French-German tank project company is closed to partners for now

PARIS — The planned project company between defense firms KNDS, Rheinmetall and Thales to develop a future main battle

French-German tank project company is closed to partners for now

PARIS — The planned project company between defense firms KNDS, Rheinmetall and Thales to develop a future main battle tank for Germany and France will remain closed to other shareholders for now, according to the French branch of KNDS.

The two governments recommend the French and German divisions of KNDS as well as Rheinmetall and Thales each hold a 25% stake in the project company, KNDS France said in an emailed response to Defense News questions. The companies on April 30 announced plans to set up a project company to work on the future tank, known as the Main Ground Combat System.

“The integration of new companies into the project company will only be considered when the MGCS program is opened up to other nations,” KNDS said. “At this stage, the MGCS program is solely French-German; the French and German companies in charge have been designated.”

Deciding whose defense firms would get to do what on the future tank has been a touchy topic for politicians in France and Germany, and years of wrangling were resolved last month with the countries’ defense ministers signing off on an equal share of the industrial work.

The governments’ recommendations, including for a 50-50 France-Germany split for the entire project, will be used to draw up the operating rules of the project company, KNDS said.

“We’ll have a balance in MGCS between the four participating companies,” Emmanuel Chiva, the head of French armament agency DGA, said in an interview on BFM TV on Monday. “That’s what’s always a little complicated to set up.”

The project will include a heavy tank alongside “other effectors” such as armored vehicles equipped with innovative weapons, drones and a combat cloud, according to Chiva, who said the project “is well underway,” with the first contracts to be awarded at the start of 2025.

The work on MGCS has been divided into eight pillars, and the project company will subcontract work on the pillars to various companies, on a 50-50 French-German basis. While the governments have recommended which nation will lead each pillar, the companies remain to be designated, KNDS said.

The project company will be the single point of contact for the contracting authority, Germany’s Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support, according to KNDS. With Germany designated the lead country on MGCS, the Bundeswehr acquisition office will issue invitations to tender and will buy from the project company on behalf of the two countries.

France’s Safran is involved in several pillars of the MGCS project, the company said in an emailed response to questions. Safran Electronics & Defense will lead the work related to the sensor suite in association with Thales LAS, under the banner Optrolead, with Germany’s Hensoldt also part of the sensor pillar as a main partner, according to Safran.

Safran said its “ready to play an active role” in other pillars. The DGA in February awarded a contract to KNDS and Safran to develop new sights for the renovated Leclerc main battle tank, replacing analog systems with digital ones and adding latest-generation sensors and a panoramic observation sight.

The MGCS is a topic of “interesting conversations” between France and Italy, French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu said April 29 at a meeting with his Italian counterpart, Guido Crosetto. The countries’ army leaders will discuss Italy’s vision for armored cavalry in the 2040s and beyond, looking at points of convergence for when France and Germany kick off the first phase of the future tank, the minister said.

“We’ll talk about it with our German friends, but there would something natural in Italy being able to participate in this project for a future tank,” Lecornu said. “The interest is there, the operational need seems to us could be there, and we’ll obviously continue our exchanges with our German friends on this subject.”

The national leads for the MGCS pillars, as reported by France’s Armed Forces Ministry:

Pillar 1 Platform: includes chassis and automated navigation Germany
Pillar 2 Main fire: gun, turret and ammunition France/Germany
Pillar 3 Innovative weapons: secondary armament
for example guided missiles
Pillar 4 On-board systems: communication, command and engagement systems France/Germany
Pillar 5 Simulations France/Germany
Pillar 6 Sensors France
Pillar 7 Global protection: defense against drones Germany
Pillar 8 Infrastructure: support, logistics and infrastructure France/Germany

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.

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