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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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