International Armoured Vehicles 2021: VCR Dragon 8×8 Update

The Spanish Army held a presentation on their VCR (Vehiculos de Combate sobre Ruedas, or Wheeled Combat Vehicle) Dragon during International Armoured Vehicles 2021, providing updates on the current status of the program.

According to the Spanish Army’s February 4 presentation, the VCR will undergo its acceptance and security test this month, with the test expected to be completed by the end of March. Following that, the VCR will then begin operational testing, with the first stage of operational tests planned for completion by the end of June. These tests will evaluate the VCR’s lethality, survivability, sustainability, mobility and deployability, as well as its ISTAR and C3 capabilities.

Vehiculos de Combate sobre Ruedas, or Wheeled Combat Vehicle (General Dynamics European Land Systems)

Two major decisions for vehicle systems will have to be made in the first half of the year, being the selection of the communication systems for the VCR and the selection of a 30mm remote weapons station for the infantry fighting vehicle variant. The communications system selection will be required to be aligned with the Joint Tactical Radio System program, while the RCWS selection will evaluate its “empowerment” of Spanish industry in addition to performance.

The armament of several VCR variants was detailed as well. As previously shown on prototypes, the IFV variant will have a RCWS equipped with a 30mm Bushmaster II and coaxial 7.62x51mm MG3 machine gun. Engineer and joint fire observer variants of the VCR will have a single .50 caliber M2 Browning machine gun, again remotely controlled, while the anti-tank version of the VCR will use a double Spike missile launcher.

The Spanish Army provided some details on the initial production contract formally signed in August last year as well. The €2.1 billion contract funds the production of 240 full configuration VCRs and 108 in a partially completed state, lacking auxiliary power units or in the case of the cavalry and antit-ank variants, their turrets. The contract does not fund the VCR’s Local Situational Awareness System and simulation elements either, with the Spanish Army’s Chief of Staff being quoted as saying that “we got the possible contract, not the desirable one”. However, the Spanish Army expects the funding situation to be alleviated soon.

The manned turret for the VCR cavalry variant will only be selected in 2022. The contenders were not detailed, with it only being noted that the Leonardo HITFIST manned turret currently demonstrated on one of the VCR prototypes may not be the final configuration. Interestingly, it was said that the cavalry turret requirements stipulated a “minimum” of 30mm caliber for the cavalry variant’s main gun.

The presentation also laid out the Spanish Army’s plans for VCR initial operating capability, with the first VCR-equipped infantry company to reach initial operational capability (IOC) no later than June 2024, while the first VCR task force is expected to do so no later than January 2025. The VCR will be the core of the Spanish Army’s ‘Land Force 2035’, with its STANAG-compliant open systems architecture making it the most advanced Spanish Army vehicle at the brigade level.