Belgium approves the purchase of 24 French MEPAPC 120mm self-propelled mortar systems

On Friday, December 8, 2023, Belgium's Minister of Defense, Ludivine Dedonder, approved the purchase of a series of artillery systems to enhance the operational capabilities of the Belgian army. Among these systems is the MEPAC, a mobile mortar system based on the Griffon 6x6 armored vehicle, equipped with a 120mm mortar. A total of 24 MEPAC mortar vehicles will be acquired by Belgium and will replace the existing battery of 120 mm mortars – currently towed by DINGO 2 4x4 armored vehicles and modernize it into two batteries of two MEPAC platoons each.
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In 2021, the French Army procurement agency DGA conducted live firing tests with the new Griffon MEPAC 120mm mortar carrier vehicle. (Picture source Youtube Video)

Under a contract that was signed in 2018, the Belgian Army is set to receive 382 Griffon 6x6 multi-role armored vehicles. These vehicles are scheduled to come into service between 2025 and 2030 and will be totally compatible with their French counterparts, equipped according to the Scorpion program.

The Griffon armored vehicle, developed as part of France's Scorpion program, is a multi-role armored vehicle designed to replace VAB 6x6 armored vehicle with the French Army. First vehicles entered in service with the French army in 2019. It is a 24.5-ton 6x6 wheeled armored vehicle, equipped with a variety of weapon systems including a remotely operated turret, and designed for a range of missions with variants such as troop transport, command post, artillery observation, and medical evacuation. The Griffon is noted for its robustness, all-terrain mobility, and advanced protection features against ballistic threats, mines, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

This acquisition is part of the modernization and strengthening of the motorized brigade of the Belgian army's land component. In this regard, a strategic partnership with France was signed in November 2018 under the name CaMo, or Motorized Capability. Thanks to this partnership, Belgian and French forces will operate with the same equipment and systems, resulting in very high interoperability and a stronger European defense.

The MEPAC has several key features. It is a robust, well-protected, all-terrain vehicle weighing 24.5 tons and has a crew of four. The semi-automatic, 120mm onboard mortar and a remotely operated turret for a 7.62mm armament are notable inclusions. The vehicle also boasts ballistic protection, anti-mine, and improvised explosive device defense. It's equipped with the SCORPION common vetronics: CONTACT, self-protection means, and the ATLAS artillery system.

The MEPAC's strengths include rapid deployment of artillery fire support, high precision and rate of fire, enhanced crew protection, and high mobility, allowing it to keep pace with maneuvers.

Like other GRIFFON vehicles, the MEPAC is strategically deployable with Belgium's A400M fleet and has the same tactical mobility as GRIFFON fighters, making it well-suited for maneuvering on the field. Another significant aspect of this new platform is personnel safety: with the mortar system fully integrated into the vehicle, there's no need for personnel to disembark to set up the system. Everything is done inside the vehicle, greatly increasing not only safety but also responsiveness. In addition to the integrated mortar system, the MEPAC will have a remote-controlled weapon system on the roof to provide necessary fire support and security even in close proximity to the vehicle.

Defense News December 2023