It took more than a decade for the Dragon program to become a reality. Since the Department of Defense announced its intention to purchase 8×8 armored vehicles in 2007, the financial crisis and the resulting budget constraints have delayed the necessary replacement of the BMR / VEC family’s 6×6 battleships.
The start of the technology programs in December 2015 was a very important milestone in consolidating the program and reducing technology risk in the production phase. But it wasn’t until last August that the process finally culminated in the signing of the contract for the delivery of the first batch of 348 vehicles that our army will equip in the coming years. The VCR 8×8 Dragon is undoubtedly a key element in making the Force 35 concept a reality. It not only provides future 35 brigades with the maneuverability required to achieve the required mobility, but also offers a high combat capacity and a remarkable improvement in the protection of the fighters.
Its conception as a combat system that is able to gradually take into account future technological advances enables it to act in multi-domain operations beyond the purely physical realm. The initial delivery contract signed last August provides for the delivery of vehicles in five versions and twelve different variants by 2027. All of these versions will be built on a common platform with high performance in terms of mobility and autonomy on a range of vehicles Deeply integrated ISTAR systems for weapons, command, control, communication and capabilities will be installed.
But the kite is a vehicle designed to last more than thirty years. During this period, new versions will undoubtedly be added to the current Infantry Combat Vehicles (VCI), Cavalry Reconnaissance Vehicles (VEC) of Pioneers (VCZ), Observer (VCOAV) and Battalion Command Post (VCPC) fighting. In addition to his current capabilities, there are others that include new protection technologies, weapon systems or commands and controls. It is difficult to predict today where this development will lead us, but without a doubt the dragons of the next decade will be different vehicles than the vehicles we are now starting to produce.
The VCR 8×8 program will also promote the redesign of the concept of logistical support for ground weapon systems in the Spanish army and serve as a test bed for the introduction of concepts such as the digital twin or predictive maintenance in this area. Only in this way can the system’s ability to evolve during its entire life cycle can be fully exploited. However, if the dragon has a decisive influence on the functioning of the army, its impact on the national industry of ground systems for defense will be no less. This program is the most important one launched in the last twenty years and has the potential to go beyond structuring the Force 35 concept to serve to articulate this segment of the defense market. The Tess Defense Constitution last June is the first example.
The original goal of the company founded by Escribano, Indra, Santa Bárbara Sistemas and SAPA is to be the winning bidder and to be responsible for the 8×8 video recorder supply contract, which takes on the functions of program management, system-level design authority, technical management and systems engineering and configuration control, providing an adequate organizational structure to maintain dialogue with the Department of Defense about the program. In addition, however, it intends to manage and maintain the capacity created in previous technology programs, maximize national participation and ensure national sovereignty of the solution, with a clear vocation for future exports.
Tess ‘plan for completing this first phase of delivery allows for a high degree of nationalization of the vehicle thanks to deep vertical integration that facilitates its shareholders’ own manufacturing capabilities as well as its network of select national subcontractors and suppliers. In this way, the contract for the VCR 8×8 Dragon enables these companies to consolidate their defense capabilities and business, thereby affecting the national supply chain and fueling their technological development. The implementation of the program also requires significant investments in the facilities and production capacity of the national subcontractors, both at the first level and upstream in the supply chain. This enables the introduction of innovative technologies in these plants and improves their production capacity.
The direct national content obtained for the entire program is estimated, with current data, at almost 70 percent of the total value of the contract, which is a very important milestone in terms of sovereignty and autonomy in the delivery of complex weapon systems and platforms … This means the creation of almost 1,300 highly qualified direct jobs and at least as many indirect jobs. However, beyond the production phase, which covers the Tess offering, it must be taken into account that all technological, training, support and documentation skills and knowledge are in the possession of Tess and its partners, who can pass them on directly to other companies and to the Army logistics units.
The development of the program will allow deep links of a strategic nature to be forged between the ground defense systems companies, which will undoubtedly be used in other programs in the future. The alliances forged in this environment form a solid basis for building an industrial and technological base that is able to cope with future developments and complete the implementation of the Force 35 concept. The backbone effect on the industry will be crucial to improve its position for participation in future European Defense Action Plan (EDAP) projects or other international cooperation projects. The VCR 8×8 Dragon has the potential to become the equivalent of the Eurofighter program for the Spanish defense aviation industry or the F-100 for the Navy for the ground systems industry, sources of transformation and profound renewal of its capabilities and structures. At Tess, we will be proud to contribute to this endeavor and to provide our armed forces with a state-of-the-art combat vehicle that will be a fundamental pillar of their operations for decades to come. (Luis Mayo, CEO of Tess Defense)
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