The future of the French Army's heavy armored component is under scrutiny, with the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), a joint French-German project, not expected to be fully operational until 2040. Two potential solutions have been proposed to bridge this gap.
The Leclerc Tank and its Challenges
The first option is to initiate a new modernization program for the Leclerc tank. The Leclerc, already in the process of a renovation to the XLR standard, is being fitted for integration with the SCORPION “ecosystem”. However, updating the Leclerc comes with its own set of challenges.
The Leclerc tank, powered by a Diesel V8X-1500 Hyperbar engine with a Turbomeca TM-307B turbomachine, originally produced by Société Alsacienne de Construction Mécanique (SACM), experiences some obsolescence issues. A significant issue is the ageing engine, which complicates efforts to extend the lifespan of the tank. Also, the lack of investment in maintaining production lines presents a hurdle in addressing the obsolescence of the Leclerc's turbomachines.
Notwithstanding these issues, the Ministry of Armies chose not to re-engineer the Leclerc tank, despite potential long-term cost savings. A portion of the tank fleet is currently immobilized for the Leclerc renovation program, resulting in a slight decrease in tank availability. Nevertheless, the renovation program is expected to lower the cost of Leclerc maintenance by resolving some of these obsolescence issues, particularly those related to turbomachines.
The E-MBT Option
The second potential solution is the acquisition of E-MBT tanks. This proposal was recently demonstrated by KNDS France and KNDS Germany at the EuroSatory exhibition. A notable suggestion within this option is the addition of an engine similar to that used in tanks operated by the UAE forces, specifically the German MTU's MT883 KA-500 diesel engine.
SCORPION Program Delay and its Impact
The lag in the SCORPION program compels the extension of some armored vehicles' service life, such as the AMX-10RC and the Armored Forward Vehicle (VAB). This has a knock-on effect on their operational maintenance costs. The extension of the VAB until 2030 is forecasted to necessitate an additional 80 million euros, while keeping the AMX-10RC operational is likely to cost an extra 30 million euros.