For several years, France and Germany have been working on a new tank to replace the French Lecrerc and the German Leopard, in their different versions, which, in the latter case, would clearly affect the large number of European countries that have this type of tanks. tank in its armed forces, including Spain.

In fact, the strategy document that talks about the future Spanish tank talks about an improvement of the current units in the short term until they become Leopard 2E Plus, but it would be a temporary solution that should serve as a bridge between the current and future European “Main Ground Combat System (MGCS)”that is, the Franco-German tank that we were referring to and whose first units were expected to enter service in 2035, although the project could be postponed to 2045, given the slowness with which it advances.

But, what if this slowness decreased so much that the project was not executed? Currently the project has been stopped in architecture, in the SADS study phase, for almost three years. This blockade was largely due to the entry of the German manufacturer Rheinmetall in this project when it should have been led by KNDS, a joint venture formed by France’s Nexter and Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), two of the main European suppliers of military ground systems. for many armies around the world, operating together since 2015, with production lines in France and Germany and industrial associations around the world.

This key election in the face of disagreements over the division of labor between France and Germany [que debería ser al 50%]as well as some technological solutions, namely in terms of the weapon to equip the future tank, although it is true that Rheinmetall is the manufacturer of cannons for most of the world’s tanks.

That delay is beginning to seriously worry the French government, as Defense Minister Sebastien Lecorneau told deputies this week. “The Army will need a new tank to replace its Leclercs by 2035 or even 2040,” he said in a statement.

On the German side, however, the idea is beginning to emerge that the design of this “tank of the future” will eventually be postponed or even abandoned. This is the opinion of Susanne Wiegand, CEO of the Renk Group, which supplies the gearbox for the Leopard 2 tank. “After the Russian attack on Ukraine, many European countries ordered Leopard 2 tanks from Krauss-Maffei Wegmann for their armed forces. , to the point where there is no place for MGCS at this time. It will be necessary to assess politically what this new development means for the continuation of the MGCS,” she said.

However, not all is lost yet. As the German Ministry of Defense recently told manufacturers taking part in this first phase of the European main battle tank, the MGCS is “crucially important for our industry” as many European countries aim to replace their main battle tanks between 2035 and 2040. According to open data, the European market is estimated at 100,000 million euros. In fact, the lack of a replacement for the Leopard is leading other countries to opt for non-European models, such as Poland, which decided to equip its ground forces with South Korean K-2PL Panther tanks and American M1A2 Abrams. Romania plans to do the same.

In any case, the manufacturers of the Leopard believe that this tank will continue to be the product of choice for most European armed forces for some time to come, among other things because it is “available”, that is, it is a reality and not a project. , and because “technically it can be further improved”. Even with improvements in defense systems and digital networking, it will still be much cheaper per unit than a newly developed tank. In addition, other projects are being developed on the German side, such as the KF-51 Panther, by Rheinmetall. Just like the one on the KNDS E-BMT.

However, one cannot forget that the MGCS project aspires to something more than just being a war tank, as its objective is to become a system that connects different weapon systems, such as ground robots or even drones, in a network. . The tank is just a figure in a larger program.

“Things like autonomous escort vehicles and, above all, computer applications related to the use of the cloud and artificial intelligence are the most decisive”, explains the main analyst of the German economic weekly. Wirtschaft Woche. And “they will have to be developed in any case, either for Leopard or its successor,” the analysis said.

And what is the Main GroundCombat System (MGCS)?

The Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) is a joint project between Germany and France to develop a new main battle tank that will replace both countries’ current armored vehicles.. This project forms part of the European defense initiative and is expected to become the main armored vehicle on the continent in the future.

The MGCS is being developed, as already mentioned, in cooperation with the German company Rheinmetall and the French company Nexter Systems. The main objective of the project is to create a main battle tank that can operate in any terrain, including urban, desert, forest and mountain environments, and has the ability to conduct both offensive and defensive combat operations.

One of the main characteristics of the MGCS is its Network capability with other combat systems, including drones, aircraft, and unmanned ground vehicles. This will be achieved by integrating advanced sensors and communications technology into the vehicle, allowing the crew to have full real-time situational awareness.

Another striking feature of the MGCS is its mobility. The vehicle will feature a powerful engine and an advanced suspension system that will allow it to move at high speed over rough terrain. In addition, the crew will have greater visibility of the battlefield thanks to a 360-degree camera system and screens inside the vehicle. The barge appears to be an improved version of the Leopard 2A7, also very similar to the KF51 Panther, while the turret is reminiscent of the Leclerc and K2 Panther, with a rather low profile.

It is studied to incorporate a hybrid propulsion system and the main vehicle’s hull can also be used as a basis for support vehicle variants. For example, the German Ministry of Defense released a graphic (purely theoretical) showing three vehicles based on the same hull but mounting different effectors: a manned command and control (C2) vehicle with the large caliber main gun; a manned vehicle with a turret-mounted launcher for hypersonic guided projectiles; and an unmanned support vehicle with a high-energy laser, counter-UAV (C-UAV) system, sensors and several UAVs on board.

In terms of armament, it will feature a large-caliber main gun with significantly improved performance compared to the 120 mm guns used on the Leclerc and Leopard 2. Nexter proposes the new Ascalon as the main weapon. According to Nexter, the weapon will also accommodate future smart tank munitions capable of engaging targets beyond line-of-sight/out-of-line-of-sight (BLOS/NLOS) ranges. The company predicts that the technical solutions on which ASCALON is based will be fully mature by 2025. KNDS ARGE partner Rheinmetall, in turn, defends its Rh-130 L/52 130mm autoloaded smooth gunwhich also promises a significant improvement in rate of fire, range and penetration over current artillery.

would incorporate a machine gun system and an anti-tank missile launcher. In addition, laser and electronic systems integration options are being explored to further increase the vehicle’s firepower.. It would weigh between 60 and 62 tons and would incorporate an MTU 883 engine, with a power of 1,500 hp. The engine is slightly smaller than that of the Leopard 2, allowing more space for the crew on the barge.

The fusion of sensors inside and outside the individual vehicle will be critical to establishing tactical dominance on the battlefield. Each MGCS team will not only be networked with its immediate component units, but will also be integrated into the battlefield via a data cloud. This will allow it to access a wide range of distributed external sensors to create a high level of situational awareness and obtain guidance data for BLOS/NLOS targets.

With regard to protection, the MGCS will feature advanced armor that will be able to withstand attacks from modern anti-tank weapons. It is also expected to have active protection systems, such as the Israeli Trophy system.which fires bursts of shrapnel to destroy projectiles before they reach the vehicle.

The MGCS project It is currently in the design and development phase. The initial objective was for the vehicle to be operational around 2035, but the latest information says that it could be delayed until at least 2045. The war in Ukraine and the development of the most advanced versions of the Leopard itself for the 2A7 model led to the Government of Germany, the main country involved along with France, postpone the arrival of the MGCS for another 10 years. The only advantage of this postponement is that new solutions and technologies can be incorporated, making this new battle tank a much more modern and revolutionary vehicle than initially expected. It could include the possibility of working in “swarm mode” with other vehicles, converting, if necessary, into an autonomous guided car with the help of Artificial Intelligence…

Another trump card on the table is the possibility of that other countries adhere to the project, as is the case of Italy, which would have already shown its predispositionsince it is also looking for a replacement for its main battle tank, the Ariete, for around 2035, a date that would coincide with the date initially foreseen for the arrival of the MGCS… if this finally materializes.

On an industrial level, Italy’s entry into the project with the Leonardo and Iveco-OTO Melara units (known as CIO, a joint venture between Leonardo and Iveco Defense Vehicles) would benefit from decades of experience in land vehicle development. In second place, further strengthens the European character of the project by adding Italy as another political and industrial contributor. This would further spread development costs and help Europe develop its own forward-looking land warfare capabilities by finding common political and industrial ground.

And Spain? Well, for now, apart from the mention made of MGCS as a replacement for Leopardo 2E, little else is known about its possible interest in participating in the project.. Among its short-term plans, there is no budget or documentation that suggests that our country wants to be part of the project, although logic should lead us to think that Spain should not be left out of a project of this magnitude, especially taking into account its dependence on foreign technology. The difference is that they become a mere buyer of a closed product or, if they join, they can be part of the development and also adapt it to their needs, in addition to the importance that participating in an initiative of this size would have for the Spanish industry.