PARIS ― Nexter hopes to sign a contract around 2020 for a technology demonstrator for a future heavy tank for the French and Germany armies, said Stéphane Mayer, chairman and CEO of the French land weapons company.

Work on the demonstrator for the next-generation tank, dubbed Main Ground Combat System, would be shared with German partner Krauss-Maffei Wegmann through the KNDS joint venture, he told a Feb. 6 news conference.

A development contract could follow in 2025, with delivery in 2030, he said. Other European nations would be welcome to join that cooperative effort, he added.

That KNDS timeline also applies to future artillery, or the Close-In Indirect Fire System, for the French and German forces.

Research and development are partly financed on company funds, backed by feasibility studies, he said.

The business model to build these weapons has yet to be decided, as much depends on the French and German governments and their launch of the tank and artillery programs, he said. One option is to have a shared industrial base along the lines of MBDA, the European missile maker, he said. Another option would be to duplicate production in both countries.

Mayer said he preferred a shared industrial base.

KNDS is exploring basic technology for the future weapons, including stealth and reactive armor for the tank as well as greater range and accuracy for artillery, he said. There are 12 working parties regularly meeting in Amsterdam, Netherlands, to examine the work.

Artificial intelligence “embedded in vehicles” and armed robots are also being explored, he said. The French Army and Direction Générale de l’Armement procurement office are exploring technology to be included in the second phase of the Scorpion program.

Cooperation through KNDS is expected to lead to €50 million (U.S. $62 million) of cost cuts, as the two partners pool purchasing, he said.

That compares to a previous Nexter forecast of €35 million of savings for each partner, an estimate drawn up to prepare for the KNDS joint venture.

France and Germany backed the KNDS deal, but it remains to be seen how the two governments will reach an agreement on a common arms export policy.

The German Social Democrats keep a highly critical eye on foreign sales of weapons, and there was political protest when it emerged Turkey was using German-made Leopard 2 tanks in attacks in northern Syria against Kurdish fighters.