Will Rheinmetall and Leonardo resurrect the KF51 Panther and threaten the MGCS program?

Just four weeks ago, we were speculating on the opportunity that, for Rheinmetall, the space freed up by the announcement of the abandonment of negotiations between Leonardo and KNDS regarding the acquisition by Italy of Leopard 2A8.

It therefore did not take a month for the Düsseldorf industrialist to realize this almost unexpected opportunity to finally produce its new KF51 tank. Panther, by announcing, on July 3, the creation of a 50/50 joint venture with the Italian Leonardo, in order to meet the needs of the Italian armies in terms of heavy tracked armored vehicles, with, at stake, a market of almost 30 billion € and 700 tracked armored vehicles.

An alliance between Rheinmetall and Leonardo on the ruins of negotiations with KNDS

It is therefore on the failure of negotiations between KNDS and Leonardo, on the subject of industrial sharing surrounding the manufacture of some 120 tanks Leopard 2A8 initially targeted by the Italian Army, which Rheinmetall and the Italian industrialist managed to build, in record time, an industrial agreement.

Leopard 2A8 Germany
Le Leopard 2A8 will therefore not equip the Italian Army

Concretely, the two European companies will form an equal joint venture, to design and produce heavy tracked armored vehicles for the Italian Army, as well as to go, together, to conquer international markets.

The agreement provides that the armored vehicles, their main armament and primary defense systems, would be designed by Rheinmetall, while Leonardo would be in charge of the mission systems, electronic suites and integration of weapons on the new armored vehicles.

The tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, thus designed for the Italian Army, will also be assembled in Italy, which will provide 60% of the industrial services for the manufacture of the armored vehicles.

A first customer for the KF51 Panther by Rheinmetall

Without this being clearly stated, everything suggests that the new battle tank which will be designed by the new joint venture will be an evolution of the KF51 Panther from Rheinmetall.

Built on a platform of Leopard 2A4, the Panther is an intermediate generation tank presented from 2022 by Rheinmetall, as an alternative, for the Bundeswehr, to the MGCS program, or, at least, as an interim solution with very high operational potential, to this program now planned for 2045 , .

KF51 Panther Rheinmetall Eurosatory 2024 exhibition
The KF51 Panther from Rheinmetall at Eurosatory 2024

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  1. Obviously the general staff convinced the minister – whom we nevertheless appreciate – that France did not need heavy tracked armored vehicles.

    Betting on a German-Polish “glacis” in the face of a Russia weakened by the war against Ukraine: the demographic losses cannot be repaired overnight in Moscow.

    Renunciation of a European role in favor of France as a global player and for this it is indeed better to favor fighters and submarines, therefore Dassault and Naval group, which undoubtedly accumulate successes..

    I would have seen France instead of Italy and the ex-Nexter instead of Leonardo, as I wrote in a previous message, especially since Rheinmetall was ready to make heavy concessions

    Let us hope that we will not pay too dearly in the future for this major strategic error for which those responsible will quietly enjoy their retirement.

    The explanation of the said error is found in your original and remarkable developments on the professional origin of successive chiefs of staff, none of whom come from the armored army and who have not been able to elevate their thoughts beyond reflexes. induced by their initial membership…

    It is a tradition that France pays for the errors of judgment of its generals

    But what is the DGA doing, whose role is to counterbalance the influence of the General Staff of the Armed Forces?

    • The fact is, there is a real concern emerging on the part of French experts in the field, concerning the equipment trajectory of the Army, which still seems totally intended for the projection of power in less intense theaters, in Africa notably, without meeting the needs in Eastern Europe.


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