LONDON and COLOGNE, Germany – The UK Ministry of Defense has opened talks with France and Germany about signing up as an observer for their next generation Main Ground Combat System program, government and industry officials in the UK and Germany said.
Details on exactly what access the British will get to the program remain unclear, as a possible pact would not be signed until later this year. "Observer status is awarded to the UK for the Franco-German Main Ground Combat System program," said a Defense Department official in London.
An industry team with Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, Nexter and Rheinmetall are in the early conceptual stages of putting together a vehicle design to replace the German Leopard 2 and the French Leclerc around 2035.
A KMW spokesperson told Defense News that the company is aware of ongoing talks to make Britain an observer, but he referred additional questions to Germany's Defense Ministry.
For the UK, the link is expected to help inform future capacity requirements developed by the Government's Defense Science and Technology Laboratory and others as part of the Ministry of Defense's Future Ground Combat System program.
That program is considering a range of options to replace the current capabilities in the mounted close-combat arena from 2040.
The Franco-German tank is not the only program being watched by the UK Ministry of Defense, which continues to monitor a number of global programs and developers, UK officials said.
The German Ministry of Defense was silent on the details regarding the UK's involvement, although a spokeswoman highlighted the international strength of the project.
"The MGCS project has been designed with a European approach in mind, open to the participation of other countries," the spokeswoman told Defense News. Observer status would precede a more formal role for cooperation with new candidate countries, she added.
"Involving new members in MCGS is in line with Germany's ambitions to drive consolidation in the European defense industry," the spokeswoman wrote in an email.
The British interest in MGCS, depending on how far it progresses, has all the hallmarks of a test case for pursuing large-scale, collaborative programs in a post-Brexit Europe. Military and government leaders on both sides have vowed to keep defense cooperation intact after the painstaking divorce proceedings that ended the UK's membership in the European Union. Yet London is formally an outside party in a defense cooperation regime developed through Brussels.
The path for Britain in a broader ground warfare context could become clearer if the government continues with a specific industrial strategy for land equipment as part of an industrial strategy for defense and security.
A land strategy, in addition to already completed maritime and air surveys, is under consideration, but a final decision has not yet been finalized.
The fact that Britain is keeping an eye on the European tank project is a step in the right direction for those who believe that the colossi on the battlefield still have a future in the British military. But it didn't seem that way in August when UK national media reported that the Department of Defense was considering scrapping the service's 227 Challenger 2 tanks to pivot for more pressing future requirements in areas like cyberspace. , space and unmanned vehicles.
Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace ended the speculation in September when he denied that the Challenger 2 force would be mothballed. However, he did not say how many tanks the British would update.
Lethality and protection upgrades for the Challenger, assuming they are approved, will be led by RBSL, the UK joint venture Rheinmetall-BAE Systems. It includes the installation of a new turret with a 120mm smooth-bore gun to replace the towed gun currently installed on the vehicle.
A decision on the approval of the program is imminent, and the business case for the life extension program was delivered to the approval authority of the Department of Defense late last year. The idea is to make the vehicles last until 2035 or even 2040.
. (tagsToTranslate) Eurotank (t) MCGS (t) KMW (t) KNDS (t) Nexter (t) European Union (t) defense cooperation (t) Challenger 2 (t) Ben Wallace (t) London