German defense company Kraus-Maffei Wegmann and France's Nexter Systems have announced plans for an alliance that they say will make it possible to keep jobs and skills in Europe.

The two companies, whose products include tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery systems, said late Tuesday that they plan to ally under a joint holding company. The two firms' current owners each will receive 50 percent of the shares in the holding company.

KMW is privately held, while Nexter is owned by a French state holding company. The two companies say they consider the planned alliance — which they hope to put in place early next year — as "decisive for the consolidation of the defense technology industry in Europe."

The two companies have more than 6,000 employees in total.