FEINDEF 2023 – First public appearance for the ASCOD VAC

Paolo Valpolini

The Spanish Army is aiming at replacing its ageing M113A2 TOA armoured personnel carriers, and the TESS consortium, formed to develop and manufacture the new 8×8 IFV Dragon, is exhibiting the ASCOD VAC, an upgraded version of the ASCOD platform, visible at FEINDEF in four more different configurations.

The VAC, for Vehículo de Apoyo a Cadena, tracked support vehicle, is an improved version of the ASCOD platform. Last month the programme was approved and 1.97 billion Euro will be invested in the acquisition of those new armoured vehicles which first one should start operating in 2027, deliveries spanning over an nine-year period.

The upgrade aims at increasing mobility, protection and payload, maximum combat mass being over 42 tonnes. The vehicle adopts the new ACT 850 transmission developed by SAPA Placencia for vehicles up to 45 tonnes. Not many technical details were unveiled at FEINDEF, as the consortium got the Request for Information one month earlier, and is now in the process of answering this RfI and then receive the full set of requirements by the Spanish MoD.

The powerpack will definitely provide a greater output, a hybrid propulsion system being also a possible option should the Army require it. The same applies to rubber tracks; provided by Soucy of Canada these were visible on the ASCOD technology demonstrator platform visible in the GDELS stand. EDR On-Line understood the vehicle is fitted with a new type of suspensions; according to company sources these are very effective, thus active suspensions will not be needed. The same source also explained that the aim is to avoid over-engineering the vehicle. The VAC will feature a NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture according to STANAG 4754, which will allow easy integration of new subsystems.

The VAC will be developed in numerous configurations, the main one being the Armoured Personnel Carrier. The VAC on show at FEINDEF was fitted with a 120 mm breach-loading mortar turret developed by Escribano, capable to fire 10 rounds per minute in indirect and direct fire modes. Many other versions are planned, the Spanish Army Castor combat engineer vehicle, also a first at FEINDEF, being already fitted with some of the VAC elements, its maximum mass being increased compared to the Pizarro.

Currently the Spanish Amy fields the M113A2 in numerous versions: Combat Engineer, Antitank as Spike missile launcher, 40 mm automatic grenade launcher, Ambulance, Transport (M548), Electronic Warfare, Signal, Command Post (M577), over 1,000 such tracked vehicles being still in the Ejercito de Tierra inventory, Repair (M579), Recovery (M806). EDR On-Line understood that at least two versions of the ASCOD VAC, Ambulance and Command Post, will feature a raised roof, while two types of Cargo versions will be available, one with a fully armoured transport module and one with an open flatbed.

More details on the future VAC configurations should emerge soon, then the TESS consortium formed by Escribano Mechanical & Engineering, GDELS Santa Barbara Sistemas, Indra and SAPA, will have received the final Army requirements.

Photos by P. Valpolini