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.

About the Author

Richard Sisk
Richard Sisk is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    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
    • 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

    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.

  • hank

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

  • 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).

  • 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?)

  • 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?

  • 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 ?

  • 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