AbramsX, Panther, Black Panther: in the face of emerging competition, should the MGCS program be accelerated?

On the occasion of the AUSA exhibition which will take place from October 10 to 12 in the suburbs of Washington, the armored vehicle manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems, formerly Chrysler and designer of the famous Abrams combat tank and the Stryker armored vehicle, will present a new generation of armored vehicles based on hybrid electric propulsion and the integration of the latest technological advances in this field such as Hard-Kill systems and new generation visualization/command/communication systems. Among them is the StrykerX, a redesign of the 8x8 under-armoured personnel carrier equipped with all of these technologies, as well as the AbramsX, an in-depth reboot of the American tank, whose main characteristics we have already covered in a previous article. As the show begins, it seems that the strategy of GDLS is increasingly copying that of Rheinmetall around the KF-51 Panther, since the AbramsX will not be presented in the form of a model, but of a tank functional halfway between the technological demonstrator and the prototype, so as to offer the US Army a potential solution in the relatively short term and at lower cost to modernize its combat tank fleet.

Obviously, GDLS does not intend to give other players, such as the South Korean Hyundai Rotem with the K2 Black Panther, but above all the German Rheinmetall with the KF-51 Panther, the opportunity to impose themselves on the world market, and especially on the national market, for lack of alternative on the part of American industrialists. Indeed, the US Army has shown in the past its ability to turn to a European or even Asian supplier to meet needs that its industry was unable to produce, or within deadlines and at too high costs. . In this sense, the AbramsX is indeed a response to the German Panther, even if it relies on certain more advanced technologies than the German tank, particularly in terms of propulsion. The fact remains that after the Russian T-14 Armata presented in 2015 and which seems to have made discreet first operational steps in Ukraine, the Panther and the AbramsX do indeed seem to be giving a new impetus in terms of modernization and capacity extensions. operational heavy tanks, with an objective of availability before the end of this decade. In this context, the Franco-German MGCS new generation battle tank program, which is not scheduled to enter service before 2035, may appear to be late in phase with respect to competing models, which as much as the South Korean K2 Black Panther, more conventional but available immediately, could very well seduce many players in demand for quickly available solutions. As often, many factors influence such a problem, and knowing whether it is necessary and relevant to accelerate the MGCS program is much more complex than perceived at first glance.

Less advanced than the AbramsX, Rheinmetall's KF-51 is however more successful and, according to its designer, ready to produce in the relatively short term.

The main argument in favor of accelerating the MGCS program is none other than the significant short- and medium-term needs of the French and German armies in terms of tanks and heavy armored vehicles. Indeed, the French armies will align, in the years to come, only 200 Leclerc tanks, 270 at best if all the tanks in the fleet that can be modernized were indeed. The same is true across the Rhine, while the Bundeswehr does not plan to field 356 Leopard 2s by the time the MGCS enters service. However, French industry today no longer has the capacity to produce new Leclercs, and German industrial capacities to produce new Leopard 2s are limited and insufficiently sized to meet future needs in Europe. In addition, the Leclerc MLUs and the Leopard 2A7s, although still capable after modernization, do not offer next-generation capabilities comparable to those offered by, for example, Rheinmetall's KF-51 Panther. It is precisely to position itself in this niche that the German group has developed its own tank, and to present it not as a demonstrator but as a prototype, so as to allow German decision-makers to make a quick and easy decision. to respond to operational emergencies.

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