Modern Spanish Armor

Cerberus M113 Test Vehicle

Kingdom of Spain (2019)
IFV – 1 Test Vehicle Built

The Spanish VCR Dragón program stands out as one of the most significant military investment projects in Spain, aimed at equipping its armed forces with an 8×8 vehicle capable of replacing outdated vehicles from the Cold War era. Upon its announcement, numerous arms manufacturing companies sought opportunities within the project by producing various components and turrets to make a profit. In this context, during the testing phase of a new turret proposal for the Dragón, named Cerberus, an American M113 armored personnel carrier was employed as an experimental chassis. This resulted in what can be considered one of the most peculiar-looking vehicles in the history of Spain.

The bizarre looking M113 equipped with the Cerberus turret. Source:

Historical Context

The VCR Program

The VCR program (Vehículo de Combate a Ruedas – Combat Wheeled Vehicle) is, as of March 2024, is currently in development to provide Spain an 8×8 vehicle. Despite launching around 2013-2015, the program essentially represents a revival of the VBR program (Vehículo Blindado sobre Ruedas – Armored Wheeled Vehicle), with the same objective. The VBR program had been canceled in 2011 due to military budget cuts amid the Spanish economic crisis.

The VCR program essentially discarded all the progress made in the VBR program. The Ministry of Defense made the decision to reinitiate the program through collaboration between the Spanish companies Indra, Sapa, and General Dynamics European Land Systems Santa Barbara Sistemas. The objective was to develop an 8×8 vehicle for the Spanish Army, utilizing the Swiss Piranha V chassis as a base. The vehicle will then be built under license by Santa Bárbara Sistemas.

Mobility demonstrator of the VCR. Source: Así serán los cinco demostradores del VCR Dragón-noticia – Noticias Defensa España

The vehicle, renamed as VCR Dragón, was intended to serve as the foundation for various variants catering to the diverse needs of the Spanish Army. The variants envisioned were:

  • infantry fighting vehicle
  • cavalry reconnaissance vehicle
  • sapper combat vehicle
  • battalion command post combat vehicle
  • advanced observer combat vehicle
  • recovery vehicle

An Opportunity to Make Profit

Recognizing the magnitude of the project, numerous companies saw the chance to leverage the opportunity by providing various services, with a particular emphasis on turret selection. Many companies, both domestic and international, submitted their proposals for evaluation during FEINDEF 2019 (FEria INternacional de DEFensa y Seguridad de España – Spanish International Defense and Security Fair), an event held in Madrid in June 2019 to showcase the latest products in the country’s defense industry sector.

In the case of the infantry fighting vehicle variant, the selected turret was the Guardian 2.0 remote-controlled weapon station, presented by the Spanish company Escribano. It was chosen ahead of the Mini Samson from the Israeli Rafael, which was already in service with the Spanish Army, mounted on the RG-31 Nyala mine-resistant vehicles. Escribano is well-known in Spain, having earned a significant reputation for turret development, such as the naval Sentinel 20 and 30 naval turrets, the naval Sentinel TAO or the Guardian L-HIT.

The Guardian 2.0 remote controlled weapon station. Source: Así son las torretas remotas Guardian 2.0 de los blindados VCI Dragón del Ejército de Tierra (

The challenge arose with the cavalry reconnaissance vehicle variant, as companies submitted diverse proposals for the VCR Dragón, making it difficult to determine the most suitable turret. Once again, Escribano entered the competition, offering its Guardian 30 turret — an unmanned turret equipped with the 30 mm Mk44s autocannon, capable of adaptation to fire 40 mm projectiles.

Firing tests on the Guardian 30 turret mounted on a Piranha IIIC donated by the Spanish Navy. Source: Guardian 30 de Escribano Mechanical & Engineering – Ejércitos (

PAP TECNOS, the Spanish branch of the Israeli Rafael defense company, submitted the Toledo 30S for the cavalry reconnaissance vehicle. This turret is a variant of the Israeli Samson 30, modified by the Spanish company to meet the specific requirements of the program.

Toledo 30 S turret during FEINDEF 2019. Source: La Torre Samson 30 para el VCR ya está en Sevilla-noticia – Noticias Defensa España

The Spanish companies Navantia, EXPAL, and the Israeli Elbit Systems presented a local variant of the Israel UT30 Mk2 turret, called the Tizona.

The Tizona turret shown at FEINDEF 2019. Source: Spanish VCR 8×8 Dragón Live-Fire Trials | Joint Forces News (

The Belgian company Cockerill presented the Cockerill 3030 Edición Van Halen at FEINDEF 2019, a modification of the original Cockerill 3000 designed for the VCR Dragón.

The Cockerill 3030 Edición Van Halen shown during FEINDEF 2021. Source: Las torres de CMI International apuntan al VCR 8×8 del Ejército de Tierra español – Noticias Defensa España

Last but not least, although not showcased at FEINDEF 2019, the Italian company Leonardo, through its Spanish branch, proposed the HITFIST 30 mm turret. This turret is the same model used by the renowned Italian VBM Freccia 8×8, providing another compelling option for the VCR Dragón.

An Italian VBM Freccia with the HITFIST turret. Source: Centauro VBM Freccia Tourelle HITFIST Eurosatory 2 Le monde de la maquette

The Cerberus – the Sixth Option

On July 10, 2018, a private disclosure was made to journalists from Infodefensa, a Spanish newspaper specifically focused on Spanish and Latin American defense projects. The information revealed that the Spanish company Escribano, the Spanish company Indra, and the Spanish subsidiary of the Italian Leonardo company had formed an alliance to develop a new unmanned turret. This collaborative effort was named Trium DRS, and the turret they designed was dubbed “Cerberus.” The primary objective of this alliance was to propose Cerberus for the cavalry reconnaissance vehicle within the VCR Dragón program, while also considering its potential for the export market.

State of the Cerberus turret in May 2018. Source: Primeras pruebas de la nueva torre propuesta para el VCR 8×8, la TRIUM-DRS – Noticias Defensa noticias industria defensa

As far as is known, Escribano took the lead in the project, shouldering approximately 40% of the workload. Additionally, Escribano was tasked with producing the principal structure, manufacturing the control unit of the platform, various sensors, and designing the display of the turrets. On the other hand, both Indra and Leonardo Hispania contributed with a workload of around 30%. Indra’s responsibilities included designing the ballistic calculator, visors, principal control unit, and the control mission unit. Meanwhile, Leonardo Hispania provided the munition system, the gun, and the missile control unit.

In January 2019, the Cerberus project was publicly revealed, emphasizing that if the army selected this turret, the logistical costs for installation would be reduced compared to other proposals. However, Cerberus faced complexities, as the Spanish Army already favored the Israeli UT30 Mk2 and Samson 30.

A 3D model of the Cerberus turret, shown in early 2019. It differs in shape to the one installed in the M113. Source: Indra, Escribano y Leonardo se alían y pujan por un contrato de Defensa de 450 millones (

The Cerberus and the M113

In March 2019, it was revealed that the Cerberus turret had commenced firing tests on a mobile platform at the Instituto Tecnológico de la Marañosa (Technical Institute of Marañosa). The chassis used for testing the turret was one of the numerous M113 armored personnel carriers of the Spanish Army, specifically one from the “Guadarrama” XII Brigade, which donated the vehicle for the tests.

La torre Cerberus sobre TOA del Ejército de Tierra (EM&E) (
Video showing the M113 test vehicle with the Cerberus turret during the test on March 2019
Detailed view of the M113 with the Cerberus turret during tests in Marañosa. Source: Primeras pruebas de tiro de la torre Cerberus de TRIUM-DRS-noticia – Noticias Defensa España
Top view of the M113 with the Cerberus turret during the tests in Marañosa. Source: Primeras pruebas de tiro de la torre Cerberus de TRIUM-DRS-noticia – Noticias Defensa España

The test involved firing 30 rounds with the main gun at a distance of 500 m in rapid succession. The results were considered successful, and in May 2019, the prototype underwent further testing at the Centro Nacional de Adiestramiento (National Training Center) of the Ministerio de Defensa (Ministry of Defense) at Chinchilla, Albacete. This test focused on evaluating the stabilization system of the 30 mm gun, both with the vehicle at a standstill and in motion.

The tests of the Cerberus in Chinchilla. Source: La Torre Cerberus a prueba en Chinchilla-noticia – Noticias Defensa España

A Brief History of the Spanish M113 Modifications

Considered the oldest vehicle still in service in Spain, the Spanish Army began receiving the M113 armored personnel carrier in the mid-1960s as part of US military aid, with various versions being used. Designated as TOA (Transporte de Orugas Acorazado – Armored Tracked Transport), it is currently one of the main armored personnel carriers in Spain, alongside the wheeled BMR, with approximately 1,250 units still in service.

The history of the M113 and its modifications in Spain spans several decades. The first modifications by the Spanish Army date back to 1982, when there was a consideration to upgrade M113 and M115 vehicles to transform them into mortar carrier vehicles. Designated as TOA portamortero de 120 mm (Armored Tracked Transport 120 mm mortar carrier), these vehicles were equipped with the Spanish 120 mm ECIA L-65/120 mortar. The transformation process was carried out by Peugeot Talbot between 1982 and 1988, with around 215 vehicles converted.

One of the TOA portamortero de 120 mm in service in Spain. Source: El Ejército de Tierra mantendrá en servicio sus blindados M113 hasta el año 2035-noticia – Noticias Defensa España

Continuing into the 1980s, several M113A1 and M113A2 vehicles underwent conversion into communication vehicles in Spain. A total of 98 vehicles were transformed and equipped with communication systems, including Mercurio, Centauro, Plutón, and Tritón. Each of these communication systems had distinct components, and the only way to differentiate between vehicles was by observing the number of antennas they were equipped with.

M113 equipped with the Mercurio communication system. Source: Marín Gutiérrez & Molina Franco, 2007, page 34

In 1990, Spain modified an M113 to mount the Swedish RBS 56 anti-tank missile, although no serial production took place. The specific reason for creating this prototype was never specified. However, it could be assumed that it was perhaps intended as an alternative to the M901 ITV, a tank destroyer based on the M113 and equipped with the TUA turret. The M901 ITV had been tested by the Spanish Army in the mid-1980s and left a favorable impression, but it was not acquired due to the high cost of the entire vehicle.

As a noteworthy side note, the TUA turret was utilized by Spain to create a tank destroyer using the American M41 as a base in 1983.

The M113 equipped with the RSB-56 anti-tank missile. Source: Marín Gutiérrez & Molina Franco, 2007, page 42

Around the time of the end of the Cold War in 1993, the Spanish company Santa Bárbara Sistemas developed the TC-13, an experimental single-seat turret featuring a 25 mm M-242 autocannon along with a coaxial MG-42, which had the option to be replaced with the CETME Ameli machine gun. This turret design was initially mounted on the M113 platform, probably as a test vehicle. Other vehicles which mounted this turret were the wheeled BMR and the Greek Leonidas infantry fighting vehicle.

The M113 with the experimental TC-13 turret. Source: M 113, CON TORRETA EXPERIMENTAL O PROTOTIPO??? (

The M113 remained untouched until 2015, when it became evident that the vehicle was showing signs of aging. Despite the planned replacements with the VCR Dragón and the later VAC project launched in the early 2020s (an indigenous armored personnel carrier based on a modified ASCOD hull), the M113 required preparations for potential conflicts because of the importance of the vehicle in the Army. Even if only temporarily, there was a need to transform and adapt the M113 to fulfill certain roles until the new replacements were ready.

The VAC, an armored personnel carrier based on a modified ASCOD hull, intended to replace the old M113. Source: Luz verde de Defensa al futuro Vehículo de Apoyo de Cadenas que sustituirá a los viejos TOA del Ejército de Tierra (

In 2015, the Army announced the modification of 68 M113s for logistical purposes, alongside the upgrading of the remaining M113A1s to the A2 version. The modifications entailed clearing the troop compartment and installing a protective grill over the driving compartment. With these adjustments, the modified M113s could transport approximately 5,000 liters of cargo (or 3,500 liters with two occupants). The refurbishment was overseen by PCMASA 2 (Parque y Centro de Mantenimiento de Sistemas Acorazados Nº2 – Armored Systems Park and Maintenance Centre No. 2). The logistics prototype underwent testing in Cerro Muriano, Córdoba. Two versions were developed: the TOA Carga Táctico V.1 (Tactical Cargo Armored Tracked Transport V.1) and the TOA Carga Táctico V.2 (Tactical Cargo Armored Tracked Transport V.2). The primary distinction between the two is that while the first version retains its original rear gate, the second version features a double-leaf gate.

The M113 prototype to fulfill logistic missions. Source: El Ejército de Tierra subcontrata la transformación de los TOA -noticia – Noticias Defensa España

The Spanish Army also modified some M113 armored personnel carriers to fulfill anti-tank roles. In the early to mid-2010s, Spain created the TOA MILAN M113 A2 MCC, a tank destroyer based on the M113 equipped with the MILAN anti-tank missile. Approximately 83 vehicles were converted for this purpose.

One of the TOA MILAN M113 A2 MCC tank destroyers. Source: Spain Convert 60 M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers Into Spike Launchers – MilitaryLeak.COM

However, the tank-destroyer variant, equipped with the MILAN anti-tank missile launcher, became practically obsolete by early 2017, primarily due to its armament. Consequently, the Spanish Army initiated modifications to transform these vehicles into new tank destroyers armed with the Spike anti-tank missile launcher. Approximately 60 vehicles are planned to undergo conversion, with one prototype already manufactured and tested by the “Guadarrama” XII Brigade, followed by testing by the “Guzmán el Bueno” X Brigade.

Prototype of the M113 tank destroyer equipped with the Spike anti-tank missile launcher. Source: El Ejército avanza en su plan de modernización de los Transporte Oruga Acorazado – Ejército de tierra (

The TOA LAG-40 is another rare modification of the M113, with only three units produced out of the initially planned seven. This concept involves transforming the MILAN M113 tank destroyers by replacing the anti-tank missile with the Spanish LAG-40 automatic grenade launcher.

Another modification not intended for combat is the TOA de Zapadores. Essentially, it is an engineer variant of the M113, derived from the MILAN tank-destroyer variants. This version has the capacity to transport, in addition to the driver and gunner, a sapper platoon with all the necessary equipment. It is also equipped with tools and implements to support tasks related to mobility, countermobility, and survival. One noticeable addition is the shovel located at the front of the vehicle, designed to remove obstacles in urban areas. Interestingly, this shovel is the same one mounted on the wheeled BMR VCZ, adapted for installation on the TOA. Around 7 units entered service in 2020, and it is expected that a total of 22 will be modified.

One of the TOA de Zapadores. Source: El Ejército avanza en su plan de modernización de los Transporte Oruga Acorazado – Ejército de tierra (

Last but not least, there is also the ambulance variant of the M113, converted using the M113A2 as a base. This variant allows the transportation of a sanitary evacuation team along with two wounded individuals. Interestingly, the interior of this M113 ambulance is thermally coated with a paint similar to that used on NASA shuttles. Approximately 25 ambulances were manufactured in Segovia and are currently in service across different brigades of the Spanish Army.

One of the modified M113A2s to fill the ambulance role. Source: El Ejército avanza en su plan de modernización de los Transporte Oruga Acorazado – Ejército de tierra (

In addition to the official Army designs, there have been and continue to be private initiatives on the M113. Despite the TOA’s numbered days, the Spanish company Star Defence Logistics & Engineering is currently working on a proposal to offer a second life to the M113. The concept involves converting these aging vehicles into remote-controlled units, capable of autonomous operation without the need for direct operator intervention. The envisioned purpose for these vehicles includes deployment in high-risk situations, such as mine clearance, evacuating injured soldiers from hazardous areas, as well as undertaking more routine tasks like logistics or transport.

Vision of the unmanned ground vehicle M113 made by Star Defence Logistics & Engineering. Source: M113, R2t2 y SENOPTER: los UGV de – Noticias Defensa En abierto
Prototype of the unmanned M113 ground vehicle. Source: SDLE lidera un proyecto para robotizar el TOA M113 (

Another noteworthy mention is the anti-drone system developed by the Spanish company Escribano. This system was integrated onto an M113, which was provided by the army to facilitate testing. Effective in securing an area with a diameter of 4 km, the system employs electromagnetic disturbances to counter unmanned aerial vehicles. In scenarios where drones are shielded against electromagnetic disruption, the anti-drone system is equipped with an Alcotan rocket launcher and a 7.62mm M134 Gatling rotary autocannon, capable of engaging drones at distances of up to 1,200 m. Additionally, a 30mm M230 LF autocannon is present, likely serving for self-defense purposes. It is important to note that this M113 served only as a test platform for a product. The Spanish Army had no intention of developing an anti-drone system integrated M113.

Detail of Escribano’s anti-drone system integrated on the M113 to test it. Source: España diseña una arma para abatir decenas de drones en segundos (

Design and Technical Specifications

The Cerberus is an unmanned turret operated remotely from inside the vehicle’s chassis. The turret is apparently easy to install on the vehicle, requiring just a couple of hours. It weighs around 1,300 kg.

Turret and Armament

Regarding armament, the Cerberus can be equipped with either a 30 mm or a 40 mm gun. In the case of the prototype turret, it was armed with the 30 mm Mk 44 Bushmaster II with airburst capacity and 200 rounds. It also features a coaxial MG-3 machine gun with 500 rounds, along with two retractable missile launchers located on the top left of the turret. The main gun had a vertical traverse of -10º to 60º. Additionally, thanks to the addition of special sensors for the gunner and the commander, the turret is enabled to carry out maneuvers, such as hunter-killer.

The 360º panoramic visor for the commander has a laser rangefinder, HD daytime running camera, thermal camera, and video tracker installed. The gunner’s camera has as well a daytime running camera, laser rangefinder, thermal camera, and video tracker. If necessary, the visors can be shared between the commander and the driver.

Other additions to the turret include an advanced ballistic calculator, an integrated simulation system, a radar signature-reduced design, and an advanced man-machine interface.


To operate the turret, two personnel are required: a commander and a gunner, both situated inside the base vehicle’s chassis. Each crew member has their own operating station, which is interchangeable between them. Each station is equipped with a 12-inch screen containing all the tools necessary to operate the turret.

The screen at the driver and commander’s stations. Source: • Ver Tema – VCR 8×8 Dragón (FSCT-VBMR)

Armor and Defense Systems

The armor of the Cerberus was never specified, but judging by the shape and weight, it seems that its primary armor is composed of steel plates of unknown thickness. Nevertheless, the consortium TRIUM DRS explained that the turret can be equipped with level 2 armor, out of the 4 standard NATO levels. Additionally, if needed, the turret is also equipped with twelve smoke grenade launchers.

Fate and Rejection

The Cerberus turret was presented alongside the M113 hull at FEINDEF 2019 in June, along with other turret proposals for the VCR Dragón. Despite attracting attention, it was ultimately rejected in favor of other turret options. Although the exact criteria for selecting the turrets were not revealed, the main reason for the Cerberus not being chosen could likely be attributed to it being a relatively ‘young’ product compared to other proposals shown.

The M113 with the Cerberus turret exposed during the FEINDEF 2019. Source: X \ Revista Ejércitos على X: “Bartolomé Bauzá, Director de TRIUM-DRS presenta la torre “CERBERUS” en FEINDEF.” (
Side view of the M113 with the Cerberus during the FEINDEF 2019. Source: El Ejército de Tierra mantendrá en servicio sus blindados M113 hasta el año 2035-noticia – Noticias Defensa España
Close-up of the turret ring of the Cerberus mounted on the M113. Source: X \ Revista Ejércitos على X: “Bartolomé Bauzá, Director de TRIUM-DRS presenta la torre “CERBERUS” en FEINDEF.” (

In the end, after a meticulous selection process, three turrets were chosen to be mounted on the prototypes of the VCR Dragón for testing: the Tizona, the Toledo 30S, and the Guardian 30. After rigorous tests, the DGAM (Dirección General de Armamento y Municiones – Armaments and Ammunition Directorate General), the body within the Ministry of Defense of Spain responsible for supervision and decision-making regarding the VCR Dragón, determined that the most suitable option was the Guardian 30. The specific criteria for the selection were not disclosed, but it is theorized that promoting the national industry and creating job opportunities may have played a role.

The final configuration of the VCR Dragón cavalry reconnaissance vehicle, equipped with Escribano’s Guardian 30 turret. Source: Escribano Chosen To Provide Guardian 30 Turret For Spanish Army VCR 8×8 Dragon – MilitaryLeak.COM

The End?

Although the Cerberus turret may not have met success with the VCR Dragón, TRIUM DRS revealed that various international delegations and foreign companies contacted the consortium to learn more about the project. Before the presentation at FEINDEF 2019, in January, the director of the consortium, Bartolomé Bauzá, acknowledged that he was studying the incorporation of new partners into the project from countries such as Italy, Portugal, France, Germany, or Slovakia. It is assumed that, in the future, this turret might be proposed for a military project in one of these countries.


The Cerberus turret was another endeavor within the realm of Spanish projects aiming to fortify the country’s industrial capabilities, seeking to diverge from the military’s tradition of acquiring or modifying foreign designs. While its design adhered to conventional standards compared to other proposals, a significant challenge it faced was being situated in a landscape where competing proposals had already reached a more advanced stage of development.

However, despite its developmental stage, the Cerberus turret gave one of the most intriguing configurations of the M113. This configuration bears a striking resemblance in concept to the M113s in the Philippines equipped with UT30 Mk2 turrets. The Cerberus’ design adds an interesting chapter to the narrative of Spanish military innovation, demonstrating the nation’s efforts to carve its path in the field of armored vehicle development.

Cerberus M113 Test Vehicle. Illustration done by Oussama Mohamed ‘Godzilla’.

M113 with the Cerberus turret specifications (Estimated)

Weight in Combat (Tonnes) 13,64
Max velocity (km/h) 40
Engine (hp) 275
Specific power (hp/tonne) 20,16
Armament -1 Mk 44 Bushmaster II (200 rounds)
-1 MG-3 machine gun (500 rounds)
-Two anti-tank missiles
Dimensions (L x W x H) m 6.4 x 2.7 x 3.8
Range of the gun -10 to 60 º


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