THE LIMOGES-BASED MILITARY VEHICLE PRODUCTION CENTRE IS CELEBRATING ITS 80TH BIRTHDAY

Usine |

THE LIMOGES-BASED MILITARY VEHICLE PRODUCTION CENTRE IS CELEBRATING ITS 80TH BIRTHDAY

Founded in 1939, the ARQUUS production plant in Limoges is today celebrating its 80th year of activity. A site steeped in history, the military vehicle production facility in Limoges has witnessed the industrial development of the French Defence industry and the transformation of industrial techniques. From the Armoury of 1939 to the ARQUUS site in 2019, the Limoges site has been an unwavering presence throughout the eras and phases, including RVI, SAVIEM, Renault Trucks going on to become Renault Trucks Défense and now ARQUUS. It has always stepped up to meet the demands of armed forces according to the procurement contracts in place.

Over the past 80 years, the plant has been a constant major stakeholder in the economy of Limoges, and an essential player in the French ground defence. Within the framework of the increase in French military power before World War II, and with the aim of quelling the high level of unemployment then prevalent in Limoges, the French Air Force Repair Workshops took the decision to install three strategic workshops in LIMOGES, one of which was the route du Palais workshop. This 36-hectare site hosted the first workshops, the test benches and administrative offices. By 1940, the site had 3000 employees on its payroll.

 

The manufacturing activity at the site started with the reconditioning and production of military aircraft engines. The production facility manufactured the replacement parts required for reconditioning in addition to the new engines such as the Hispano aero engine.

 

On 9th February 1944, the plant was bombed by the Royal Air Force. The story goes that Captain Cheshire's squadron took care to fly over the site on multiple passes before bombing, to enable all of the workers to seek shelter. Only five injuries resulted, whereas the factory was practically razed to the ground and needed to cease production.

 

In 1946, the Armament Design and Production Department initiated the reconstruction of the site. Aero engine activities stopped and the plant turned its focus to the reconditioning of vehicles such as Dodge, which were being used by the French Army at the time. The plant was then entrusted with the task of repairing and maintaining the French Army fleet of vehicles, including the fabrication of new parts and components as well as equipment repairs. The success of the DODGE programme, with 1704 reconditioned vehicles, was to be followed by the GMC programme, which would conclude in 1965.

High performances during post-war

This was the point that the facility's Design Department mushroomed in order to compensate for the lack of original parts. The manufacturing performance of the Limoges site made it a go-to source for the Army: between 1951 and 1955, Limoges was responsible for the fabrication of 2800 gearboxes and the reconditioning of 1400 engines, including that of the AMX 13 tank. The facility was then assigned to major programmes such as that for the HS 110 engine, fitted on the AMX 30 tank. Just shy of 2400 new engines were produced.

 

SAVIEM then began to transfer the mechanical activities of the Suresnes and Saint-Ouen facilities to the Limoges site, thus diversifying its activities. The plant produced gearboxes, axle assemblies, drive axles for SAVIEM buses, the MAN engine driveline and the new SAVIEM 6-cylinder engine.

 

In 1974, SAVIEM secured the VAB contract. The Limoges plant manufactured the vehicle driveline and all parts were machined on-site. Over 5000 VAB were produced for several armed forces all over the world, starting with the Army.

 

The Limoges Design Department's activity would then evolve with the HS 110 engine and a range of military application engines derived from civilian vehicle engines. The Renault VI 6-cylinder engines were developed at Limoges, in addition to the MACK V8 engine, which was developed up until 1998.

 

The smooth running of the MARMON contract in 1993 (1500 vehicles to be reconditioned) led the Staff to award Limoges a similar contract for the GBC 8KT. The plant thus took on responsibility for the production of 5600 GBC in collaboration with the 12th BSMAT of Neuvy Pailloux. Production of the same GBC has returned to Limoges from 2014 within the framework of an MCO contract.

 

In 1995, the French Army extended the service life of the VAB to 2020. Limoges then secured the contract for increasing the reliability of the braking system and subsequently the comprehensive modernisation of the Vehicle. 2500 VAB are to be retrofitted at Limoges.

 

Between 2007 and 2010, the RENAULT TRUCKS Défense range of military vehicles underwent development to meet ever-increasingly specific customer demands and to position itself in line with new export markets. The Limoges site has undergone reorganisation to shift to multi-product activity, and the industrial tooling has been transformed completely.

How to run the production center todays ?

The assembly lines are today capable of being adapted to the flexibility of contracts and products, while continually integrating the industrial techniques and technologies. The site's activity is today focused around the production of the Sherpa Light range, which saw the light of day at Limoges, but also that of the VAB Mk3, as well as the components for the VBMR Griffon.

 

The Limoges plant is today an essential stakeholder in the Limoges region economic region, an area integrating the industrial landscape for 80 years, and also that of the entire ground Army. It is based on 80 years of History, 80 years of technical challenges to have been overcome, of industrial organisation to have been implemented to serve the French armed forces. It also represents 80 years of human history, that of the teams who designed, conceptualised, produced or provide support for the most iconic equipment used by the armed forces. The Limoges site comprises the men and women who have built the site and who will continue to build upon it.

 

With a staff today of 400 employees, a level never reached in the modern-day configuration of the site, and its continually evolving industrial organisation, the military vehicle production centre at Limoges is at the heart of the ARQUUS programmes, at the side of the Army facing its challenges of tomorrow.

popin Newsletter
FOLLOW OUR NEWS BY REGISTERING OUR NEWSLETTER
close popin Newsletter