The French Ministry of Defense awarded Nexter an order worth €20m for the delivery of 15 production versions of the new Aravis all protected armored vehicles, to be operated by combat engineer units tasked with route clearance. Initial deliveries are expected before the end of 2009. Aravis provide protected mobility for the combat engineers escorting the Buffalo counter-IED armored vehicle and Souvim route clearance equipment. The 12.45 ton vehicle is designed with a high degree of protection against mines and IEDs. It accommodates up to seven combat engineers. The vehicle will be equipped with Kongsberg Protector remotely operated weapon system mounting a 12.7mm machine gun and optronic package. These systems are already operated on the French VAB vehicles operating in Afghanistan. The vehicle is also equipped with panoramic vision utilizing seven video cameras mounted in different positions around the vehicle.
Aravis is based on an all-terrain Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) Unimog chassis, with a modular protected cabin comprising a V-shaped hull, which provides effective protection from mines and roadside bombs. The modular design enables replacing the rear section comprising the three back seats and roof with mission adaptable payload, for example, an ambulance or command and control module. Aravis is designed to travel at road speed of 100 km/h, (over 20 km/h in reverse). It can be prepared for off-road mobility by employing central tyre inflation. It can climb a step of 0.5 meters high, negotiate a slope of 30% (17 deg) and 60% ramp (31 deg). Its range is 750 km. Aravis can be transported on rail, and air delivered by C-130, A400M and C17.
The vehicle is designed with balanced protection from small arms, IED blast and fragments as well as mines. The cabin’s protection level is meeting STANAG 4569 Level 4, protecting the crew from kinetic threats up to 14.5 mm caliber, surviving 10kg mine blasts under the belly and wheels and withstanding blasts of 50kg roadside bombs. Aravis also protects the crew from artillery and fragmentation threats generated by a burst of an 155mm artillery shell, commonly used as an IED surrogate weapons.
Nexter based their design on the Safepro modular protection architecture utilizing a well protected cabin, fitted with integral spall liner and V shaped blast belly protection comprising countermine plate and blast mitigating modules; the modular appliqué armor is fitted with anti-blast devices, with the doors equally fitted to withstand blast. The transparent windshield and side windows are treated with anti-fragment provisions. According to Nexter, Aravis withstood a series of four live firing tests conducted by the DGA, demonstrating that the cabin protection was not compromised by blast or splinters, the doors remained intact and operable after the blasts. The windows were cracked but were not pierced by the splinters and blast mitigation effect of the seats has also been proven.
Aravis can carry eight personnel (7 troops + driver) in the 8 cubic meters spacious cabin. The roof is strengthened to mount an armament station mounting up to 20mm automatic gun. The rear and lower storage modules offer a maximum volume of 1.5 cubic meters accommodating mission equipment and stores. The vehicle width and height are 2.5 meters, length is 6 meters and combat weight: 12.5 tons.