MBT Leopard 2 one of the latest modifications. Despite a major upgrade, the tank retains the 120-mm cannon. Wikimedia Commons Photos
The goal of the joint German-French project MGCS is to create a promising main battle tank that is distinguished by high performance and is able to compete with modern and future models. Perhaps the main reason for the creation of this project is the Russian MBT T-14, surpassing all foreign models.
Tank MGCS firepower should exceed existing armored vehicles such as Leopard 2 and Leclerc. This problem can be solved in several basic ways. The first involves the modernization of existing 120-mm smoothbore guns and the creation of more effective ammunition. The second method is radical and offers the creation of a new tool of increased caliber.
Work on tank guns of new calibres started a few decades ago and even led to the appearance of real models. They were tested, but not put in a series. After the launch of MGCS, these developments were remembered; new similar projects also appeared. Now they are considered not separately, but in the context of creating the future MBT.
German 130 mm
One of the most common tank guns in the world is the 120-mm smoothbore system Rh-120 from the German company Rheinmetall. Such guns, in particular, are mounted on Leopard-2 tanks. In the past, the modernization of this gun was carried out by increasing the length of the barrel and improving the design. In 2016, Rheinmetall presented a bolder project.
At the Eurosatory 2016 exhibition for the first time they showed a prototype of a tank gun of the caliber 130 mm. It was a modified version of the serial Rh-130 with the corresponding changes. For the gun, several new unitary shots of the main types were created.
Rheinmetall Rh-130 gun prototype. There are two shots in a transparent display case: on the left is an 130-mm product. Photo Bmpd.livejournal.com
Experienced gun Rh-130 received barrel length 51 caliber (6630 mm) with a protective casing and an enlarged chamber. The main design and technological solutions were borrowed from the 120-mm guns. The resulting sample has a total length of approx. 7 m and weight (including installation and recoil devices) - 3 tons. A high-explosive projectile shot for such a gun has a length of 1,3 m and weighs 30 kg.
By increasing the caliber by 10 mm (8%) and increasing the chamber, a sharp increase in characteristics was achieved. It was argued that the muzzle energy of a projectile upon departure from Rh-130 was 50% higher than that of a projectile of an 120-mm gun. Due to this, it is possible to increase the effective firing range and / or armor penetration.
In 2016, it was argued that further development of the project and fine-tuning the gun to the required state would take 8-10 years. It can find application in modernization projects of existing MBTs, as well as in the creation of completely new models of armored vehicles. Since a certain time, the Rh-130 cannon began to be mentioned in the context of the MGCS program.
The topic of the 130 mm gun for MGCS was raised again a few days ago. Publications appeared in the foreign press about the desire of the Rheinmetall company to promote this development as part of a joint program and bring it to use on real technology. However, it is too early to talk about the results of such activities. As far as we know, the tactical and technical requirements for MGCS have not yet been formed, and the customer has not yet indicated the desired weapon parameters.
French 140 mm
For one reason or another, the military of the two countries may require such high firing characteristics that the 130-mm gun from Rheinmetall will not be powerful enough. In this case, another promising model developed by the French industry can be used at MGCS. Back in the first half of the nineties, GIAT (now Nexter) created a project for the 140 mm caliber gun.
As far back as 1996, the experimental Leclerc tank with enhanced weapons was brought to the test. In the modified tower of the T4 type, an 140-mm gun with a barrel length of 55 calibers (7700 mm) was placed. During the modernization, the MBT also received an automatic loader capable of working with 140-mm unitary shots about 1,5 m long.
The prototype passed the necessary tests, including fire. More than 200 shots were fired from the new gun and the calculated characteristics were confirmed. The overall effectiveness of the 140-mm guns is 70% higher than the corresponding index of existing smaller-caliber systems.
However, in the mid-nineties the potential of a promising gun was unnecessary. The serial Leclerks continued to equip the less powerful 120-mm gun from GIAT, and the prototype with the T4 turret and reinforced weapons was sent for storage. He was remembered only a few years ago, after the launch of the new MGCS program.
Since then, the 140 mm GIAT / Nexter tank gun has been regularly mentioned in the context of a joint German-French project. In addition, it is often called the most successful option. weapons for MGCS, who have every chance to enter the final version of the project. For obvious reasons, such estimates are often of French origin.
Problems of choice
As far as is known, the tactical and technical requirements for MBC MBTs have not yet been developed. Moreover, all issues have not yet been resolved, even at the organization level. Until recently, the French and German sides could not agree on the shares of their participation in the program, which almost led to the loss of one of the participants. However, such problems are resolved and new agreements appear.
In the absence of new organizational difficulties, the two countries will soon be able to move on to formulating requirements and the appearance of the future MBCS MBT. It is at this stage that the issue of armaments will be solved and a search will be made for suitable solutions - existing or requiring development.
At the moment, two types of new weapons are offered, which are at different degrees of readiness. The German 130-mm and the French 140-mm guns have obvious advantages over existing systems of the 120 mm caliber, but at the same time they are not without some characteristic drawbacks. Apparently, the customer will choose between these two tools or require improvement of any of them.
Due to the larger caliber, the Nexter gun has an advantage in fire characteristics - it is 70% more efficient than serial 120-mm guns. The Rheinmetall 130-mm product is noticeably weaker than the French competitor, but has smaller dimensions and uses more compact shots. Thus, the military of the two countries faces a difficult choice. It is necessary to take into account firepower, possible ammunition and a number of other factors that cannot be reduced to caliber alone.
The events of recent months show that not only technical and technological factors will affect the choice of tools for MGCS. Of great importance is the question of the origin of the product. It is obvious that Germany will promote the development of Rheinmetall, and France will intercede for its Nekster. This means that the project may face new disputes and difficulties.
For a number of reasons, shaping the look of the future MGCS main tank is unlikely to be quick and easy. The enterprises of the two countries will argue on all major issues, but it is expected that they will be able to find mutually beneficial solutions. Similar processes in the form of disputes and consent are already observed in the context of armaments.
Two countries are actively proposing to use their own cannons and provide arguments in favor of their positions. At the same time, the German and French sides agree that it is impossible to use existing 120-mm guns on a promising MBT due to limited characteristics. However, there is no agreement otherwise, and disputes continue. The final decision will be up to the customer in the person of the armies of the two countries, and what it will be is a big question.