by J. Kasper Oestergaard, European Correspondent, Forecast International.
According to a government report submitted to the German parliament, new European partners are expected to join the Franco-German Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) effort to develop a future land warfare system, a key component of which will likely be a new European main battle tank. The new nations are expected to join MGCS following a conference in Berlin in September.
It was not reported which countries are expected to join the effort. However, in January 2021, it was announced that the British Ministry of Defence had opened discussions with France and Germany about signing up as an MGCS observer. The United Kingdom is looking for a future replacement platform for its fleet of Challenger 2 main battle tanks. Other nations reportedly interested in joining MGCS are Italy, Poland, and Spain.
In 2012, France and Germany decided to launch a joint initiative to design and develop a future land warfare system to replace the German Army’s Leopard 2s and the French Army’s Leclerc main battle tanks. The Leopard 2 and the Leclerc were designed and developed in the 1970s and 80s, but they have been significantly upgraded since then. The MGCS goes well beyond a purely linear continuation of existing main battle tank capabilities. A multiplatform concept is favored, and the MGCS may involve both manned and unmanned ground vehicles as well as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Deliveries are expected to commence by 2035, with initial operational capability expected in 2040.
In May 2020, Rheinmetall and KNDS, a joint venture consisting of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Nexter Systems, were awarded a contract for the MGCS System Architecture Definition Study – Part 1 (SADS Part 1). The aim of the 18-month study is to harmonize the final concepts from the previous phase, to analyze further details, and to propose a common multiplatform architecture. Workshares in SADS Part 1 are distributed equally between France and Germany on a 50-50 basis.
Current plans call for a technology demonstration phase that will last until 2024, followed by a systems demonstrator phase from 2024-2027, followed by the implementation phase, which will commence in 2028. MGCS development costs up to the start of the implementation phase amount to €1.5 billion ($1.8 billion).
While MGCS is in the early stages of development, Russia expects to commence deliveries of its new T-14 main battle tank in 2022. The T-14 is part of the Armata Universal Combat Platform, which also includes the T-15 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) and the T-16 armored recovery vehicle. The T-14 was developed by Russian company Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) and officially unveiled at the Moscow Victory Day Parade in May 2015. It is unknown whether China is in the process of developing a successor to their ZTZ-99 (aka Type 99) main battle tank, which entered service in 2001 (Type 99A unveiled in 2015). The Type 99A is produced by Norinco, a Chinese state-owned defense corporation. The newest Chinese tank design is Norinco’s ZTQ-15 (aka Type 15) light tank.
In a world where WW2-era T-34 tanks are still in limited service, it will be very interesting to see which new technologies the MGCS will introduce.
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Based in Denmark, Joakim Kasper Oestergaard is Forecast International’s AeroWeb and PowerWeb Webmaster and European Editor. In 2008, he came up with the idea for what would eventually evolve into AeroWeb. Mr. Oestergaard is an expert in aerospace & defense market intelligence, fuel efficiency in civil aviation, defense spending and defense programs. He has an affiliation with Terma Aerostructures A/S in Denmark – a leading manufacturer of composite and metal aerostructures for the F-35 Lightning II. Mr. Oestergaard has a Master’s Degree in Finance and International Business from the Aarhus School of Business – Aarhus University in Denmark.