According to the Spanish press, the Piranha 5 was chosen by the Spanish Ministry of Defence as the base platform for a technology demonstrator of the Spanish army’s future VCR (Vehículo de Combate sobre Ruedas) 8×8 wheeled combat vehicle. General Dynamics Santa Bárbara Sistemas (GDSBS), Indra Sistemas and SAPA Placencia will develop six prototypes based on this platform to meet the requirements of the Spanish army in an €89.2 million Investigation, Development and innovation (I + D + I) contract financed by the Ministry for Industry from 2015 to 2017.
There will be one prototype for each version of the vehicle: personnel carrier, front-line, cavalry reconnaissance, anti-mine warfare, advanced observer, and command and control. If the defence ministry is not entirely satisfied with these six prototypes, it could launch a second prototype development contract before the procurement process for the chosen vehicle is launched in 2018. So although the Piranha 5 — the latest member of a family of armoured, multi-role, wheeled vehicles originally developed by Swiss company Mowag in the 1970s — has been chosen as the base platform for the first six prototypes, it may not be the base platform for the final version of the VCR.
The idea behind the I + D + I contract is not only as a risk-reduction exercise before production of the VCR is launched and to analyse the viability of various new technologies, but also to develop the technological capacities of the Spanish defence industry to a level of maturity that these technologies can then be incorporated onto whatever platform the future VCR is built on.
The Spanish army has a requirement for between 300 to 400 VCRs in a first phase at a cost of between €1 to 1.5bn but long-term needs about 900 vehicles to replace its obsolescent, 1970s-vintage BMRs (Blindado Medio sobre Ruedas) that had to be withdrawn from Afghansitan as they were not sufficiently protected against mines.
The Defence Ministry initially put out a request for information from Italy’s Iveco-Oto Melara for its 8×8 Freccia; from France’s Nexter for its VBCI; from Finland’s Patria for its AMV; from Germany’s KMW-Rheinmetall for its Boxer and from General Dynamics Santa Bárbara Sistemas for its Piranha 5.
The latter always had an advantage because Santa Bárbara has production lines in Trubia and Seville and so meets Madrid’s requirement for production in Spain. Also, having partnered with Sapa Placencia, based in Andoain in Spain’s Basque country, which manufactures transmissions, drives, artillery and munitions, the prototypes will have Sapa’s transmission system. Madrid also wanted the winning company to be the design authority so that modifications can be made to the chosen platform and Spain also wants to be able, eventually, to export the VCR.