The French Armed Forces Ministry ordered 56 Nerva and Caméléon Unmanned Ground Vehicles
from Nexter, associated with ECA, on August 26, 2019 for the Army's Scorpion program
, the Direction Générale de l'Armement (DGA) - the French armament procurement agency - announced. The agency said the light UGVs would contribute to the protection of dismounted soldiers in all kinds of environments, allowing them to counter potential threats at greater ranges. Equipped with different mission modules, the UGVs will allow engineers and infantry to gather intelligence regularly, the DGA added. The order is for three types of UGVs, all equipped with day/night cameras and a microphone: the 3 kg Nerva S reconnaissance, 5 kg Nerva LG extended reconnaissance, and 12 kg Nerva XX/Caméléon LG engineering UGV.
In 2009 France was planning to start delivering by 2015 new multirole armored vehicles to replace a variety of aging infantry vehicles starting, within a large modernization program called Scorpion. But the 2010-14 multiyear budget relied on a number of rosy assumptions that were soon disproved by reality, and the Scorpion program was one of the mismatch’s casualties, along with plans to start working on a second aircraft carrier.
Promises were made again in the next 5-year budget plan, while maintenance costs kept increasing to sustain vehicles offering an underwhelming mix of limited protection, autonomy, and mobility. French defense manufacturers also started to sound the alarm as Scorpion became increasingly vital to prevent factory closures. The French DGA defense procurement agency paid heed to their plea and issued a tender limited to national manufacturers. By the end of 2014 the ministry of defense finally initiated the 1st procurement tranche of a program expected to last beyond 2025.
On one hand, the expected turnaround from prototype to delivery in 4 to 6 years is tight and will put pressure on contractors, though they started some early conceptual work in 2010. On the other hand this still amounts to a late and light production schedule for the rest of the decade.