The British Army has reportedly shown interest in joining a France-Germany joint effort of building the advanced Eurotank, which could eventually help the country to replace its Challenger II main battle tank.
France and Germany are involved in the next-generation Main Ground Combat System program (MGCS), aimed at building ‘Eurotank’ and replacing their existing tanks by the mid-2030s.
The program to develop the first European tank has been taken up by German defense contractors Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall, as well as the French contractor Nexter.
The Franco-German MGCS has been designed to replace the German Leopard II and French LeClerc tanks. A similar multinational effort had led to the development of the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet earlier.
However, according to Defense News, the UK has now been granted ‘observer’ status to the program, thereby allowing the representatives from Britain to observe the design and development process of the program.
“Observer status is being granted to the UK for the Franco-German Main Ground Combat System program,” an official of Britain’s Ministry of Defence, said in London.
This could also result in Britain’s participation in eventually purchasing the new tanks when they are produced.
So far, it is not clear as to how much access the UK will actually get to the program, with the potential pact likely to be signed later this year.
Last year, it was reported that the UK was planning to get rid of its tanks as part of the modernization of the army. The reason was said to be due to the high costs of maintaining the aging fleet of tanks.
However, it was later denied by Britain’s Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, who said, “The idea that tanks won’t be there for the army, upgraded and modernized, is wrong.”
The idea of London’s major partnership with Berlin and Paris in the Eurotank MGCS program is likely to be of great significance to the nation, as it will soften the financial blow of getting an advanced tank.
The ongoing talks of Britain’s observer status are reported to help in providing information on the future capability requirements developed by the government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and others as part of Britain’s Ministry of Defence’s Future Ground Combat System program.
According to British officials, apart from the joint Eurotank program, the UK Ministry of Defense is continuing to monitor other global programs and developers.
So far, the German Defense Ministry has remained silent on revealing specifics regarding Britain’s involvement in the program, however, a spokeswoman has stressed the project’s international thrust.
“The MGCS project was created with a European approach in mind, open for other nations to participate. An observer status would precede a more formal role for cooperation with new candidate countries,” the spokeswoman told Defense News.
“Bringing new members on board with MCGS is in line with Germany’s aspirations to push consolidation in the European defense industry.”
The UK was the first nation to design and build tanks, with the British Army fielding the world’s first tank, called the Mark I, which was a mobile protected weapons platform meant to support ground offensives.
Throughout World War II and the Cold War, Britain continued to remain a major tank power, but now it maintains just 227 Challenger II tanks.
The Challenger 2 (CR2) is a third-generation main battle tank (MBT) that was designed and built by the British company Vickers Defence Systems, now known as BAE Systems, a leading defense weapons manufacturer.
While the tank has served the nation well and is considered a powerful machine, it has not received the same upgrades as its contemporaries.
It lacks modern features including digital networking, updated thermal sights, onboard drones, and an active protection system to shoot down incoming rockets and missiles.
The Eurotank is expected to replace these tanks and offer Britain a much better modern ground support system in case of a potential conflict.
However, the problem lies in the conflict of interests between the three nations, regarding the different needs of the militaries, according to Kyle Mizokami, a defense writer.
Mizokami såys Germany and France have had divergent design philosophies regarding tanks throughout their history, with the Germans accustomed to sacrificing armor for mobility.
On the other hand, French tanks have an equal focus on firepower, protection, and mobility, which is different from the British tanks, which usually sacrifice mobility in favor of increased armor protection.
So, even if the UK ends up joining France and Germany in the Eurotank program, the country might not get the tank it actually needs.