Monday, July 12, 2010

France deploys first VBCI infantry combat vehicles in Afghanistan

The first VBCI infantry combat vehicles arrived in Afghanistan on June 27, 2010. The Direction Générale de l’Armement was instrumental in preparing this first foreign deployment.

On May 12 the SS Eider, a roll-on, roll-off ship chartered by the French Ministry of Defence sailed from Toulon naval base with a load of VBCIs belonging to the 35th Infantry Regiment, stationed in Belfort, that it was ferrying to Afghanistan for the vehicle’s first operational mission.

“The entire Program Team was impatient to receive the first combat reports,” said Philippe Memasçon, VBCI program director at UM TER. The 35th Infantry Regiment was the first French Army unit to trial the VBCI, and the reports we received were uniformly very positive. Today, it’s the operator to try to keep up with the vehicle’s capabilities, notably in terms of firepower and digitalization. The VBCI is an exceptionally capable vehicle,” he added.

Crewed by a pilot and a gunner to operate its 25mm automatic cannon and capable of carrying fully-equipped infantrymen, 7.86 meters long and weighing 28 metric tonnes, the VBCI will provide transport, protection and support to infantry combat groups and to their command echelons.

“In December 2009, the Army staff requested a number of specific improvements to prepare for the first operational deployment,” continued Philippe Lemasçon. “Thanks to the work of DGA, the Section Technique de l’Armée de Terre and the manufacturer, we managed to upgrade the vehicles to adapt them to the requirements of the Afghan theatre: additional protection against IEDs, an RPG protection kit, and some minor modifications to the turret.”

The respect of the schedule was an essential element in the VBCI’s success, and its delivery rate of 10 vehicles per month was scrupulously adhered to since July 2008. In May, the VBCI programme management team was awarded the “DGA Quality Trophy 2010,” for the best management of an armaments program, in recognition of its efforts.

A true synergy also developed around the VBCI in the fields of training and support, with for example in November 2009 the opening of “crew” and “troop” firing simulators and of driving simulators. The award of a logistical support contract for production vehicles will inaugurate a new support structure for the French army. “The VBCI is a coherent fighting system in terms of function and operation, while its information system is perfectly suited to the needs of the digital battlefield,” concludes Philippe Lemasçon.

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