Rheinmetall’s Lynx OMFV design for the US Army (Rheinmetall artwork)

BELFAST — Germany’s Rheinmetall and Italian manufacturer Leonardo signed a land systems Memorandum of Understanding today to establish a 50/50 joint venture (JV) in support of developing new Italian Army Main Battle Tanks and Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV).

“The objective of the agreement is the industrial development and subsequent commercialization of the new Main Battle Tank (MBT) and the new Lynx Platform for the Armoured Infantry Combat System (AICS),” planned for the service, said Rheinmetall in a statement.

Subject to approval by regulatory agencies, namely the European Commission and respective national competition authorities, the future JV will be headquartered in Italy and act specifically as the “lead system integrator, prime-contractor and system integrator” for both Italian efforts, in addition to defining the “roadmap” for involvement in the future European Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), noted Rheinmetall.

Development and production of mission systems, electronics suites and weapons integration for both Italian projects will fall under Leonardo’s remit, in accordance with Italian customer requests.

Related technologies “will also be the basis for the development of the future European MBT … and the new versions intended for international export,” added Rheinmetall. “With the newly developed Panther main battle tank and the new Lynx infantry fighting vehicle, Rheinmetall has the appropriate basic technology on which to build in both programmes.”

Leonardo’s new partnership arrives less than a month after it abruptly ended cooperation with Franco-German KNDS (a JV between Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Nexter) to jointly develop the Leopard 2A8 MBT after failing to agree on a mutually acceptable configuration.

Hours before the Leonardo and Rheinmetall JV announcement German business publication Handelsblatt reported that Italy is set to sign off on a €20 billion ($21.6 billion) combined order covering 350 Lynx and 200 Panther vehicles.

Any such Panther procurement decision would appear to throw out a planned buy of 132 Leopard 2A8IT MBTs, listed in Italian parliamentary documents. They state that the MBT program and funding for an additional 140 support vehicles, as part of a two phase program, sits at an estimated cost of €8.2 billion ($8.8 billion) out to 2037.

The Italian Ministry of Defence had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.