You would be surprised at how old the vehicles are in many Western armies. From battle tanks to troop transporters, from reconnaissance vehicles to mobile gun systems, military vehicles can be decades old. But among the newest are three French machines, all designed in the past eight years, already being delivered to the French Army.
They are named for animals, real or mythical: the Griffon, the Jaguar, and the Serval. And they are the cornerstones of a French soldier modernization program called Scorpion (that stands for Synergie du Contact Renforcée par la Polyvalence de l’Infovalorisation), which basically means that they can operate in collaboration using a single combat information system.
Launched in 2014, the program is on schedule to deliver 3,150 vehicles by 2030: 1,872 Griffons, 300 Jaguars, and 978 Servals. In 2015, the vehicles were mere drawings.
The French Army wanted vehicles that had better armor, provided better protection from fire inside the vehicle and from nuclear, radiological, biological, or chemical attacks, were able to jam IEDs, had a remote-controlled gun, the latest-generation sensors, and were more comfortable, with air-conditioning. And that’s what they got.
From biggest to smallest, these are the new rides and their specs.
The 27-ton multirole armored 6×6 Griffon looks like a truck with a gun on top. It has been developed in 10 versions, and eight of those have already been qualified, meaning that they have passed all the necessary tests for Army acceptance. The 10 versions all have the same vehicle hull: 25 ft long, 8 ft wide, and 11.5 ft high with the turret. They are powered by a 400-horsepower engine with a 7-speed automatic gearbox and have a top speed of 56 mph.
Not only do they have the same vehicle hull, but also the driveline is shared with the Jaguar, making maintenance and logistics much easier. A system of kits and different sensors adapts each vehicle to its mission for the infantry, cavalry, logistics, engineers, medivac, command post, and observation.
The Griffon’s driver can block and unblock the differential wheel by wheel. “This allows the Griffon to send the same power to each wheel on one axis,” an army driver remarks in a video. He adds that “together with the automatic tire pressure verification system this enables the Griffon to get out of quite complicated situations.” And the tires are all run-flat, meaning that if they are damaged, the vehicle is not immobilized.
Griffon, like Jaguar, can climb a 50-percent slope (that’s very steep!) and it can handle a nearly 27-percent cross-slope. It can climb steps that are 20 inches high, drive over gaps that are 3.28 ft wide, and ford water 2.6 feet deep. The vehicle has a range of 500 miles on the road or 250 miles cross-country.
The seven soldiers sit inside facing each other across the width of the vehicle. Between each seat there’s a vertical bag that looks a bit like a sleeping bag into which each soldier places their weapons and other equipment, so that on the move everything is stored away securely.
Entry and exit is from a ramp at the back that comes down low enough that it’s easy for a fully-equipped soldier to skip on and off. But perhaps most importantly for the people inside, it is protected ballistically to STANAG level 4—a NATO standard which means it can survive the blast of a 22.05 pounds mine under any of its wheels or in the center, and is protected from artillery fire of 155mm high explosive from 98 ft.
The 22-ton Jaguar (which can weigh up to 27.56 tons in combat with the addition of anti-missile bars or cages) is a 6×6 wheeled vehicle, and it looks like a small tank. Its main mission is to get as close as possible to the enemy without being seen so as to gather intelligence, even in urban or mountainous terrain. It was qualified in November 2021. Twenty have been delivered and the French Army will get another 18 this year.
It’s crewed by just three people: the pilot, gunner, and tank commander. It is about 10 ft wide, 9 ft high, and 23 ft long (slightly longer if you include the gun). The vehicle is fast (the 500 HP engine gives it a top road speed of 56 mph), agile (both the first and last axles can be steered so it can turn a very tight circle), discreet, well-protected thanks to armor and other assets, and equipped with sensors that can detect lasers, a missile approaching, and artillery fire. It has a BARAGE (Brouilleur Actif et Réactif avec Goniomérie) smart wide-band counter-IED system developed by a French company, Thales.
It’s also well-armed. The Jaguar’s manned and stabilized gun turret houses a 40mm gun which, together with two medium-range missiles, form its main weapon system. The Hornet, with a remote-controlled 7.62mm machine gun, is the secondary system. More on that Hornet gun, below.
The 4×4 Serval is the smallest of the three new vehicles, weighing in at just 16.53 tons. It’s a mini version of the Griffon and has the same equipment. According to French manufacturers Nexter and Texelis, it was “a real technological challenge” to fit that equipment into a significantly smaller space. Still, the Serval can transport 10 crew, including the driver.
It is the last of the three vehicles to be developed and will be produced in four versions: patrol, intelligence and reconnaissance, communications, and electronic warfare.
One of the real technology novelties in these vehicles is that all the data collected by the many sensors aboard them—such as detecting laser beams or snipers—will be digitally transformed into useful and usable combat information that is then immediately shared between all the members of the joint tactical group. That enables “the right decisions to be taken concerning the threat, orders to be given, maneuvers to be initiated and targets destroyed with an important operational advantage gained by speed,” according to a French Armed Forces Ministry document published earlier this year.
The gun: The Hornet
The three vehicle types carry the Hornet remote-controlled gun turret, used in combat for the first time in 2021 by French troops in Africa. (The weapon is controlled by a gunner sitting inside the vehicle.) Developed specifically for the Scorpion program by Arquus, the France-based defense arm of Sweden’s Volvo Trucks, and French company Safran Electronics & Defense, the 573-pound Hornet is not just a gun.
It has latest-generation sensors to observe, recognize, and identify an enemy, and it can share information. It can also undertake blue/red force tracking (the blue being the friends and the red the enemy), designate the target, and provide indirect fire guidance. That means that if a Hornet detects a threat but another Hornet is better placed to destroy that threat, then the first automatically guides the second.
The Hornet’s gun can be fired while the vehicle is on the move, which is the safest way to escape enemy counter-fire, but it can also launch an innovative smokescreen to hide behind. There are eight smoke grenade launchers on a ring, independent from the weapon. Sensors detect if the vehicle has been picked out (illuminated) by an enemy laser rangefinder and automatically launch the smokescreen. It can also be operated manually.
Beyond France, in 2019 Belgium signed a $1.58 billion contract to buy 382 Griffons and 60 Jaguars, the first of which will be delivered in 2025.