Italian main battle tank Leopard 2A8 IT appears on the scene

December 13 marked a momentous occasion as Leonardo and KNDS [KMW+Nexter Defense System, a leading Franco-German team in the world of land systems and armored vehicles] established a strategic alliance. The event took place in Segredifesa, to further industrial collaboration within the ground sector.

KMW shows Leopard 2A7 tank with Trophy APS in the Czech Republic
Photo credit: Twitter

The partnership inked out by the top executives, Roberto Chingolani of Leonardo and Frank Haun of KNDS, underlines an ambitious plan rooted in the backing of the Italian Ministry of Defense. The signing ceremony took place at the Segredifesa, reflecting the involved parties’ strategic alignment. This joint endeavor’s ultimate goal is to establish a leading European defense group while concurrently enhancing collaboration within the ground electronics sector. Undoubtedly, it suggests a significant advancement towards consolidating the defense industry, especially the ground sector.

This agreement plays a crucial role in fortifying the heavy component of the EI through new programs such as Leopard 2, AICS, and many more, as stipulated by the Ministry of Defense. Undersigned by both the Italian and German governments in late November, it’s part of an action plan between these two countries. The primary objectives are to facilitate cooperative programs and to bolster their individual industrial bases. 

The primary aim is multifaceted: Firstly, to foster the evolution of future ground platforms like the new European tank, known as the Main Ground Combat System [MGCS]. Secondly, to amplify our nation’s production and developmental capabilities for future European and export utilization. Furthermore, a cooperation agreement has been inked between Leonardo and KNDS about the Leopard 2A8 procurement program on behalf of Italy. 

These two corporations are slated to forge a partnership in the design, build, and upkeep of the Leopard 2A8 for the Italian Army, both in the identical “combat” variant and in distinctive versions of the same platform, namely bridge, recovery, and engineering. 

It has been reported that approximately 300 such machines exist, inclusive of combat MBTs and unique variants. As per RID, we should anticipate an “Italianized” tank, potentially dubbed Leopard 2A8 IT, meaning an MBT outfitted with a fire control system, communication and command equipment, and potentially turret elements, all designed by Leonardo [developments stemming from the Centauro II and Ariete C-2 initiatives]. 

In the agreements finalized on December 13, it’s implied, though not overtly stated, that the new Armored Infantry Combat System [AICS]—the Italian Army’s latest family of tracked infantry vehicles—will likely be incorporated. 

It’s worth noting that this deal seemingly involves the German segment of KNDS [or KNDS-GE if we prefer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann], the Leopard 2 design entity that was also directly embroiled in past AICS debates. This inference is further supported by the citation of the Italian-German action plan signed in November last year. 

Of course, being an agreement that encompasses an entity like KNDS, which also incorporates the “French part” [Nexter], it indirectly brings France into the mix. This is expected to bolster the continuation of European consolidation in the land sector of the defense industry.

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