Armor: France Buys Into The 21st Century


May 31, 2017: France is upgrading it armored vehicle force. Not just tanks and infantry vehicles but also more frequently used (for peacekeeping) wheeled vehicles. Thus in April France the first batch of 319 Griffon troop transport and 20 Jaguar combat vehicles. This is another step to fulfil very ambitious army modernization program nicknamed “Scorpion” which first phase known as “Step 1” launched in 2014.

This plan involves not only the complete replacement or renovation of all of the army's combat vehicles but also linking these with a new and unified communications and battlefield management system (BMS). The project date back to 2000 when the French Army and defense suppliers examined the possibility of a networked fighting force. For 14 years about $220 million dollars was spent on studies and analysis were performed on the data gathered from earlier networked programs like French super solider FELIN system or Véhicule Blindé de Combat d'Infanterie (VBCI) infantry fighting vehicle (IFV). Based on data collected during this period the requirements for new vehicles like Jaguar EBRC and Griffon armored personnel carrier (APC) were created.

The first Griffons should arrive to the army in 2018 while first Jaguar delivery will follow in 2020. It is estimated that each Griffon or Jaguar EBRC will cost about $2.5 million. Depending on configuration each vehicle could cost as much as $5.6 million each. The Griffon APC is the largest part of Scorpion program because in order to replace famous but over 40 years old VAB APC would require at least 1700 Griffons. The Griffon APC itself is a multi-role 6x6 armored vehicle capable to carry up to 10 personnel. It is expected to weight around 25 tones and to have an operational range up to 800 kilometers. Moreover for protection it will be equipped with a remotely-controlled weapons station.

Thanks to modular design it will be available in five main variants: typical troop transport (1022 vehicles), command-and-control variant (333), engineer and recovery (54), artillery observation vehicles (117) and ambulance (196). Furthermore there will be also sub-variants of mentioned above such as four variants of troop carrier like mortar team carrier or anti-tank team carrier) and three derives from engineer variant such as response team carrier or refueling unit). In total there still be 11 variants of Griffon but compared to currently used 30 variants of VAB this is a big step forward. What is more interesting this time French decided to design Griffon more like a MRAP vehicle than typical APC like Stryker, Patria AMV or other similar designs. This design has one big merit which is that these vehicles are more similar to typical trucks so are much easier to drive than mentioned earlier APCs.

Jaguar EBRC is on the other hand is a 6x6 reconnaissance vehicle which is meant to replace currently used AMX-10RC and ERC 90 Sagaie 6x6 reconnaissance vehicles and VAB variant equipped witch HOT anti-tank guided missiles. France is planning to buy 248 Jaguar EBRC. The Jaguar EBRC weighs about 25 tones and to be operated by the crew of three. Its armament will consist of new Anglo-French made CTA 40mm (telescoped ammunition) auto canon accompanied by twin launcher with MMP anti-tank missiles mounted on the turret side.

This first Griffon and Jaguar batch order is the second step after Leclerc tank modernization to fulfill Scorpion program Step 1 which is supposed to be completed after 2020. Then in Step 2 the French plan to complete Griffon and Jaguar procurement effort and focus on midlife upgrades to FELIN and VBCI programs. All this effort will transform French army into networked fighting force. France plan to equip two Scorpion brigades by 2025. These will consist of three GTIAs (groupement tactique inter-armes) each a self-sufficient battalion sized force very close to EU battle group concept. -- Przemysław Juraszek