Main Battle Tanks, Europe and the Implications for Italy

Since 2014 Russia’s war in Crimea, NATO’s renewed priority to collective defence implies higher requirements for its members, and allies are rebalancing the force mix in favour of the heavy component including Main Battle Tanks (MBT). The new MBT’s characteristics require a greater technological effort than in the past, ranging from active protection systems to gun, turret, vetronics and optronics, and particularly to automation. Yet MBTs in European inventories are often outdated and their readiness level is low. Against this backdrop, in 2017, France and Germany have launched a joint project to develop and produce a next generation Main Ground Combat System (MGCS). Italy and Poland have repeatedly asked to join the MGCS cooperation, yet Paris and Berlin want to keep it exclusively bilateral until a prototype will be developed. Therefore, Italy has to rapidly choose among a limited number of options in order to satisfy urgent army’s MBT needs, as well as maintain a reasonable level of technological sovereignty in this sector.

Rome, IAI, April 2020, 121 p.
Publication date: 

Executive summary

1. Western threat assessment and army’s heavy component, by Ester Sabatino and Eugenio Po
1.1 US and NATO response to Russian threat: new capability goals and readiness levels
1.2 The new operational requirements and technological trends
1.2.1 General characteristics
1.2.2 Mobility
1.2.3 Survivability
1.2.4 Lethality
1.2.5 Vetronics and new technologies
1.3 Implication for European armies

2. The state of the art in relevant non-EU countries, by Eugenio Po
2.1 US
2.1.1 The future of US combat vehicles
2.1.2 A light tank for the US Army
2.2 Russia
2.3 Others
2.3.1 China
2.3.2 Israel
2.3.3 Japan
2.3.4 South Korea
2.3.5 Turkey
2.3.6 Ukraine

3. The industrial land sector and European defence cooperation, by Ester Sabatino
3.1 Landscaping of MBT fleets in Europe
3.2 The land sector within the European Defence Technological Industrial Base
3.3 The EU context, PESCO and EDA initiatives

4. France, by Jean-Pierre Maulny
4.1 The military rationale
4.2 The industrial rationale
4.3 The political rationale

5. Germany, by Ezio Bonsignore
5.1 The political rationale
5.2 The military rationale
5.3 The industrial rationale

6. Italy, by Alessandro Marrone
6.1 The military rationale
6.2 The industrial rationale
6.3 The political rationale

7. Poland, by Marcin Terlikowski
7.1 The military rationale
7.2 The industrial rationale
7.3 The political rationale

8. United Kingdom, by Ben W. Barry
8.1 The military rationale
8.2 The political rationale
8.3 The industrial rationale

9. The MBT landscape in Europe and the options for Italy, by Alessandro Marrone and Michele Nones
9.1 The MBT landscape in Europe
9.2 Option one: a truly EuroMBT with France, Germany and Poland
9.3 Option two: an Italo-Polish MBT
9.4 Option three: a European MBT with Spain, Poland and other European countries
9.5 Back-up option: a cooperation with Israel
9.6 Conclusions

List of acronyms

Research area