By presenting the KF-51 Panther at the EuroSatory 2022 air and ground weapons show, Rheinmetall is betting that many countries will rush to replace their outdated main battle tanks in view of the security situation. The more so since some of them have handed over theirs to the Ukrainian army; if this hunch were true, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann [now KNDS] would get most of the credit.
In May, the Bundestag [lower house of the German parliament] authorized the Bundeswehr to buy 18 Leopard 2A8 tanks to replace the Leopard 2A6s delivered to Ukraine. In addition, it approved a framework agreement of almost 3,000 million euros to manufacture a total of 123 battle tanks to meet the needs of the German army and offer other countries the possibility of acquiring them under the same conditions negotiated by Berlin in terms of price, delivery times and logistic support.
As a reminder, the Leopard 2A8 is an evolution of the Leopard 2A7+ destined for Hungary. It is expected to feature a new powertrain, a Trophy-type active protection system, more advanced digitization, and improved optronics.
The Czech Republic has been quick to express interest in the Leopard 2A8, mentioning a possible order for 70 units. As for the Norwegian Army, the 54 Leopard 2A7+ it was considering ordering at the time will actually be Leopard 2A8 NOR [the version of these tanks will be specific to Norway, with a combat system supplied by Kongsberg]. And the Netherlands could follow suit… at least if his plans to revive the disbanded tank battalions in the 2000s are confirmed.
But another country is about to sign a major order for Leopard 2A7 [or A8] cars. In March, Italian Defense Ministry officials announced that they were considering the purchase of at least 125 new tanks to replace some of the C.1 Ariete tanks of the Esercito Italiano. Of course, this project is moving fast.
According to Rivista Italiana Difesa [RID – Italian defense magazine], “negotiations for the acquisition of a certain number of Leopard 2 main battle tanks – in A7/A8 configuration – with KMW can now be described as advanced,” he wrote on 15 December. June. And he added: “It would be a very expensive acquisition program, estimated between 4,000 and 6,000 million euros, which would further consolidate the strategic alliance between Italy and Germany.”
Having said this, although there is talk of signing an order in the framework of a “government to government” agreement, compensation is expected from the Italian side. “Licensed production of tanks in Italy is not enough,” says RID. He then cites a possible purchase of AW-249 attack helicopters [instead of the H-145M that Berlin wants to order from Airbus Helicopters] or a choice in favor of the Franco-Italian SAMP/T air defense system [Surface-to -Air Medium-Range/Terrestrial] to the detriment of the American Patriot.