Italy was informally invited to the new European tank development

In a recent gathering in Corsica, France, Italy was informally invited by France to partake in the development of a novel European tank, known as the Main Ground Combat System [MGCS]. This transpired during an important meeting between Sébastien Lecorneux, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, and Guido Crosetto, his Italian counterpart. Both dignitaries inked a letter of intent to bolster cooperation in the defense sector. 

Italy-seeks-MBT,-Franco-German-MGCS-with-130mm-cannon-is-an-option-2
Photo credit: InfoDefensa

The French minister asserted that it was a logical progression for Italy to be involved in the MGCS initiative, contributing to the development of future tanks and other varieties of combat vehicles. France’s desire for Italy’s involvement in the project isn’t new. In August 2023, Paris took the lead in proposing that Italy would make an excellent addition to the existing team, which included Germany. Leonardo, a prominent Italian company, had even been recommended as the main Italian representative. 

France’s expressed appreciation for Italy comes at a pivotal juncture when the dynamics of the initiative need to be recalibrated. It is well-known that France was previously the most vocal opponent of other nations joining the MGCS initiative. Poland serves as a prime example, having expressed interest in becoming a key partner years back. However, advancements made by the Polish defense industry were not received well by France and Germany.

Italy seeks MBT, Franco-German MGCS with 130mm cannon is an option
Photo credit: Meta-Defense.fr

‘The Problem’ Leopard

Over the past year, largely due to the ongoing unrest in Ukraine, there’s been a significant shift in sentiment toward the MGCS as a long-term project. Notably, France has voiced concerns that Germany’s Leopard tank might overshadow the MGCS initiative. Indications of these apprehensions are evident in the continued development and procurement of Leopard’s latest model, the 2A8, which is based on Hungary’s 2A7HU variant. 

France’s invitation to Italy could suggest that Paris is attempting to maintain a balance in its engagement with Berlin. However, it remains uncertain whether Italy would agree to such cooperation if Germany accepted the proposal. As previously reported by BulgarianMilitary.com, Italy has recently decided to acquire over a hundred Leopard 2A8 tanks and might be considering incorporating these tanks into their national defense strategy. 

Germany showed Leopard 2A8 tank to the public for the first time
Photo credit: Dzen.ru

Significantly, Italy has demonstrated early interest in the Leopard 2A8, becoming the first country to convey an intention to procure a substantial quantity of this model. This move could potentially trigger localized production. Notably, sources from Italy have suggested that La Spezia could become a significant hub for the production of the Italian variant, the Leopard 2A8IT.

France and Italy

In the past, France and Italy have reaped the benefits of their combined efforts on multiple large-scale projects. These include the Horizon-class destroyers, FREMM frigates, and the SAMP-T long-range air defense system. Likewise, their collaboration extends to the realm of space, where they have witnessed shared triumphs through their efforts with companies such as Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space. 

Macron asked for an instruction to transfer Leclerc tanks to Ukraine
Photo credit: National Interest

Nevertheless, France tends to favor the Main Ground Combat System [MGCS] over the Leopard 2A8. This preference stems from France’s more substantial investment in the MGCS project and the subsequent delay in the evolution and upgrading of their domestic Leclerc tank. The question then arises – could the “informal” invite from Paris to Rome be a backup strategy from France should Berlin decide to increase their focus on their main homegrown tanks, namely the Leopard 2A8 and Rheinmetall Panther KF51? This may potentially negate the development of a third tank, the MGCS. 

One cannot overlook the agreement signed on April 26 between France and Germany. It signals the ceremonial start of the next phase of development for the Franco-German MGCS tank and underscores the significant role these nations play in the international defense landscape.

Tanks in the Italian army

Spain: Ukraine needs 105mm Centauro and 40mm Pizarro light tanks
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The backbone of the Italian Armed Forces is defined by a selection of tanks, with the Ariete assuming center stage as the primary battle tank. This modern powerhouse, renowned for its sophisticated armor and powerful firepower, is a testament to Italian innovation. Since it first appeared in the late 90s, it has played a critical role in several international peacekeeping efforts. 

Next in line as the secondary main battle tank, the German-designed Leopard 1A5 has been part of the Italian Army since the 70s. Ongoing improvements over the years have significantly boosted its effectiveness on the battlefield. 

The Italian Army doesn’t solely rely on main battle tanks, though. They also command the nimble Centauro, a wheeled tank destroyer. Moreover, they possess the Dardo—a lighter tank prioritized for infantry support. Outfitted with an imposing 25mm autocannon and powerful anti-tank missiles, the Dardo is designed to safely transport troops into and across the battlefield. 

Germany allows: 105mm Leopard 1A5 tanks + APFSDS ammo go to Ukraine
Photo: Wikipedia

Rounding out the Italian Army’s arsenal is the Freccia, an infantry fighting vehicle similar to the Dardo, but with a design based on the Centauro. Equipped with a 25mm autocannon, it provides secure transportation for an infantry squad into combat zones.

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