Spain approves purchase of 400 VAC tracked armored vehicles for EUR 2 Bn

On August 22, 2023, the Spanish government greenlit the acquisition of the Vehículo de Apoyo de Cadenas (VAC) for the Land Army. The Defense Ministry has been authorized to initiate a contract valued at nearly 2 billion EUR (precisely: 1,953,719,008 EUR) for the development of a new multipurpose tracked armored vehicle. This new addition is set to replace the M133 TOA. The initial phase of the program will see the procurement of 394 units in various configurations.
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TOA M113 APC to be replaced by the future tracked Vehículo de Apoyo de Cadenas (VAC) (Picture source: Spanish MoD)

Earlier in April, the financial framework of the program was approved. However, the official project launch awaited this contract's approval. The Defense Ministry is now poised to begin the tendering process. The contract is expected to be awarded in the coming months to the Spanish consortium, Tess Defense. This consortium, comprising Santa Bárbara Sistemas, Indra, Sapa Placencia, and Escribano, is also responsible for the VCR 8x8 Dragón program.

Following the Council of Ministers' meeting, it was detailed that the VAC, in its various combat and logistical support variants, will replace the Transporte Oruga Acorazado (TOA) vehicles in operational and logistical missions. The TOA M113 is a troop transport armored vehicle (APC) designed and manufactured in the United States.

The new vehicles will enhance the Spanish Land Army's mobility, protection, and firepower capabilities, complementing the Leopard 2E battle tanks, VCI Pizarro vehicles, and any future systems expected to replace them over the next three decades.

The VAC will be based on the Ascod platform by Santa Bárbara Sistemas. Both the Pizarro infantry combat vehicle and the Castor sappers are based on the Ascod. At the recent Feindef fair, Tess Defense showcased a prototype of the future vehicle, equipped with Escribano's new 120 mm mortar turret.

Spain has also confirmed that the new armored vehicle will offer high protection against mines, IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), and specific caliber projectiles. It will be available in various versions, including command post, personnel transport, mortar carrier, anti-tank, ambulance, recovery, and cargo.

According to the Spanish Army's plans, the transition from the TOA M113 to the future VAC will be gradual over the next decade, concluding by 2035. By that year, the Army aims to phase out all its TOA M113s. The decommissioning process has already begun, with plans to retire over half of the currently operational vehicles, reducing the number from 1,250 to around 600 in the initial phase.