Late Christmas gift for French Special Forces

France’s Special Forces got a late Christmas gift yesterday (7 January) from the DGA procurement agency which, on 30 December, signed an order with Renault Trucks Defense (RTD) for nearly 450 new tactical vehicles. The Special Forces will get 202 heavyweight vehicles, 25 of which will be delivered before the end of this year, and in 2018 will start receiving the first of 241 lightweight vehicles.

The 51 VPSs acquired in 2008 for the French Special Forces will be replaced by the new RTD lightweight vehicle

The 51 VPSs acquired in 2008 for the French Special Forces will be replaced by the new RTD lightweight vehicle

The special forces vehicle programme, launched in 2013 and part of the 2014-2019 Military Programme Law, aims to harmonise the fleet of vehicles across the three branches of Special Forces. “These vehicles will equip all the Special Forces that are currently using a disparate fleet which is remarkably worn out because of intensive use in foreign operations,” the DGA explained in a statement.

Apart from the main contract holder, RTD, design and production of the lightweight vehicle will be the responsibility of its subsidiary Panhard, whilst Essone Sécurité, an industrial coach-builder based in Britanny specialised in armoured vehicles which has already designed and made weapon mounts for special forces vehicles, will design and produce “the equipment common to both vehicles”, the DGA said in a statement.

No figure was given for the contract but reports in April 2014 in the specialised media mentioned a sum of €40m for the first tranche of 100 vehicles.

The lightweight version will replace the ageing fleet of Peugeot P4s and 51 VPSs (Véhicule Patrouille Spéciale) supplied by Panhard from 2008 and driven almost into the ground on the Afghan and African theatres. A new platform in the 4/5 tonne class will be developed by RTD with first deliveries scheduled for 2018.

The heavyweight vehicle will be in the 10/11 tonne class and as the Special Forces need some of these vehicles quickly, RTD will deliver the first 25 by the end of this year to replace the oldest VLRAs (Liaison, Reconnaissance and Support Vehicle) currently used on the many foreign theatres.

Following the delivery of the Sherpa to the French Gendarmerie’s renowned Special Forces unit, the GIGN, and the PVP to the French police equivalent, the RAID, the RTD group is starting 2016 with a major new order, continuing its long collaboration with the French armed forces.