ARQUUS DEFENSE | DЯ at the factory of the French company – The VBLs and DEFEA 2023
Defence Redefined
Published on 03/05/2023 at 09:03

*Athanasios Tsakalos

In the wake of the recent, successful completion of the modernization of two Hellenic Army vehicles to the VBL Ultima level by ARQUUS, DEFENCE ReDEFiNED was invited to the company’s factory in St. Nazaire where it had a very interesting briefing on the company’s products and capabilities which, among others, are of interest to the National Guard and the Hellenic Army.

ARQUUS DEFENSE, established on May 24, 2018, following the merger of Renault Trucks, Panhard, and ACMAT and is now is part of the VOLVO GROUP. ARQUUS has a wide range of combat vehicles and other products such as the Remote Control Weapon Station (RCWS) Hornet. It is also worth mentioning that ARQUUS has more than 25,000 vehicles in service in the French Army, which amounts to 90% of the total number of wheeled vehicles in service.

VT4 Transport Vehicle of the French Army

ARQUUS has a total of four factories in France. The facilities in St. Nazaire are used as a center of excellence in supporting all the vehicles produced by the company as well as implementing upgrade programs such as the French Army’s current upgrading program for 800 VBL (Véhicule Blindé Léger) lightly armored wheeled vehicles to the Ultima level.

The factory in St. Nazaire

The Greek VBL and the upgraded Ultima

In 1997 the Hellenic Army procured 13 VBL light-wheeled armored reconnaissance vehicles of the then-French company Panhard. Following a number of orders these vehicles reached a total of 240 in 2004.

Greek VBL MK.1 technical characteristics:

  • Weight: 3,800 kg
  • Length: 4,095m
  • Width: 2,020m
  • Personnel: 3 people
  • Maximum Speed: 95 km/h
  • Vertical obstacle crossing capability: 0.90m – Amphibious capability
  • Maximum range: 600 km

The armament of the vehicle depending on the mission, may consist of anti-tank weapons, a 0.50″ heavy machine gun or a 7.62 mm light machine gun as well as a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher.

Greek VBL with 40 mm automatic grenade launcher

The VBL Mk.3 is the latest and most modern version of the vehicle in question and was unveiled at the IDEX 2023 exhibition in Dubai in an anti-tank version with the Hornet remote-controlled weapon station, an Akeron-MP anti-tank missile launcher and a 12,7 mm machine gun.

The VBL Mk.3 at IDEX 2023

The Ultima version is identical to the Mk.3 version except for the fact that the latter, in addition to the RCWS, features a new dashboard and a central tire inflation system (CTIS).

In particular, VAB Ultima features the new PSA DW10F diesel engine with a maximum power of 130 hp, a new gearbox, a new Brake Assist system, and a rear suspension system on all four wheels. 

It is also important to mention that during the upgrade procedure, a complete disassembly, inspection, and maintenance (including coating) of all parts of the vehicle is carried out before they are reinstalled together with the new parts. Essentially, the upgrade results in a “hybrid” vehicle, as we were told, since it consists of several new parts.

The engine of the VBL Ultima of the French Army

These upgrades also result in optimal driving performance and the capability to carry an increased payload with the vehicle’s total weight now standing at 5200kg. The increased weight, however, eliminates its amphibious capability using a propeller, but maintains the ability to cross a 1-meter-deep water obstacle. A live demonstration of this feature took place during our visit to the company’s facilities.

VBL Ultima vehicle of the Greek Army crossing a water obstacle

The Ultima version for the French Army also incorporates the new SICS (Scorpion Combat Information System), new communications systems and new command and control systems.

One (1) of two (2) Hellenic Army Ultima prototypes will be available at ARQUUS’ booth at the upcoming DEFEA exhibition. The vehicles in question were delivered to the Hellenic Army last May.

At this point, we should mention that the upgrade of the two (2) Greek Ultima was carried out as part of the package of offsets agreed upon with the signing of the contracts for the acquisition of the VBLs by the Hellenic Army, which is the main user of the vehicle after the French Army. Upgraded vehicles will have another 15-20 years of operational life.

With the delivery of the two Ultima VBLs and a number of components, the contractual obligations of the French company have been met and now the focus is on negotiations with the Greek competent authorities concerning the upgrade program of the majority of the Greek VBLs (to the Ultima level) as well as on the replacement program for general purpose trucks and the renewal of all vehicles of the Hellenic Army. As already known, the Mercedes G-Class and Steyr 680M vehicles are to be decommissioned in the medium term.

Department of the factory in St. Nazaire where maintenance work is carried out on French Army vehicles

For more information about ARQUUS’ products and services, which include, among others, systems available to the National Guard, you can read our extensive article from the Eurosatory 2022 exhibition.

Also read: ARQUUS DEFENSE | Dynamic presentation at EUROSATORY with innovative combat vehicles, familiar to the National Guard of Cyprus – VIDEOS and Photos




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