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French infantry regiments to be equipped with Griffon MEPAC 120mm mortar carriers.

| 2023

The VBMR Griffon MEPAC (Mortier Embarqué Pour l’Appui au Contact - Mounted Mortar for Fire Support) will equip artillery sections in support of combined arms battle groups. It will be the first artillery component of the Scorpion program able to fire beyond direct sight, Laurent Lagneau writes in Opex360. Its mobility, precision, and rate of fire will allow it to follow the maneuver and provide powerful fire support. It will be connected to the Atlas artillery weapons system.
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French Army procurement agency DGA conducted live firing tests with the new Griffon MEPAC 120mm mortar carrier vehicle (Picture source: screenshot from Youtube Video )

Until the 2000s, infantry regiments were equipped with 120 mm RT F1 (Mo 120 RT) heavy mortars, towed by VAB 4x4 armored vehicles, Laurent Lagneau recalls. And currently, their support sections are equipped with 81 mm mortars model F1 (Mo 81 LLR F1), the Mo 120 RT having been transferred to artillery units. Griffon MEPAC is about to play a major role in the fire support of infantry units.

In December 2019, the French army defense procurement agency (DGA) notified the development and acquisition of VBMR Griffon MEPAC) to the consortium of French defense companies formed by Nexter, Arquus and Thales. The DGA planned to order a total of 54 Griffon MEPACs. In October 2021, the DGA conducted live-fire testing with the GRIFFON MEPAC. The first vehicles are expected to be delivered by the end of 2023.

For the Griffon MEPAC, Thales provides its 2R2M 120mm semi-automatic mortar system. The 2R2M is a rifled recoiled mounted mortar system developed by the French company Thales. The 120 mm mortar system is mounted in the rear of the Griffon and fires through power-operated roof hatches. In the road position, the 120mm mortar system is stored inside the vehicle. Inside the vehicle, the turntable-mounted mortar can be traversed through 360°, with an elevation of 40–85° under hydraulic power. It is coupled to a Thales computerized fire-control system (FCS), an automatic laying system (ALS), and an inertial navigation system (INS). It can fire 10 rounds within one minute, with improved accuracy compared to the similar mortar-towed version, and can then start moving and close the top doors at the same time. The 2R2M semi-automatic mortar system includes the 120 mm RT that entered into service with the French artillery units in the mid-1990s. With a maximum range of 8-13 km, tactical units can maneuver safely, relying on an effective indirect fire support capability that can easily be integrated into a complete artillery chain of command.

For its self-protection, the Griffon MEPAC is fitted with the new generation of T2 remotely operated turret developed by the French company Arquus that can be armed with a 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine gun or one 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

Interestingly, the report appended to the military programming law (LPM) 2024-30 says nothing about the 120 mm mortars, Laurent Lagneau writes: it even does not mention the 54 ordered Griffon MEPACs. Sébastien Leconru, the Minister of the Armed Forces, made some indiscretions during a visit to the 1st Infantry Regiment (1RI) based in Sarrebourg, according to which it would seem that the infantry will again be equipped with 120 mm mortars in the coming years: "Nearly 40 new Griffons will be added to the 24 already in staffing... as well as 120 mortars". Laurent Lagneau underlines that the reference to the Griffons remains to be clarified: will these be MEPACs, initially intended for artillery regiments? Or should we expect an upward revision in the number of copies ordered?

Defense News April 2023

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