The Spanish Defense Minister, Margarita Robles, visited the Santa Bárbara Sistemas factory in Alcalá de Guadaíra, Seville, on October 11, 2023, to oversee the progress of the VCR 8×8 Dragon Wheeled Combat Vehicle and VCZ CASTOR combat engineering vehicle programs. These programs are essential to the modernization of the Spanish Army and the strengthening of European defense capabilities. Minister Robles was accompanied by the Secretary of State for Defense, Amparo Valcarce, and the Chief of Staff of the Army, Army General Amador Enseñat. They were welcomed by the Executive General Director of Santa Bárbara Sistemas, Juan Escriña, and other senior company officials. The delegation received a briefing on the status of the two programs and toured the factory to see the vehicles in production. Minister Robles also had the opportunity to meet with Santa Bárbara employees and soldiers who are training to operate the new vehicles. In her remarks to the employees, Minister Robles reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the VCR 8×8 and VCZ CASTOR programs and expressed her confidence in the Spanish defense industry. She also thanked the employees for their hard work and dedication.
The VCR 8×8 Dragon Wheeled Combat Vehicle is a new generation of armored vehicle that will be the backbone of the Spanish Army 2035 program. It is equipped with the latest technologies and is designed to meet the challenges of the 21st century battlefield. The VCZ CASTOR combat engineering vehicle is a highly versatile vehicle that can be used for a variety of missions, including mine clearance, obstacle breaching, and construction engineering. The development and production of the VCR 8×8 and VCZ CASTOR vehicles is a significant undertaking that involves a number of Spanish companies. Santa Bárbara Sistemas is the lead contractor on both programs, but other companies such as Indra Sistemas, SAPA Operaciones, and Escribano are also playing important roles. The minister’s visit to the Santa Bárbara Sistemas factory is a positive development for the Spanish defense industry and for European security as a whole. The VCR 8×8 and VCZ CASTOR vehicles are both highly advanced and capable systems that will contribute to the strengthening of Spanish and European defense capabilities.
Under the Vehículo de Combate sobre Ruedas (VCR) program, the Spanish Ministry of Defence selected a local team in 2015 to develop the future 8×8 armored infantry vehicle which is to replace the old BMR, VEC, and M113 vehicles in the Spanish Army endowment. The team, formed by Indra Sistemas, Sapa Placencia, and the joint venture General Dynamics European Land Systems-Santa Bárbara Sistemas based the vehicle on the Piranha V design. The contract for the armored vehicle, known as the Dragón by the Spanish Army, was awarded in 2020 for 1.74 billion euros, 733 million of which was awarded to GDLS-SBS. It included 348 vehicles, maintenance and life cycle support, as well as the support for international commercialization. The contract is expected to grow to 1,000 vehicles. The Dragón began trials in 2022, after passing the critical design review. Of the 348, 219 are to be in IFV configuration, 58 reconnaissance vehicles, 49 sappers combat vehicles, and 14 command post vehicles. The deliveries are scheduled to finish by 2027.
The VCZ Castor (Vehículo de Combate de Zapadores) combat engineering vehicle is based on the ASCOD tracked chassis which is used by several armies in the world. 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”. Utilizing the ASCOD tracked chassis, the CASTOR VCZAP underscores the platform’s adaptability. It demonstrates how the modularity of the ASCOD can cater to a wide range of roles, proving especially advantageous in this context for meeting the unique operational needs of the Spanish Army’s engineer units. The ASCOD family includes the LT 105, a light tank equipped with a 105 mm gun, a surface-to-air missile launcher, an anti-tank guided missile launcher, mortar carrier, R&R vehicle, command and control vehicle, ambulance, artillery observer, and the AIFV model.