France and Germany signed two Letters of Intent (LoI) for the joint development of a future main battle tank and a fifth generation fighter jet for the French and German Armed Forces.
The LoI was signed between Florence Parly, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, and Ursula von der Leyen, the German Minister of Defence, on June 19, 2018.
The future tank will be developed under the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) project and the next-generation fighter aircraft will be developed under the Next Generation Weapon System (NGWS) project within the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program.
These two LoIs materialize the will of France and Germany, expressed in particular during the Franco-German Council of Ministers meeting conducted in July 2017, to jointly build future weapons systems and to act for the construction of the European defense.
Main Ground Combat System (MGCS)
MGCS project will lead to the development of a new generation of Main Battle Tanks (MBT), providing their users enhanced, innovative, and best-in-class systems with the most advanced technologies.
According to the LoI, Germany will be leading the development. The demonstration phase is scheduled from mid-2019 and the detailed operational requirements would be finalized by 2024 with deployment planned from 2035.
The LoI also covers co-operation on Common Indirect Fire System (CIFS) project to develop future artillery system. The introduction of the system into the service is scheduled from 2040.
Franco-German defence major, KMW+Nexter Defense Systems (KNDS) welcomed the decision of signing the LoI for the future MBT. KNDS is the major contender for the project and has unveiled a new Euro Main Battle Tank (EMBT) concept at the recently concluded Eurosatory 2018 exhibition in Paris.
KNDS was formed after the merger between the German family-controlled defence company, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and the French government-owned defence company, Nexter Systems under the KANT (KMW And Nexter Together) project.
The new tank combines the chassis of a German Leopard 2 A7 main battle tank, developed by KMW, with a 120mm turret seen on French Leclerc MBT, built by Nexter. The chassis was modified to host Leclerc’s compact and light turret with automatic loading. The Leopard 2 features a heavier manually loaded turret.
“Germany and France are jointly launching the most strategic project in European land defense for the 30 years to come, a program package that will shape the future of European armies’ main combat capabilities and contribute to Europe’s sovereignty and strategic autonomy”, the company said in a statement welcoming the signing of the LoI.
Future Combat Air System (FCAS)/ Système de Combat Aérien Futur (SCAF)
SCAF defines a system of systems combining a wide range of elements connected and operating together, including a next generation fighter aircraft together with Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (MALE UAVs), the existing fleet of aircraft (which will still operate beyond 2040), future cruise missiles and drones flying in swarms.
The overall system will be interoperable and connected in a larger perimeter with mission aircraft, satellites, NATO systems and land and naval combat systems. The project will be also exploiting the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and network-based combat capabilities in a future air combat system.
The letter of intent designates France as the leading nation on the project. It also provides for other partners, especially European partners, to join the project.
The LoI sets the goal of launching the study phase no later than the end of 2018 which will lead to the demonstration phase by 2025. The new fighter aircraft will eventually replace the current generation of Eurofighter Typhoon (German Air Force) and Dassault Rafale (French Air Force) fighter aircraft by around 2040.
French aerospace company, Dassault Aviation and European defence major, Airbus have signed a partnership agreement to collaborate for the development of next generation combat aircraft for the FCAS project.