The modern battlefield calls for quick-reaction, lightweight military vehicles required to undertake a variety of roles through the use of a single chassis type. This is the case with the French-originated "SERVAL", a 4x4 light-class armored car being developed for the revitalizing, modernizing French Army as part of a new generation of armored fighting vehicles under the "Scorpion Program" - covering the modernized LeClerc XLR Main Battle Tank, the 6x6 wheeled Jaguar ERBC assault transport, the 6x6 wheeled Griffon armored multirole vehicle, and the aforementioned 4x4 SERVAL.
The SERVAL was originally known under the project name of "VBMR-L". It is related to the development of the 6x6 wheeled VBMR "Griffon" 25-tonne armored vehicle detailed elsewhere on this site. The SERVAL will be used by the French Army to succeed an aging line of Vehicule de l'Avant Blinde (VAB) beginning in 2022.
The SERVAL utilizes a conventional 4x4 wheeled arrangement which seats the chassis across a two-axle configuration. The wheels are of a large, run-flat design offering excellent ground clearance. The engine is fitted to the front of the design in the usual way with the driving/passenger compartment directly aft. The passenger compartment can be used for a variety of roles including general transportation of personnel as well as expediting injured troopers. Access to the forward section of the car is through hinged automobile-style doors located to either side of the driving section. The roof line is flat, offering equipment-hauling capabilities as well as a mounting position for a Remote Weapon Station (RWS). The RWS comes equipped with a 7.62mm Medium Machine Gun (MMG) as well as a single line bank of 8 x Smoke grenade dischargers. The machine gun serves in the anti-personnel role while the smoke grenades can help to screen the vehicle from enemy eyes. Bullet-resistant windows and armor provide the occupants of the car with some protection against small arms fire and artillery spray as well as concealed Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
The SERVAL will arrive through three distinct production forms: the VPB, NCT, and SA2R. The VPB is the Armored Patrol Vehicle variant designed specifically for reconnaissance, security detail, and limited fire support. The NCT is the Tactical Communication Node model equipped with extra communications equipment for the role. The SA2R is the Surveillance, Acquisition, Intelligence, and Recognition model giving commanders better "eyes" on the battlefield in terms of information-gathering.
Per Nexter, the SERVAL is a design intended for light combat duty, operating in contested zones across the front. Its inherent speed and survival aspects allow for it to partake in the critical early phases of an operation and can fully support specialized missions conducted by special forces elements of the French Army. In addition to this, the SERVAL can be equipped to operate in most any environment - be it temperate, desert, or Arctic in nature. The light-class design of this vehicle, as well as its relatively compact dimensions, mean that the SERVAL can be transported in the belly of a heavy-hauler such as the Airbus Military A400M "Atlas" four-engined transport.
Recent French Army exposure to the fighting in Mali has forced a modernization of French mechanized forces and the SERVAL appears to be just what the general ordered - mobile, adaptable, and reliable. The service awarded Nexter an initial contract for 489 units in February of 2018. Up to 978 vehicles will be procured into 2030.