COLOGNE, Germany – The defense-acquisition chiefs of Germany and the U.K. have agreed to expand the scope of their bilateral defense relations, highlighting the Main Ground Combat System and other land programs as areas for cooperation.
Mention of the “Eurotank” in a German readout of a call between Benedikt Zimmer and Jeremy Quin about their April 22 talk comes as British officials have pushed for months to be admitted as observers in the Franco-German program.
Germany has supported the request, in line with Berlin’s efforts insulate defense relations with London from an otherwise stressful divorce between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
A spokeswoman for the German defense ministry told Defense News this week’s Eurotank talks revolved around the status of the program and the German side’s acknowledgment that Britain wants to play a role.
The French, meanwhile, still must make a decision as to whether to include the British, the spokeswoman added. Paris has traditionally been more apprehensive about expanding the circle of players in European defense programs, including the Future Combat Air System.
The prospect of the U.K. joining the MCGS program raises questions about the overall equilibrium in the rest of the trifecta of German-French programs: FCAS and the “Eurodrone.” Interest groups in both countries have at times treated advancements in either either program as permissible only if certain political conditions are met on the other two.
Besides the Eurotank, Zimmer and Quin also discussed opportunities for cooperation around the Boxer vehicle and a future floating bridging system for land forces. Both Germany and the U.K. are key NATO contributors in Europe when it comes to mobile bridges that enable land forces, including heavy tanks, to cross lakes and rivers.
The two countries plan to convert a binational armor formation in Minden, Germany, into a unit with a more amphibious bent come October 2021, the German defense ministry’s readout states.
Sebastian Sprenger is Europe editor for Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multinational investments in defense and global security. He previously served as managing editor for Defense News.