In a milestone, the consortium formed by Arquus and Nexter, in partnership with the Organisation for Joint Armaments Co-Operation (OCCAR), has officially inked the pre-design contract for the VBAE (Véhicule Blindé d’Aide à l’Engagement). 

OCCAR, the European intergovernmental procurement agency, will oversee the programme’s setup and management, marking the initial stride toward developing and producing this armoured vehicle slated for service in the French and Belgian armies by 2030.

The VBAE, a collaborative effort involving industry, OCCAR, and customer nations, is set to replace France’s ageing VBL (Light Armoured Vehicle) and enhance Belgium’s motorised capacity with improved reconnaissance and command and control capabilities. 

Anticipated to be a versatile system suitable for various mission profiles, the VBAE emphasises performance factors such as mobility, stealth, protection, and fire function. Balancing compactness and optimised payload capacity, the armoured vehicle aims to meet the evolving needs of modern military operations.

According to GlobalData’s intelligence on the Belgium defence market, in May 2014, NEXTER Systems, based in France, acquired Mecar SPRL, based in Nivelles in Belgium, from UK company Chemring Group. Mecar manufactures medium and large-calibre ammunition for light-armoured vehicles.

The consortium, led by Arquus and co-contractor Nexter, has solidified its commitment to Franco-Belgian industrial cooperation, exemplified by subcontracting activities to the Belgian company John Cockerill Defense (JCD). This collaboration, initiated during the pre-design phase, underscores the shared vision for a robust partnership on an armaments programme.

Belgium’s defence budget is projected to surpass $8.6bn (€8bn) by 2028. Fueled by increased military expenditure and a commitment to meet NATO targets, Belgium’s defense spending has risen from $4.8bn in 2019 to $7.1bn in 2023. With an additional allocation of $10.8bn by 2030, the Army, in particular, stands to benefit, facilitating the acquisition of new equipment.

Notably, the VBAE programme aligns with the FAMOUS project supported by the European Defence Fund (EDF), financed by the European Commission. FAMOUS, focused on developing technological blocks common to future European armoured vehicles, sees participation from Arquus, Nexter, and JCD as partners.

Launching the VBAE project signifies the beginning of an era of defence co-operation. The teams at Arquus, Nexter, and JCD express commitment to the success of this armoured vehicle endeavour.