Upsetting news for Italy – the Leopard 2A8IT tank project is failing

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Italy has started to veer away from its aspirations of developing and acquiring the Leopard 2A8IT tanks. Recent updates [June 11] from KNDS headquarters in Amsterdam have brought concerning news for Rome. According to the announcement, KNDS has ceased negotiations with Leonardo SpA. 

Photo credit: Hungarian Defense Forces

Earlier, in December 2022, both companies had announced their talks, which aimed at two primary objectives: strategically, to explore a potential partnership between Leonardo’s defense division and KNDS. Operationally, the goal was to jointly further develop and produce the KNDS Leopard 2 A8 main battle tank for an Italian Ministry of Defense procurement program and to collaborate on the Italian Infantry Fighting Vehicle procurement program. 

Frank Haun, CEO of KNDS N.V., noted today that with 18 European countries using the Leopard 2, it has become the main battle tank standard across Europe and within NATO. Haun emphasized the importance of maintaining this standard, as it significantly enhances the interoperability and joint combat capabilities of European and NATO armies. Haun concludes: “The configuration agreement fell through, which also caused the talks about Leonardo’s strategic involvement in KNDS to collapse. Nevertheless, KNDS remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting the Italian military.” 

Photo credit: Twitter

The idea

Initially, optimistic rumors were suggesting a finalized agreement was within reach. It was even speculated in Italy that the primary Leopard 2A8IT manufacturing facility might be established in La Spezia. Earlier this year, reported that Rome was advocating for equipping the Leopard 2A8IT with Italian technology. Should Berlin heed Rome’s request, 132 Leopard 2A8IT main battle tanks could be upgraded with Italian-made devices and systems. This demand has become a central point in the fast-moving negotiations and is outlined explicitly in the ministerial decree authorizing the program. 

Additionally, in May, it was noted that the project would bolster Italian expertise in the tank sector and advance the ARIETE C2 program. This strategic plan underscores the potential for future advancements in C3 development and positions the project with foresight, anticipating the A2CS [Army Armored Combat System]—which will soon undergo feasibility studies—as well as the MGCS [Main Ground Combat System].

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The arrangement itself was notable. We’re talking a hefty €8.5 billion [$9.1 billion], with over €4 billion [$4.3 billion] already allocated. If Germany had accepted Italy’s proposal, it could have provided a significant lift to the local economy. This project doesn’t just benefit large corporations; many small and medium-sized businesses are expected to get involved, primarily as subcontractors for Leonardo. 

Leo 2A8

The Leopard 2A8, a recent addition that stems from the 2A7HU variant ordered by Hungary in 2018, offers some exciting upgrades. One of the standout features is the integration of the Trophy active protection system [APS] developed by the well-known Israeli company, Rafael. This clever system can intercept incoming projectiles before they hit the tank. Additionally, it features the 120 mm L55 smoothbore cannon, an improvement from the L44, with a higher muzzle velocity, previously seen in the 2A7+. 

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Thinking about the crew’s comfort? You’ll be pleased to know that this cutting-edge tank includes a state-of-the-art cooling system. It also ramps up its capabilities with an enhanced auxiliary power generator and an external telephone to improve communication with dismounted troops.

The driver of the 2A8 won’t be hampered by visibility issues during nighttime operations. With a state-of-the-art night vision system – a seamless fusion of a thermal imager and a low-light amplifier – you’ll get a clear view both front and rear. 

Embrace the digital age with the 2A8’s cutting-edge optronics. These systems provide a wider, more accurate perspective of distant activities. And the best part? The digital controls are extremely user-friendly. The enhanced command and information system surpasses earlier models, giving you a significant edge in the field. Additionally, the capability to deploy programmable detonation ammunition efficiently balances effectiveness with reduced collateral damage.


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