New armoured vehicle for France?

A new call for tender for a light armoured personnel carrier to replace a segment of the French army’s fleet of VAB (véhicule de l’avant blindé) armoured vehicles is awaited for “impatiently” by Emmanuel Levacher, president of Volvo Group Governmental Sales (VGGS) and CEO of Renault Trucks Defense (RTD) and Panhard.


A soldier mans an M-2 .50-caliber machine gun atop a French Renault VAB 4x4 armored personnel carrier, part of a display of Allied armor during Operation Desert Shield.

A  VAB 4×4 armoured personnel carrier during Operation Desert Shield in 1990-91.

CEO since June 2015, Levacher was being auditioned yesterday, 27 January, for the first time by the National Defence and Armed Forces Commission of the French National Assembly, inaugurating a series of hearings on land armaments launched by the Commission.

The remaining VABs, 40 years old this year, will be replaced in the framework of the Scorpion programme by 1,688 Griffons and 248 Jaguars that will be delivered between 2018-2031 following the signature of the contract in December 2014. “We are engaged in the Griffon project with Nexter and Thales on the lightweight multi-role armoured VBMR (véhicule blindé multi-rôles) We are waiting for the call for tender and will see whether we go it alone or not,” he told the parliamentarians.

VGGS is a division of Volvo specialised in the sale to states and governments of armoured and logistics vehicles for armies and security forces. The company, which employs more than 1,200 people, had a turnover in 2015 of about €500m of which 50% came from France. It owns three brands: RTD, Akmat and Panhard which represent 90% of its activity. The remaining 10% are provided by Mack Defense in the United States, Volvo Defence in Sweden and VGGS Oceania in Australia. Levacher stressed that VGGS supplies “around 90% of the armoured and logistics platforms currently in service in the army” adding that the group would “supply all the mobility of the Jaguar and Griffon armoured vehicles as well as the self-defence turrets.

On the export market VGGS has adopted the “multi-domestic” method, which means that in the countries where the group is implanted it is considered as a local company. This is notably the case of Mack Defense, described by Levacher as “a priority”, based in Allentown, Pennsylvania in the United States. “Thanks to this company we were able to win the €500m Canadian army tender for more than 1,500 8×8 logistics trucks (+600 more as an option). These vehicles will largely be manufactured in the RTD factory in Bourg-en-Bresse (France).”

The Kerax

The Kerax

Mack Defense also won the €22.9m contract to supply 62 Bastion armoured vehicles to Africom (the Africa command of the US Army). These vehicles, destined for the armed forces of Cameroon, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tunisia and Uganda), will be entirely built by Acmat in Saint-Nazaire, France.

The Bastion

The Bastion

The Sherpa, another flagship product of the group, and the VAB MkIII “greatly interest clients in the Middle East, Egypt, Lebanon and most recently Kuwait,” Levacher told the parliamentarians, revealing that the VGGS is “in negotiations with the Kuwaiti Ministry of Defence for 300 Sherpas and VAB MkIIIs.” The VAB MkIII has also been proposed to Egypt “in an amphibious version because they want to be able to cross the Suez Canal.” This version will be exhibited in June at the Eurosatory land armaments exhibition in Paris.

 The amphibious version of a VAB in Scotland during an exercise in 2003. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Robert M Schalk.

The amphibious version of a VAB in Scotland during an exercise in 2003. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Robert M Schalk.