3 – A phased introduction in service; the view from the Army Staff
It was then the turn of Col. Olivier, Scorpion Programme Officer at the Army Staff, to illustrate the phased introduction of Scorpion in the French Army and its operational benefits, the transition from legacy to Scorpion systems being planned in the 10 coming years. As of today, four infantry regiments have received the planned initial number of Griffon vehicles, beside the aforementioned 3rd RIMa and 13th BCA, the 1er Régiment d’Infanterie (1st RI) and the 21ème Régiment d’Infanterie de Marine (21st RIMa). “Within summer 2021 two more infantry regiments, the 13ème Demi-Brigade de la Légion Etrangère (13th DBLE) and the 126ème Régiment d’Infanterie (126th RI), will also get their Griffons” Col. Olivier said, adding that, “Each regiment receives an initial batch of vehicles, between 22 and 26 Griffons, the delivery of further vehicles being planned in the future, in order to ensure that each unit will be able to field two infantry companies equipped with the new vehicle within the end of the current LPM .” According to the French Army Officer the battlegroup earmarked for deploying in operation in fall 2021 will field around 40 Griffons. Beside the vehicles, infantry regiments have also received the SIC-S in order to start training with it.
As for the cavalry 6×6 vehicle, “The first Jaguars will be delivered in May 2021, and the Army, or more precisely the Service Technique de l’Armée de Terre (STAT), the French Army’s Technical Section, will start to evaluate the operational performances of this new vehicle.” In the mean time, in Canjuers, the Armée de Terre will make ready the 1er Régiment de Chasseurs d’Afrique (1st RCA), that will be responsible for receiving the vehicles and for training their crews. The aim is to start training the first cavalry regiment in January 2022 and to equip one of its squadrons the following month. In 2022 the Armée de Terre will also receive its first 4×4 Serval as well as the first upgraded XLRs (upgraded Leclerc), while the first Griffon mortar carriers, known with the acronym MEPAC (Mortier Embarqué Pour l’Appui au Contact), will be delivered in 2024.
As already mentioned, the core of the networked collaborative combat, which is the main aim of Scorpion, is the SIC-S, which will allow to accelerate decisions and action, reducing the time between threat detection and engagement, distributing situational awareness in real time and improving situational understanding. The French Army expects the SIC-S, and the corresponding CONTACT radio family that will ensure the networking, to deeply change the combat behaviour at company/squadron level. For the time being the SIC-S still relies on the PR4G radio family, which has been upgraded in order to provide geo-localisation to ensure Blue Force Tracking. “Vehicles sensors ensure already a self-protection capability to Griffons and Jaguars,” Col. Olivier said, “The entry in service of the CONTACT radio allowing in the future to move towards collaborative combat, this capacity being seen as a spiralling programme aiming at integrating technologies when ready.”
The Armée de Terre defines “Operational Preparation System”, SPO in French acronym, the global training approach to be carried out at schools, in barracks, as well as downrange. In 2022 most of the SPO elements will start to be delivered, These include technical and tactical trainers for Griffons and XLRs, Serket generic cabins for Jaguars, XLRs and Griffons VOA (artillery observation vehicles). 2022 will also see the first deliveries of SEMBA embarked simulation elements, which will allow crews to train in the real vehicle at rest in barracks, albeit playing in a synthetic environment. This will allow training at regimental level, but also to link barracks among them to ensure distributed simulation, including artillery, cavalry, engineers, etc, playing on the same tactical scenario, saving time and money in combined arms training, and optimising field training exercise periods. A parallel program is developing a new software, named Cerbere, which will succeed the current Centaur, allowing to measure units performances also in a collaborative combat scenario, and will be provided t the French Army Combat Training Centres. SEMBA will also allow mission planning and rehearsal when troops will be deployed in operation,
The Scorpion programme also includes the building of new infrastructures that include workshops, refuelling stations, depots, buildings for hosting Jaguar simulators. The infrastructure programme goes along with the delivery of vehicles and equipment in the various regiments.
Finally Col. Olivier illustrates the experimentation exercises that have been and will be carried out in the build-up phase; these are mostly held at combined arms task group level, that is infantry battalion reinforced with combat and combat support elements. The first one involving Griffon and SIC-S took place in April 2020, involving the 3rd RIMa, a technical-operational experimentation having been played by the 13th BCA in November at the CENTAC (the French Army Combat Training Centre in Mailly-le-camp, 130 km east of Paris). At this same location the 3rd RIMa is playing a tactical and doctrinal evaluation in early December. March will see once again the CENTAC as the centre of the Scorpion build-up, the 3rd RPIMa carrying out a technical/operational experimentation in its external operations (OPEX) configuration, in order to test its preparedness before its deployment to Africa in fall 2021. A major CPX exercise will take place in late January, early February, and will involve the 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade; this will deploy all the Operational and Command Information Systems (SIOC being the French acronym) in use within the Armée de Terre to conduct a technical-operational experimentation that will once again take place in Mailly, exploiting not only the CENTAC but also the CECPC, the Command Post Training Center, located on the same camp. “Although some major exercise have still to take place, the work done in 2020 let us see the potential for a considerable improvement of our units operational capacity, thanks to the Griffon and the SIC-S, which will be completed by the delivery of new vehicles and future increments of the Scorpion programme,” Col Olivier concludes.
 LPM: Loi de Programmation Militare, the bill which is approved by the Parliament and provides the development and financial guidelines; the current LPM 2019-25 plans to acquire within its expiration date in 2025 936 Griffons, including MEPAC versions,, 150 Jaguars, 100 XLR upgraded Lerclerc MBTs, that is half of the total number of vehicles planned for the Scorpion programme.
Photo courtesy Nexter – Infographic courtesy Thales