The tank is not dead. In its annual analysis “The Market for Tanks,” the Forecast International (FI) Weapons Group projects that the international market will produce over 7,600 new main battle tanks, worth in excess of $31.5 billion, through 2016. Significant spending is also directed to retrofits and upgrades.
According to FI analyst Dean Lockwood, “in 2006, U.S. Department of Defense contract awards for the maintenance, RESET, and upgrade of the existing M1 Abrams inventories carried a total value in excess of $2.514 billion, equivalent to a staggering 79% of the total value of all new-production main battle tanks entering the international market in 2006 (nearly $3.176 billion).
The expense associated with the modernization and retrofit of high-end main battle tanks pales in comparison with the prospect of new tank procurement. Thus, FI believes new production of high-end tanks will remain relatively low, accounting for 13.96 percent of all production, worth 20.14 percent of the market, through the forecast period. In terms of sheer numbers, Forecast believes Pakistan’s Al Khalid, the Type 98 of the People’s Republic of China, and the Russian Federation’s T-90 will maintain their combined market share, accounting for 44.96 percent of all new tanks rolling out worldwide, worth 39.86 percent of the market, through 2016.
Last year, the Chinese Type 98 program maintained its position as the single largest new-production program. Yet, with a total value of $375.32 million (for 110 new-production tanks), the Type 98 program was worth less than 15 percent what the U.S. DoD spent on the M1 Abrams in 2006. In the international market for main battle tanks, the days of U.S. and European domination of new production appear to be long gone. Nevertheless, the established U.S. and European players continue to make their presence felt. The 120mm Reinmetall 120 smoothbore ordnance, the state-of-the-art Leopard 2, and the combat-proven M1A1/A2 Abrams continue to set the standard for main battle tank design worldwide.