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European MBT market shifts: KNDS and Rheinmetall unveil competing platforms

19th June 2024 - 15:06 GMT | by Sam Hart in Paris

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The KNDS Leopard 2 A-RC 3.0 has been a big draw for attendees at Eurosatory 2024. (Photo: Sam Hart)

KNDS and Rheinmetall have been showcasing competing new MBT models at Eurosatory 2024, reflecting shifts in European defence procurement amid the ongoing continental conflict.

If much of Europe has been calling for a return to armoured mass over the last 2.5 years, KNDS has clearly been listening.

As the leader of the European MBT market between Leopard 2 and the French Leclerc XLR, KNDS unveiled a roster of additional MBTs at this year’s Eurosatory.

Europe’s recently renewed platforms, the Leopard 2A8 and Leclerc XLR, alongside a concept demonstrator for the much-anticipated MGCS in the ‘EMBT-ADT 140’, make expected appearances, but it is the Leclerc Evolution and Leopard 2 A-RC 3.0 that have raised eyebrows.

Rheinmetall predicts NATO demand for hundreds of Panther KF51 tanks

Europe’s Defence Future: The Strategic Importance of the MGCS Project (Opinion)

KNDS pitches new Leopard 2 variant as 'gap-filler' to MGCS next-gen tank

KNDS stand at Eurosatory 2024.
The impressive display on the KNDS stand at Parc des Expositions de Villepinte this week. (Photo: Sam Hart)

If this year’s Eurosatory has proven anything, it is now impossible to claim that the enduring land war in continental Europe has not fundamentally disrupted the future of wider European MBT procurement.

Rheinmetall’s KF-51 Panther unveiled two years ago here, appeared at the time as an almost pariah outlier, too late for current programmes and too early for the future MGCS development. Time, however, if this year’s Eurosatory is anything to go by, has proved that the KF-51 was an exception that has now become the rule as the German manufacturer doubles down with its 2024 offerings of the KF-51U and ‘Panther Evo Upgrade’ alongside the aforementioned KNDS’ fleet.

Having been outshone by the Rheinmetall KF-51 two years ago, KNDS has found itself in an interesting and potentially disjointed position. As the lead on MGCS’s development, introducing its own interim platforms suggests that KNDS itself believes MGCS may be too far away to meet current European requirements it had developed the Leopard 2A8 and Leclerc XLR to meet.

Rheinmetall KF-51U Eurosatory 2024
The Rheinmetall KF-51U on display at Eurosatory 2024. (Photo: Sam Hart)

Among MGCS’ main attractions was the offer of a clean break from more than 50 years of upgrade cycles, allowing the design of a new ‘system of systems’ from the ground up, finally replacing the Leopard 2 that first entered service in the late 1970s.

KNDS’s new Leopard 2 A-RC 3.0 sports a name that itself suggests difficulty in deciding whether the platform is to be the Leopard’s third generation or simply a ninth iteration of the Leopard 2.

All of this comes alongside an even larger white elephant for KNDS, however. Instead of an expected contract award this week for 125 Leopard 2A8IT, the Italian government and KNDS announced the abandonment of negotiations last week in separate press releases.

Separated by just 150m on the show floor, Rheinmetall appears well situated as Italy looks for a possible, now coined, ‘interim’ solution in the form of a Panther variant as it turns away from KNDS’ Leopard family.

Coming soon: Further analysis on Rheinmetall’s potential Lynx and Panther ‘double ticket’.

Shephard's Eurosatory 2024 coverage is sponsored by:

BAE Systems

Leopard 2A7/A8

Leopard 2A0/A1/A2/A3/A4

Leopard 2 A-RC 3.0

Sam Hart

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Sam Hart


Sam Hart is the Land Analyst for Shephard Media's Defence Insight. Before joining Shephard, Sam …

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