PARIS — France and Germany are in talks for a joint next-generation artillery alongside bilateral discussions for a planned replacement of their Leopard and Leclerc heavy tanks, said Nexter chairman Stéphane Mayer.

"Today there is a political will to pursue common programs, with two projects under study," he said June 10 in an interview with Defense News, referring to tanks and artillery. "There is a review with the two defense ministries and chiefs of staff, and we will obviously make proposals, dialog with the ministries and take note of the requirements," he said.

On the defense budget, the trade body Conseil des Industries Défense Française is calling on the government to boost annual equipment spending to €24 billion ($27 billion) from €17 billion in 2016, and commit to 2 percent of gross domestic product for the military, he said.

Talks between Berlin and Paris are key as Nexter has teamed with Krauss-Maffei Wegmann to form a joint venture, which has been named KNDS, or KMW and Nexter Defense Systems. The Amsterdam-based holding company is a drive toward a long-awaited European consolidation in land weapons.

The forces of the two countries are equipped with their own artillery and tanks, so the new programs likely will be launched between 2025 and 2030, Mayer said. Nexter hopes other countries will join the projects, with Britain and Italy leading the list of potential partners.

Britain, France and Italy are teamed up in missile maker MBDA, while Spain is a partner in Airbus, the leading European aircraft builder.

"The time horizon is 2025 to 2030 for development of these new programs, which are … strategic and important for our group," Mayer said.  "It is at the heart of our strategy to propose Franco-German programs, which will be open to other European countries."

On the issue of foreign arms sales, there is a French and German determination "to converge on export authorization," but the countries have yet to reach an agreement, he said.

The political talks take into account diplomatic relations and economic interests, he said, with Nexter hoping for the longest list of client countries to boost its competitiveness.

Nexter and KMW have so far agreed on €1 million of cost cuts in buying supplies, which is just the beginning, he said. An estimated €60 million, or $68 million, of cost benefits over five years were identified in talks to set up the joint venture.

On the domestic front, Nexter expects workload to rise in 2018 when production starts for the Griffon multirole troop transport, building 10 vehicles a month.

Production of the Griffon combat and reconnaissance vehicle is expected to start in 2020, with a planned two units per month.

The Jaguar and Griffon are new vehicles in the Army's Scorpion modernization program, along with an upgrade of the Leclerc tank.

At least 120 foreign delegations have booked visits to the KNDS stand at the Eurosatory trade show, according to Mayer.

The exhibition runs June 13-17.

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