The French defence procurement agency (DGA) has awarded the order for conditional tranche 4 (TC4) of the SCORPION programme to Nexter, Arquus and Thales, operating through the EBMR consortium.
Tranche TC4 corresponds to an additional 88 JAGUAR armoured reconnaissance and fighting vehicles and 302 GRIFFON multirole armoured vehicles. This new order will bring the number of JAGUAR and GRIFFON vehicles ordered to 150 and 909 respectively, in line with the target laid out in France’s 2019-25 Military Programming Law. This represents half of the French government’s total commitment for JAGUARs and GRIFFONs (excluding the MEPAC variant) to be acquired under the SCORPION programme to renew the medium-tonnage segment of the French Army’s armoured vehicle fleet. The TC4 award comes shortly after an order was placed for 54 GRIFFON MEPAC versions, which are equipped with a 120-mm mortar, with deliveries scheduled from 2024.
These two awards were announced by the French Prime Minister during his visit to Nexter’s Roanne site on 19 February. This latest order underscores France’s continuing confidence in the EBMR consortium partners, which have been ensuring on-time deliveries since the beginning of the programme. It provides Nexter, Arquus and Thales, as well as the entire land defence industrial and technological base in France, with better visibility of their industrial activity through to 2025.
Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, in partnership with the U.S. Army and French company Nexter successfully fired Excalibur artillery projectiles from a CAESAR self-propelled howitzer. The test proved compatibility between Excalibur, the U.S. Army’s Modular Artillery Charge System (MACS) and CAESAR.
During the demonstration the CAESAR-fired Excalibur directly struck two targets at a distance of more than 46 kilometers/28.6 miles, a record setting range from the gun system.
«Integration with CAESAR now adds a level of mobility to the long-range and proven precision of Excalibur, providing the U.S. Army and partner nations more flexibility for this advanced, versatile weapons system for contested environments», said Sam Deneke, vice president of execution for Land Warfare & Air Defense at Raytheon Missiles & Defense. «This success highlights the interoperability of a French howitzer with a U.S. munition and offers our customers more options to deploy Excalibur artillery from a range of platforms».
Building on previous compatibility tests, this demonstration marked an important milestone toward operational capability for Excalibur’s integration with CAESAR.
«Chosen by eight partner nations, CAESAR is arguably the most successful truck mounted artillery system available today», said Thierry Soulat, program manager at Nexter. «This demonstration with Excalibur underscores CAESAR’s compatibility with NATO standards for both conventional and smart ammunition».
The Excalibur projectile is a true precision weapon, impacting at a radial miss distance of less than two meters from the target, providing accurate first-round effects at all ranges in all weather conditions. With its GPS-guided capabilities and multiple fuze modes, it is already a premiere artillery option for multiple countries using the M777, M109 series, M198, the Archer, the PzH2000, and the SIAC systems. Initial assessments indicate likely compatibility with the AS90, K9 and G6 howitzers.
Raytheon’s Excalibur artillery projectile fired at record range from CAESAR howitzer
On 14 April, MBDA and Nexter participated in the first lock-on firing of an MMP medium-range missile from a Jaguar armoured reconnaissance and combat vehicle (EBRC). The French defence procurement agency (DGA) carried out the firing at their Land Techniques Test Centre as part of the JAGUAR qualification. Launched from the retractable pod on the Jaguar’s turret in two-missile configuration, the MMP successfully hit its target.
The integration of MMP onto JAGUAR is being carried out in stages during qualification. This firing is the first stage, successfully demonstrating hitting a fixed target. The system will offer the capability to destroy fixed or mobile hardened land targets, including up to the latest generation of tanks. Targeting will be direct or beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS). It will also be precise and with minimal collateral damage, qualities that characterise the MMP.
MMP’s capabilities – integrated into the Jaguar’s turret by Nexter, alongside the remote controlled weapon station developed by Arquus, the Scorpion common vetronics solution developed by Thales and the 40mm cannon developed by CTAI – gives the Jaguar a key role in collaborative combat.
During this demonstration, the Optrolead PASEO battlefield surveillance sight interfaced with the missile system, offering real-time optronic acquisition by day and by night. This gives the Jaguar excellent long-range observation and identification capabilities.
Frédéric Michaud, Head of Battlefield Sector for Sales & Business Development at MBDA, said: «This firing marks an important first step of the work conducted with Nexter to develop the Jaguar turret and integrate the MMP into a weapon system built on the latest technological solutions. This two-missile turret configuration considerably expands the vehicle’s firepower».
David Marquette, Jaguar project manager at Nexter, hailed the exceptional work of the programme team on this critically important system integration project: «This marks a major milestone, demonstrating the technical skills of our teams in designing and developing an operational capability unlike any other in the world».
Nexter, Thales and Arquus, as part of the temporary grouping of companies (GME) EBMR (Engins Blindés Multi-Rôles), presented the 128th GRIFFON planned for 2020 to the French Delegation for Armaments (DGA). Under the terms of the SCORPION program, and despite an unprecedented health crisis that profoundly affected production, the three manufacturers were able to take the challenge and meet their contractual objectives.
After this step, the last GRIFFONs will have to be submitted to the verification operations carried out by the DGA’s quality department. The vehicles will then be transported to the Canjuers site where the Army will proceed to take them into account; it is then that the DGA will formally receive them. To date, 90 GRIFFON have completed this route, adding to the 92 GRIFFON delivered in 2019. From January 2021, the last vehicles that left the production line in December will join them in the regiments, catching up very early in 2021 with the delay due to the health crisis.
From March 2020, Covid-19 has indeed strongly disrupted the industrial organization of the program. The site of Roanne, where the GRIFFON and JAGUAR are assembled, was forced to suspend its activity from March 20 to 30 in order to allow the installation of a structure adapted to the resumption of the activity under maximum safety conditions. Since then, two teams have been working on the lines in shifts of eight consecutive hours (2×8) to ensure that the lines are operational during these 16-hour days. Closely linked to their government contacts and after consulting their suppliers, the members of the GME quickly reviewed the initial schedule: the 2020 objectives were maintained for GRIFFON; the first deliveries of JAGUAR were postponed to April 2021; and this, while preserving the number of deliveries at the end of 2021.
The year 2020 was marked by the passage of several major milestones for the GME. In September, the DGA notified the third conditional tranche of the EBMR contract, enabling the second batch of vehicles (271 GRIFFON and 42 JAGUAR by 2023) to go into production. In November, the GRIFFON command post vehicle (EPC) was qualified. Thus, among the 128 GRIFFONs of 2020, 35 examples of this new variant were presented to the administration, an additional difficulty that the EPC teams overcame. Finally, the new-generation T1 remotely operated turret that will arm the GRIFFONs was also qualified by the DGA.
Nexter, Arquus and Thales would like to pay tribute to the exceptional commitment of their teams. Their sense of duty and creativity have enabled them to meet the expectations of the French Army and its combatants as best they could, while greatly limiting the impact of the health crisis.
Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, welcomes the order by the General Directorate of Armaments (DGA) for 271 Griffon armored vehicles and 42 Jaguar armored vehicles, awarded on September 15, 2020 to Nexter, Arquus and Thales as part of the SCORPION program.
The 2019-2025 Military Programming Law (LPM) provides for both an increase in the numbers of the SCORPION program and an acceleration of deliveries. The target in 2030 was thus raised to 1,872 Griffon and 300 Jaguar vehicles, half of which (respectively 936 and 150) will be delivered by 2025. In addition to schools and training centers, 5 regiments will have begun to receive the Griffon by the end of 2020, and 9 regiments at the end of 2021.
The arrival of the first Griffons allows the Army to truly enter the SCORPION era, with a platform that benefits from significant advances in terms of protection, mobility and the ability to gradually integrate the info-enhanced collaborative combat (intelligence sharing, acceleration of the decision-making loop). The objective therefore remains to be able to deploy an initial Griffon combined arms battle group on foreign operation by the end of 2021.
This order contributes to irrigate the entire French Industrial and Technological Defense Base (BITD) for ground equipment. The three prime contractors will in fact pass on the orders to their subcontractors and suppliers within a few days. It is estimated that the Griffon and Jaguar programs support nearly 2,000 direct, highly qualified jobs.
After an initial order in 2017 for 319 Griffons and 20 Jaguars, the DGA today awarded to the companies Nexter Systems, Arquus and Thales, a second phase vehicle production contract, as part of the SCORPION program, which is intended to modernize the combat capabilities of the French Army. The 271 Griffons and 42 Jaguars ordered on September 15, 2020 will be delivered to the forces between 2022 and 2023.
The Griffon is a Multi-Role Armored Vehicle (VBMR) intended to replace Front-line Armored Vehicles (VAB). Weighing around 25 tonnes, it is equipped with a 6-wheel drive and a remotely operated cupola. It comes in several versions: troop transport, command post, artillery observation and medical evacuation.
Weighing around 25 tonnes, Jaguar is an Armored Reconnaissance and Combat Vehicle (EBRC) with 6-wheel drive. It is intended to replace the AMX10RC and Sagaie wheeled light tanks, as well as the VAB variant armed with HOT anti-tank missiles. It will be equipped with the 40-mm telescoped ammunition gun produced in Franco-British cooperation, the medium range missile (MMP) and a remotely operated cupola.
In addition to Nexter Systems, Thales and Arquus, the program also involves Safran for the optronics and armament of the Jaguar, CTA International for its 40-mm gun and MBDA for its MMPs.
The SCORPION program renews the capabilities of contact combat around two armored vehicles Griffon and Jaguar and a single Information and Communication System (SICS) which allows the networking of all players in land combat. It also integrates the acquisition of light multi-role armored vehicles Serval, the modernization of the Leclerc tank and the acquisition of modern combat training systems using simulation and virtual reality.
With the contract on a system architecture definition study concluded between industry and the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw – Bundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr), the future German-French Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) has reached its next milestone.
Things are now progressing fast with the Main Ground Combat System. After the Framework and Implementing Agreements have been signed by the Defence Ministers of Germany and France, the focus will now be on the contract with the ARGE consortium of industrial partners consisting of Rheinmetall, Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann (KMW), and Nexter. This launches the system architecture study for MGCS Main Ground Combat System. Nationally selected concepts are being harmonized to develop a common multi-platform system architecture. The first part of the study is to be completed within 20 months. The contract is concluded between the participating ARGE companies and the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw – Bundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr) representing both Germany and France.
The contract is equally co-funded by Germany and France. Likewise, the German and French companies will implement equal division of work.
Given the significance of the joint project, a festive signature ceremony would have been most appropriate. However, neither the Framework and Implementing Agreement nor this contract can be signed in person due to the coronavirus situation. Even such a landmark project must now be signed via mail. The industrial companies of Rheinmetall, Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann and Nexter were the first ones to sign. After that, BAAINBw received the documents for signature. In accordance with the agreement between the two partner nations, only Germany/BAAINBw was to sign as the lead nation of the bilateral project.
Replacement for the German Leopard 2 and the French Leclerc main battle tanks
The Main Ground Combat System project to be implemented under German lead will replace the German Leopard 2 and the French Leclerc main battle tanks from the mid-2030s. With this project, Germany and France are sending a strong signal of European defence cooperation.
CMN’s shipyard in Cherbourg on July 24, 2019 launched the first two of a series of 38 High-Speed Interceptor (HIS) boats ordered by Saudi Arabia. The event was attended by Saudi officials and the Kingdom’s media, but not by the French press or government officials. It must be said that the subject remains controversial in France, against a backdrop of controversy over arms sales to Ryad and their potential use in the conflict in Yemen.
In the pipeline for a good five years, these interceptors were finally ordered in 2018. They are aluminum boats 32 meters/105 feet long and 6 meters/19.7 feet wide, designated HSI 32; CMN has already produced six for Mozambique. Their propulsion allows them to exceed the speed of 43 knots/50 mph/80 km/h, 47 knots/54 mph/87 km/h having been largely attained during trials, albeit by a boat that was not fully loaded and equipped.
The exact characteristics and performance of the Saudi HSI 32 are not known, but the launching of the first od class shows that their main armament is apparently a Narwhal, 20-mm tele-operated cannon produced by the French company Nexter. They also embark a Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat about 5 meters/16.4 feet long on a rear ramp.
Of the 39 interceptors ordered by Saudi Arabia, about half will be manufactured in Cherbourg, the others being made in Dammam in technology transfer. An agreement with the Saudi group Zamil Offshore Services has been signed to this effect.
Apart from these interceptors, which represent three years of work for CMN, Cherbourg is also building three La Combattante FS 56 large missile boats for the Saudi navy. Construction began in 2017 with a view to delivery starting in 2020. These are the 56-meter/184-foot boats initially commissioned for Lebanon (in 2015) as part of the DONAS program, which was to be financed by the Saudis and was to provide a wide range of French military equipment (boats, helicopters, vehicles, missiles …) to Lebanon.
However, given the complex situation in the Levant and the growing influence of Hezbollah, hostile to Saudi Arabia, Ryad decided in 2016 to suspend the contract as planned, while taking over for itself the orders that had already been signed, with certain evolutions. DONAS then became the SFMC program (Saoudi French Military Contract).
These 42 units produced under the aegis of CMN will bring to 121 the number of military boats sold since 2015 by French shipyards to Saudi Arabia. This includes the 79 type 1650 FIC interceptors made by the manufacturer Girondin Couach for the Saudi coastguards. Delivered between 2016 and 2018, these 16.5-meter/54-foot composite boats, armed with light cannon, are capable of exceeding 60 knots/69 mph/111 km/h.
One can also add Naval Group’s refit of the main frigates of the Saudi navy, which were also produced in France, namely the three F3000s which entered into service between 2002 and 2004, as well as two of the four F2000s, and the Boraida and Yunbou tankers commissioned between 1984 and 1986. This modernization program is due to be completed in 2020.
These contracts obviously involve a number of French equipment manufacturers, starting with the electronics specialist Thales and missile manufacturer MBDA.
France, however, is not the only supplier of Saudi naval forces, far from it. The German shipyard Lürssen won in 2015 a giant contract with the Saudi Ministry of the Interior for up to 140 boats from 15 to 90 meters/49 to 295 feet (interceptors, patrol boats, patrol boats, support units …), including the 79 interceptors subcontracted to Couach.
But it was Spain’s Navantia who won the big prize last year, with the coming into force of a contract for five 100-meter/328-foot corvettes, heavily armed ships displacing 2,500 tonnes. Construction of the lead ship started in January in Cadiz, with a view to delivery in 2022.
Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly on Thursday, July 4 attended the first handover of Griffon multi-role armored vehicles (Véhicule Blindé Multi-Rôle, or VBMR) on the site of Nexter in Satory (Yvelines), to the General Directorate of Armaments (DGA), which pronounced the vehicle’s technical qualification, and in turn delivered them to the Army.
The Griffon is the new VBMR of the Scorpion program, developed to modernize the medium combat capabilities of the Combat Arms Tactical Group (GTIA). Griffon will replace the Véhicule de l’Avant Blindé (VAB). A robust and versatile vehicle, the Griffon will notably improve the protection of soldiers engaged in combat thanks to more efficient armor protection, a remotely-operated turret and latest generation sensors. It will also take part in digitally-enhanced networked combat for which the French Army is preparing.
Commenting the event, the Minister spoke of the Griffon as a «new face of the Army: an exceptional program by its ambition, its coherence and its magnitude […] a true technological and operational leap […] the fruit of nearly 15 years of work» conducted jointly with industry.
These new vehicles, recalled Florence Parly, will allow «our soldiers to keep the advantage on the ground» by offering «unprecedented protection against ballistic threats, mines and improvised explosive devices, one of the main weapons of our opponents in the Sahel».
The Minister also emphasized the interest of the international partners in the Griffon, and noted that together with the Jaguar armored reconnaissance and combat vehicle (Engin Blindé de Reconnaissance et de Combat, EBRC) it also attracted Belgium, which has adopted the French system on which it has based the Belgian Army’s CaMo (motorized capability) next-generation equipment.
Finally, she took advantage of her visit to announce that an additional 150 vehicles will be ordered, bringing the total to 1,872 units by 2030; in parallel, delivery rates will be increased so that fully 50% of the vehicles of the program are delivered to the Army by 2025.
In accordance with the Military Planning Law (LPM) for 2019-2025, a total of 92 vehicles are to be delivered to the Army in 2019. The first deliveries of the Army Griffon vehicles are scheduled for the summer, with the aim of being able to project a Griffon-equipped GTIA as early as 2021.
Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Nexter welcome the announcement by the French and the German governments on the joint development of a new Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) and a new Common Indirect Fire System (CIFS). The Letter Of Intent (LOI) signed on June 19, 2018, is a significant step forward in the defense cooperation between the two countries and in Europe. This close cooperation was the key motivation for the foundation of KNDS in 2015, where Nexter and KMW cooperate as national system houses for land systems.
MGCS will develop a new generation of Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), providing their users enhanced, innovative, and best-in-class systems with the most advanced technologies. Thus, Germany and France are jointly launching the most strategic project in European land defense for the 30 years to come, a program package that will shape the future of European armies’ main combat capabilities and contribute to Europe’s sovereignty and strategic autonomy.
The skills and background of KMW and Nexter qualify both companies as suitable and particularly powerful and pivotal industrial partners for the Franco-German landsystem-program MGCS. Thus, in close cooperation with leading technology companies, KMW and Nexter will substantially contribute to a strengthened European defense capability.
The agreement of both nations to capitalize on the success of the German and French MBT programs and to base the industrial leadership for the MGCS program in Germany demonstrates the strong commitment towards a unique European cooperation in land systems. Beyond that, it strengthens Europe’s excellence in providing leading edge land-systems-technologies for the years to come.
February 12th, 2018, Nexter and Texelis are delighted at confirmation by Florence Parly, Minister of Armies, for the attribution of the supply of Lightweight Multi-Role Armoured Vehicles (VBMR Véhicules Blindés Multi-Rôles) for the French Army. The contract went through the «Direction Générale de l’Armement» (DGA) in the presence of Joël Barre, National Armament Director (NAD), and Bernard Barrera, Major General of the land forces.
These 4-wheel drive vehicles are designed for use by the Army’s intelligence and reconnaissance units as part of the SCORPION programme. With their multi-role capability, they are equipped with the SCORPION Information and Communication Systems (SICS) and come in several variants: troop transport, command post, artillery fire control, engineering, ambulance, and ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance), tactical communication hub, etc.
The Nexter Group will be responsible for the design to cost and performance, integration, production and support of the lightweight VBMR. This fully French-made vehicle will be assembled in Roanne, alongside the VBMR-GRIFFON and EBRC-JAGUAR, thus reinforcing job creation in the Roanne basin and in the engineering offices.
TEXELIS, a French intermediate sized enterprise based in Limoges, will design and supply the mobility equipment. As the French specialist in heavy vehicle power trains, Texelis contributes to the Lightweight VBMR’s mobility performance.
Stéphane Mayer, Nexter’s CEO commented, «I am extremely proud and pleased of this recognition of the expertise of Nexter and its teams, who have come up with the perfect answer to this programme’s requirements. With this contract Nexter is reinforcing its presence within the SCORPION programme and strengthening its position as the reference player in the field of land armament». This contract follows on from the industrial architect contract awarded to tns-MARS (a JV including Nexter, Safran and Thales), the contract grouping together the design, production and support of the VBMR-GRIFFON and the EBRC-JAGUAR (within a temporary consortium consisting of Nexter, Thales and Renault Trucks Defense) and from the renewal of the Leclerc tank of which Nexter is prime contractor.
For his part, Charles-Antoine de Barbuat, Texelis CEO said, «I am very proud of the Texelis team for the part they have played in winning this highly significant contract for Lightweight VBMR. The decision of the DGA and the partnership with Nexter strengthens and confirms our strategy to be specialists in wheeled armoured vehicle and public transport mobility».