Scorpion Exites French Combat Vehicle Industries

Gearing for the French Army next big programs, vehicle manufacturers at Eurosatory were hopeful to learn about the defense ministry's selection of the Scorpion system architect, a decision that would have set the program in motion. However, Scorpion, among other French military modernization initiatives fell prey to a 5 billion euro cut in government spending, leaving long lead programs stranded until budget is released. The Scorpion program aims at fielding new families of vehicles replacing aging systems currently operational with the Army light and rapid deployment regiments, with further enhancement of current platforms employed with the heavy regiments (Leclerc Main Battle Tanks and VBCI infantry carriers.) As part of the Scorpion initiative all future elements will become networked, provided with advanced unmanned systems, intelligence gathering, observation and target acquisition, as well as precision guided weapons for combat units and combat support (artillery, mortars etc.)

Above: The Sphinx armed recce vehicle from Panhard. Photo: Defense Update.

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Renault considers its AMC as the leading candidate to replace all vehicle types in the Scorpion family, particularly ERBC and VBMR. This photo was taken at Eurosatory 2008. Photo: Defense Update

Three vehicle manufacturers planned to highlight their Scorpion candidate platforms at Eurosatory, but only one (Panhard) actually displayed a vehicle in the open.

The Armored Multirole Carrier (AMC) from Renault is the company's candidate for the Scorpion program. AMC is positioned by Renault as the next medium armored vehicle, a future replacement for the French Vehicule de l'Avant Blinde (VAB). The design combines high level protection (ballistic, IED, mine and RPG) with good cross country performance (tactical mobility) and transportability (strategic mobility), large payload capacity and unobstructed internal volume. At a gross vehicle weight of 22 tons, the AMC's curb weight will almost equal its payload carrying capability. This payload capacity will be utilized for add-on armor kits and mission payload. The vehicle is designed to transport 11 soldiers, in addition to the vehicle's crew members. Renault is designing the vehicle in 6x6 and 8x8 configurations to support a 'family of vehicles' approach, comprising an armored personnel carrier, infantry combat vehicle, scout vehicle, command post, ambulance, weapon carrier (missiles, mortars, anti-tank and anti-aircraft), specialist vehicle (combat engineers, NBC, artillery observation) etc.

Renault has expressed its intention to compete for all three vehicle types to be included in the Scorpion program – the EBRC, to become the armored backbone of France's rapid intervention force, future, networked troop carrier - VBMR, and the Mine Resistant Ambush protected (MRAP) type armored utility vehicle. One of the configurations is also expected to be a 6x6 armored scout vehicle mounting the CTAI 40mm case telescopic gun. While Renault is mostly recognized for its armored personnel carriers and military trucks, its past experience also included an armored scout vehicle episode - the VBC 90. However, the company has not been too successful with this vehicle, with less than 30 sold mostly to the French Gendarmerie. Panhard has fared better selling 192 ERC-90 F4 Sagaie vehicles, fielded alongside 288 Nexter's AMX-10RCs, serving the the light rapid deployment regiments of the French Army airborne and marine corps' wheeled tank destroyer and armored scout vehicle. Both are scheduled for replacement by the ERBC by 2018.

Renault and Nexter have brought Scorpion-related vehicles (EBRC and VBMR) to Eurosatory, displayed 'by invitation only' to only a few VIPs. Nexter plans to design its offerings based on the 6x6 XP2 experimental vehicle platform, of which three different configurations are proposed to replace the AMX-10RC and VAB. Nexter has also tested an 8x8 design for EBRC, utilizing the company's Vextra experimental platform, fitted with a turret mounting a low-recoil 120mm gun that will be firing projectiles and guided missiles. Other turrets considered for Nexter's EBRC proposed vehicle include a two man turret designed by CTAI, incorporating the 40mm case telescoped armament system with side mounted long-range guided missiles.

Positioned to be the leading provider for the ERBC, Panhard developed a technology demonstrator called Sphinx with internal funds, introducing an EBRC representative prototype enabling the company and the French defense establishment to study the operational functions of the EBRC. The Sphinx was the only candidate shown publicly at Eurosatory 2010. Unlike Nexter and Renault, aiming to compete for more than one platform of the Scorpion program, Panhard visions only at the EBRC, leaving the rest of the competition to other rivals. The company has been identified with armored scout cars for many years. The Sphinx follows the general design of Panhard's past armored scout vehicles - such as the 8x8 EBR, 6x6 ERC-90 and 4x4 AML-90. Beyond the promotion of Panhard's offering, Sphinx also provides a risk reduction program, demonstrating the maturity of innovative technologies and solutions suggested for the program, providing an integration platform.

Before embarking on the full scale Scorpion program, the French military is exploring different systems and technologies that could be integrated in such vehicles. One of these test platforms used was the System Crew Integration Platform (SCIP) an AMX-10P armoured vehicle fitted with sensors, cameras, data radios and information systems, RF jammer and other systems, which participated in the Architecture Real Time Integration System Testbench (ARTIST) exercise in september 2009. This exercise was the first experimentation of BOA demonstrator, the framework of Scorpion). ARTIST demonstrated integrated interoperable technologies at lower multilateral tactical levels. Photo: Bernard Rousseau, Thales

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ABove: Two models of 6x6 vehicles proposed by Nexter for the VBMR and ERBC. Below, a prototype 8x8 troop carrier from Renault could also be used as a potential replacement for the current 6x6 VAB shown here before the application of outer applique armor. Photos via air-defense.net forum.

The System Crew Integration Platform (SCIP) is an AMX-10P armoured vehicle fitted with sensors, cameras, data radios and information systems, RF jammer and other systems. SCIP participated in the Architecture Real Time Integration System Testbench (ARTIST) exercise in september 2009, a precursor of the Scorpion program. Photo: Bernard Rousseau, Thales