One of the concepts tank MGCS by Nexter
In 2015, France and Germany agreed to jointly develop the promising Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) main battle tank. By now, the main organizational issues have been resolved, and now the program is moving to the stage of determining the appearance of the future machine. In this regard, various proposals are being expressed, incl. concerning the composition and capabilities of the complex of weapons.
The appearance of the promising MBT has not yet been determined and approved. However, project participants and related organizations have already shown several concepts of a different kind. The drawn armored vehicles are noticeably different from each other, but they have some common features. In particular, all proposals provide for the use of a fighting compartment with a turret equipped with a large-caliber smooth-bore gun.
It is believed that modern 120mm smoothbore guns have approached the limits of their characteristics and capabilities. For a further increase in the combat qualities of MBT, an increased caliber weapon is needed. In different projects, it is envisaged to increase the caliber to 130 or 140 mm with a parallel increase in the volume of the chamber, pressure in the barrel, etc.
There is still no consensus on the equipment and layout of the fighting compartment. It can be made habitable or automatic. At the same time, the authors of the concepts are inclined to the need to use mechanized stacking and an automatic loader. One of the reasons for this is the need to increase firepower associated with an increase in the caliber and mass of ammunition. The use of an automatic loader allows the use of larger unitary shots with all their advantages.
Rheinmetall tank concept
Various ideas in the field of control systems are considered weapons... The concepts provide for the use of combined (day-night) sights and advanced computing facilities. The introduction of artificial intelligence is not excluded. In addition, the tank must operate in networked control structures.
The search for the optimal appearance of the weapons complex continues and should be completed in the near future. At the same time, individual components are already being developed, demonstrated and even tested. In particular, the second version of a promising tank gun has already been presented. In addition, information about two families of ammunition has been disclosed.
Cannon NG 130
In 2016, Rheinmetall for the first time openly showed a prototype of a promising 130 mm NG 130 tank gun. In 2018-19. this project went as far as the manufacture of full-fledged experimental guns with further testing. The new gun was planned to be offered to the developers of promising armored vehicles. First, it was about the American NGCV program, and then there were reports of possible use in MGCS.
Product NG 130 is a smooth-bore gun designed for installation in a tank turret. It has a 51-clb smooth barrel of increased strength, a 15-liter chamber, a vertical wedge gate and an electric firing system. Design pressure in the bore was increased to 880 MPa. According to various estimates, the muzzle energy of a sub-caliber projectile reaches 18-20 MJ. The gun is equipped with a heat-shielding casing, a barrel bend control system and specially designed recoil devices.
Model gun Rheinmetall NG 130. Photo Bmpd.livejournal.com
In 2019, according to the results of the first stage of testing, it was stated that the NG 130 project would be finalized in the near future. Using the collected data, Rheinmetall planned to change the design of the gun and improve some of the characteristics. Last year, the upgraded Challenger 2 MBT was tested with a new turret equipped with a 130 mm gun. These activities should also influence the course of the project.
In mid-April 2021, the French company Nexter for the first time presented materials on the ASCALON (Autoloaded and SCALable Outperforming guN) tank gun, developed for the promising MGCS MBT. The official message of the developer company provides basic information about the project, as well as the image of the gun and the shot for it. At the same time, some of the information, including the exact caliber, has not yet been disclosed.
ASCALON is an artillery complex that includes a cannon itself, recoil devices, an automatic loader and a projectile. During its development, both already mastered and new solutions were used. The possibility of obtaining high combat characteristics with reduced requirements for the carrier armored vehicle is declared. Thus, a controlled recoil system will allow the gun to be mounted on tanks weighing less than 50 tons without risks to their design.
The key component of ASCALON is an unnamed "increased caliber" cannon. Perhaps a 140 mm smooth barrel is used, made based on the experience of the FTMA project. The gun chamber was made for a new type of telescopic shot. It is claimed that it will provide a muzzle energy of 10 MJ BOPS at a pressure lower than existing 120 mm rounds. It is also possible to increase the energy up to 13 MJ due to the existing safety factor.
The cannon will operate with an automatic loader located at the rear of the turret. During its creation, the developments on the serial MBT Leclerc were used. Automated stacking volumes, work speed, etc. are not specified yet.
Cannon and shell of the ASCALON complex. Nexter Graphics
The ASCALON project is under development. They promise to get "full maturity" of technical solutions by 2025. Probably, by this time Nexter will be ready to present not only a model, but also a full-fledged prototype. In addition, the publication of detailed specifications should be expected.
Prospects for ammunition
New projects for tank guns provide for the development of appropriate ammunition. For example, in 2016 the Rheinmetall company showed not only the NG 130 cannon, but also a shot model for it. The same applies to the new project from "Nexter": in the official materials there is an image of the ammunition.
For the 130-mm cannon of German design, a unitary shot is proposed, which outwardly resembles existing products. It is made on the basis of an enlarged partially combustible liner and carries an elongated sub-caliber projectile with a detachable pallet. A significant increase in penetration is announced, but the exact numbers have not yet been published.
Plans have been reported to develop a whole family of 130mm rounds for the new cannon. First of all, it was supposed to create high-explosive fragmentation ammunition to combat manpower, unprotected equipment and buildings. Perhaps in the future there will be other types of ammunition required for a modern tank.
The French project ASCALON provides for the use of the so-called. telescopic shot; the shape of the armor-piercing ammunition has already been revealed. It is constructed using a sleeve approx. 1 m with a large elongation, inside which the BOPS is maximally recessed. The maximum shot length is limited to 1300 mm, but the telescopic design allows optimal use of these dimensions. It is argued that the sub-caliber projectile, despite the limitations, has an "unrivaled" length.
The prototype of the Challenger 2 tank with the NG 130 cannon. Photo by Rheinmetall
Other telescopic projectiles can be created in the existing sleeve. The appearance of fragmentation and cumulative shots should be expected. In addition, according to the plans of the developer, the ASCALON complex will be able to use guided projectiles. This indicates the possibility of developing at least one more ammunition.
Work on two promising guns will end by the middle of this decade. After that, the customer, represented by the armies of the two countries, and the main contractor KNDS will be able to choose the most successful weapon and introduce it into the MGCS project. At the same time, the issues of the nomenclature of ammunition, additional weapons and other equipment of the fighting compartment will be resolved.
Which of the proposed guns will be more successful and will find a place on the new MBT is unknown. Not all data have been disclosed, which makes it difficult to evaluate and compare the two guns. At the same time, the announced characteristics do not show a clear advantage of this or that development. However, the NG 130 project has already reached testing and confirmation of the calculated parameters, which compares favorably with the competing ASCALON.
Thus, the MGCS program is still at the stage when the exact plans have not yet been formed, but the general intentions and wishes are already clear. This applies both to the general appearance of a promising MBT and to the composition of its weapons. Obviously, the new tank will receive a more powerful and effective gun, but the type of this product will be determined only in the future, when the existing and expected projects reach the required level of development.