The Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) programme, which is being fiercely disputed behind the scenes at the DSEi show being held this week in London, aims to provide a new 8×8 armoured vehicle to the British Army, and has in three years become one of the most promising export markets for French manufacturer Nexter with its VBCI (véhicule blindé de combat d’infanterie), an armoured infantry combat vehicle.
Far from unknown across the Channel, the VBCI in 2014 was tested in the framework of the “Brittany Project” by the British Army. It is regularly at the heart of the joint military manoeuvres organised by Paris and London, such as the Griffin Strike exercise in April 2016.
But to seduce its British neighbour, Nexter has pulled out all the stops by creating nothing less than a “100% APC” variant of the VBCI, unveiled this week. This has given birth to a Franco-British hybrid which sticks as closely as possible to the three requirements set out by London: “Combat Proven – Jobs in UK – Fully Qualified,” says Sophie Délye, Nexter’s Export Sales Manager.
The Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) unveiled by Nexter integrates all the improvements made to the VBCI, namely a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) of 32 tonnes, better protection against IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and RPGs (Reaktivniy Protivotankoviy Granatomat or anti-tank grenade launchers), and a Volvo D13 engine. “We’ve kept a combat-proven vehicle whilst keeping open the possibility of making industrial transfers,” Délye adds.
And the least that can be said is that Nexter has spared no trouble to seduce its potential British customer by integrating a number of “Made in UK” systems. Equipment manufactured by half a dozen local manufacturers have been integrated into the vehicle, with particular emphasis on the adaptation of mission systems to the “GVA” standard. This mysterious abbreviation stands for “Generic Vehicle Architecture” advocated by the British Ministry of Defence to build an architecture common to its entire armoured fleet.
Another example of integration is the AeroGlow Halo Egress Lighting System, a suite of green and white LEDs designed to guide the crew towards the hatches when the vehicle is immersed in darkness, a requirement now on all British armoured platforms. And the list of manufacturers could be lengthened because “if we do business with the British, there will be much more integration of local systems,” Délye remarks.
The VBCI APC presented by Nexter also retains typical British armament, namely the Norwegian Kongsberg M151 Protector remote controlled turret armed with a 12.7mm machine gun. Like other potential competitors, such as AMV XP being offered by Finland’s Patria, Nexter has favoured the U.S. anti-tank Javelin missile over MBDA’s MMP middle range missile for the vehicle’s secondary armaments. A choice which, according to the French manufacturer is explained by the recent test campaign aimed at integrating the Javelin on British vehicles.
In addition to including locally-made systems, Nexter also adapted equipment to meet UK requirements. Safepro’s anti-mine design, to name but one, has been optimised to accommodate up to eight British “soldiers of the future”.
Announced in 2015, the MIV programme aims to equip the British army with 300-350 vehicles bought on the shelf for initial operational capability in 2023. They will equip the British Army’s four battalions of mechanised infantry created in the two future Strike Brigades, which, as outlined in the “Future Force 2020” White Paper, are expected to be operational by 2025. In addition to the main APC variant (MIV-PM), the programme foresees the design of a C2 (MIV-CC), ambulance and vehicle recovery variants … if funding allows.
MIV is only at the “pre-concept” stage – in other words, “on stand-by” – as the British Defence Ministry has not yet allocated a budget for the programme. Some of our British media colleagues claim that “London doesn’t currently have the funds to launch the MIV programme.” Nexter remains optimistic, however, banking on the MIV programme and the resulting extension of the VBCI range as stepping stones to other markets.