For those used to events the size of Eurosatory in France, the size and shape of Forum Entreprises Défense (FED) held at the Quartier ingénieur général Jayat, in Satory near Versailles, in October, would come as something of a surprise.
However, FED 2019 is not designed to be a full spectrum defence event; it is far more focused that that, being aimed primarily at the French military customer.
The exhibition itself is organised by the Structure Intégrée de maintien en condition opérationnelle des matériels terrestres (SIMMT), the French Army integrated structure for the operational condition of land materiel, Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de région Paris Ile-de-France and the Groupement des industries Françaises de Défense et de Sécurité Terrestres et Aéroterrestres (GICAT), the French defence and security trade association.
The FED exhibition has been held for the past 30 years in France and the 2019 FED was the 16th event to take place. FED 2019 was expected to have 150 exhibitors, 10 military organisations present and over 2,500 visitors were projected. The objective of the event is to allow for better interaction between the user community and industry, in particular small and medium enterprises, who can also use FED to interact with the larger French defence corporates. Amongst the large French defence companies attending FED were Arquus, MBDA, Nexter Systems and Thales.
One aspect of FED 2019 that was immediately noticeable at the outdoor exhibition area was a significant number of trucks and other military vehicles. The presence of so many truck manufacturers was not wholly unexpected as the French Army is moving forward on a major vehicle programme that will see the acquisition of a grand total of 7,700 logistic and tactical trucks as part of a complete replacement effort of their truck park.
With such a large truck prize on offer, the presence of Arquus, IVECO Defence Vehicles, Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles and Scania France was understandable. Although it should be noted that other French and foreign truck/vehicle/systems suppliers have also expressed interest in the French Army truck order. The Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) who are responsible for French defence procurement issued a request for information (RFI) in 2018 to interested parties as regards the provision of new generation military trucks. The next stage will see the issue of a Request for Proposals (RfP) and this will be followed by selected contractors providing vehicles for test and evaluation purposes leading to the selection of a contractor or contractors to supply vehicles for each sector of the truck programme.
As might be expected, the current French Army truck park is dominated by vehicles supplied by Arquus, whom it would be fair to describe as the national champion in this sector. However, other companies have won major orders, for example under the Porteur Polyvalent Terrestre (PPT) programme.
IVECO and Soframe jointly won the PPT programme to deliver two truck variants: Porteur Polyvalent Logistique (PPLOG) and Porteur Polyvalent Lourd de Dépannage (PPLD). The PPLOG is an 8×8 logistics vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 37,000 kg and a payload of 16,000 kg, it is often integrated with its Remorque Logistique (RLOG) trailer that can carry a payload of 15,600 kg. The PPLD is an 8×8 heavy recovery truck, with a gross vehicle weight of 33,000 kg. Both vehicle variants have an armour protected cab. The vehicles entered service in 2013, a first order for 150 PPLOG and 50 PPLD trucks being placed in 2010. A second order was placed for 250 trucks in 2014 and further orders have been placed subsequently.
As regards the future French Army truck order, the objective is to acquire 7,050 logistics vehicles, 400 tanker trucks and 250 tank transporters. As regards the logistics vehicles the aim will be to acquire both 4×4 and 6×6 vehicles, the first with a payload up to four tonnes and the second with a payload of up to eight tonnes. Apart from the companies that attended FED 2019, other companies said to be working towards the truck order include Soframe and Texelis.
As might be expected Arquus appear to see the French Army requirement as a key opportunity and had a new 8×8 truck at FED 2019, this variant had a fuel tank module and is obviously directed towards the French Army tanker requirement. The 8×8 is the first of what is described as a whole new family of Arquus logistics vehicles, which would doubtless be optimised for the French Army requirement.
There is no hiding the fact that FED is a small and focussed exhibition, but FED 2019 demonstrated that a small exhibition can still have plenty to offer. In this case the fact that the French Army truck order is in process created a situation where the importance of this exhibition was greatly enhanced.
David Saw is a specialist defence writer based in Paris, France. He has a long and comprehensive record of writing and managing defence magazines at the highest level, from the USA through Europe to Asia, and is now a regular contributor to ESD.