STUTTGART, Germany – The French ministry of defense on Thursday received the first four new VBMR Serval multi-role armored vehicles, the third ride to be delivered under the nation’s Scorpion program to replace its fighting vehicles.
The 4x4 vehicles, built by Nexter and Texelis under a temporary joint operation, are expected to replace the 1970s-era VAB armored personnel carriers, ministry spokesman Herve Grandjean said during a Thursday press conference. Weighing between 15 and 17 tons, the Servals will be a lighter-armored vehicle dedicated primarily to the Army’s 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade and the 11th Parachute Brigade, he said.
The ministry has ordered 364 Servals to date, and expects to buy 978 vehicles by 2030, per Grandjean. Seventy vehicles are scheduled for delivery in 2022. The contract was finalized in January 2021, via the French military’s procurement agency Direction generale de l’armement (DGA).
French Defense Minister Florence Parly hailed the initial deliveries in a statement, saying that Serval production was moving “at a steady pace.” She first introduced the VBMR – and unveiled its feline name – at the 2018 Eurosatory conference in Paris, and said French forces were waiting “impatiently” for it to arrive.
“In a rapidly changing strategic environment, as war returns to the European continent, the modernization of key equipment is essential for the credibility of the French armed forces,” Parly said in the Thursday statement.
The VBMR is one of four next-generation vehicles being developed under France’s Scorpion program, alongside the larger, 24-ton Griffon armored personnel carrier and its mortar carrier variant MEPAC, as well as the Jaguar reconnaissance and combat vehicle. France expects to procure 1,872 Griffons (including 54 MEPAC variants), 978 Servals, and 300 Jaguars by 2030.
All the vehicles will be connected via a new communications and battlefield management system dubbed the Scorpion Combat Information System (SICS). They are built at Nexter’s facilities in Roanne, in the French Loire Valley.
The Griffon and Serval vehicles will replace France’s aging VAB carriers designed by Renault, while the Jaguar will replace three current vehicles: the Giat-built AMX-10RC, the Panhard ERC vehicle, and the VAB HOT armored personnel carriers.
France began receiving Griffon vehicles in 2019; and the ministry expects 113 deliveries by the end of 2022. The initial Jaguar deliveries began in 2021, and 18 are expected by the end of the year.
Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.