A contract amendment to the French Army Scorpion program will see the procurement of an additional 54 VBMR (véhicule blindé multi-rôles or Multi-role Armoured Vehicle) Griffons mounting Thales’ 120mm Rifled Recoiled Mounted Mortar (2R2M) in the MEPAC (mortier embarqué pour l’appui au contact) or Embedded Mortar for Contact Support configuration.
The Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) amendment will double the initial order for the French Army as detailed here at Overt Defense last year. The additional MEPACs will bring total VBMR Griffon orders to a reported 1,872 vehicles. The first deliveries are scheduled for 2023 with the order to be completed by 2027.
The Thales 2R2M 120mm mortar is well regarded due to its semi-automated action with the fire control system taking over once the mortar bomb and appropriate charge are loaded by the crew. It can fire up to 10 rounds per minute and is considered more accurate than its competitors such as the current French issue MO-120-RT mortar largely due to its proprietary recoil brake.
The MEPACs will be built by a consortium of Arquus, Nexter and Thales. The contract amendment also sees Arquus receiving an additional order for more than 250 T1 and T2 remote weapons systems (RWS) mounts for 7.62mm medium machine guns, .50 heavy machine guns or 40mm automatic grenade launchers. Originally only the infantry carrier variant, the VPB (véhicule de patrouille blindé or Armoured Patrol Vehicle), was planned to be equipped with an RWS platform.
The Griffon procurement will see as many as 12 variants eventually purchased including ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), engineer, artillery forward observer and armoured logistics resupply platforms. The MEPAC version is designed to be as visually similar as possible to the other variants to avoid enemy forces targeting organic indirect fire support – for example, the 2R2M will be concealed under hatches when not firing and the platform will be equipped with an Arquus RWS both to provide anti-personnel defense and to aid in concealing the vehicle from precise identification.