War profiteer of the month: Nexter Systems

A large cannon is fired in desert terrain. A number of soldiers stand around the side.
French soldiers conduct a live-fire exercise, with their Nexter Systems Caesar self-propelled wheeled armored vehicles, outside of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, August 14, 2009.

Nexter Systems is a French state-owned company building a wide range of military vehicles, artillery, weapons and ammunition used by the French military and sold around the world. Nexter was formerly known as the GIAT group, formed in 1973 and nationalised in 1991, and is headquartered in Roanne, Loire, France with manufacturing facilities and 3700 staff members across France, Belgium and Italy. In 2018, Nexter was the world’s 83 largest arms company in SIPRI’s top 100 global arms companies, with $1.1bn sales in 2018. Nexter has a number of subsidaries including Simmel Difesa in Italy, which manufactures land and naval ammunition, and NBC Sys, based in France, which specializes in the manufacture of protection, detection and decontamination equipment against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons.

In 2019 a leaked report by the French government submitted to the French President Emmanuel Macron and his defence minister Florence Parly indicated that a range of weapons, including some manufactured by Nexter Systems, had been used by the Saudi military in Yemen. The French NGO Disclose compiled the information into a website called “Made in France”, which illustrates the material in the report using maps, graphics, videos, and text, including details of how some of the weapons may have been used against civilians. The weapons and vehicles built by Nexter identified in the report included the Leclerc battle tank, CAESAR cannon, and the Aravis armoured troop-carrying vehicles.

Nexter has exhibited at a wide range of arms fairs around the world, including DSEI (UK), IDET (Czech Republic), CANSEC (Canada), ExpoDefensa (Spain), EDEX (Egypt), I/ITSEC (USA), Eurosatory and MiliPol (France), and Defence and Security (Thailand).

Artillery, tanks and ammunition

Nexter Systems builds a number of different combat and artillery vehicles, including:

  • The Leclerc main battle tank has been in production since 1991 and a number of variants have been built. The Leclerc is operated by the army in France and UAE. Each unit costs around $4 million.

  • The CAESAR is a 155mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer cannon with a range of up to 50km. The CAESAR is used by the French, Indonesian, Saudi Arabian, and Thai militaries, and recently published a press release announcing orders from Denmark. Since 2010 132 French CAESAR howitzer cannons have been sold by France to Saudi Arabia.

  • The LG1 Mark II 105 mm towed howitzer is used by the Belgian, Canadian, Colombian, Indonesian, and Thai militaries, and is compatible with all NATO 105mm ammunition. The LG1 has been designed for rapid deployment.

Nexter also produces ammunition for tanks and artillery, from 20mm (used for autocannons such as Nexter's M621, used on armoured vehicles, aircraft, and helicopters) up to 155mm (used on weapons such as the CAESAR howitzer).

The company also produces weapons via local subsidiaries under license. For example, in 2019 Nexter announced a plan to construct Titus 6x6 armoured vehicles with the Czech company Eldis. The contract is worth over $300 million and deliveries are expected between 2020 and 2025. Nexter also works in cooperation with Belgian company CMI Defence, who will act as the "final assembler" of Nexter's VBMR-Griffon armoured vehicle, and construct the turrets for the EBRC-Jaguar.

Electronic systems

Nexter also builds a range of electronic systems such as FINDDCN (a "notebook" running on a smartphone, allowing the user to see a 2D or 3D map, study terrain, and create firing sketches). The company also produces larger and more sophisticated digital tools, such as FINDMP, "a complete digital system supporting tactical decision making process for operational engagement and training purposes", based around a large "digital sandbox", essentially a table top touch screen computer.

Nexter has also developed a range of unmanned ground vehicles, such as the Nerva range. The Nerva products are small robots designed to detect chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial chemicals, radiological weapons, and even localisng gunshots.

Programmes & Projects

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