PARIS — Team partners Nexter, Renault Trucks Defense and Thales have signed the industry side of contracts to develop and build a combat vehicle and a troop carrier, a key step that allows an official review before the government can countersign an order that launches the French Army’s Scorpion program, sources close to the deal said.
The combat vehicle is the engin blindé de reconnaissance et combat (EBRC), while the troop carrier is the véhicule blindé multirole (VBMR).
“It’s done, it’s signed,” a source said. The three companies signed the contracts the week of Oct.13, the source said. “We’re smiling,” a second source said.
Under the Scorpion project, Nexter will work on the hull, including a T40 turret for the EBRC, while Renault will deliver engine and driveline. Thales will supply electronics and the network.
The first phase of the Scorpion modernization drive carries a €5 billion (US $6.3 billion) budget under the six-year military budget law, accounting for half of the €10 billion planned to fund 20 to 25 years of work to renew the Army’s combat systems.
“It’s good news, but the contract has not gone into effect,” a third source said. “It has been accepted in principle, the administration has not signed.” The review is expected to take at least two months and could push the countersigning into next year, the source said.
Officials at the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) procurement office will examine the contract documents, part of the administration’s detailed review, which will include ministerial committees that include influential representatives from the Finance Ministry.
The DGA declined comment.
“Scorpion is strategic as the program equips the Army for the 21st century,” said Jean-Paul Perruche, chairman of think tank EuroDéfense-France.
The Army badly needs a renewal of armored vehicles, such as the véhicule avant troop carrier, AMX 10 RC and ERC-90 fighting vehicles, some of which are 40 years old and costly to maintain, said Vincent Desportes, retired Army general and former head of the Ecole de Guerre, a military school. “It’s fundamental,” he said.
Army officers, who have long called for a modernization, sent worn-out vehicles to intervene in Mali and the Central African Republic, he said.
An upgraded communications network that provides a “global capability” is crucial, he said. Scorpion includes a highly integrated network, training simulation, upgrade for the Leclerc tank and integration of the Sagem Felin infantry kit into the vehicles.
On the VBCI, a 32-ton version of the infantry fighting vehicle was certified on Sept. 24, compared with the initial 29-ton model, the DGA said in an Oct. 2 statement.
The increased weight is intended to deliver greater protection against mines, improvised explosive devices and rockets, and allows future upgrade, the DGA said.
At the Eurosatory trade show in June, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the Scorpion program will be launched this year.