DEFEA 2023 – Nexter further details its Philoctetes 8×8 offer for Greece following a demonstration in France

Paolo Valpolini

Unveiled at DEFEA 2021, two years later Nexter provided add-on information on its Philoctetes 8×8 proposal for the future Greek infantry fighting vehicle

In early April Nexter organised a three-day demonstration of its Philoctetes 8×8 infantry fighting vehicle on the French Army training area of Canjuers, in south-eastern France. The event saw the participation of representatives of the Greek Army, who were also able to discuss with French Army personnel who took part in operations in numerous missions with the VBCI Mk1, from which the Philoctetes is derived. With 630 VBCI Mk1 delivered to the French Army, the vehicle has been deployed in operation since 2010 and saw action in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Central Africa and Mali, the last VBCI deployed having been repatriated to France in 2021. The Philoctetes leverages most of the Lessons Learned in those operations, and at Canjuers it performed shooting sessions both static and on the move with the CTAI 40 cannon using 40 mm telescoped ammunition, fitted to the T40 turret, as well as mobility demonstration exploiting the various types of terrain available at the training area. Mobility, protection, modularity and firepower issues were extensively discussed during the three-day event allowing the Greek Army to acquire all information needed.

This adds to the extensive discussions the company had with the Hellenic General Staff as well as with the Cypriot National Guard, and with the Greek defence industry, the Philoctetes project being based on the French concept for a wheeled infantry fighting vehicle, Nexter being ready to customise it and to ensure a full transfer of technology to allow local production. To this end the French company already established a strategic partnership with the state-owned company Hellenic Defence Systems in 2022, this company being specialised in the design, development and production of weapon systems. Nexter is also talking with Saracakis, which might become the maintenance hub in Greece.

Among key differences between the original VBCI Mk1 and the Philoctetes we find the chassis, which is capable of a higher gross weight as it is that adopted by France in its latest VBCIs known as OPEX (Opération Extérieure) and the addition of the rear steering axle, which allows reducing the turning diameter to 16-17 metres. Nexter considers mobility an issue, as both potential customers often operate on islands, where roads are relatively narrow, the same being also true in Greek Thrace.

The Philoctetes is proposed in seven different configurations, two combat ones the infantry fighting vehicle being fitted with a T40 remotely controlled turret armed with the aforementioned CTAI 40 (the French Army VBCI is armed with a 25 mm cannon), Akeron MP missiles by MBDA and a machine gun, while the cavalry vehicle is proposed with the same turret in the two-man configuration. Infantry and Cavalry will also differ in the command post vehicles, the three last versions being the CASEVAC, recovery and mortar carrier configurations. EDR On-Line understood that battalion-level task forces should be deployed on main islands as self-contained packages capable to ensure initial defence, the ability to easily transfer further Philoctetes exploiting the Hellenic Navy amphibious being another plus for a wheeled vehicle.

The Nexter effort in Greece is supported by the French Government, the DGA and the French Army; it is unclear if the potential contract for the future Hellenic IFV will be base on a Government-to-Government agreement or not. As in all ongoing programmes, it is difficult to forecast the impact of the incoming elections to military procurement projects.

Photos courtesy Nexter