4 – From legacy to the future; Scorpion seen from the Land Forces Command

Lieutenant Colonel Erwan, head of the Scorpion Section at the Land Forces Command, takes over to explain the handover of the Scorpion system to the Armée de Terre.  His section is responsible for coordinating the Scorpion deployment in the units, in terms of equipment, education and training, and for preparing their operational deployment. “Scorpion it is not the simple replacement of older vehicles with new ones, it represents a deep transformation, which thanks to the use of new technologies will modify the way we fight.” In 2020 the French Army entered in what is often defined “The Scorpion Era.” Going top down, the current year saw the validation of a first doctrine, which provides the guidelines for fully exploiting the system. As previously seen, the Griffon vehicle has been delivered to infantry regiments, schools and training centres. “2021 will be marked by the training aimed at deploying the first Scorpion unit late that year, and by the education of new regiments on the system,” LTC Erwan said, underlining that the entry in service of Scorpion relates to two different domains, vehicles and information systems, which are considered apart during the education phase, while they are put together during training and, of course, operations. “In the vehicles domain the transformation will be made step by step, as we have to replace a whole generation of old vehicles with new ones, for a total of some 3,000 vehicles,” he explains, adding that the replacement is phased even in the regiments as these are receiving only part of their Griffons, which replaced some of the VABs. “In 2021 two more infantry regiments will receive the new APC, but next year will also mark the beginning of the transformation of combat support units, artillery and engineers, with the Griffon, to allow them to support combat units with new generation vehicles.” Combat Support units concerned by the arrival of the Griffon will be the 6ème Régiment du Génie (6th RG) and the 11ème Régiment d’Artillerie de Marine (11th RAMa), the Engineer School receiving also some Griffons.

If the vehicle replacement will be done step by step, the same cannot apply to the SIC-S: “This transformation must be quick, it will take place in less than two years, and will involve all land force’s units. Our aim is to rapidly make all operational functions interoperable, in order to ensure that all regiments that are deployed in combat will be able to share information.” The French Army aims at completing its switch to the SIC-S system within 2021. In order to create a common secure communications architecture, the French Army developed the STC-E (Socle Technique Commun d’Echange), which allows networking all operational CIS and also includes cyber-protection features; the STC-E was deployed for the first time in operation in late 2019-early 2020.

LTC Erwan shifts to the Scorpion education system: “Education is split on three levels, technical, tactical and maintenance-related. Technical education is semi-decentralised, as Griffon driver and gunner [RCWS operators] instructors are formed at the 1er Régiment de Chasseurs d’Afrique in Canjuers, in a one-month course, before rejoining their regiment, where they will provide education to the unit personnel. Jaguar education courses will be also delivered in Canjuers from 2022 on, while education on Serval will be carried out at Mourmelon, courtesy the CENTIAL/51e RI (Centre d’ENTraînement InterArmes et du soutien Logistique/51ème Régiment d’Infanterie) combined arms and logistic support training centre, 51st Infantry Regiment. Technical education on the SIC-S is provided by the Signals School in Rennes, which generates system administrators, while instructors are formed at Arms Schools,” he pointed out. He also added that mobile platforms are being used to bring education within regiments in order to educate rapidly and close to the units. Tactical training is based on the provisional Scorpion combat doctrine, which is provided to cadre personnel since September 2020 and is related to the use of the Griffon together with its CIS. Since 2020 the Ecole du Matériel in Bourges started to educate personnel on Griffon maintenance and repair issues. The French Army points out that maintenance philosophy has deeply changed; when a problem will occur the solution will be to replace an LRU (Line Repleaceable Unit) rather than repairing it, while in perspective vehicles will be fitted with HUMS (Health Use and Monitoring Systems) allowing predictive maintenance.  

At regiment level, education and training start at individual level, and step by step reach collective level up to the company, the final step being validation. Instructors coming from schools can educate personnel as RCWS gunner, driver or SIC-S operator, this phase lasting about three months. Training is also carried out in steps, individual, squad, platoon and finally company, and takes around four months. The four next months are dedicated to combined arms training, adding step by step combat support elements such as artillery and engineers, allowing to understand the plus that is given by the exchange of information at the lower levels thanks to the SIC-S. Combat service support elements are also considered. The evaluation phase is then carried out as a combined arms task group, in a specialised training centre, such as the CENTAC or CENZUB, where the PRETS takes place. Training is then further refined, especially when the unit is earmarked for deploying downrange. 

LTC Erwan also illustrated the Franco-Belgian partnership that is issued from the inter-governmental agreement of 2018. The end-state will be the capacity to generate battalion level task groups or company level sub-groups, which will be made of Belgian and French sub-units, which will be inherently interoperable. The CaMo programme, for Capacité Motorisée, or motorised capacity, goes well beyond the simple acquisition of  the same armoured vehicles developed by the French Armée de Terre, as it also includes combined Doctrine, Education and Training. Thanks to this, a Belgian sub-unit will be capable to become part of a French unit without further training, the opposite being also true. Common education and training schemes have been created, also in order to avoid redundancies. “The education has started in 2020, the Signal School already providing courses to Belgian personnel on the SIC-S, while the first Belgian drivers will be formed in 2022 at the 1st RCA.”  In late 2022 Belgian troops should deploy within a French task force, with their own vehicles and SIC-S.

LTC Erwan provides some more information on the first deployment of a Scorpion task force in Africa. Two infantry companies of the 3rd RIMa, equipped with Griffon vehicles, will operate in a mixed task force, which will also employ legacy VAB vehicles. The Griffon will be in the APC and Resupply variants and will deploy with their logistic and maintenance elements. All task group sub-units will be equipped with the SIC-S in order to allow a seamless flow of information. LTC Erwan underlines the short time elapsed between the entry in service of the Griffon and the SIC-S and the first deployment downrange, adding that this proves the effectiveness of the education and evaluation architecture that allows a unit to fully manage the new systems and to be deployed in operation in a relatively short time.

Photos courtesy Belgian MoD and Nexter