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French rely on ERC 90 in Mali

by Richard Sisk on January 28, 2013

French troops going up against the Al Qaeda-backed rebels in Mali are counting on a six-wheeler all terrain vehicle mounted with a 90mm cannon to give them an edge.

U.S. C-17 Globemasters have ferried several of the Panhard ERC 90 Sagaies (Spears), developed by Panhard General Defense in the 1970s as an armored reconnaissance vehicle and tank-killer, to the Bamako airport in the West African desert country, along with a battalion of French troops and tons of equipment.

Other ERC 90s (Engin de Reconnaissance a Canon de 90) have been driven across the Mali border from French bases in Sierra Leone.

The ERC 90s were used by French forces in Afghanistan and Dan Goure, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute, called the ERC 90 “an armored car on steroids.” That was a reference to the 90mm cannon, which can make the ERC 90 seem ungainly and about to tip over, but Goure said “it’s a pretty good all-terrain vehicle.”

The French and other European nations “have done a pretty good job overall in developing armored cars of various types,” Goure said. In Mali, the ERC 90 could serve as a bunker buster in lieu of artillery in going up against the rebels, Goure said.

A unique feature is the ability to raise the two-center wheels on hard surfaces to increase speed, and lower them off-road to gain traction.

The ERC 90, powered by a 170hp diesel engine, has a three-man crew and a top speed of about 55 mph. A unique feature is the ability to raise the two-center wheels on hard surfaces to increase speed, and lower them off-road to gain traction.

The 90mm smooth-bore cannon, with a range of about 2000 meters, is mounted on a 360-degree trret, and the estimated cost of a one of the 8-ton vehicles is about $2 million.

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{ 92 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicky January 28, 2013 at 6:08 pm

It looks like the French Foreign Legion is doing all the work

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Mikhael February 1, 2013 at 10:11 am

As usual.

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Lance January 28, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Probably the only French force who do actually fight the enemy.

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tiger January 29, 2013 at 6:40 am

Do you try to say the wrong things or practice a lot?

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Barry January 29, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Where's your evidence? Or are you just another dumbass who thinks it's smart to smear when you don't know what you're talking about? Here's a good example of taking things at face value … what kind of dope names his kid "Lance"? Did you get that from a sitcom?

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Lance January 28, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Good to see the 90mm still at work.

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ddd January 28, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Yay, France.
Now count the downvotes…

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ddd January 31, 2013 at 10:29 am

Pwned.

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Karl January 28, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Actually, it's not the Legion this time but Paras and Marines (a regiment that's a descendant of the "Colonial Infantry"). Plus Army regiments flying Tiger attack helicopters. From what little that's reported, the insurgents avoid pitched battles. Surprise there.

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Nicky January 28, 2013 at 7:54 pm

That's why the Insurgents are trying to avoid a fight with the French Foreign Legion. They know what happens when they mess with the French Foreign Legion and it ain't pretty afterwards.

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Dr. Grzlickson January 28, 2013 at 9:02 pm

You can shut up about the Foreign Legion now. Are you their PR rep?

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Mat January 29, 2013 at 4:25 am

Paras that you are talking about are part of French Foreign Legion

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Nicky January 29, 2013 at 11:17 am

The para's are the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, Which is stationed at Camp Raffalli near the town of Calvi on the island of Corsica, just south of mainland France. Those guys are always the first ones in and the first ones that France sacrifices.

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Hucks January 28, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Although it should be mentioned, if the article did not, that a unique feature is the ability to raise the two-center wheels on hard surfaces to increase speed, and lower them off-road to gain traction.

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tmb2 January 28, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Just a few typos on this one.

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JohnnyRanger January 29, 2013 at 10:20 am

That is FUNNY. Droll, very, very droll, but FUNNY

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TinkersDam January 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Doesn't the BRDM series have lower-able "middle wheels" as well? Doesn't sound that unique to me.

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mixgasdivr February 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm

That's true, but in addition the two center wheels can be raised. This lets it go faster on hard surfaces. And then they can be lowered again to gain traction off-road. A great feature that should be commented on.

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Rob January 28, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Something is a miss. The French have taken 2 towns without a shot fired. Give it a month until IED's and suicide bombers appear. It's as if the entire AQ fight tactic is to control only where society is at it's weakest and withdrawal from any point of foreign military.

Like this ATV, I wish our military would advance to be only mobile with only airbases as defense points.

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SJE January 28, 2013 at 8:53 pm

The Mail intervention has some advantages over Iraq and Afghanistan
1. More local support
2. IED technology less well developed
3. You don't have Iran and Pakistan funnelling weapons, intel, fighters etc.

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Hunter76 January 28, 2013 at 9:47 pm

The 90mm was designed in as an MBT threat.

In the current conflict it could serve as a bunker buster or a just scare the hell out them blaster.

That the ERC 90 survives this mission creep is high praise.

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SJE February 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm

True, but where are the MBTs. Where are the bunkers? Where are the armored vehicles. Hell, tere are only a few buildings there that are thick enough to need a 90mm shell, and you could probably do those better with a missile or some mortars.

Basically, great machine, but for a different conflict. Put a 20 or 30mm cannon on one, and then youre talking.

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SJE February 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm

e.g. like most IFVs

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Roy Smith February 1, 2013 at 2:12 pm
SJE January 28, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Can someone explain why they need the 90mm? Wouldn't a 20mm autocannon be good enough in the vast majority of cases? What armor is the enemy fielding?

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Roy Smith January 28, 2013 at 9:32 pm
Karl January 29, 2013 at 4:22 am

I'd also be interested in the issue of reliability. Given the harsh terrain and climate, plus extremely long supply lines, wouldn't there be a premium on ruggedness? Presumably, a modern Western hi-tech army would need a very large supply train, including workshops. And not everyone can afford to simply abandon broken down vehicles like the US forces; European military will try and salvage vehicles.

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Mat January 29, 2013 at 4:39 am

These armored cars are designed for work in Africa , where there are few tanks, armored cars have always been the king. ERC90 has a very small logistical footprint ,engine is smaller than you see in a Hummwve .And 90mm will deal with just about anything it could encounter. Important leson here would be how low can you go with logistics .US armed forces are notable for requiring huge logistical support in relation to unit size ,but that is the cost of of having 18+ different meals served and 20bilion for air conditioning tents .

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blight_ January 29, 2013 at 11:57 pm

British Scorpions and related vehicles might work out in Africa.

Roy Smith January 30, 2013 at 12:51 am

Roy Smith January 30, 2013 at 1:03 am

SJE January 31, 2013 at 5:40 pm

A 90mm works for lots of things, but you can't carry that many 90mm shells. So, you engage less targets than if you had 20mm

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Ben August 17, 2013 at 2:09 pm
tmb2 January 28, 2013 at 11:24 pm

The ERC 90 wasn't designed for specifically this kind of conflict, but it seems to do the job just fine. 90mm is a good caliber for blowing up buildings, bunkers, lightly armored vehicles, and some Vietnam-era armor. Even if they don't "need" it, would you want to get into an argument with that giant barrel staring at you?

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Nicky January 29, 2013 at 12:05 am

The French equivalent to the ERC 90 is what the US Army use to have called the M551 Sheridan. I think the ERC 90 would have been a perfect replacement for the M551 Sheridan

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Ben January 29, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Isn't the Stryker MGS our modern Sheridan equivalent?

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blight_ January 29, 2013 at 4:07 pm

The Sheridan could be LAPES'd from a C-130. Dunno if you could actually kick it out of a plane at high altitude.

Dunno if the ERC 90 or AMX-10 could.

No true replacement for Sheridan since the AGS disappeared.

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Nicky January 29, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Wouldn't the ERC 90 meet the needs of the 82 airborne Div for a mobile gun system and a portable tank.

Roy Smith January 29, 2013 at 11:19 pm

SJE January 31, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Thats not the point. They gave up a 20mm cannon for a 90mm gun. The 20mm will do excellent for pretty much everything they will encounter in Mali, except perhaps some buildings.

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Roy Smith January 31, 2013 at 6:13 pm
Nicky January 28, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Here's the Youtube Vid on the French Foreign Legion's ERC 90. I think the ERC 90 would be perfect for Armored Cav units, scout Recon units and even Airborne units as well http://youtu.be/KFsw_xgLkwM

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BlackOwl18E January 28, 2013 at 11:51 pm

I'm just glad someone other than us is fighting Al-Qaeda on their own.

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Nicky January 29, 2013 at 12:10 am

It could be that France has the balls to send the French Foreign Legion into Mali and kick Al-Qaeda out of town.

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Roy Smith January 29, 2013 at 12:37 am
PolicyWonk January 29, 2013 at 11:02 am

They aren't entirely on their own – the US is providing the lions share of logistical support (with donations from the Brits and I think the Canadians).

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Stephane January 29, 2013 at 8:54 pm

"Lion share" is a big word, that's a total of 3 (very much needed) C17 and first offer was to have them for a fee (it's free now, thanks).
Seems biggest contributor so far is some russian rent-a-cargo-plane cie.

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Barry January 30, 2013 at 2:01 pm

What do you know about it, Policy Wonk Not? "I think?" Get a job! Move out of your mother's basement. You're just noise.

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Tinkersdam January 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm

This may be the first time I have found myself in agreement with the internet's least busy "USNA cadet."

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tiger January 30, 2013 at 10:28 am

Cough,cough. "Midshipman," if you don't mind. The Cadets belong to that crap football on the Hudson…….

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Phono January 31, 2013 at 6:22 am

Right, but the french engagement is just temporarly. actually, it is said that they did act because Mali was nearly to fall after the jihadists moved forward from Mopti.
The ECOWAS-Engagement were allready planned, but not ready yet, so the french stepped in in an attempt to rescue the strategy.
The Problem is the unlegitimate gouvernment in Mali – that is rescued by the french now. These were former Soldiers that stopped fighting the jihadists and overthrow their former gouvernment.
Let's hope, the story will not repeat with the ECOWAS-Troops – they had nearly doubled its projected engagment from 3300 to 7700 Soldiers, which will be trained by the germans.
If they step in, france can come home. then it's african troops on african soil – the most favorable solution.

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hank January 29, 2013 at 12:25 am

Let's just hope the French don't surrender this time.

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stnraxerror9 January 31, 2013 at 2:38 am
Auyong Ah Meng January 29, 2013 at 2:38 am

I don't think the french will surrender…

They in the know that a lot of countries are tired of bailing them out again and again…

Oh well…Germany can do the bailing out this time to make up to the french for the past 2 world wars and to everyone else if they still have the gumption for it..

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Karl January 29, 2013 at 4:16 am

Germany is very hesitant to send soldiers abroad, precisely because of the past wars. However, they have a large presence in Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, some in Afghanistan, and with Operation Atalanta (anti-piracy Navy patrols off Somalia). Plus they provide some Patriot missiles to Turkey right now, with the Netherlands.

Thing is, French forces have been in Africa for decades, and have seen plenty of action there – it just doesn't get reported in the US.

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Phil January 29, 2013 at 5:39 am

Note the armour is very poor and if IEDs are employed the ERC 90 will soon be phased out in that theatre. In fact the 10mm armour is vulnerable in close quarter engagements/ambushes which mean it's really best suited as a stand off weapon. Consequently a 90mm main gun combined with accurate sighting and versatile round options is deemed a useful weapon when combined with portability and mobility. There is a 20mm-equipped version (which also has a 60mm mortar).

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d. kellogg January 29, 2013 at 7:42 am

Going back years ago, during the US Army's preliminaries leading up to the Stryker procurement (principally the 105mm-armed MGS), there's documentation floating arounds somewhere stating that the 90mm (IIRC, the Belgian CMI Mk8 series gun) was fully capable of meeting the desired direct-gun-fire performances that were written into the Stryker ~requirements~.
However, it was (one conspiracy after another) decided that the 105 was preferrable as it would concume the large ~reserve~ of left-over 105mm tank ammo left in US inventory after our tanks were upgunned to 120mm. It was argued that the 90mm would require brand new production facilities (too costly long term), yet surprisingly, all those supposed surplus 105mm rounds have been considerably augmented since the MGS's fielding by new-production 105mm ammunition, not surplus left-overs.

Still, the performances achievable in modern 90mm guns are nothing to smirk at: if you're not in the latest first-rate MBTs, any other AFV out there will be thoroughly wrecked by a 90mm (KE or HE type ammo).

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blight_ January 29, 2013 at 9:39 am

What's funny is that after "reserves" are exhausted it becomes cheaper to restart 105mm production than to re-gun all of your Strykers.

It's this wonderful logic that keeps the 5.56 truckin' to this day.

On the plus hand, if we go to war again an open 105mm line means we can re-arm the old Abrams in storage immediately. But in the long run it would mean keeping 105 and 120 factories open. Didn't the Germans learn from WW2 it sucks to have Czech, Polish, French and German tanks and to keep them all properly supplied with spare parts?

FWIW the Stingray (of Armored Gun System competition fame) also has an L7 105mm…

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Musson January 29, 2013 at 8:51 am

But, I heard the ERC 90 has the ability to raise the two-center wheels on hard surfaces to increase speed, and lower them off-road to gain traction.

/s

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Jeff January 29, 2013 at 9:01 am

When it comes to IEDs the ERC 90 has a v-shaped hull and is regarded as mine resistant. It's bottom hull geometry was the starting point used to develop a number of the America's MRAPS. So in general IED's that mess it up are going to tend to mess up most everything else.

Armor wise its STANAG 4569 – Level 3, so it can deal with direct strikes from 12.7mm/.50cal, 8kg grenade blasts, and the blast of a 150mm high explosive blast at 60m.

Its an armored car, to expect more than this is unrealistic.

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Will January 31, 2013 at 1:58 pm

The light armor is a trade-off for the light weight. Not much more than a HMMWV, which has to use a TOW to take out a bunker. The French FAR (rapid action force) has the ERC for max transportability & also the AMX-10RC, 105 mm armed & twice the weight.

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Jeff January 29, 2013 at 9:01 am

When it comes to IEDs the ERC 90 has a v-shaped hull and is regarded as mine resistant. It's bottom hull geometry was the starting point used to develop a number of the America's MRAPS. So in general IED's that mess it up are going to tend to mess up most everything else.

Armor wise its STANAG 4569 – Level 3, so it can deal with direct strikes from 12.7mm/.50cal, 8kg grenade blasts, and the blast of a 150mm high explosive blast at 60m.

Its an armored car, to expect more than this is unrealistic.

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blight_ January 29, 2013 at 9:44 am

What's strange is that nobody is talking about the AMX-10 (the AMX-30 possibly being overkill?)

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Guest January 29, 2013 at 10:57 am

Marines possibly not equipped w/AMX-10s? Will have to check.

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Guest January 29, 2013 at 11:02 am

French have upgraded 108 10Ps and are replacing the rest. 256 AMX-10RCs on hand, probably all army.

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Mat January 29, 2013 at 11:31 am

AMX-10 are being shipped on Mistral and first should already be disembarked and prepared to drive to Mali. ERC90 is just the first responder and like mentioned most bridges in Africa are limited to 8tons so AMX10 is to heavy for many of them while ERC 90 not so much

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blight_ January 29, 2013 at 11:58 am

The declared weight of the ERC's is 8.3 tons, but there's usual handwaving when it comes to declared weight. Are they carrying extra fuel and provisions for a long road movement?

It is still lighter than the AMX-10 which is now tipping the scales at ~15 tons.

Anyone have good data on armored humvee/MRAP weights? Then again, reconaissance vehicles and mine-resistance vehicles have different niches, so…

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PolicyWonk January 29, 2013 at 11:06 am

ERC 90 makes sense for this mission (so far): easily air transportable, fast, and the 90mm gun is likely big enough to cause serious damage to anything the bad guys have.

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blight_ January 29, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I used to be an armored reconaissance vehicle, but then I took an arrow in the knee…

I kid.

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dt January 29, 2013 at 2:16 pm
Roy Smith January 29, 2013 at 8:50 pm
Artyparis January 31, 2013 at 5:31 am

ERC 90 Sagaie has never been on Afghanistan :)
Where did you find this info, it's a joke?

Armor was considered too weak.

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Max January 31, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Hold on! 170 hp? That can't be right. My Kia Rio has almost that much hp, and I know it wouldn't move that vehicle. Maybe 1700 hp?

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bigdaddy January 31, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Do you really think your car has that much HP? I'd love to see it on a dyno. Plus Dieshl engines work different. In armor with disels the transmission is most important. Also the key is not HP, it's the torque output. Read up on the HP per ton on armor, it's low. Also they get that number at 2000 or so rpm not the 6000rpm of your engine. Again it has more to do with gear ratios and torque.

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Will January 31, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I understand the Legion is mostly made up of Frenchmen. Although the French aren't supposed to be allowed into the Legion as enlisted men, the 1st rule of recruiting is "don't question where they say they're from". So they put down Belgium as their nationality.

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Phono January 31, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Isn't it because of the lack of airpower by the jihadists, that those tanks play such an usefull role?

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Tim January 31, 2013 at 7:03 pm

No ERC90 in afghanistan.
No French base in Sierra Leone.
More research, less blogging ?

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Roy Smith January 31, 2013 at 7:28 pm
tiger February 3, 2013 at 2:26 am

Will somebody tip that crew The leaves are not making a ERC into a 8 ton shrubbery. In a urban zone no less.

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Ron in OKC February 5, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Only US$ 2,000,000. We could make the same thing for $5m, maybe.

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Ben August 17, 2013 at 2:15 pm

I hope they dont take that thing into close country. That thing would be a nightmare through the bush. The long Barrel is very 'wow" factor

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Rob January 28, 2013 at 8:46 pm

If true then many of them have fled into neighboring countries already or they are massing somewhere (which I doubt)

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Roy Smith January 28, 2013 at 10:00 pm
Brandon January 29, 2013 at 10:56 am

Plus they speak french. Talk about a blessing when it comes to gathering intelligence and conducting psyops.

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blight_ January 29, 2013 at 12:05 pm

They're just lucky they don't have to root them out of Algeria, where there's still bad blood. The French are on better terms with their West African colonies; which helps greatly with the whole "outsider" angle. However if things go south their history as a former colonizer may bite them in the long run.

Some assistance from the Francophone African Union countries may help if required, but presents a dilemma if relations with neighboring African nations are complicated.

Perhaps the US should bring UAVs into play. Put a GCS nearby, touch base with French intelligence and keep Hellfire missiles on tap as required. Obviously local intelligence on targets will decide if they are needed or used.

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Stephane January 28, 2013 at 9:59 pm

The new recruits who joined for the food probably deserted.
The hardcore jihadists seems to be in the desert

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blight_ January 29, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Assumes the 82nd can get someone to deliver them to the field without a runway, or if it's light enough, helicopters.

If you can fly down to a highway and LAPES a Sheridan or two and put some armor on the ground…mm, tasty.

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blight_ January 30, 2013 at 10:51 am

The US has a tremendous amount of money invested in the global logistics system. If you have finite money you're unlikely to invest as heavily in strategic airlift.

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Will January 31, 2013 at 1:50 pm

The "base model" Scorpion is armed with a 76 mm low pressure gun, not a 90 mm. Don't know who the "they" are that you're referring to. There's many companies that modernize AFVs, mostly out of the public eye.
Both the Scorpion & the Fox 4X4 armored car are out of service with the British forces. The 30 mm cannon armed turrets on the Fox were installed on the Scorpion hulls to make the Saber light tank, very similar to the Scimitar – same hull as the Scorpion & the 30 mm cannon as original equipment.

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Roy Smith January 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm
d. kellogg February 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm

The Scorpion CVR(T) family's hulls are/were too light to absorb the punishing recoil of high pressure tank guns. At under 10 tons, they just couldn't handle it without a considerable structural redesign (adding weight), at which point, you get into the area of the Alvis Sagitar, an entry in the USMC's Mobile Protected Gun System from years ago (late 1980s, early 1990s), that featured a tracked chassis somewhat similar to the Stormer, a follow-on of the Scorpion/Scimitar/Spartan CVR(T) series.
At the same time though, AAI Corp in the US developed its RDF Rapid Deployment Force light tank, just under 14 tons, mounting the 76mm M32 gun used on the M41 Bulldog tank.
There were also developments of both tracked and wheeled vehicles mounting the ARES 75mm gun, and ARES even had preliminary concept work for a 90mm which never came to fruition.
The legacy of ARES' development of cased telescopic ammunition lives on in the European CTAI 40mm gun soon to re-arm British Warrior vehicles: the gun was originally in 45mm caliber over a decade ago, and that gun's original concept design work was an ARES project.
http://aresinc.net/engineering.html

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Tony S February 7, 2013 at 3:58 am

The very reason SA developed their own range of wheeled vehicles as well as using the French Panhards is that they are cheaper, travel a lot further and faster and have far less maintenance problems.
Tanks in a heavy bush scenario would be a disaster. The Olifant tanks were there to provide a conventional heavy response to possible armoured invasions.
If you think that the French armoured cars are nice, then look at the 105mm Rooikat in South African service – much more modern, much more lethal.

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