COLOGNE, Germany – German defense officials expect to sign up new European partners for the Franco-German Main Ground Combat System following a September conference in Berlin devoted to the effort, according to a government report to parliament.
The close-hold document, dated March and obtained by Defense News, notes that the international event is meant to initiate an “opening wave” of interested countries from the European Union, NATO and elsewhere – provided that Germany and France agree on the prerequisites.
One known applicant for the new tank program is the United Kingdom. In April, Germany officials made a point of saying that defense-acquisition leaders from Berlin and London had discussed cooperation on the program, with France still seemingly on the fence about admitting outsiders.
Still, Paris agreed in principle with the idea of extending the circle of observer countries, which could lead to selected countries becoming full partners later on, the report notes, citing the outcome of a Feb. 5 German-French Defense and Security Council meeting.
Building a new tank for Europe is considered here something of a home game for German industry, namely Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, and lawmakers have been eager to keep tabs on the progress. France’s Nexter is also part of the team, under a joint venture with Krauss-Maffei, dubbed KNDS.
That conglomerate was initially front and center on the MGCS program, though Rheinmetall has since managed to snag a supporting role.
The effort is among a raft of planned investments that have yet to be anchored in the German government’s budget plans, however. The defense ministry plans to request lawmakers’ approval to proceed in the last week of June, days before the parliamentary recess.
According to the report to the Bundestag, contracts in eight development areas are up for funding later this year: “mobility test bed,” “main effector, ammunition and turret,” “overall protection,” “collaborative combat,” simulation test bed for crews,” “automated navigation and mobility,” “automated fire sequence” and “improved sensor suite.”
The nations plan to hash out additional, high-tech features in a round of contracts in 2023, the document states. They are “barrel-launched (non-) line-of-sight missile,” “high-energy laser system,” “high-power electromagnetics,” “unmanned combat aerial vehicle” and “hyper velocity missile integration.”
The government’s report responds to a request by lawmakers for information about any information relating to the MGCS program and another Franco-German effort, the Future Combat Air System. Lawmakers in both countries have been eager to carve out the largest possible piece of industrial participation for their national companies.
Officials largely dismissed a question by lawmakers about coupling the two high-profile programs to achieve a parallel time line. The approaches, technologies and industrial context are simply too different, they argued. Still, Berlin considers its industrial stake in both programs by closely coordinating across relevant agencies.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News.