To make this website work, we log user data. By using Shephard's online services, you agree to our Privacy Policy, including cookie policy.

Open menu Search

Ukraine is forcing militaries to choose between next-generation programmes or proven equipment

14th June 2024 - 16:03 GMT | by Tony Skinner


Poland has purchased the K9A1 Thunder self-propelled howitzer from South Korea (Photo: Polish MoD)

The conflict in Ukraine is compelling militaries to make a strategic choice between enhancing their immediate capabilities with proven solutions and investing in the development of next-generation systems.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has cast a spotlight on the defence strategies of militaries worldwide, highlighting a crucial decision-making juncture: whether to invest in next-generation programmes or stick with tried-and-tested solutions.

This dilemma was the central theme of the webinar “The Future of European Defence: Insights and Strategies Ahead of Eurosatory 2024”, held on 13 June, which brought together defence experts to discuss the evolving landscape of military technology.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has underscored the immediate need for robust, reliable military hardware. European nations, witnessing the urgency of the conflict, have prioritised proven platforms such as the Leopard 2 tank and the CV90 infantry fighting vehicle.

Leopard MBT: Alpha beast finally gets to work after a long slumber (updated 2024)

Analysis: How Russia’s precision strike capability is evolving in Ukraine

German–Ukrainian vehicle support factory officially opens in Ukraine

These systems, well-established and reliable, offer a swift solution to bolster defence capabilities.

For instance, Italy’s recent procurement of Leopard 2 tanks highlights this trend. The Italian military, which had previously been content to wait for next-generation solutions such as the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), has now shifted focus to readily available platforms to address immediate security needs.

“Much of Europe was hitting that point of going well, we don’t need mass anymore,” noted Sam Hart, land analyst at Shephard Defence Insight. “We can wait a decade for future platforms. All these production lines have been closed down.”

As the conflict in Ukraine unfolded, however, European militaries reassessed their thinking about the need for numerical strength in the immediate term, a shift more towards Cold War tactics.

Hart highlighted that countries such as Poland, which alone accounts for 38% of European procurement and spending on new main battle tanks over the next decade, exemplify the shift towards proven solutions.

The country has increasingly relied on the proven capabilities of platforms like the South Korean K2 Black Panther and K9 Thunder, demonstrating a clear preference for immediate readiness over future advancements. This strategy underscores a broader trend among European nations: the inclination to enhance current military capabilities quickly rather than investing in long-term, next-generation projects that may not yield immediate returns.

The drive towards immediate readiness, however, has not completely overshadowed the push for innovation.

Programmes such as MGCS and the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) are still very much on the table, representing Europe’s commitment to staying at the forefront of military technology. These initiatives aim to deliver cutting-edge capabilities, integrating advanced technologies such as autonomy, artificial intelligence and hybrid power systems.

The MGCS, for instance, is designed to replace both the Leopard 2 and the French Leclerc, promising significant advancements in lethality, survivability, and mobility. Yet, its projected in-service date of 2035 highlights the long development timelines associated with such ambitious projects.

This creates a challenging dynamic for military planners, who must balance the need for immediate capabilities with the imperative to innovate for future conflicts.

“It’s going to be difficult for industry to achieve objectives that are now coming at them without government involvement and support,” argued Simon Wilkins, director at Cytec Consulting, underscoring the significant resources required to develop next-generation systems.

Click here to view the full webinar The Future of European Defence: Insights and Strategies Ahead of Eurosatory 2024”

Shephard's Eurosatory 2024 coverage is sponsored by:

BAE Systems
Tony Skinner


Tony Skinner

Tony Skinner is Shephard Media's Creative Director, overseeing the strategic direction, content development and project …

Read full bio

Share to