VERSAILLES, France – France has pledged €6 billion ($6.7 billion) over 11 years for the Army's Scorpion modernization program, as the service and industry are seeking to secure complete funding for the effort amid budgetary uncertainty.

Key elements include the Griffon multirole troop carrier, the Jaguar combat vehicle, a light multirole vehicle, upgrade of the Leclerc tank, a battle management system, crew training with onboard 3D simulation, and maintenance.

Some €1 billion has been committed in the 2014-2019 military budget law, while the Army and industry will lobby for the remaining €5 billion.

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"We still need to secure future funding under the next military budget law," Army Maj. Gen. Bertrand Houitte de la Chesnais told journalists April 25. The service has in its sights the second step of the program, which has a "structural significance," he said. "We seek to prepare for step two," he said.

Development contracts in 2014 for Jaguar and Griffon vehicles launched the first step. That initial phase runs to 2028, overlapping with the second step, which starts with design work in 2023 and runs to 2035, Direction Générale de l'Armement procurement officials said.

The program is "ambitious in terms of timetable," said Jean-Marc Duquesne, managing director at Groupement des Industries de Défense et de Sécurité Terrestres et Aéroterrestres (Gicat), a trade association. The €6 billion is expected to cover 20 years to 2033.

 "The challenge today is to secure funding for the program under the present and next multiyear budget law," he said.

Total development work is estimated at €1.5 billion, shared between Jaguar, Griffon, Leclerc upgrade, a new battle management system, and training, an industry consultant said.

In December 2014, Defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian launched the program with development contracts worth almost €752 million for Jaguar and Griffon.

Nexter, working on the chassis, will receive more than 40 percent, Renault Trucks Defense more than 30 percent for engine and driveline development, and Thales more than 20 percent on electronics and communications, two sources said.

Army planners and DGA officials have factored in maintenance over 10-15 years, and a 70 percent commonality between Griffon and Jaguar.

Scorpion vehicles

Griffon is a six-wheel, 24.5-ton multirole troop transport. Contracts have been signed for delivery of 780 units by 2022, with first units due in 2018 in step one.

A further 942 units are due for delivery in step two, for a planned order of 1,722.

A modular design aims to cut costs, with one chassis fitted with mission kits. There will be 10 versions, comprising four variants for transport, three for engineering and recovery, and one each for artillery observation, medical, and command and control.

A Jaguar for the French Army will be more lightly armed than an export version, to allow the combat vehicle to be carried on the French railway.

The French variant will be fitted with a launcher on one side of the turret, loaded with two MBDA medium-range missiles, and two spare missiles stored. The export version will carry two launchers, one on each side of the turret.

Drivers will sit in the center, so the vehicle can be driven on the left or right side of the road. Traffic drives on the left in Britain.

A first delivery is due in 2020 for the six-wheel, 25-ton vehicle, with a planned total of 248 units.

A competition is due in 2017 for a four-wheel, 10-ton multirole reconnaissance vehicle, with an expected order for 358 units, defense officials said.

The first vehicle is expected in 2021 and will replace the Véhicule Blindé Léger scout car. These vehicles will equip command, brigade, intelligence and electronic warfare units.

Army planners and DGA have scheduled an upgrade of half the fleet of 400 Leclerc heavy tanks. Nexter hopes that will rise to 220.

A modernized Leclerc XLR version will plug into a new battle network, integrating the tank into a Scorpion battle group, making it suitable for urban fighting, and arming for new threats.

The concept of "collaborative combat" underpins the Scorpion battle management system, which seeks to connect squads, vehicles, battle group and brigade in a single network.

The aim is to speed up response with a real-time update and avoid "blue-on-blue" casualties.

Training will rely on Semba, an embedded simulation program, allowing crews to go through "operational training" in the vehicle, said Alexis Mabile, head of Nexter's operational readiness systems.

The program allows working in vehicles in the field and at the base while plugged into virtual 3D simulation fed with data from sensors and the Scorpion network. A crew can work as a single unit or part of a squadron.

Diginext and Nexter executives said their companies will compete in the Semba tender, which has yet to be set. Semba is likely to attract attention from CAE, Cubic, Gavap, GDI, Saab and Rheinmetall.

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