Resulting from a preliminary study launched jointly by France and Germany in 2012, the Main Ground Combat System program, or MGCS, was officially launched in 2017 by Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel to replace in 2035 the French Leclerc tanks and the German Leopard 2s, alongside 3 other emblematic programs of Franco-German cooperation in the defense industry, the Future Air Combat System or SCAF to replace the Rafale and Typhoon in 2040, the Common Indect Fire System or CIFS to replacing self-propelled guns and multiple rocket launchers in 2035, and the Maritime Airborne Warfare System or MAWS to replace the Atlantic 2 and Orion maritime patrol aircraft. Since, the CIFS program has been terminated, just like MAWS after Berlin has announced the order of 5 Boeing P-8A Poseidon to replace its oldest Orion P3Cs. As for the MGCS and SCAF programs, they suffer from deep differences between Paris and Berlin, both from an industrial and operational point of view, which have led to many difficulties.
If initially the MGCS program brought together the French Nexter, which builds the Leclerc, and its partner Krauss-Maffei Wegmann or KMW, equipotential partners within the KNDS group, it was joined in 2019 by the German Rheinmetall, which notably builds the gun of the Leopard tank, which did not go without posing significant tensions in terms of industrial sharing, initially planned to be on a strict 50%-50% basis between Nexter and KMW. After tough negotiations, French and Germans managed to agree on a hybrid sharing, each major industrialist bearing 3 of the program's pillars, but with the guarantee that, industrially speaking, France will indeed produce 50% of the combat systems. While in the phase of defining the architecture is in progress, many echoes relate in this file of the deep divergences between the needs and the expectations expressed by the Army, which wishes a tank combining mobility, firepower and innovation. , and the Bundeswehr, which intends above all to design a replacement for its Leopard 2, a tank designed for a mainly defensive mission, less maneuverable and above all much heavier than the Leclerc. As things stand, the architectural design phase should end by the end of 2022, or even the beginning of 2023, without it being known what the resulting trade-offs will be.
And things could quickly get complicated for Paris in the near future. In effect, in an interview given to Wirtschaft Wohre, the president of KNDS, Franck Haun, has indeed confirmed that he expects other European countries to join the MGCS program in the short term. According to him, Italy, but also Norway, Poland and Great Britain would like to integrate the MGCS program as soon as possible, namely as soon as the phase of study and definition of the architecture is completed, here 2023. It should be noted that it is indeed Paris which imposed not to consider new partners within the program until this initial phase which will determine the architecture but also the structuring functionalities of the program, is not finished. In addition to these 4 countries mentioned, Sweden and also Spain have expressed their interest in joining the programme.
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