PARIS --- Italy is looking for foreign partners to develop and build a modern main battle tank, and has made a formal offer to Poland to join this project.
“The Italian Ministry of Defense turned to some EU countries, including Poland, with a proposal to cooperate on a project concerning land platforms. The Ministry of National Defense is analyzing this proposal,” Poland’s Ministry of National Defense told the local newspaper Polska Zbrojna.
The Italian initiative, which has reportedly also been offered to Spain, stems from its failure to win a role in the French-German Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), as after two years of discussions those two countries want to get the project up and running before opening it to additional members.
“We are looking for potential partners to whom we will propose a coherent project aimed at the cooperative development of a common European vehicle,” Italian Deputy Defense Minister Angelo Tofalo told Italian parliamentarians on October 1.
He added that the possibility of an alternative initiative with Poland and Spain, which have also been excluded from the Franco-German MGCS program, is on the table, while a pan-European program, as well as the alternative idea of proceeding with a bilateral program with Israel, are more remote.
It is not known which countries the Italians turned to. However, experts from the Italian Istituto Affari Internazionali (Institute of International Affairs) believe that the cooperation between Italy, Poland and Spain could suffice to develop a new main battle tank.
In a report published in April this year on "Main Battle Tanks, Europe and the implications for Italy", they pointed out that the Italian army is not doomed to wait for a German-French design, as a competitive tank design can be successfully launched by a consortium of countries having an armored vehicle industry, such as Spain and Poland.
“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,” the report said.
Meanwhile, Italy will upgrade its Ariete tank. Tofalo told parliamentarians that an initial contract has already been awarded to the IOC Consortium of Leonardo and Iveco. Worth 35 million euros, it calls for three functional prototypes of a proposed mid-life upgrade configuration, which when approved will be implemented to the Italian Army’s fleet of 125 tanks.