The French Army will receive 53 new BvS10 mk11 all-terrain vehicles from the UK’s Bae Systems under a $315m contract awarded by the French defence procurement agency.

Under the contract BAE overcame competition from local supplier Thales and will also supply troop carriers, command post and logistics vehicle variants and a life-time support package.

The first batch of the Viking high-mobility machines, known locally as the véhicules à haute mobilité (VHM), will be delivered in 2010 and will be immediately operational with French Army units fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

Currently 12 of the older Bv206S vehicles are being operated by the French Army’s 27th Battalion of Mountain Infantry.

The mkII vehicles have more protection, a more powerful engine, a bigger alternator and other improvements when compared to its predecessor BvS10 which is used by the British and Dutch armed forces.

BAE Systems will produce and assemble the vehicles in cooperation with French companies including Panhard and EADS.

Despite being constructed in BAE’s plant in Sweden, the defence cooperation between France and the UK has opened a new chapter for trade.

ADS chairman Ian Godden said the deal showed ‘greater Government openness and cooperation’.

“The defence industry has already developed robust cooperations, with notable examples being Airbus, MBDA and Thales,” he said.

“But the ‘golden era’ of joint programmes, such as Jaguar and Concorde, and joint procurement by the two governments, has waned over the last two decades.

“The UK and France have very significant capabilities in technology but similar budget pressures, which makes further cooperation essential.”

French-based EADS is working with BAE on technologies for the Viking.

“We believe that increasing reciprocity and expanding the level of joint programmes are essential features for the future. This would provide a stronger industrial base and capability for both the UK and France, which together represent 50% of the European defence industry and 75% of the defence research and technology in Europe,” Godden said.

“It would also ensure that European Governments have an alternative to the USA, lest the US industrial base becomes monopolistic.”