KNDS and Leonardo Team on Leopard 2A8 Tanks as Italy Joins MGCS Future Armor Program

Leopard 2A8 will use the Trophy active protection system as shown on the Leopard 2A7A1. Image – EuroTrophy

Leonardo and KNDS, under the Italian Ministry of Defense’s guidance, have forged a strategic alliance to strengthen Europe’s defense capabilities and develop the next generation of armored vehicles. This partnership, focusing on land-based electronics and the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), aims to bolster national defense industries, support Italy’s defense strategy, and create export opportunities.

In addition, Leonardo and KNDS will jointly develop, manufacture, and maintain Leopard 2A8 tanks for the Italian army, establishing new production and development facilities in Italy. The agreement could produce 300 Leopard 2A8 MBTs and related variants, such as recovery vehicles based on the same chassis.  This strengthens the nation’s defense industry and paves the way for future European and export projects.

Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine has prompted a renewed focus in Europe on land systems, given the war’s heavy involvement of MBTs, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, and artillery systems.

Main Ground Combat System

In May 2020, the joint Franco-German Main Ground Combat System program got underway with the release of an initial architectural study. The MGCS, informally called the Eurotank, is a project by France and Germany to replace their currently deployed Leclerc and Leopard 2 main battle tanks. In December 2019, KMW, Nexter Systems, and Rheinmetall AG formed a working group, or ARGE, to pursue the effort.

The program is divided into five phases, with the first phase involving operational needs analysis, and the second covering a concept survey. Both of the first two phases are now completed.  The program enters the third phase – development and technological capability demonstration – under German oversight. It will then progress to the fourth phase, involving integration and systems demonstration, before advancing to mass system production in the final phase.

The schedule calls for a technology demonstration phase that will last until 2024, followed by a systems demonstrator phase from 2024-2027 and the implementation phase, which will commence in 2028. The new tank is scheduled to enter service in 2035, with Initial Operational Capability (IOC) expected in 2040.


About Richard Pettibone

A military history enthusiast, Richard began at Forecast International as editor of the World Weapons Weekly newsletter. As the Internet grew in importance as a research tool, he helped design the company's Forecast Intelligence Center and currently coordinates the EMarket Alert newsletters for clients. Richard also manages social media efforts, including two new blogs: Defense & Security Monitor, covering defense systems and international issues, and Flight Plan, which focuses on commercial aviation and space systems. For over 30 years, Richard has authored the Defense & Aerospace Companies, Volume I (North America) and Volume II (International) services. The two books provide detailed data on major aerospace and defense contractors. He also edits the International Contractors service, a database that tracks all the contractors involved in the programs covered in the FI library. More recently he was appointed Manager, Information Services Group (ISG), a new unit that encompasses developing outbound content for both Forecast International and Military Periscope.

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