9 May 2015 Russia for the first time officially showed its newest T-14 tanks. At that time this equipment was at the testing stage and was not yet ready for operation in the army. However, the new Russian project was cause for concern. Further development of a promising tank and the launch of its mass production could give the Russian army decisive advantages over the ground forces of third countries. While other states were again talking about a certain Russian threat, France and Germany decided to respond to “Armat” with their own ambitious program.
Leopard 2A7 + - the latest at the moment modernization of the German tank. Photos of Below-the-turret-ring.blogspot.fr
Already in the summer of 2015, it was announced that the leading defense companies in Germany and France intend to join forces and upgrade the armored forces of the two countries. It was proposed to first upgrade the existing equipment, and then develop a promising main battle tank, fully complying with the requirements of the present time and the foreseeable future. To obtain the desired advantages of an organizational and technological nature, the project participants decided not only to work together, but also to unite at the organization level. The German company Kraus-Maffei Wegmann and the French Nexter Defense Systems merged into a holding. The united organization was named KNDS - KMW and Nexter Defense Systems.
The merger of the two companies was held for simple and understandable reasons. Firstly, the joint work of leading defense enterprises will ensure the use of all available experience in the field of armored combat vehicles. The second reason is cost sharing. For a number of reasons, at the moment France and Germany cannot independently create the desired model of military equipment. Finally, the KNDS holding will be able to circumvent some of the existing restrictions. German industry, for political reasons, can not always sign a contract for the supply of equipment to a specific country, and the participation of France will allow to get rid of such problems.
The new program of updating the tank fleet carries the working title MGCS - Mobile Ground Combat System ("Mobile Ground Combat System"). In the future, the promising main tank created during the program is likely to receive another designation. According to the announced plans, a part of the project should have been implemented during the second half of the current decade. In addition, much of the development work will move to the twenties. The start of mass production of MGCS tanks will begin only by 2030 year. Because of this, the project is sometimes referred to as MGCS 2030.
It is curious that in the framework of the MGCS project it is planned not only to create a completely new tank, but also to update the existing ones. Thus, the two phases of the Mobile Ground Combat System program of the three provide exactly the refinement of existing tanks. According to various sources, in the foreseeable future, KNDS intends to upgrade the electronics and weapons of existing Leopard 2 tanks. Only after that the main works on designing a full-fledged tank of a new model will start.
Despite the existence of such plans, starting from 2016, the developers of the MGCS project indicated that in the first few years the aim would be to shape the appearance of the new tank and define technical requirements. Not earlier than 2017-18, the year was supposed to begin the preparation of design documentation, as well as the elaboration of those or other units. The end of the project stage belongs to the beginning of the next decade.
If the MGCS project at the current early stages has not encountered any problems that could affect the timing of the work, then by now KNDS specialists may at least have a general idea of the future appearance of the tank. It should be noted that to date, the developer has not announced the technical details of the project. However, certain participants in the work several times published certain information that can form the basis of a relatively complete picture.
According to available data, the MGCS project proposes the development of a main tank with a combat mass of no more than 60 t. Enhanced booking and other means of protection should be used that can increase the survivability of equipment on different battlefields. Also, a new type of tank should differ from existing machines with increased firepower. Such a task can be solved both with the help of a reinforced gun of a larger caliber and through more advanced fire control systems. An important part of the project will be the automation of some operations. First of all, it is proposed to automate the supply of ammunition in the gun.
In the recent past, it was indicated that in 2017 or in 2018, the KNDS holding will complete the development of the concept of a promising tank MGCS and only after that will it be able to start developing the project. There is reason to believe that this stage has already been completed, so that the program can move to another stage, but there are no official reports on this subject. One way or another, if the formation of the tank’s appearance has not yet been completed, then it will have to end as soon as possible. Perhaps the company-developer will not hide information about it and announce the imminent start of the design.
According to known data, the requirements for the MGCS project limit the combat weight of the tank 60-65 to tons. Further growth of this parameter can lead to a sharp drop in mobility and strategic mobility. At the same time, weight reduction may impose restrictions on survivability and combat qualities. In addition, the weight limits allow us to present the approximate characteristics of the desired power plant.
In order to obtain sufficient mobility, a French-German tank will have to have an engine of about 1200-1500 horsepower. At the same time, the specific power of the machine will reach the level of 25 hp. per ton - optimal performance for the tank with the desired characteristics. Most likely, the diesel power plant will be used. Engines of this type are used on both German Leopard-2 and French AMX-56 Leclerc.
Considered various ways to ensure proper vitality, as well as their various combinations. Most likely, the MGCS tank will receive its own combined armor with protection characteristics no worse than those of modern tanks of Germany and France. Reservations for the hull and turret can be supplemented with dynamic or active protection. At the same time, the use of such systems will require the implementation of additional projects.
In 2016, the company Rheinmetall AG, participating in the MGCS program as a developer of weapons, presented a draft of a smooth-bore tank gun with enhanced characteristics. For a significant increase in the energy of the projectile, it was decided to use the caliber 130 mm. Also, as far as we know, the possibility of increasing the caliber of the gun to 140 mm was considered, but such a tool, according to calculations, turned out to be too large and heavy for a promising tank. An increase in the caliber of just 10 mm provides an almost 50 percent increase in muzzle energy with corresponding consequences for combat effectiveness.
The possible appearance of the future tank MGCS. Figure Rheinmetall AG
The gun of the French tank Leclerc is equipped with an automatic loader, while in the German Leopard 2 there is a separate crew member responsible for supplying ammunition to the gun. As follows from News about the MGCS project, it is proposed to introduce the features of the French AMX-56 into the look of a promising tank. Designers plan to abandon the loader and replace it with automation. Given the increased caliber, leading to an increase in the mass of shots, this solution looks logical and correct.
It should be noted that information about the automatic loader can be a transparent hint at the intention of the holding KNDS to create a full-fledged uninhabited tower. Such equipment is already used on Russian promising tanks and gives them certain positive features. It is possible that German and French engineers will show interest in a promising layout.
The main tank MGCS will need a modern fire control system, able to realize all the advantages of the new gun of increased caliber. In its composition, obviously, there will be sights of the commander (panoramic) and the gunner with day and night channels. Perhaps the on-board computer will be able to receive data on targets from third-party sources and target designation to other tanks.
Any information about the additional weapons of the future French-German tank is not yet available. Apparently, according to the experience of existing projects, the combat vehicle will be equipped with a remote-controlled module with a rifle or large caliber machine gun. Also promising tank borrows from a modern set of smoke grenade launchers.
To date, the Mobile Ground Combat System program did not have time to advance further the work on the formation of a common concept. At the same time, there is already information on approaches to the future design and production of finished units. For example, in March last year, the head of the General Directorate of Armaments of the French Ministry of Defense, Laurent Collet-Beyon, said that in the medium term, a joint French-German development tank would be adopted. Its chassis will be created by the German side, and the French participants of the program will develop a tower and a fighting compartment. How such plans correlate with the latest work of the Rheinmetall company in the field of tank guns is unknown.
Having certain information about the plans for the MGCS project, you can make some predictions and preliminary conclusions. So, judging by the data already published, the new French-German tank will be a very interesting combat vehicle with high performance. It will combine sufficient mobility, a high level of protection and enhanced combat qualities. In general, after its appearance, this car will be in the center of attention of the whole world just as the Russian tank “Armata” is currently.
You can also imagine what problems the new project will face. It is hardly necessary to remind that the MGCS program is not the first attempt to create a “European” tank by the forces of several countries. Previous joint projects were quite successful from a technical point of view, but did not lead to the desired results. Due to differences in a number of issues, participants in such programs broke off cooperation and created the desired armored vehicles on their own.
Whether the MGCS will be able to overcome all the problems and reach the mass production with operation in the army is unknown. The current situation with the development of the armed forces of large European countries, as well as the presence of large bureaucratic structures that do not always make the right decisions, can make it difficult for armored vehicles in the army.
In the context of bureaucracy and administrative difficulties, it is worth considering the financial features of the new project. While we are talking only about the modernization of existing tanks, the cost of the work may remain acceptable. But a full-fledged new armored vehicle, built from scratch, will be much more expensive than the modernized Leclerc or Leopard. The price of a serial MGCS may reach several tens of millions of euros. Naturally, the equipment at such a price will attract the attention of different structures and will be subject to fierce criticism.
According to current plans, the production tanks of the Mobile Ground Combat System program will have to go to the troops no earlier than the end of the next decade. In this case, such a technique is considered as the French-German response to the Russian tank T-14. It is easy to see that in such a situation, the Russian armored car has a big head start. Russian tank builders can use the existing gap in 10-12 for years to create new versions of “Armata” with higher performance. Because of this, the KNDS holding may find itself in the position of catching up without much hope of a fundamental change in the situation.
A promising French-German program for modernizing existing tanks and developing a completely new machine is of great interest. As it follows from the well-known data, the MGCC project may encounter various difficulties and not lead to the desired results. Nevertheless, despite all the possible failures and problems, this program should be monitored. It will show how foreign specialists see the future tank, and besides, it will demonstrate the real potential of European industry.
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