The Future is Here

French Army and DGA unveil the ambitious Scorpion programme

Ghazala Wahab

Versailles/ Bourges, France: Lessons come in unexpected ways. Few such unexpected lessons came through two-day back-to-back briefings on the French Army’s futuristic programme called Scorpion. Conceptualised nearly 20 years back, Scorpion was officially launched in 2000 in a trilateral cooperation between the army, the French procurement-cum-equipment testing and certification agency DGA (Director-General Armament) and the industry. The aim was to increase the operational efficiency of the soldiers and decrease operational risks; all this in the environment of network-centricity and cyber vulnerabilities.

French Army and DGA unveil the ambitious Scorpion programme

Sixteen years hence, the building blocks are in place, preliminary studies have been completed, the concepts are clear and the prototypes are ready to be rolled out. Critically, both the DGA and the French Army have a clearer idea about the road ahead; the deadlines for the delivery have now been fixed, so the industry also knows what is expected of it in what time frame.

Lesson No 1: For maximum time, cost and capability-efficiencies, the users and the manufacturers must work together closely from day one. Just as sweat in training saves blood in war; combined sweat in planning and framing of qualitative requirements (QRs) save both money and heartburn in the future. In the end, you get the best possible for your buck.

Hence, in May 2016, the DGA invited a group of international journalists, FORCE being the only Indian magazine in the entourage, to showcase how the idea of Scorpion was taking shape. For this, DGA, along with GICAT, an industrial association of French original equipment manufacturers involved in land systems, got together the representatives from all companies, big and small, involved in the Scorpion programme.

The cavernous halls at the Nexter facility in Versailles were converted into an integrated conference room with screens and sections for multiple simultaneous briefings and workshops during the day. As winter had pushed its way into spring in May with day temperatures falling to under 10 degree Celsius, the tall roofs of the halls were lined with heaters to keep the proceedings warm. The day began with the background information on the idea of Scorpion.

The concept of Scorpion hinges on four basic premises: One, translate French Army’s philosophy of speed, flexibility, surprise and adaptability into medium-sized personnel and combat platforms; two, standardisation of equipment and vehicles, including modular architecture, so that resources are optimally utilised; three, network capacity to enable people to talk with one another, both horizontally and vertically in the battlefield across platforms; and four, create embedded simulation capabilities to facilitate training even when the troops are operational. Hence, in the coming years, the French Army would switch to one communication system from the present five. The 30 types of personnel carriers will be reduced to five versions of one vehicle, equipped with the same battle management system and vehicle electronics or Vetronics. There will be just one type of combat vehicle, one type of tank and so on.

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