to the European Commission?

    You know the Anglo-Saxon adage “To big to fail”.
    Do you see France bankrupt given its debt or its deficit? It is reducing History to its financial or economic dimension
    It is, if I may allow myself and with all the consideration that I have for you and your very often relevant and even brilliant analyses, kitchen Marxism as there is kitchen Latin (Excuse me for teasing you on a such a serious subject!)
    And it was Marx who wrote “Misery of the economy” (And Emmanuel Todd, I think)

    What I mean by this is that a reading of the reports of the Court of Auditors and the Regional Chambers of Auditors and especially the implementation of their recommendations will make it possible to easily recover the billions necessary for the acquisition of 1200 Leclerc Evolution in the financial conditions that you describe so convincingly

    cordially

    • In fact, the 3% rule is not an empirical value, but a calculation value. This is the average debt sustainability threshold, so that growth, associated with inflation, makes it possible to maintain stable the weight of debt repayment on public wealth. It should, in fact, be adapted by country and by year, depending on macroeconomic parameters. But the value of 3% is an acceptable average for countries sharing the EU's social and economic criteria.
      Beyond that, the debt burden increases. That is to say, we must produce more wealth to compensate for its increase. As growth is not very strong, and inflation has returned to low values, we cannot ignore the consequences of this debt. This is all the more so since being in the Euro, a slippage in French debt affects the debt of the euro zone, and therefore, the interest rates of all its players. And Germany or the Netherlands have no intention of paying more of their debt because France does not respect its commitments.
      De Gaulle and Pompidou had a thriving economy, surplus budgets, and very sustained growth, with unemployment so low that it was necessary to massively import labor from North Africa. It is difficult, in these conditions, to speculate on the position they would have taken in the present situation. personally, in any case, I wouldn't risk it.

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