The Spanish MoD announced on 28 December the conclusion of the qualification tests with the prototype of the VCZAP (Vehículo de Combate de Zapadores) Castor armoured engineering vehicle in Spanish. The Castor is a development of the ASCOD armoured fighting vehicles used by the Spanish Armed Forces and Austrian Armed Forces. The programme enters now serial production with the delivery of 35 platforms scheduled for 2023 and 2024. The Castor was approved in several trials including firing with a remote weapon, opening and signalling breaches, digging in with a dozer blade and trenching and fording, among others.
The main version of the VCZAP Castor is the ASCOD II tracked infantry fighting vehicle. It follows a conventional layout with a front-mounted engine and a rear compartment for the dismounts. The ASCOD (Austrian Spanish Cooperation Development) armoured fighting vehicle family is the product of a cooperation agreement between Austrian Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG and Spanish General Dynamics Santa Bárbara Sistemas (both companies are now divisions of a unit of General Dynamics). In Spanish service, the vehicle is called “Pizarro”, while the Austrian version is called “Ulan”.
The ASCOD chassis has been used for a number of vehicles in Spanish service and numerous private ventures developed for the export market. Aside from the IFV version, the ASCOD has been offered as light tank and scout vehicle. The ASCOD Direct Fire light tank can mount a number of different commercial turrets with 105 or 120 mm tank guns. It is expected to weigh about 30 tonnes. An improved version of the ASCOD, called ASCOD 2, has been developed by General Dynamics and was presented in 2004. The ASCOD 2 uses the more powerful MTU 8V 199T21 engine, which provides an output of 600 kilowatts (800 hp), together with a Renk HSWL 256 B transmission and Diehl 1028 tracks.
The Castor still belongs to the second phase (fase II) instead of Spanish Army Pizarro fase III program. The Pizarro fase II includes 83 Pizarro II tracked infantry fighting vehicles and 36 Castor engineer vehicles. In 2022, Elbit chosen to supply light tanks to Philippine Army. Apparently, Sabrah light tank is based on the chassis of Castor engineering vehicle, a derivative of Spanish Pizarro II IFV, which is manufactured by Spanish armored vehicles manufacturer General Dynamics European Land Systems – Santa Bárbara Sistemas – (GDELS-SBS), a part of American aerospace and defence company General Dynamics.