Success of the French Army’s SCORPION is testament to benefits of defence consortiums
The French Army’s entire SCOPRION modernisation programme exemplifies the numerous benefits afforded by defence consortiums, according to GlobalData.
The French Ministry of Defence (MOD) has confirmed an order for additional Jaguar and Griffon armoured vehicles valued at €1.2bn following the successful delivery of the first batch of Jaguar armoured reconnaissance and combat vehicles in February 2022.
First announced 2014, the Jaguar will be manufactured by a defence consortium comprised of French companies Nexter, Arquus and Thales as part of the wider SCORPION armoured vehicle modernisation programme. Designed to replace three existing vehicle platforms, namely the AMX-10RC tank destroyer, the ERC-90 Sagaie armoured reconnaissance vehicle and the VAB HOT Mephisto armoured personnel carrier, the 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 mechanised 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.
The DGA ensured that all companies tasked with delivering the SCORPION programme were incentivised to share technical expertise and expand their joint operational capacity.
Active protection system proliferation
Due to a multitude of factors including the expansive scope of the SCORPION programme, a defence budget with limited growth potential and a historic preference for domestically sourced defence solutions, the French Direction Général de l’Armement (DGA) took a particularly active role in the establishment of the consortium of Arquus, Nexter and Thales.
In doing so, the DGA ensured that all companies tasked with delivering the SCORPION programme were incentivised 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 defence industry whilst simultaneously reducing supply chain vulnerabilities for a number of different systems and components.
Although some commentators have argued that this approach stifles innovation and creativity by limiting the competitive nature of the defence 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 programme has continued to deliver a range of products on schedule and mostly within budget.
The US Army has instituted numerous failed programmes over the past two decades in a flawed effort to replace several ageing vehicle platforms.
The same cannot be said for armoured vehicle programmes in other nations such as the US, where the US Army has instituted numerous failed programmes over the past two decades in a flawed effort to replace several ageing vehicle platforms.
A prime example is the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, which successive programmes including the Future Fighting Vehicle, Ground Combat Vehicle, Next Generation Combat Vehicle and now Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle have failed to replace due to a complex and ever-changing list of requirements put forth by army procurement officers, with even the largest defence primes on the market having difficulty meeting all the requirements with a single product.
Due to the inherently competitive nature of US defence contract acquisition, neither the US Army’s Programme Executive Office – Ground Combat Systems nor the various firms engaged in these failed vehicle programmes have considered pooling their resources or expertise in a similar manner to that seen in the SCOPRION programme.
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 materialise.
The British MOD’s failure to actively participate in the development cycle or to appropriately benchmark their requirements has resulted in significant cost and schedule overruns.
The UK’s heavily criticised Ajax programme 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 long-standing 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 its 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 in 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 programme placing heavy emphasis on supplier to end-user cooperation and the Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land consortium securing contracts to produce the Boxer MIV, further illustrating the inherent advantages of France’s approach to defence procurement.
In summary, the Jaguar and indeed the French Army’s entire SCOPRION modernisation programme exemplifies the numerous benefits afforded by defence 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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Artificial intelligence (AI)
The US Army is trying to integrate AI tools into its electronic warfare capabilities so that EW systems can operate in the dense radio frequency environment of the battlefield. In March 2019, the country signed an agreement worth $982m with Northrop Grumman to acquire state of art cyber electromagnetic activities capabilities for the US Army. The contract will support research and development for cyber and electronic warfare, integration, testing, performance verification, technical support, cybersecurity, and laboratory demonstrations.
// Main image: The RNLN operates six frigates, ten light combat vessels and four attack submarines, alongside its auxiliary fleet. Credit: Ivan Kacarov / Shutterstock.