Euro Main Battle Tank

For their Next Great Tank, France and Germany are currently proposing a team-up. Again. This didn’t work last time they tried this because of work-share arrangements. But, like Charlie Brown kicking a football, they’re ready to go again. This time they’re starting with a simple offering for the export market.


euro mbt

Damn, that is one ugly tank.

It’s a Leclerc Series 3 turret (i.e. the newest model) on a Leopard 2A7 hull. It’s not very revolutionary, but not many tanks are these days. And, we have some amount of workshare division. A Leopard 2 hull gives a pretty proven though decidedly old-school package. It’s not the most compact setup, but it’ll work. The engine might be worth upgrading, but that would then require some additional testing, and a decision of what to do with the extra space.

The Leclerc turret provides an autoloader and a more compact layout than the Leopard 2A7 turret. The autoloader helps keep the crew costs down. I’ve also heard some discussion that the Leclerc fire control system is very good at firing on the move at speed over rough terrain, and that it was designed to do this better than its contemporaries. I am not sure this is true. It does have an autotracker, unlike the Leopard 2. Also, when the South Koreans were looking for technology to license and work with in the design of the K2, they sought the Rheinmetall 120mm L55 gun and MTU 883 engine but the fire control system from GIAT.

On the other hand, perhaps the reason is as simple as the French can restart the Leclerc turret production line a lot faster than they can restart the hull production line.

Personally, I’m extremely skeptical this will go anywhere. You could buy this unproven weirdness, with a hull made by KMW and a turret made by not-KMW, or you could buy a Leopard 2A7, which is entirely made by KMW. And the Leopard 2 is decently proven. It’s certainly popular, even if the Turks used theirs quite badly. So I doubt KMW going to put much effort into this project.

And this project is also not indicative of any future designs. Those requirements are not yet written. And that design is not expected to be finished for quite some time. I can at least hope it might be a trifle more interesting. Part of the compromise is that the Germans will take the lead on the future tank and the French will take the lead on the future fighter.

15 thoughts on “Euro Main Battle Tank

  1. Chris Bradshaw

    If you want the fire control and autoloader of the Leclerc turret, why not just buy a Leclerc? I’m in agreement on the lack of meaningful gain this tank shows. It is absurdly obvious that this is a demo project to teach the French and Germans how to work together, but hopefully the next-gen EuroMBT works out better than the MBT-70, which I admit was pretty damn cool if not affordable.

    My dream tank is a British/American collaboration, which hopefully merges British frontal turret protection with the American desire to have a lower front glacis that can’t be penetrated by BB gun.

    1. parvusimperator Post author

      Apparently it’s hard to restart the hull production lines? I don’t know, it sounds weird to me. Because they CAN apparently make the turrets? There’s also K2, which is in production now and has an awful lot of Leclerc similarities. Though I’m unable to find much of anything on its armor.

      Anyway, I would prefer American/Israeli collaboration, personally. Based solely on newness + LOS armor thicknesses, Merkava IV should have a seriously tough turret.

      Re: Challenger 2, that’s some old turret frontal arrays, so I wouldn’t consider it to be all that great now. Not sure how great it ever was. Chally 2 doesn’t get much love from the analysts unlike Abrams/Leopard 2/T-80/T-90. Front turret armor is the only thing that might be of value on Chally 2 though. And at this point I’d rather just take an up to date Abrams or Leopard 2, which have gotten front armor upgrades since ’98, have a gun that doesn’t suck, have a lower glacis that resists BB guns, have good thermal viewers, etc….

  2. Chris Bradshaw

    Yeah, most Chally 2s don’t really hold up that well anymore, with the possible exception of the Megatron test rig or the 2E export variant with the 1500hp Europowerpack engine and modernized sights/FCS. Chally’s HESH slinging rifle doesn’t quite have the armor penetration you need these days, but I’ve read reports about it maintains accuracy at longer ranges than a smoothbore. That might be worth looking into.

    Perhaps Israel, the UK, and the US can all collaborate together. After all, Merkava only exists because Labour wouldn’t sell them Chieftains, and the Israelis have great memories of the Centurion. Put together British armor, Israeli urban fighting systems, and an American engine/gun, and you might have a potent combination if bureaucratic infighting, funding overruns, and conflicting political requirements don’t cock things up.

    1. parvusimperator Post author

      Given the terrible track record of multinational collabs, I’d be happy with someone playing around with the Abrams-TTB again.

    2. parvusimperator Post author

      My other concern would be if Britain still has anyone with expertise doing the armor development work these days. Historically though, they’ve been very good with the arrays.

    3. parvusimperator Post author

      And one more thing. I seem to recall the Chally 2 didn’t fare all that well with respect to protection in the Greek trials.

  3. Kilo Sierra

    I tapped out a reply last night – only to have wordpress eat it when I failed proving that I was a human (on iPad) – here is another try:

    Why don’t we turn this into a thought exercise on what we would list as requirements? Granted, we don’t know what Berlin and Paris are developing against, so what might work in full spectrum combat, may not work so well in the more likely 99% of missions the armor will be tasked for (aka MOTW*).

    Here were the four that were right off the top of my head last night (numbers do not imply ranking):
    1) provide crew survivability in full spectrum combat operations
    2) hold opposing force armor at risk (also implies risk to all lesser armored vehicles
    3) do not exceed mass that would hinder mobility (aka don’t crush bridges)
    4) suitable for strategic mobility with T) little O) no modifications (I had this as C-17/A400M – opening this a bit wider: able to fit on a rail car and said car+tank fit in a standard European rail tunnel)

    If we develop a solid and reasonable shopping list, we could then compare said list to what’s on the market and build our own FrankenPanzer(tm). Or send the requirements to industry and see what they have in reserve (hypothetically).

    -ks sends

    *For MOTW I’d want:
    – all aspect armor with a say 8″ shaped charge IED as the design threat + leg (INF) friendly APS
    — underbelly IED protection for say… 50#s?
    – low pressure, large caliber main gun and 25-35 mm secondary cannon, both with ability to elevate for urban situations (or the alps, who knows?)
    – low profile RWS suitable for any/all MG & AGL with elevation to spare, ability to resupply RWS while buttoned ideal
    – hybrid (electric+diesel) power system that has a T) 5 min O) 15 min silent drive (electric) capability – would also reduce fuel consumption during long stationary periods
    – sized that your ‘average’ alley can be utilized for mobility
    Spiral 1+:
    – organic mUAS ISR (with protected hanger/charging station)
    – organic indirect fire PGM capability (APKWS-ish, 7 shots)
    – directed energy capability (elev to match primary)
    – O-EA / CNO (operator could be onboard or via remote)
    – sensors to support distributed SIGINT/COMINT (via meshed network to an INT operations center somewhere)

    1. parvusimperator Post author

      Ugh, I’ve had that happen to me too. Stupid wordpress.

      What KE protection would you call for? It’s not a bad set of requirements that you have there, though I don’t think you’re adequately holding OPFOR armor at risk. Or am I misunderstanding the threat vehicles you’re expecting to counter?
      Admittedly, I’m not a fan of MOUT/MOTW only vehicles, and the market doesn’t seem to be building them. Setting that aside, let me comment on your requirements as given.

      My Comments:
      I would question that low pressure gun and the coax autocannon. I think coax autocannons eat too much protected volume and aren’t worth the armor penetrations that extra guns require. And I don’t think low pressure guns hold any kind of value today (and would point to basically no one using them on anything being made now). Or perhaps the LP gun is eating too much protected volume. So I would go with a proper 120mm Rheinmetall derivative (because I like a good tank that kills tanks). Since that is not your objective here, I would consider a 120mm gun/mortar or an autocannon + your choice of ATGM. If you were clever about your ATGM launcher, you could also set it up to accept something like MATADOR rockets. The Israelis can do this on the turret on Namer.

      Alternatively perhaps my Esteemed Colleague can comment on the of Glorious BMP-3.

      APKWS eats a lot of volume. It’s very bulky, and I don’t think it’s been tested on a ground vehicle. Why not a mortar?

      I think protecting against an 8″ shaped charge IED on the flanks and moving down an ‘average’ alley are going to be mutually exclusive.

      While I like hybrid engines, that’s going to drive your cost up. Should be doable, but no one has required it yet. I think BAE had a hybrid system for their GCV prototype.

      It occurs to me that Puma and Ajax are probably pretty close to what you want if you ditch that LP gun requirement.

    2. Kilo Sierra

      That post turned into a mess of two different missions:
      First four – full spectrum (and what I meant to spark the discussion about)

      Hold at threat would mean at least: T) Mission-kill O) K-kill

      Thus, I left those protection and threat quantification’s open / vague to allow discussion:
      1) room for new tech/armor/threats
      2) discussion about what said armor would be facing

      The rest: ADHD charged morning mind wanderings (even if some of them would work on both), but if your defense brain trust doesn’t see you in tank-v-tank combat, why design to that? (granted, 1942 called… oh hello Panzer IV)

  4. Chris Bradshaw

    Why not develop two next generation MBTs for different requirements? One completely optimized for the anti-armor threat vector, permanently forward deployed in POMCUS depots in Poland to meet the T-14 head on, and another, more strategically mobile design with much less frontal KE protection and additional urban-fighting counter-IED systems to deal with the Jihadi of the week?

    1. Kilo Sierra

      For some light reading / background RAND did a study in 2016 about how pitiful NATO’s defense of the Baltics could be, and added updated commentary in 2018:

      So, let us use that OB set for the threat that they are designing for – I’m going to use FM-100-2-3 for #s since I still have those memorized…

      The 2016 report listed: four armor, five each mech and motor rifle and eight Airborne battalions. I’m going to presume that the rifle btns will have a tank company.
      31 tanks per btn (4x), 10 per company (5x & 5x) =
      224 total tanks
      If respective units are fully equipped with BMP-3 and BMD-4, then there’s another 403 armored ATGM tubes. If the motor units are upgraded BTRs then you might see another 155 mobile ATGM slingers…
      And then there’s arty; a total of 10 battalions within the Western Military District (3/2/5 – tube/h rocket/m rocket)

      It’s a number, I have my reservations that OPFOR could bring that all to bear simultaneously – but lets assume they do.

      NATO would need to have at least two combined arms BDE* worth of pre-positioned kit to broach the former Soviet 3-1 attack ratio.
      *Both DEU and FRA appear to have one each ARM and MECH/MTR as the maneuver (BTN) elements in their respective Armored Divisions. Numbers are: 44 / 60 (Leo2/Lec) & 44 / ?? (Puma/VBCI)

      So – each FrankenPanzer (using Heer #s) may need to counter 3 OPFOR armor and 6 IFV+4 APC – plus steel rain (not to mention EW preventing comms).

    2. parvusimperator Post author

      Oh hell yes. Liiiiiinks. 😀

      let me go read and think about it.

      Offhand comments:
      Disclaimer: There are a number of solid, proven designs already, and they should work fine for the near future. However, it’s admittedly much less fun to say “just buy COTS” so here we go! Also the Russians went and built T-14, and its good to keep tank designers employed.

      Tank threat likely some combination of T-72B3/T-90S/(in future) T-14. Of those T-14 is considerably more capable than the others, but right now they’re not extant. They are coming though. Note that T-14’s gun shouldn’t be that much better than a good Rh 120mm derivative. Hooray for evolution, not revolution. T-72whatever and T-90 are going to be weaker in the gun department.

      BMP-3/BMD-4 are shooting ~10cm dia. GLATGMs which are marginal against most modern MBTs frontally. They also shoot various flavors of 30x165mm, which is generally outpenetrated by 30×173 APFSDS.

      Steel rain is why you don’t neglect the roof. Probably survivable, though you might get mission killed. Also, look into some kind of quality camo like Saab’s Barracuda.

      You ought to have some of that Arty too, plus UAVs for targeting and jammers of your own. Recall Donbass is hardly symmetric.

      As for the “light vehicle”, maybe something like Ajax Scout SV? Basically an IFV without the I. Ajax (ASCOD 2 derivative) or Puma should be able to meet nearly all of your requirements you mentioned earlier.

    3. Fishbreath

      It strikes me as a bit of an academic problem anyway, given strategic concerns. If Russia invades the Baltics, one way or another, there’s going to be a large-scale shooting war in Europe.

      With current deployments, the NATO force in the Baltic is just a tripwire to make sure the rest of NATO doesn’t lose the political will to go to war. They blew up our tanks and shelled our infantry! Of course we have to fight back!

      Whereas, deploying enough to the Baltics to actually defend a Russian thrust leaves you with the problem of getting supplies to Estonia when the Baltic Sea is, at least initially, a Russian lake. If the Russians have only invaded the Baltics, it’s at least a more or less tenable defensive position. If they’ve also attacked through Belarus and Ukraine, which seems much more likely to me if there’s a shooting war on the table, the Baltics make up an awkward salient to boot.

  5. Kilo Sierra

    The Ajax looks like a possible fill for the alt mission set – wasn’t sure if the 40 CTA was a thing yet (or put it on the Puma to keep it EU made).

    Maybe my first thoughts are more inline with a clean sheet development than off the shelf – good discussions no matter.

    Based on upon my past life (prior experience), I’m unsure that NATO could operate UASs in a heavy EA spectrum… and even if you had something that didn’t require an active link (had a pre-planned flight path), would something the size of a DJI even take off if it didn’t get a GPS acq signal? Does anyone in NATO build UAS of that size (not buy the product from China)?

  6. Chris Bradshaw

    Ajax or CV90 are excellent IFVs, but the alt mission set probably requires a big HE chucker to knock over walls and support local infantry, along with enough CE protection to take dozens of hits from RPGs and maybe some ATGMs and VBIEDs. All-angle reactive armor, slat armor, roof protection, and hard-kill Trophy to augment the composite are also pretty desirable. To keep costs down, I’d use a proven chassis and engine like a Merkava, and stick… maybe the 152 mm M81E1 gun from the Sheridan on it? That probably won’t work for the same reasons it didn’t work out back then in the 80s, but the concept seems interesting enough to warrant some experimentation. You’d also want maybe a mortar like the Israelis have, a few CROWS with perhaps an autocannon for one of them, and perhaps some automatic grenade launchers.

    Right now, the threat vector is T-72B3, T-80 BVM, and T-90, but the T-14 is finished with development and is being produced today. By the time the West finishes developing and manufacturing our next generation of MBT, the threat vector is going to be entire divisions of modernized T-14 BM3, and small numbers of T-16 Ural or whatever the Rooskies will call the next iterations. With the trend in oil prices and their generally faster/cheaper development cycle, they’ll be able to afford it too.

    Ideally, our counter should be able to handle it, but we need to focus research on figuring out how to do it soon, or we’ll end up looking like those poor saps in the late 70s staring down the barrels of T-64s at Checkpoint Charlie while sitting in M60s.

    The idea that the current NATO deployment in the Baltics is for galvanizing an exhausted populace with their deaths is chillingly plausible. If they’re willing to torpedo civilian ships delivering supplies, that is another level of escalation. Thanks for posting the Rand reports. They were fascinating, and terrifying.


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