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Nexter has presented its armament concept for the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS). As high-intensity confrontations are expected to return in the coming decades, the MGCS and comparable systems will also need a large-calibre gun as their main armament. Based on the experience with the 120 mm smoothbore gun with automatic loader of the LECLERC MBT and its own ammunition development (including telescopic ammunition) Nexter has developed the Autoloaded and SCALable Outperforming guN (ASCALON) concept. This is intended to improve the chances of winning the fight from the outset by shooting and hitting faster, further and with a higher destructive capacity on the first shot. At the same time, logistical and ergonomic constraints will be reduced.

ASCALON Features

According to Nexter, ASCALON offers an open architecture that will serve as the basis for joint development within the MGCS programme. This concept, it says, lays the foundation for the future European MBT gun and ammunition standard, drawing on previous experiences with allies, such as the 140mm Future Tank Main Armament gun programme in the 1990s. Participants at that time were Germany, France, the UK and the USA.

Nexter lists five distinguishing features of the main armament system:

  • Extended ammunition range taking advantage of the larger calibre. Penetrators of different lengths allow adaptation to the target spectrum. Guided ammunition allows engaging targets Beyond the Line of Sight and Non-Line of Sight.
  • Compact ammunition with a maximum length of 130 cm. Telescopic ammunition with the bullet completely inside the cartridge case.
  • Increased firepower thanks to optimised loading chamber. With an almost unchanged internal pressure level, up to ten megajoules are available at the muzzle, with growth potential for up to 13 megajoules.
  • Controlled pressure curve and newly designed muzzle brake reduce undesirable pressure effects in the vicinity. This reduces the danger to infantrymen in joint combat, especially in urban environments.
  • The controlled impulse on firing reduces recoil and acceleration forces. This allows the system to be integrated into platforms weighing less than 50 tonnes.

Next Steps

In firing campaigns with telescopic ammunition and a 140 mm smoothbore gun, the mastery of the system could be demonstrated and its high technical maturity proven. The system is expected to be fully technically mature by 2025. At the end of 2022, the MGCS project will decide which main weapon will be selected for the ground combat system. The technology demonstration phase is to be completed by 2024.

In March 2021, Rheinmetall presented its concept for the main weapon system of the MGCS based on a 130 mm smoothbore gun, arguing the calibre is not decisive for the effectiveness of the concept. Instead, it pointed out that the charge volume, and the muzzle energy that can be achieved with it, are decisive. Rheinmetall is also applying for the technology demonstration phase of the MGCS.

Gerhard Heiming