In early April Nexter organised a three-day demonstration of its Philoctetes 8×8 infantry fighting vehicle on the French Army training area of Canjuers, in south-eastern France. The event saw the participation of representatives of the Greek Army, who were also able to discuss with French Army personnel who took part in operations in numerous missions with the VBCI Mk1, from which the Philoctetes is derived. With 630 VBCI Mk1 delivered to the French Army, the vehicle has been deployed in operation since 2010 and saw action in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Central Africa and Mali, the last VBCI deployed having been repatriated to France in 2021. The Philoctetes leverages most of the Lessons Learned in those operations, and at Canjuers it performed shooting sessions both static and on the move with the CTAI 40 cannon using 40 mm telescoped ammunition, fitted to the T40 turret, as well as mobility demonstration exploiting the various types of terrain available at the training area. Mobility, protection, modularity and firepower issues were extensively discussed during the three-day event allowing the Greek Army to acquire all information needed.
This adds to the extensive discussions the company had with the Hellenic General Staff as well as with the Cypriot National Guard, and with the Greek defence industry, the Philoctetes project being based on the French concept for a wheeled infantry fighting vehicle, Nexter being ready to customise it and to ensure a full transfer of technology to allow local production. To this end the French company already established a strategic partnership with the state-owned company Hellenic Defence Systems in 2022, this company being specialised in the design, development and production of weapon systems. Nexter is also talking with Saracakis, which might become the maintenance hub in Greece.
Among key differences between the original VBCI Mk1 and the Philoctetes we find the chassis, which is capable of a higher gross weight as it is that adopted by France in its latest VBCIs known as OPEX (Opération Extérieure) and the addition of the rear steering axle, which allows reducing the turning diameter to 16-17 metres. Nexter considers mobility an issue, as both potential customers often operate on islands, where roads are relatively narrow, the same being also true in Greek Thrace.