Delays in Griffon and Serval SAN deliveries challenge French Army's Medical preparedness

Recent recommendations from the French Senate have highlighted the pressing issue of delayed deliveries of the Griffon SAN and Serval SAN medical armored vehicles (SAN stands for Sanitary), which are essential components of the medical support capabilities of the French Army Health Service (SSA). These delays have sparked debate about the SSA's preparedness to respond effectively to high-intensity conflicts and the need for innovative approaches to medical support in the field.
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Griffon SAN is equipped with a medical module, accommodations tailored for the storage and integration of medical equipment, and a system to aid in loading the wounded, consisting of a mobile table and a lifting winch. (Picture source: French MoD)

The Griffon SAN and Serval SAN are crucial to the SSA's ability to provide rapid and secure medical evacuation in high-intensity scenarios. However, concerns have been raised about the timing of their deployment, particularly in relation to the larger SCORPION program. The technical and operational evaluation of the Griffon SAN was only completed in October 2022, with initial deliveries planned for 2023, four years after the first deliveries of Griffon vehicles. Likewise, although the first Serval vehicles were delivered in May 2022, the Serval SAN is still in development, with qualification planned by the end of 2023. This gap between the deployment of these medical versions and the SCORPION program raises questions about the SSA's preparedness for high-intensity conflict.

To resolve this problem, the French Senate recommended accelerating the delivery of the Griffon and Serval SAN to strengthen the SSA's medical evacuation capabilities. These vehicles are considered the preferred mode of evacuation in high-intensity scenarios, making their timely deployment essential. The delay in the SCORPION program, as provided for in the Military Programming Law (LPM), raises concerns about its impact on deliveries of these precious medical assets, even if the SSA should benefit from a significant increase in its budget during the last year of the LPM.

In addition to addressing vehicle delivery issues, the Senate report encouraged the exploration of innovative approaches to medical support. One of these approaches consists of strengthening cooperation between health professionals deployed in the field and specialists in army training hospitals (HIA) through telemedicine. This could allow medical staff on the ground to access specialist expertise remotely, improving the quality of care in high-intensity conflict zones. Additionally, the report suggests consideration of the development of a drone-deployable blood product supply system for forward-deployed areas, highlighting the need for creative solutions to meet the evolving medical support needs of the SSA.

In its SAN version, the Griffon is equipped with a medical module, accommodations tailored for the storage and integration of medical equipment, and a system to aid in loading the wounded, consisting of a mobile table and a lifting winch. The interior configuration allows for the transport of injured individuals in both seated and prone positions, with a capacity of four stretchers. The SAN version retains all the features common to the Griffon, including mobility, armament, protection, and connectivity.

Currently, the SSA uses the VAB Sanitaire (VAB SAN) put into service at a time when a high-intensity conflict in Germany was one of the probable hypotheses. It was a question of quickly evacuating them to a field hospital located behind the front line. The VAB SAN has been modernized, as in 1998 with the integration of an automatic gearbox, new suspensions, and additional armor. Or even with the CIED versions, which consisted of reinforcing protection against improvised explosive devices, and EVOL CIED, equipped with anti-mine seats, a new stretcher-carrying system, additional storage, etc.

The development of the VAB EVOL CIED was launched in 2019 in order to await the arrival of the Griffons and Servals in a sanitary version, which will coincide with the implementation of the SSA 2030 strategic plan. In total, the SSA should have 196 Griffons and 135 Serval in the sanitary version. It seems that the medicalized VABs have not yet finished their service.