France enhance strong partnership with close allies on SCORPION program

In 2018, Belgium announced its intention to join the French SCORPION program [Synergy of contact enhanced by versatility and information enhancement] through the acquisition of 382 Griffon Multirole Armored Vehicles [VMBR] and 60 Jaguar Armored Reconnaissance and Combat Vehicles [EBRC], as part of its CaMo [Motorized Capability] project.
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JAGUAR 6x6 light armored vehicle with a T40 turret (Picture source KNDS )

However, beyond the capability aspect, this contract was an opportunity to establish a "structural cooperation" between the French and Belgian land forces, with the goal of achieving complete interoperability of their respective capabilities, making their units "interchangeable." As explained by the Army, "on the ground, a Belgian company could be quickly integrated into a French battalion without any technological or operational barrier, and vice versa."

Achieving such a result requires having similar rules of engagement and converging on employment doctrines, training, and operational readiness. Already, Belgian units have participated several times in maneuvers organized in France, such as in 2023 during the high-intensity exercise "Orion."

Since its implementation in 2019, this "strategic" partnership has been further enriched with "CaMo 2," with Belgium confirming the order of 29 trucks equipped with a new generation artillery system [CAESAr NG] and 24 Griffon MEPAC [Mortars for support in contact]. Furthermore, Belgian and French manufacturers have been gearing up, with Nexter [or KNDS France] forming a cooperation with the Mol group for the production of the Griffon, while John Cockerill is set to take over Arquus. These manufacturers are also mobilized for the VBAE [Armored Engagement Support Vehicle] program, which is expected to involve Franco-Belgian cooperation, following the lines of CaMo 1 and CaMo 2.

Recently reflecting on his intervention at the Defense and Strategy Forum, held in Paris on March 14 and 15,2024, General Pierre Schill, Chief of Staff of the Army [CEMAT], welcomed the progress made possible by this unprecedented Franco-Belgian partnership. "While it aims at the renewal of armored vehicles and the deployment of a collaborative combat system within our two armies, this partnership already has a catalytic effect in the operational domain even before the new capabilities are concretely deployed," General Schill emphasized.

"Since commanding a coalition, my admiration for Napoleon has lessened," Marshal Foch is reputed to have said. However, for CEMAT, the CaMo partnership aims to disprove this jest, especially since, in his view, "it is no longer conceivable to engage alone in a major conflict."

"The ambition of our alignment is such that French and Belgian units will be interchangeable. This goes far beyond common training on identical equipment: it's about acculturating to 'plug and fight,' speaking the same tactical language, adopting the same doctrine, understanding each other from a distance," General Schill reminded, for whom CaMo is a "model to follow for our future European cooperations, at a time when the need for partnerships capable of producing effects on the ground is becoming apparent." Even better: it should "spread across the continent."

And CEMAT insists: "Developing a French and European defense industrial and technological base is not just a matter of sovereignty: it is also a lever for tactical, technical, cultural, and cognitive interoperability and thus collective efficiency in combat."

That being said, the conditions must be right... And what was possible with Belgium might not necessarily be so with others. "We conducted a detailed analysis of our interests and the dangers around us. We therefore had to find a country that shares these same interests with the same cultural, military, and political principle. France thus met all our criteria," Colonel "Luc," then director of the CaMo program, explained in June 2022.

Defense News April 2024