The troop carrying APC variant of the Nexter 8×8 VBCI IFV has been adapted by the company to make improvements following feedback from tests and operations.
On display at Eurosatory, the vehicle now has rear wheel steering to reduce the turning circle radius to 20m, although the third set of wheels are still fixed. Additional space has been found for the internal volume in the rear of the vehicle by moving electrical equipment to the front of the vehicle.
This means that the front end of the vehicle has been altered to create two sloping angles. A spokesperson from Nexter told Shephard that this feature was added because the driver position has been pulled back in the vehicle to make space for the electronic equipment and they had to change the incline of the angle to enable the driver to still be able to see the same as before.
He added that the additions were made to the vehicle following trials with the VBCI in Qatar and the UAE and through the development of the Titus APC that Nexter launched at DSEI in 2013.
The French Army still has to take delivery of about 100 more VBCI vehicles and there are plans to upgrade the vehicle from 28t to 32t providing the additional payload capacity to enable the vehicle to have a longer lifespan.
The upgrade to the VBCI is being undertaken with Renault and Volvo, which are working on the suspension and engine respectively through a joint contract with Nexter. A contract from the French DoD was awarded in early 2014 and work on the vehicles is expected to begin soon this year.
The spokesperson could not confirm how many vehicles would eventually be upgraded but the company expects that it will not be the entire fleet, just a portion and only the IFV variant would be upgraded. He added that the DoD has had plans to upgrade the VBCI fleet from the beginning although operations in Mali have ‘quickened the pace’.
With the VBCI production line coming to a close following the completion of deliveries to the French Army, Nexter is looking for an export customer to enable it to continue manufacturing. The vehicle is currently in Denmark completing trials for the Danish APC programme and the company is pushing hard to secure the contract.
Furthermore the UK MoD has shown interest in the VBCI for its Utility Vehicle programme and British Army officers have tested the vehicle on deployment in Mali as well as visiting the vehicle at the Eurosatory exhibition.