Defence ministers of France and Germany have formalised their commitment towards the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) programme.

The agreement for phase “1A” of the MGCS programme has been signed between French Defence Minister Sébastien Lecornu and his German counterpart, Defence Minister Boris Pistorius in Paris.

This phase marks the beginning of a collaborative effort to develop a new generation of combat tanks by 2040.

The MGCS programme will go beyond an upgrade of existing tanks. It will be comprehensive overhaul incorporating advanced edge technologies, including new generation fires, artificial intelligence, and advanced electronic warfare capabilities.

French Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu said: “We are not just developing the tank of the future, but the future of the tank that we want to imagine together.”

Co-funded by both nations and managed by Germany, the programme will see the involvement of KNDS, a joint venture between France’s Nexter and Germany’s Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann (KMW), the manufacturer of the Leopard tank, reported Reuters.

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Industry giants Rheinmetall and Thales are also key participants in the project.

Furthermore, the signing of the agreement ensures an equitable distribution of manufacturing responsibilities between the two nations throughout the duration of the programme.

Lecornu was quoted by the news agency as saying: “There has been very important work which … enables us to say that in the 2040s, it will be time for two friendly neighbouring countries, members of the European Union and members of NATO, to have a completely functional and operational armoured cavalry.”

It is expected that the first contracts will be signed by the end of 2024.

In 2017, France and Berlin agreed to develop a new battle tank that would replace Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks and the French Leclerc main battle tank.