Expeditionary force structures – the UK and French cases

7 October 2020 (Last Updated October 7th, 2020 09:12)

Expeditionary force structures – the UK and French cases

The French Army recently announced the procurement of the second batch of armoured vehicles, which included 271 Griffon and 42 Jaguar, planned for delivery between 2022 and 2023. The order follows the 2019-2025 military programming legislation, proving that such major modernisation programmes are expected to be implemented without any delays or budget cuts.

That will also benefit the Belgian Army, which will start receiving its Griffons and Jaguars on time between 2025-2030, right after the conclusion of the French order. The Scorpion programme will renew the fleet of vehicles, modernise the Leclerc MBTs and interconnect them through a digitised command and control infrastructure. Belgium is also part of the same project. According to GlobalData’s armoured vehicles market data, both countries will acquire VBMRs, VLFS, PLFS, Serval, VT-4 Mk2 and others until 2030.

With the exception of the MBTs, all of the vehicles are wheeled. It’s an approach that the French Army and the Belgian Land Component have opted for their platforms in an effort to constitute their armed force highly mobile and expeditionary. From an industrial angle, the French programme has managed to develop economies of scale and the induction of an export customer. Politically, that enables the French and Belgian forces to combine and integrate their capabilities both in peacetime and operations. A similar political and operational cooperation is also visible between Germany and the Netherlands, where the Dutch 43rd Mechanized Brigade is integrated into the 1st Panzer Division.

Wheeled vehicles have some advantages versus tracked ones. They can move independently at long distances without the need for tractors, they have a higher speed on paved and unpaved roads, they have a relatively lower weight, and due to the fact that they have fewer moving parts, their maintenance and operating costs are significantly lower. The benefits of this concept were proven in Operation Barkhane in Mali. The French Army vehicles were transported by ship to Dakar and then travelled all the way to the area of operations in Mali with their own means.

The British Army has similar requirements as the French. The British armed force sizes are comparable and they both need to be highly expeditionary. However, the first has opted to create a land force structure that features both tracked and wheeled platforms. Besides the Challenger 2 MBTs and the Warrior IFVs, which could probably be upgraded, the leadership has chosen a two-fold approach. Through the AJAX programme, the army will have a new family of tracked armoured fighting vehicles and through the Boxer acquisition, it will have an 8×8 wheeled platform. Although the British Army’s approach leads to the procurement of two different types of vehicles, its leadership has tailor-made forces for different contingencies.

From an industrial aspect, the choice of the Boxer platform provides economies of scale and the ability of British and other Nato troops to operate together as the vehicles are in use with Germany, the Netherlands and Lithuania. Similarly, the AJAX vehicles are based on the Spanish Army’s Pizarro IFV. Nevertheless, being a tailor-made solution, its development cost has been paid by the UK, leaving small room for any export contracts that would reduce the unitary price of the programme.