Italy, France target land warfare in new industry partnership deal

Italy, France target land warfare in new industry partnership deal

ROME — Italy and France have committed to more closely integrating their land warfare firms as the former seeks to join long-awaited Franco-German tank program.

A letter of intent, signed Monday in Corsica by the defense ministers of France and Italy, called for the creation of a “European industrial land hub” that would partner businesses from the two countries.

“It is fundamental to put the best European technologies together and create ever-stronger hubs,” said Italian Defence Minister Guido Crosetto, who signed the letter with French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu.

Crosetto said the hub system is the only way to keep up with China. “Divided we are weak, but a united Europe can be strong thanks to its historical and cultural heritage, and its values based on centuries of history and the extraordinary industrial capacity and know-how of our countries,” he noted.

The deal named the Main Ground Combat System, or MGCS, as a focus for teamwork. Years in the works, the Franco-German MGCS tank program took a major step forward on April 26, when the two countries signed off on an industrial work-share pact, with Germany to award contracts for the first demonstrator phase by the end of this year.

Looking for a way to enter the program, Italy previously signed an action plan for broad cooperation with Germany in November, which mentioned the possibility of working together on the MGCS project.

A wide-ranging cooperation deal signed in December between Italian defense firm Leonardo and the European business KNDS, also cited cooperation on MGCS. This deal had also dealt with Italy’s purchase of Leopard tanks.

KNDS is a consortium of Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and France’s Nexter.

“Italy considered entering MGCS two years ago, but there was no opening from France or Germany,” said Alessandro Marrone, who leads the defense program at the Italian think tank IAI. “The new deal with France mirrors the deal struck with Germany last year, and both are aimed at bringing Italy into MGCS. But to get Italy a seat at the table, it needs a trilateral deal, not bilateral deals.”

The Italy-German action plan also envisaged cooperation on a new €5 billion (U.S. $5.4 billion) Italian program, formerly known as AICS and since redubbed A2CS, to build up to 1,000 infantry fighting vehicles.

In February, Italy’s procurement office asked CIO, which involves Leonardo and local vehicle-maker Iveco, to conduct a feasibility study for the new vehicle. Work on that platform is currently underway, and CIO is now due to enlist partner firms to join the study.

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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