French rely on ERC 90 in Mali

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.

  • Nicky

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

    • Mikhael

      As usual.

  • Lance

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

    • tiger

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

    • Barry

      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?

  • Lance

    Good to see the 90mm still at work.

  • ddd

    Yay, France.
    Now count the downvotes…

    • ddd

      Pwned.

  • Karl

    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.

    • Nicky

      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.

      • Dr. Grzlickson

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

    • Mat

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

      • Nicky

        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.

  • Hucks

    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.

    • tmb2

      Just a few typos on this one.

    • JohnnyRanger

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

    • TinkersDam

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

    • mixgasdivr

      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.

  • Rob

    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.

    • SJE

      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.

  • Hunter76

    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.

    • SJE

      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.

      • SJE

        e.g. like most IFVs

      • Roy Smith
  • SJE

    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?

    • Roy Smith
      • Karl

        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.

        • Mat

          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 .

          • blight_

            British Scorpions and related vehicles might work out in Africa.

          • Roy Smith
          • Roy Smith
          • Will

            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.

          • Roy Smith
          • d. kellogg

            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

          • Tony S

            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.

      • SJE

        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

        • Ben
    • tmb2

      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?

      • Nicky

        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

        • Ben

          Isn’t the Stryker MGS our modern Sheridan equivalent?

        • blight_

          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.

          • Nicky

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

          • blight_

            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.

          • Roy Smith
      • SJE

        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.

        • Roy Smith
  • Nicky

    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

  • BlackOwl18E

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

    • Nicky

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

      • Roy Smith
    • PolicyWonk

      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).

      • Stephane

        “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.

      • Barry

        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.

    • Tinkersdam

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

      • tiger

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

    • Phono

      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.

  • hank

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

    • stnraxerror9
    • Xavier

      , i think u know nothing about french army, open an history book

  • Auyong Ah Meng

    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..

    • Karl

      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.

  • Phil

    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).

    • d. kellogg

      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).

      • blight_

        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…

    • Musson

      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

    • Jeff

      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.

    • Will

      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.

  • Jeff

    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.

  • blight_

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

    • Guest

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

      • Guest

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

    • Mat

      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

      • blight_

        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…

  • PolicyWonk

    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.

  • blight_

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

    I kid.

  • dt
  • Roy Smith
  • Artyparis

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

    Armor was considered too weak.

  • Max

    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?

    • bigdaddy

      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.

  • Will

    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.

  • Phono

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

  • Tim

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

    • Roy Smith
  • tiger

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

  • Ron in OKC

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

  • Ben

    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