MGCS program: Is Rheinmetall marginalized in favor of KNDS in the new Franco-German agreement?

Long mired in standoffs between industrialists, the MGCS program seems to have found a solid trajectory, after the French and German defense ministers announced the upcoming signing ofan agreement regarding industrial sharing about her.

If the two men remained discreet about the content of this agreement, specialized journalists managed to glean certain information, allowing them to get an idea in advance.

This would provide, thus, to put the Franco-German group KNDS back in control of the MGCS program, and to give priority to industrial sharing, by BITD, over sharing by industrialist, giving in particular to the French Nexter, the management of the design of the main armament and turret of the armored vehicle(s).

This arbitration undermines the entire strategy of the Rheinmetall group, which joined MGCS in 2019, and which has since continued to pursue an ambiguous, even hostile strategy, considerably handicapping the program.

The tumultuous genesis of the Franco-German MGCS program

Launched in 2015, around the new Franco-German joint venture KNDS bringing together Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Nexter, the land-based main combat system of the future, or MGCS, program was to make it possible to design the armored vehicles and systems that will replace the Leopard 2 Germans, and Leclerc French, by 2035.

MGCS program seen by Rheinmetall
MGCS seen by Rheinmetall –

This program received renewed attention in 2017, when newly elected Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel jointly engaged in several major Franco-German programs, to give birth to a new Defense Europe.

Quickly, however, difficulties accumulated on the trajectory of this program, which barely progressed since that date, handicapped by differences in the expectations of the French and German general staffs on the one hand, and by difficulties in the development of industrial cooperation, on the other.

If the German and French armies have managed to define a common base to produce, finally, a common expression of need last fall, remained to resolve the immense tensions in terms of industrial sharing, considerably exacerbated since the arrival of the German Rheinmetall group in the program.

This now appears to be the case. Indeed, Sébastien Lecornu, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, and Boris Pistorius, his German counterpart, announced this Friday an industrial agreement, making it possible to move forward with this program.

If, initially, the details of this industrial sharing were opaque to say the least, the information collected here and there by specialized journalists now allows us to get an idea of ​​its structure. And everything suggests that Rheinmetall's role was considerably reduced to put MGCS back on its tracks.

Rheinmetall's more than ambiguous posture since its arrival in the MGCS program

It must be said that Rheinmetall has had a particularly ambiguous role, and far from constructive, since it was imposed by the Bundestag in the MGCS program, in 2019. Traditional partner of the KMW in the design of German tanks Leopard 1 and Leopard 2, the Düsseldorf group believed, certainly not without reason, that it was legitimate to participate in the Franco-German program.

KF-51 Panther
The KF-51 Panther was one of the revelations of the Eurodatory 2022 show

However, Rheinmetall pursued, at the same time, its own agenda, with the development of the KF-51 tank. Panther, which was presented in June 2022 at the Eurosatory exhibition, and presented, for a time at least, as an economical and effective alternative to the expensive and complex Franco-German MGCS.

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