Status: 21/09/2023, 17:11 p.m.
By: Nadja Austel
Germany's battle tank is not making any progress. "The French are more oriented," was the summary back in the summer.
Berlin/Paris – There is a problem with the joint armaments projects of Germany and France. Above all, the development of the main battle tank type "MGCS" is stuck. According to the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency, there are problems because politics and industry are pursuing different interests. This is therefore likely to be a topic at the meeting between German Defence Minister Borius Pistorius (SPD) and his French counterpart Sébastien Lecornu in Evreux today, Thursday (21 September).
It was decided that the two countries would jointly develop new tanks and military aircraft. In the case of the fighter aircraft, the leading role was intended for France, Germany was to take over the scepter of the MGCS (Main Ground Combat System) main battle tank. In the case of the French fighter jet, in which the French company Dassault and the armaments division of Airbus are mainly involved, the governments have now put so much pressure that the work is moving forward. In the case of the main battle tank of the Germans, on the other hand, this has still not happened – despite great promises on the part of Pistorius.
A Leopard 2 tank, taken as part of a presentation at the Bundeswehr Armed Forces Base in Mahlwinkel, in March 2023 (symbolic image). © IMAGO/Florian Gaertner/photothek.de
Unfavorable for Germany: Battle tank "MGCS" has too little pressure – France benefits
In July, Pistorius had announced: "Just as France has the lead in the joint fighter jet of the future, Germany takes the lead in the tank." But the mills of the arms industry are running slowly. In the summer of 2019, the parties had already sealed the billion-euro project of a joint fighter jet, thus launching the "Air Combat System of the Future" (FCAS) – it should not be ready for use until 2040 at the earliest.
This is unfavorable for the Federal Republic, says Alexander Müller, the defense policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group. "Germany spends a lot of research money on the FCAS, (...) for a project whose value creation essentially takes place in France," he said. At the same time, Germany did not manage to advance the development of the battle tank in such a way that German industry in turn benefited from French research funding.
Germany lacks an overview: battle tank development
This is also the view of the German armaments company Rheinmetall, which had already criticized disadvantages in the awarding of contracts. The head of the tank transmission manufacturer Renk, Susanne Wiegand, also criticized in July 2023 in the Munich Club Wirtschaftspresse: "I don't think there's much money left over for German industry." Of the Bundeswehr special fund of 100 billion euros, half threatens to flow to US companies.
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This is also due to the fact that the government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) does not perceive the industry as strategic: "Germany has no political compass for the defense industry. The French are more oriented," commented the company boss. In both cases, the core of the conflict is the question of which company develops which components, according to afp. In the case of the battle tank, the Munich-based armaments company KMW and the French tank builder Nexter had joined forces.
Battle tank "MGCS": Germany wants to further develop Leopard 2
According to AFP, the project is said to have been out of balance from a French point of view when the German company Rheinmetall also participated. Last week, the Handelsblatt also reported on plans by German companies to develop a successor to the Leopard 2 with partners from Italy, Spain and Sweden.
Pistorius explained that this was not an alternative to the MGCS – although it was supposed to replace the German Leopard 2 and the French Leclerc alike. The aim of the german-French armaments cooperation was that the land forces of both countries would work in coordination with the same main battle tank. According to Pistorius, the further development of the Leopard 2 does not contradict the development of a new, common system.
German-French main battle tank "MGCS": Does Germany prefer the Leopard 2?
Defense expert Marc Chassillan sees a problem in the priorities. While Germany primarily wants to further develop the Leopard 2, France attaches more importance to future technologies, such as robotics and connectivity. "German industry has no interest in cooperating with France because it does not bring any new customers," Chassillan explained. Despite all the political will, both sides have quite different ideas about the future tank.
At their meeting today in Evreux, it is planned that Pistorius and Lecornu will coordinate and confirm the ideas of the two General Staffs of the future MGCS main battle tank. "We are determined to pursue the MGCS project and thus lay the foundation for one of the most modern tank systems in the world," Pistorius stressed. Subsequently, the responsibilities of the companies involved could be clarified. (NA/AFP)