by Nathan Gain
Will the VBCI-2 soon win its first export contract? That, in any case, is what France’s Nexter group is hoping after officially offering the vehicle to Lithuania in response to an invitation to tender from the Baltic nation which is seeking a new 8×8 armoured vehicle to replace its fleet of tracked M113 troop transporters.
Unveiled at the 2015 DSEI (Defence and Security Equipment International) exhibition in London, the VBCI-2 (Véhicule Blindé de Combat d’Infantrie) armoured vehicle for infantry combat, has been specifically designed for the export market. The VBCI-2 builds on the lessons learned following the combat experience of the French VBCIs in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Mali and the Central African Republic.
The Lithuanian tender calls for a 30mm calibre main gun but Nexter has decided to offer not only the VBCI-2 equipped with the 30mm HITFIST OWS remote weapon station made by Italy’s OTO Melara, but also a punchier version of the vehicle armed with the 40mm Cased Telescoped Armament System (CTAS) made in partnership with BAE Systems.
The VBCI-2 has level 5 ballistic protection with potential growth to 6, and achieves the highest standard on mines and IED protection: level 4A-4B. In addition the electronic architecture of the vehicle allows for the integration of a missile launcher for either Raytheon/Lockheed Martin’s Javelin, Rafael’s Spike or MBDA’s MMP.
Nexter could team up with a local Lithuanian partner for production and maintenance of the VBCI-2. The group already has a certain amount of experience with establishing local partnerships after having done so with, amongst others, Larsen & Toubro in India and Avibras in Brazil in both cases to promote the Caesar self-propelled howitzer.
In Lithuania, Nexter and its VBCI-2 are facing competition from nine other vehicles: Finland’s Patria and its AMV equipped with a UT 30 Mk2 turret; German/Dutch ARTEC’s Boxer armed with either an RCT 30 or a LANCE 30 turret; Italy’s IVECO Superav also equipped with a UT 30 Mk2 turret; General Dynamics Land System of Canada’s LAV II equipped with an MCT30 turret supplied by Norway’s Kongsberg; Mowag Motorwagenfabriken (now part of General Dynamics European Land Combat Systems) of Switzerland’s Piranha; Turkey’s Otokar Arma equipped with its Mizra-30 and finally, Turkey’s FNSS PARS with an E30 turret. Israel’s Elbit Systems has offered the principal gun with its UT 30 Mk1 and 2 while Lockheed Martin has countered with its 40 CTAS.