One had to have sharp eyes to notice this little model of the future French Special Forces lighweight vehicle (VLFS) amongst the forest of real vehicles on the Renault Trucks Defense (RTD) stand at the recent Eurosatory trade show in Paris. The discreet model was a reminder of the central place held by RTD in the contract for the delivery of 241 VLFSs from 2018.
The VLFS and its heavyweight equivalent “are designed to replace and harmonise the current rather mixed fleet of vehicles, whatever the regiment” the programme manager within the DGA French procurement agency told FOB, adding that “the French Special Forces are keeping a constant eye on the progress of this programme which is going well because there is a real desire to ensure that everything is delivered in time.”
The “final vehicle will be the same size and have the same open structure,” Thierry Duquesne, director of the light tactical vehicles department at RTD explained. Because the DGA wants to procure a completely new vehicle, RTD has decided to include certain of its technological bricks onto the new tubular frame of the vehicle. The design of the electronics on the dashboard, amongst other things, will be common to both the lightweight and heavyweight vehicles and will thus make it easy for drivers to change from one to the other. Apart from this architecture and the four radios (more than on a Leclerc tank) RTD is keeping electronics on board to a minimum both to reduce the vehicle’s sensitivity to the local environment and to increase its robustness.
The low profile of the VLFS should eliminate the risk of the vehicle tipping over, contrary to what has been seen to happen with the Land Rover Defender and the Mercedes Class G. Designed to undertake the entire gamut of Special Forces missions, the VLFS will be both air transportable and air droppable, notably thanks to its open frame constructed of extremely resistant materials. In addition to these innovations, the VLFS will be powered by a SOFIM 3l 200HP engine, will have an empty weight of 4.3 tonnes and be able to carry a payload of 1.3 tonnes.
“A vehicle is already being driven,” Duquesne told FOB. The vehicle in question is a testbed on which RTD tests the technical solutions specifically designed for this programme.
This phase of the programme will close in July for detailed conception to begin; this will be followed in September with the delivery of five vehicles for the qualification phase. Then for one year these five “guinea pigs” will be tested by all the units of the Special Forces with the aim of launching production at the end of 2018.