The negotiations for the acquisition of a considerable number of Leopard 2 tanks, specifically in the advanced A7/A8 configuration, with Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), have reached an advanced stage, signaling a significant development in the Italy-Germany strategic alliance. According to RID, Under pressure from NATO, the Defense and EI (Economic Initiatives) have made their choice, which holds great significance due to the substantial cost of the acquisition program, estimated to be between 4 and 6 billion euros. This program further strengthens the already close ties between Italy and Germany. It’s important to note that Germany is Italy’s primary trading partner, and the economies of Northern Italy and Germany are deeply integrated. The exact details of this operation are yet to be determined. There are discussions of a government-to-government (G2G) agreement between Rome and Berlin, which would be highly favorable.
Additionally, the G2G capabilities of Segredifesa, the Italian Ministry of Defense, must be strengthened to effectively facilitate such agreements, as the current structure is insufficient. Furthermore, the matter of compensation needs to be addressed. Merely engaging in licensed production of the tank in Italy may not be adequate. Additional measures are required. The other party could consider incorporating the SAMP/T NG and even the AW-249, despite the initial choice of the H-145M, which, it should be noted, is not a combat helicopter. Moreover, the future of Italy’s land military sector remains a pertinent question. With planned investments in the tank and the AICS (Italian Army Information and Communication Systems), there is a genuine opportunity for revitalization and the establishment of a robust center for the land defense industry in Italy.
In this context, the AICS assumes a crucial role. If the Leopard 2 acquisition is inevitable, it is essential to retain the AICS, along with an entirely national family of vehicles. Alternatively, a true European cooperation model could be pursued, with the design authority for the Italian variant residing in Italy, while market shares are established with partners. Failing to adopt either of these approaches risks squandering a remarkable opportunity. This decision, undoubtedly a legitimate political and strategic choice, must consider all the necessary elements and contemplate the implications it may have on Italy’s technological sovereignty and strategic autonomy.
The Leopard 2 is a third generation German main battle tank (MBT). Developed by Krauss-Maffei in the 1970s, the tank entered service in 1979 and replaced the earlier Leopard 1 as the main battle tank of the West German army. Various iterations of the Leopard 2 continue to be operated by the armed forces of Germany, as well as 13 other European countries, and several non-European states around the world, including Canada, Chile, Indonesia, and Singapore. Some operating states have licensed the Leopard 2 design for local production and domestic development. The Leopard 2A8 will be based on the current Leopard 2A7HU production model but feature additional improvements; among them the integration of the Trophy APS and an all-round situational awareness system with sensor-fusion capability.