BERLIN — The industries of Germany and France will have an equal share of work in developing and producing a future tank, the countries’ defense ministers announced March 22.

The agreement for the Main Ground Combat System, to be formalized in late April as a memorandum of understanding, caps years of wrangling over national preferences for the two main industry actors: the joint venture of France’s Nexter and Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, known as KNDS; and Germany’s Rheinmetall.

The deal foresees a central role for KNDS in the project.

During Friday’s joint news conference in Berlin, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius and his French counterpart Sébastien Lecornu announced the deal and praised the pact as “historic,” which brings together two countries with comparable and competing defense industries under a single major defense program.

For his part, Lecornu noted the bilateral work leads to “interoperability” for two nations that share a continent and are members of NATO.

Italy, the Netherlands and others have expressed interest in joining the MGCS program, Pistorius said in September after a meeting with Lecornu to discuss the project.

Manufacturers are to develop the tank from scratch, the ministers said, with drones and directed-energy weapons augmenting the platform. Those additional technologies for the tank are currently experimental.

The program aims to replace Germany’s Leopard tanks and France’s Leclerc fleet sometime in the 2040s, with a demonstrator expected around 2030. The French target is to have a successor to its Leclerc main battle tank closer to 2040 than 2050, though.

The future system will be much more than a successor to existing tanks, Lecornu said, describing the MGCS as a step beyond what exists today in terms of technology, with a “particularly impressive” level of innovation regarding connectivity, electronic warfare, drone integration, armor and self-defensive measures.

The countries have agreed on eight pillars within the program, each with a 50-50 work share, including the tank platform, main gun, new weapons, communication technology and combat-cloud system.

Germany will award contracts for a total of up to several hundred million euros for the pre-demonstrator phase by the end of the year. In addition to a significant part for Nexter, the French share is expected to include Thales, Safran and MBDA as well as smaller firms, while German companies beyond Krauss-Maffei Wegmann will include Rheinmetall and others.

France and Germany also said KNDS will create a unit in Ukraine to locally produce ammunition as well as spare parts for French and German systems in use in the country. In time, there would be a possibility to produce entire systems in Ukraine, Lecornu said.

KNDS systems operating in Ukraine include Leopard 2 tanks, the wheeled Caesar 155mm howitzer, the tracked PzH 2000 howitzer and the Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft gun.

Rudy Ruitenberg is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. He started his career at Bloomberg News and has experience reporting on technology, commodity markets and politics.

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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