COLOGNE, Germany — The defense ministers of Germany and France have vowed to put fresh energy behind a bilateral push for a next-generation tank, putting a topic back on the German-Franco work docket that had gone largely silent in recent years.

The plan is for both countries to build a novel tank — complete with accompanying drones and robots — that will replace the fleets of Germany’s Leopard 2 and France’s Leclerc sometime between 2035 and 2040.

Following a July 10 meeting in Berlin between German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and his French counterpart, Sebastien Lecornu, Pistorius told reporters the two leaders would begin meeting regularly to push the effort.

According to Lecornu, Monday’s gathering served to kick off what he called the “operative” phase of the German-led Main Ground Combat System. The program so far has consisted of prolonged architecture studies and experimentation that had given rivaling contractors KNDS — a French-German joint venture of Nexter and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann — and Germany’s Rheinmetall plenty of time to jockey for position with their own tank proposals.

The two leaders drew a parallel to another signature effort in Europe’s defense landscape, the Future Combat Air System, or Système de Combat Aérien du Futur in French. Led by France, officials from both countries would mirror that program’s management process for divvying up national, industrial work shares, they said.

An evaluation of military requirements for the future class of tanks is due from the two countries’ army chiefs of staff in time for the next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 22 at the Evreux air base east of Paris.

The timing of a land-focused military assessment at this stage is notably different from FCAS, where air force officials from the three partner nations only last month unveiled a new air power concept to go with the envisioned collection of next-gen planes and drones that make up the German-Franco-Spanish effort.

Pistorius opened the door to a two-pronged approach during upcoming MGCS development, saying contractors would be allowed to offer two competing systems based on a common turret and chassis. Government leaders could eventually decide to keep only one, or even pick both, he said.

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. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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