PARIS, (BM) – In recent weeks, there has been a lot of talk about the complicated discussions between Dassault Aviation and Airbus about the New Generation Fighter. This program is for new combat aircraft on which the Air Combat System of the Future [SCAF] will be based, a project led by France and carried out in cooperation with Germany and Spain. Suppose the two aircraft manufacturers have finally agreed on intellectual property and the sharing of tasks. In that case, the ball is now in the States’ court, which must validate the deal reached by the manufacturers, which is not yet won.
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Part of why these discussions on task-sharing have become more complicated is Spain’s entry into the program. The prime contractor for the NGF, Dassault Aviation, must now deal with Airbus’s German and Spanish subsidiaries. The French industrialist is playing a two-on-one game. Will the same scenario play out for the Main Ground Combat System [MGCS], the battle tank project of the future, led by Germany, in cooperation with France? Opex360 asks this question in its article.
The division of labor can confuse plans
Initially, the equation was simple: the development and production of this battle tank were to fall to KMW + Nexter Defense Systems [KNDS]. The joint venture is equally owning by GIAT Industries [parent company of French Nexter Systems] and Wegmann & Co Gmbh, owner of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann [KMW]. Rheinmetall was the third invited actor.
Since it was agreed, from the start of the project, that there would be a 50-50 division of labor between France and Germany, the arrival of Rheinmetall, who is also eyeing Wegmann & Co Gmbh, complicated the situation. However, to respect this principle, it was decided to divide the architectural study into nine lots, allocated equally between the manufacturers concerned, which, in April 2020, paved the way for the signing of a framework agreement defining the organization of the project as well as the structures responsible for managing it.
But London could well turn this division of labor upside down should the UK join the MGCS program, while the British Army will have to settle for just 148 modernized Challenger tanks shortly.
The UK will call into question the balance
In January, the media reported that London was interested in the Franco-German tank project, to the point of considering obtaining “observer” status. What the German Ministry of Defense was careful not to confirm explicitly. “The MGCS program was launched with a European approach, being open to other nations. […] Welcoming new members is in line with Germany’s aspirations to encourage consolidation in the European arms industry,” he told Defense News at the time.
Official confirmation of such talks between Berlin and London has just been given after an exchange between Benedikt Zimmer, German Secretary of State for Defense, and Jeremy Quin, British Minister of State for Defense Acquisitions.
According to the report published by the German Ministry of Defense, the two officials raised three subjects of cooperation: the Boxer armored infantry fighting vehicle, which, proposed by the ARTEC consortium [Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles and Rheinmetall Military Vehicles Nederland, editor’s note], was chosen by the British Army, a modular assault bridge project and the MGCS.
“The two interlocutors exchanged ideas on future cooperation opportunities, always to jointly create a greater capacity to act in Europe”, it is put forward in the report.
The possible adhesion of the United Kingdom to the MGCS program is likely to call into question balances which will have been difficult to find. And it would reinforce Rheinemetall’s place, given that the German industrialist is co-owner, with BAE Systems, of RBSL, the British armor specialist. It remains to be seen what Paris will say about it.
Also, MM. Zimmer and Quin also discussed plans to make Panzerpionierbataillon 130 [an engineering unit of the Bundeswehr] a German-British formation from October 1, 2021.
Poland also wanted to join but was refused
Poland wanted to join the Franco-German consortium to produce a new European battle tank but refused. Many experts then commented that such a decision could have severe consequences for Europe’s defense capabilities and the security of the old continent. “Warsaw would be happy to take part in a joint project to build a new tank, but Germany and France prefer to carry out the project themselves,” Die Welt writes.
“Poland is a heavy military cargo, defending NATO’s eastern flank. The European Union wants more cooperation in the field of defense. But for this, you must use the same weapon systems. If Poland concludes only bilateral agreements with the United States, the unification of European armies will be even more difficult,” the German media explained.
The publication quoted an anonymous interlocutor from Berlin’s political circles as saying: “In talks with German defense companies, including on political decisions, the needs of Poles rarely play a role. That is a mistake.”
All this action happened at the beginning of last year. Even then, however, Die Welt wrote that Poland had found a military partner in South Korea. We are talking about the Hyundai Rotem, which will offer Poland a model of the K2 tank.
“This is just the beginning of negotiations, but now there is talk of 800 copies. After such a gigantic treaty, Poland will have more modern tanks than Germany and France combined. There are rumors from Berlin that many were unaware of Poland’s willingness to invest (South Korea). Does the German or French industry want to miss the opportunity to order 800 tanks because they do not need an additional project partner?” the newspaper asks.
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