Volvo’s French defense and security vehicle firm Arquus recently unveiled their candidate to become France’s new general-purpose troop-carrying vehicle: the Scarabée. While this platform has a lot in common with America’s long-serving workhorse Humvee, it’s got a few tricks up its sleeve that have never been seen on the battlefield before.
The goal behind developing the Scarabée was renegotiating the compromise inherent to all armored vehicles: as the level of protection for the occupant increases, the platform’s mobility decreases. As anyone that’s ever gone for a rip in an up-armored Humvee can attest, the protection provided by the Humvee comes at a significant cost when you stomp on the pedal — during my days in uniform, we regularly joked that the Humvee’s 0-60 time and quarter mile time were actually exactly the same… kidding (somewhat honestly) that it would take at least a full quarter mile for the heavy lug to reach 60 miles per hour at all. The Humvee’s poor acceleration can be attributed to physics and simple arithmetic: when you divide it’s weight by its power, you get a paltry 20 horsepower to push each ton.
“We really worked on the speed because that is also a form of protection,” Emmanuel Levacher, the chief executive of Arquus, explains. “If you put a lot of protective armor on a vehicle it makes it very heavy, big, and therefore slow unless you give it a large, powerful engine—in which case you no longer have a small, agile military vehicle.”
The Scarabée weighs in at 6.6 tons empty, meaning it’s not particularly light either, but the combination of its 300-horsepower diesel engine and supplemental 103 horsepower electric motor offers it a far superior 60 horsepower per ton. Its top speed may not be all that much better than the Humvee’s (Arquus claims 75 miles per hour) but its acceleration is. According to its designers, you can engage both diesel and electric powerplants simultaneously to get the vehicle moving fast enough to evade an incoming anti-tank missile from a dead stop.
But if that sort of acceleration alone isn’t enough to get the job done, the Scarabée offers another unique capability: it can crab walk (at least sort of). The Scarabée is a four-wheel drive vehicle, meaning power is distributed to all four wheels while the truck is in motion. By creating an independent steering linkage for the real wheels, the Scarabée can turn them in the same or opposite directions as compared to the front wheels — giving it the ability to “sidestep” obstacles in front of it by pointing them all in the same direction, or make incredibly tight turns by pointing the front and rear wheels in opposite directions.
“That way you can approach the enemy without either turning your back to him or being full front on, but you could also drive crab-like behind a ridge, for example, and yet still have your roof-top gun with its limited turn radius pointing at the enemy,” a spokesperson for the company says.
The vehicle uses two sliding doors with no handles on the outside. The idea here is to make it easier to embark and disembark in cramped quarters, while having no handles (which sounds tactically dangerous to me) is intended to make the occupants safer from attack. On the roof, the Scarabée can carry radar units, a 12.7mm heavy machine-gun turret, a 30mm gun to fire anti-tank shells, or a medium-range missile launcher. It also comes with an electric trailer that can move independently of the truck itself, serving as a gear and weapons mule that can also haul up for four tons of equipment.
France has yet to decide what platform that will field as their next light-armored vehicle, but the Scarabée is among the front runners. France hopes to begin fielding the vehicle of their choice by 2025.