Main Ground Combat System - Common Indirect Fire System
KMW and Nexter welcomed the announcement June 20, 2018 by the French and the German governments on the joint development of a new Main Ground Combat System and a new Common Indirect Fire System. The Letter Of Intent was a significant step forward in the defense cooperation between the two countries and in Europe. This close cooperation was the key motivation for the foundation of KNDS in 2015, where Nexter and KMW cooperate as national system houses for land systems.
MGCS will develop a new generation of Main Battle Tanks, providing their users enhanced, innovative, and best-in-class systems with the most advanced technologies. Thus, 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.
German Leopard-2 and French Leclerc MBTs were designed and developed in the 1970s and 80s and have been significantly upgraded since then. In 2012, France and Germany decided to launch a joint initiative that may lead to a joint program for designing and developing a new Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) in order to replace their Leclerc and Leopard-2 tanks by 2035. The MGCS is a long-term project comprising five steps: requirements analysis, concepts study, technology development and demonstration, system development and, finally, system production.
the main development work on the program of the Main Ground Combat System will start in 2019. By the middle of the decade, the designers will complete the design, and then an experienced tank of a new model will be built. The first half of the thirties will be spent on testing, refinement and preparation for future mass production. Thus, the stage of research and development work in total will take about two decades, if you count from the time the joint venture was established.
In early 2016, the combined French-German enterprise presented the first information about the promising design of the main tank. The concept of the new machine was developed in the framework of the project called Main Ground Combat System - “Ground Main Battle System”. KNDS announced the basic requirements for a promising tank, and also demonstrated the intended appearance of such a machine. It was noted that the proposed appearance of armored vehicles is not final. Over the next few years, the joint venture should have continued to work out the project, up to the formation of the optimal configuration.
From 2016 to 2018, KNDS repeatedly published new materials on a promising project. At the same time, the existing picture did not seriously change. According to official reports, the designers continue to work out the previously proposed appearance of the equipment. Its cardinal processing was not supposed. At the same time, various proposals were made in the field of weapons, control systems, communications, etc.
Initially, the project Main Ground Combat System provided for the use of a promising 130-mm smooth-bore cannon as the main armament. in 2014, the German company Rheinmetall presented a prototype of a 130-mm smooth-bore cannon for the future main battle tank. According to the company, an increase in caliber of just 8% increased its kinetic energy by more than 50% compared to the standard 120 mm Rheinmetall cannon, which is armed with most Western main tanks. Already in 2016, the company Rheinmetall demonstrated a prototype of such a weapon. However, it was later noted that, for several reasons, the MGCS tank could keep the standard 120 mm caliber for the current times. The possibility of consistent creation of different modifications of a tank with different armaments was also not excluded. A newer version could get a larger reinforced weapon.
Shortly before the end of the Cold War, American and West German tank designers projected that future Soviet tanks would be immune to the 120mm and began design work on 140mm [5.5"] cannons. The 140mm cannons were intended to provide muzzle energies of roughly 18MJ, or twice that of the 120mm cannons deployed on Abrams and Leopard II. A gun of this size will make an autoloader a near necessity and will require a larger breach block and larger recoil space, all of which will impact turret design before a 140mm gun is even ready for fielding.
By 1990 the US Army was implementing the Armored Systems Modernization (ASM) Program which called for development of six heavy armored vehicles. At the heart of this Program was the Army's new Main Battle Tank (MBT) the Block 3 tank. This new Block 3 tank was to have several new components including an advanced fire control system, a new-generation targeting system, and a machine that rapidly loads ammunition into a more powerful 140mm cannon. The critical component of the Block 3 is the Advanced Tank Cannon System (ATACS). The ATACS includes the XM291 140mm gun, the XM91 Auto-loading System, a highly sophisticated fire control system and the multi-sensor Target Acquisition System. This system will double the muzzle velocity of the current MlAl 120mm cannon while reducing the current four man crew to three.
By January 2019 Nexter had resumed efforts to develop a 140mm tank gun to determine which firing solutions are best suited to meet MGCS requirements. As part of the test program, the gun installed by the 50-tonne main battle tank has already fired over 200 shots. The developers claim that it will provide an increase in firepower of 70% compared with the standard 120-mm NATO gun, which is armed with Leopard 2 and M1 Abrams.
It is indicated that the new tank should have a number of different types of protection capable of withstanding all major threats. Combined booking of the hull and turret will be complemented by dynamic protection. Armor and overhead elements will have to provide protection from both projectiles of various types, as well as from mines or explosive devices. Optical devices will have special protection from laser radiation, preventing the "blinding" of the tank and its crew.
The MGCS tank will be able to get an expanded set of sensors and detection tools to help increase survivability on the battlefield. Optical, infrared, acoustic and other sensors can be used for this. It is proposed to develop a new laser-based optoelectronic suppression system. With its help, it will be possible to fight against the optics of the enemy, primarily with sighting devices of anti-tank armored vehicles.
One of the ways to increase the combat potential is the use of advanced guided missiles. To do this, it is necessary to work out the issues of improving and miniaturizing the guidance systems, including those with two-way communication. A self-guided projectile in combination with a gun of increased accuracy in an understandable way will affect the fighting qualities of the tank.
In the field of fire control systems, it is planned to develop already existing and mastered solutions. Search targets and guidance weapons will be carried out using optical-electronic means. By the time of the development of the technical design of the MGCS, a new component base is expected, due to which it will be possible to create improved sights. The same applies to electronic components of the SLA. In connection with the emergence of new types of projectiles with special capabilities, we should expect the introduction of appropriate devices to interact with them.
In the field of communications and control, German and French designers propose to continue the development of current relevant ideas and solutions. On-board vehicle facilities should provide both voice communication and data transfer. The MGCS tank will have to operate within the network-centric system. He will be able to receive data from all available sources and transmit information to different consumers. In this area, the development of existing technologies will take place, aimed at improving the reliability of communication channels, increasing the speed of data transmission, etc.
MGCS is first and foremost a team of vehicles. This team may involve manned and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) as well as unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). The ground vehicles may be heavy, medium or light platforms with various weapon systems. The word “team” is of prime importance here: compared to a single-platform MBT, the coordination of multiple platforms and weapons can significantly increase the overall system effectiveness, while enhancing personnel protection, a crux for many decisionmakers, not least because Western societies resilience to casualties in their own armed forces decline. Thus, the MGCS will provide increased collaborative combat capability that will require a drastic update of current operations concepts.
The skills and background of KMW and Nexter qualify both companies as suitable and particularly powerful and pivotal industrial partners for the Franco-German landsystem- program MGCS. Thus, in close cooperation with leading technology companies, KMW and Nexter will substantially contribute to a strengthened European defense capability.
The agreement of both nations to capitalize on the success of the German and French MBT programs and to base the industrial leadership for the MGCS program.
Germany demonstrates the strong commitment towards a unique European cooperation in land systems. Beyond that, it strengthens Europe’s excellence in providing leading edge land- systems- technologies for the years to come.
KNDS (KMW+NEXTER Defense Systems) is the European leader in land defense. KNDS is the result of the association of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Nexter, two of the leading European manufacturers of military land systems based in Germany and France. KNDS forms a Group of 7,329 employees, with an annual turnover of 2.7 billion euro, an order backlog of around 9.2 billion euro. The range of its products includes main battle tanks, armored vehicles, artillery systems, weapons systems, ammunition, military bridges, customer services, battle management systems, training solutions, protection solutions and a wide range of equipment.
The formation of KNDS represents the beginning of consolidation in land defense systems industry in Europe. The strategic alliance between KMW and Nexter will enhance both groups’ competitiveness and international positions, as well as their ability to meet the needs of their respective national army. In addition, it offers to its European and NATO customers the opportunity of increased standardization and interoperability for their defense equipment, with a dependable industrial base.
This is not the first attempt to create a joint project of the main tank for several countries. The previous similar project failed, as a result of which France had to create its “Leclerc”, and Germany developed “Leopard-2”. So far, there are no guarantees that KNDS will be able to bring the next idea of an “international” tank to the desired results.
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