Dragon, the most modern and versatile Spanish armored vehicle, reaches the Army after 15 years of development

The Spain’s military industry have a lot to celebrate. After a long wait of more than 15 years, the first 7 units of the Dragon 8×8 Wheeled Combat Vehicle (VCR), developed and manufactured in our country, have been delivered to the Army. The event took place at the Santa Bárbara Sistemas (SBS) factory in the Seville town of Alcalá de Guadaira, the same place where vehicle assembly began almost a year ago.

The Dragon, who will arrive at the Legion brigade in Almería, will integrate Force 35, or what is the same, “the Army’s solution to respond to the military planning process” with the “design, experimentation and equipment” as top priorities. A) Yes, Dragon will become the backbone of the modernization of the army for 2035.

These first units, delivered in the presence of the Secretary of State for Defence, María Amparo Valcarce, are discounted from the 348 planned until 2027 in the first phase of a program that does not end here. The next phases of the contract between the Army and Tess Defence, manufacturer of the vehicles, contemplate the delivery of a total of 998 Dragon vehicles. One of its main features is its versatility, which is why it comes in 5 versions and 13 different configurations, to meet the requirements of the different branches of the army that will use them.

8×8 dragon

The VCR is based on the armored Piranha V Developed by the Swiss company Mowag as the fifth generation of a saga that, in its different versions, has served in the armed forces of half the world. With representation in the United States, Canada or Sweden.

To know the origin of the Spanish version, you have to go back a decade and a half. It was 2007, a black year in which six Spanish paratroopers died in Lebanon when they were traveling aboard an armored BMR of the Army and an explosive device was activated. Highlighting the poor armor and protection provided by these vehicles —designed in the 70s— against new ground threats. and serving as turning point for fleet modernization.

VCR 8x8 Dragon

VCR 8×8 Dragon

izan gonzalez

After passing all the procedures and approving all the necessary budgets, the deal was auctioned off in August 2020 with the signing of the contract between the Ministry of Defense and the TESS Defense consortium; formed by Santa Bárbara, Indra, Sapa Placencia and Escribano Mechanical & Engineering.

Regarding the specifications chosen, the Army has opted for a Scania engine that develops a power of 724 horsepower together with a 24-speed transmission manufactured by Sapa Placencia. This positions it in a clear advantage over the Piranha V platform, which in its basic version has 577 horsepower and increases the maximum speed to 100 km/h and at 10 km/h in the water.

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One of the most important components of the armored vehicle is the Mission System, manufactured by Indra, which seeks to make the Dragon “the vehicle with the largest digital component on the market and ensure its superiority”, as reported. They also stress the importance of national sovereignty in this part of the vehicle that “will allow all kinds of modernizations and future developments without dependence on third parties.”

For example, it allows share tactical information among all forces and also that “the one generated by the sensors themselves speeds up the decision-making process, improves synchronization, becomes aware of the situation and acts”.

Launch Spike LR2 missile from a VCR 8×8 Dragon

The first stage of the serial production phase, which has materialized in this first delivery of 7 units, is made up of 348 8×8 vehicles Most of them will end up as Infantry Combat Vehicles (VCI), with 219 units. The rest will be divided between Cavalry Exploration (VEC, 58 units), Sapper Combat (VCZ, 49), Battalion Command Post (VCPC, 14) and Forward Observer Combat Vehicles (VCOAV, 8 units).

Guardian Turret

In June 2021 Escribano Mechanical & Engineering was chosen as the supplier of the gun turret for the Dragon VRC. In particular, of his Guardian development 30 30-millimeter, dedicated to providing a great attack power to the Spanish armored.

Dragon launching a Spike LR2 missile

Dragon launching a Spike LR2 missile

M&E Notary

One of the last —and most decisive— tests was carried out in June, when they tested at the San Gregorio Military Base (Zaragoza) the integration of the turret with the Spike LR2 missile. “Our successful cooperation with Rafael and PAP Tecnos brings together the capabilities and technologies of two leading Defense companies in Spain […] and responds to the needs of our Army and our Armed Forces”, declared Ángel Escribano, president of Escribano Mechanical & Engineering, at the time.

It was the first launch of this missile model from a remote station in the whole of Spain and a complete success from a technological point of view. The Spike, in its older versions, carry more than one Decade serving within the Armed Forces in Spain and the choice of this most modern model is essential to improve the capabilities of the VCR.

Guardian Turret 30

Guardian Turret 30

M&E Notary

The Spike LR2 has a launch mode called “fire at coordinates without target line of sight”; that allows automatic firing so that the missile is directed to a point without the need to detect the target to be beaten with its sensors. A novel feature for this version that entered service in 2018 as a fifth generation anti-tank missile.

It has an electo-optic finder scope that includes a uncooled infrared sensor and a second day sensor in high definition color for the missile guidance section. This new finder includes target tracking capabilities using artificial intelligence to maintain target lock, “even in extreme conditions and with almost no need for shooter intervention,” Rafael says.

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The missile in its LR2 version —the one that will finally integrate the Dragon— has a weight of 12.7 kilograms (1.3 less than its predecessor) together with a 5.5 kilometer range if fired from the surface or 10 kilometers if launched from the air. This latest version is not available in the Spanish Army.

The Guardian 30 turret armament card is completed with a 30mm cannon, which is accompanied by a coaxial 7.62mm caliber machine gun. It also has 12 complementary launcher tubes such as those dedicated to deploying countermeasures and, additionally, a two-tube anti-tank missile launcher.

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