The French Ministry of Defense (MOD) has confirmed an order for additional Jaguar and Griffon armored vehicles valued at €1.2 billion following the successful delivery of the first batch of Jaguar EBRCs (Engin Blindé de Reconnaissance et de Combat – Armored Reconnaissance and Combat Vehicle) in February of FY2022. First announced 2014, the Jaguar would be manufactured by a defense consortium of comprised of French companies Nexter, Arquus and Thales as part of the wider SCORPION armored vehicle modernization program. Designed to replace three existing vehicle platforms, namely the AMX-10RC tank destroyer, the ERC-90 Sagaie armored reconnaissance vehicle and the VAB HOT Mephisto armored personnel carrier, the EBRC Jaguar is equipped with a wide range of different sub-systems and components which provide significant improvements to the agility, lethality, survivability and situational awareness of France’s mechanized forces.
Whilst the Jaguar platform is certainly an impressive from a technological perspective, what is arguably more impressive is France’s approach to developing the SCORPION family of vehicles. Due to a multitude of factors including the expansive scope of the SCORPION program, a defense budget with limited growth potential and a historic preference for domestically sourced defense solutions, the French DGA (Direction Général de l’Armement) took a particularly active role in the establishment of the defense consortium between French defense firms Arquus, Nexter and Thales. In doing so, the DGA ensured that all companies tasked with delivering the SCORPION program were incentivized to share technical expertise and expand their joint operational capacity to facilitate full-scale production in the long term, thus providing a financial boost for the French defense industry whilst simultaneously reducing supply-chain vulnerabilities for a number of different systems and components.
Though some commentators have made the argument that this approach stifles innovation and creativity by limiting the competitive nature of the defense bidding process, there is something to be said for the success of this hands-on approach by the French MOD, as despite numerous challenges the SCORPION program has continued to deliver a range of products on schedule and mostly within budget.
The same cannot be said for armored vehicle programs in other nations such as the United States, where the US Army has instituted numerous failed programs over the past two decades in a flawed effort to replace for several ageing vehicle platforms. A prime example is the M2 Bradley IFV, which successive programs including the Future Fighting Vehicle (FFV), Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV), Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) and now Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) have failed to replace due to a complex and ever-changing list of requirements put forth by Army procurement officers, with even the largest defense primes on the market having difficulty meeting all the requirements with a single product. Due to the inherently competitive nature of US defense contract acquisition, neither the US Army’s Program Executive Office – Ground Combat Systems nor the various firms engaged in these failed vehicle programs have considered pooling their resources or expertise in a similar manner to that seen in the SCOPRION program. One could thus argue that the US Army’s narrowed focus on exponential technological innovation has severely hampered their ability to field new platforms and weapons systems, a mistake which could prove costly if the fears of peer-level conflict were to ever materialize.
The UK’s heavily criticized Ajax program is another prime example of the inherent limitations of the sole-supplier approach to new platform development and acquisition. Due to a severe lack of in-house technical expertise and a longstanding relationship with supplier General Dynamics Land Systems UK (GDLSUK), the British MoD relied solely on GDLSUK’s internal projections and safety assessments in determining the viability of the Ajax platforms throughout its development cycle. This lack of government oversight likely emboldened GLDSUK to overestimate or exaggerate their ability to meet all of the Army’s requirements within the requested timeframe, and evidently contributed to the flawed decision to greenlight production before the initial prototypes had been adequately tested. Consequently, the British MOD’s failure to actively participate within the development cycle or to appropriately benchmark their requirements has resulted in significant cost and schedule overruns, delivering a final product which is not fit-for-purpose. It would appear that the MoD has now taken these lessons to heart, with the current Team Tempest program placing heavy emphasis on supplier to end-user cooperation and the Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) consortium securing contracts to produce the Boxer MIV, further illustrating the inherent advantages of the France’s approach to defense procurement.
In summary, the EBRC Jaguar and indeed the French Army’s entire SCOPRION modernization program exemplifies the numerous benefits afforded by defense consortiums and enhancing engagement from the end-user throughout the development cycle. The ensuing pooling of resources and expertise allows for greater oversight, significant cost reductions and ultimately increases the likelihood that the desired solution will meet the client’s expectations whilst remaining on time and on budget.
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