Eurosatory 2022: France Ups The Caliber Ante for the Future MBTs

Photo. Defence24

Nexter, a part of the French-German KNDS company, unveiled its 140 mm Ascalon tank gun during the Eurosatory 2022 event. It is viewed as potential armament for the future Franco-German tank platform.

This year's Eurosatory event has been dominated by main battle tanks. Avant-garde EMBT by KNDS and Panther by Rheinmetall can be found among the most prominent designs. Both MBTs feature entirely new turrets with autoloaders. They are broadly tailored to work within a net-centric battlespace. They have been integrated with unmanned systems as well. Interestingly, both vehicles feature a "systems operator" station in the hull. For Panther, the station can be optionally removed which corresponds with the situational awareness and information management requirements defined for a modern MBT.

Panther sports a new, 130 mm gun. The EMBT meanwhile features a 120 mm gun that can fire SHARD projectiles with higher kinetic energy levels. The above does not mean Nexter is not researching a new caliber. Quite the contrary. The Ascalon programme additionally aims at developing a 140 mm tank gun and munitions - these have been demonstrated in Paris as well. It is being developed for the MGCS future MBT, or may even be offered for the Enhanced MBT.

The gun showcased in Eurosatory is a technology demonstrator that utilizes components developed during the FTMA programme, back in the 1990s. The gun has already been tested on the Leclerc MBT. Contrary to the current 120 mm gun, it is assumed that the chamber would be enlarged, while the pressure would drop, which, in turn, would extend the gun’s lifetime.

Photo. Defence24

The prototype of the new gun is to be ready by next year. It would weigh around 3 tonnes - less than the contemporary 120 mm L55 guns, and less than the gun presented at Eurosatory. The gun showcased during the event still features some FTMA elements. The weapon would be utilizing sabot rounds, with a good length to diameter ratio for the tungsten core - higher than the 30-35 ratio that is most common currently. This is to translate into an ability to effectively act against enemy new generation MBTs, such as T-14 Armata - at a distance exceeding 5 kilometers. The barrel is 7.3 meters (L50-L51) long, for 140 mm caliber. For the sake of comparison: Leopard 2A6/A7 features a 120 mm 55-calibre long barrel (6.6 meters). Leclerc’s barrel has a length of 52 calibres (6.24 meters).

The Ascalon system would also be tailored, from ground-up, to fire NLOS guided munitions. This is aligned with the trend to increase the situational awareness of MBTs, for instance by integrating UAVs with them. The MBTs would also have a broader scope of engagement capabilities available to them. The Panther, for instance, can be integrated with loitering munitions. Both the APFSDS, as well as the guided NLOS munitions have been presented at Eurosatory, alongside the 140 mm gun.

Photo. Defence24

Ascalon is one of the two proposals when it comes to the armament designed for the new generation of MBT - competing with Rheinmetall's 130 mm design. Many signs suggest that the rivalry between these two concepts may shape one of the main elements of the MGCS platform - expected to be commissioned after 2035. We may even see the commissioning of these happen earlier - if EMBT or Panther evolve and become series manufactured main battle tanks.