E-MBT tank emerges as temporary solution for Germany and France after MGCS program collaboration failure

In the wake of collaboration challenges between France and Germany over the Franco-German MGCS (Main Ground Combat System) program, the European Main Battle Tank (E-MBT), developed by KNDS, is being considered as a potential temporary solution. The MGCS program was initiated with the primary objective of developing a cutting-edge combat tank to replace the existing Leclerc and Leopard 2 tanks, which have been the mainstays of the French and German armored forces respectively.
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The European Main Battle Tank E-MBT was unveiled in June 2022 during the International Defense Exhibition Eurosatory. (Picture source Army Recognition)

The MGCS (Main Ground Combat System) program is a collaborative initiative between France and Germany, aimed at developing the next generation of main battle tanks. This joint venture underscores a significant step in European defense cooperation, with the intention of bolstering the military prowess of both nations.

One of the primary objectives of the MGCS program is to replace the current main battle tanks that are in service with both countries. Specifically, the program targets the replacement of the French Leclerc and the German Leopard 2. These tanks, having been operational for several decades, have undergone various upgrades over the years. However, with the evolving nature of modern warfare and the emergence of new threats, there's an increasing need for a more advanced and adaptable combat system.

The MGCS program is not just about developing a new tank; it's about creating a comprehensive ground combat system that can integrate with other platforms, utilize the latest in technology and weaponry, and offer superior protection and firepower. The collaboration between France and Germany on this project also signifies a strategic partnership, emphasizing the importance of unified defense efforts in an increasingly complex global security landscape.

The E-MBT stands out with its advanced features and combat capabilities. One of its most notable features is a turret designed to house the powerful 140mm ASCALON cannon. This new combat tank is not just about firepower; it also boasts state-of-the-art active protection systems that enhance its survivability on the battlefield. The electronics of the E-MBT are inspired by those of the new multirole reconnaissance and combat vehicle, the EBRC Jaguar, which is currently in service with the French army. Furthermore, the E-MBT has been equipped with the capability to deploy drones, adding a new dimension to its reconnaissance and combat capabilities.

The introduction of the E-MBT, with its advanced features, could potentially bridge the gap as France and Germany work through their collaboration issues on the MGCS program. As both nations strive to maintain their edge in armored warfare, the E-MBT represents a significant step forward in tank technology and combat capabilities.

Moreover, Rheinmetall is betting on the KF-51 Panther, a combat tank that could compete with the MGCS. Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, in partnership with the French company Nexter within KNDS, is considering developing the Leopard 2AX, likely in cooperation with Italy, Spain, and Sweden.

The European Main Battle Tank (E-MBT) is a significant endeavor in the realm of armored warfare, representing a collaborative effort between France and Germany. This initiative is part of the broader Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) program, which aims to replace the current main battle tanks in service, namely the French Leclerc and the German Leopard 2.

The E-MBT is a hybrid tank that combines the hull of the Leopard 2A7 with the lighter, two-man turret of the Leclerc. This design choice offers several advantages. The 2-man Leclerc turret is approximately 6 tons lighter than the 3-man Leopard 2 turret. This weight reduction allows the E-MBT to traverse bridges and terrains that might pose challenges for heavier tanks. The lighter turret, equipped with an autoloader, when combined with the robust and proven chassis of the Leopard 2, results in a tank that boasts both agility and firepower.

According to Nexter's head of tracked and armor programs, Francois Groshany, the primary benefit of the E-MBT is the fusion of the "very high capability" Leopard 2 chassis with the more compact Leclerc turret. This combination not only enhances the tank's mobility but also ensures that it remains a formidable presence on the battlefield.

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The KF51 Panther is a new generation of Main Battle Tank developed by the German company Rheinmetall that was also unveiled during Eurosatoffy 2022. (Picture source Army Recognition)

The Panther KF51 is a German main battle tank (MBT) under development by Rheinmetall Landsysteme, a part of Rheinmetall's Vehicle Systems division. It was publicly unveiled at the Eurosatory Defence Exhibition in June 2022. The name "KF" in KF51 stands for "Kettenfahrzeug", which translates to "tracked vehicle" in German.

The KF51 is built upon the hull of the Leopard 2A4. A significant feature of this tank is its new turret, which is designed to accommodate an autoloaded 130 mm caliber main gun. Rheinmetall has expressed intentions to primarily target existing Leopard 2 operators with the KF51.

Rheinmetall began the development of the Panther KF51 in 2016, with a focus on enhancing the lethality, mobility, survivability, and networking capabilities of main battle tanks without a significant increase in weight. To achieve this, the company prioritized active protection over passive protection for the Leopard 2A4 platform, which serves as the base for the development vehicle. There are also considerations for further developments, such as making the vehicle more environmentally friendly, integrating AI into the fire control system, and even creating an unmanned version of the Panther.

In terms of design and mobility, the KF51 follows a conventional layout for an MBT, with the driver positioned at the front, the fighting compartment/turret in the middle, and the powerpack at the rear. A distinctive feature is the introduction of a new two-person turret equipped with an autoloaded main gun. The Panther has a combat weight of 59 tonnes, making it lighter than most Western MBTs developed prior to 2022.

The Panther KF51 is designed to be a game-changer in the realm of armored warfare. It boasts a 130 mm Future Gun System, which provides unrivaled lethality with an impressive rate of fire due to its autoloader. Additionally, it features a 12.7 mm co-axial machine gun and multiple Remote Controlled Weapon Station (RCWS) integration options. The tank's design also allows for the integration of the HERO 120 loitering ammunition, expanding its strike capability to non-line-of-sight targets. All these weapons are connected with targeting sights and a fire control computer through a fully digitized architecture, enabling seamless target engagements and future AI decision support.

In terms of survivability, the Panther employs a comprehensive survivability concept, integrating both on and off-platform sensors with active, reactive, and passive protection technologies. Notably, it features the Rheinmetall TAPS (Top Attack Protection System) and the ROSY smoke obscurance system. The tank is also designed to operate in contested electromagnetic spectrums and is fully cyber-hardened.

The Panther's mobility is also noteworthy. With a combat weight of just 59 tonnes, it offers greater mobility than many current systems, fitting into the tunnel profile AMovP-4L without any preparation. This ensures both tactical and strategic mobility advantages.

In essence, the Panther KF51 represents a significant advancement in tank technology, merging cutting-edge features to create a formidable presence on the modern battlefield.

Defense News October 2023