Véhicule Blindé Léger
VBL of the 1st Parachute Hussard Regiment in Afghanistan, with wire snag/cutter braced on bonnet.
|Place of origin||France|
|Produced||1985 – 2010|
|Mass||3.5 to 4 tonnes|
|Length||3.80 m (4.00 m long version)|
|Armour||STANAG level 1 (protection against 7.62×51 NATO rounds and shrapnel)|
|depends on the version|
|Engine||Peugeot XD3T turbo-diesel|
95 hp (70 kW)
|Suspension||0.35 m ground clearance|
|600 to 800 km|
The Panhard Véhicule Blindé Léger ("Light armoured vehicle"), also known by its acronym Panhard VBL or simply VBL, is a French wheeled 4x4 all-terrain vehicle built by Panhard. The vehicle is offered in various configurations, and was designed to combine the agility of the Peugeot VLTT liaison vehicle with adequate protection against small arms fire, artillery fragments, mines and NBC weapons. It has been used by the French Army and other European, African and Central American armies in various conflicts since the 1980s.
The French VBL programme started in 1978. Both Renault and Panhard proposed a prototype. The Panhard model was selected in 1985 and the VBL started its active operational service in the French Army in 1990. The VBL, sold abroad as ULTRAV M-11 has been produced at Marolles-en-Hurepoix. The last VBL left the plant in 2010.
The VBL has two compartments: a motor compartment, placed forward, that protects the combat compartment. The crew takes place in the combat compartment. Its compact internal dimensions led to the design of a lengthened version of the VBL. The crew of the VBL is protected against NBC weapons. The recce versions have a two-man crew while the anti-tank versions have a three-men crew.
The French Army version of the VBL is equipped with a Peugeot XD3T turbo-diesel engine. This engine is used on many civilian cars, such as the Peugeot 505, Peugeot 605 and Talbot Tagora and the VBL used many other standard civilian components. Its 95 hp power and 29.5 hp/t power ratio enable the VBL to speed at 95 km/h. It has a fuel consumption of 16 litres per 100 km. Its autonomy of 600 km can be extended to 800 km by two external fuel tanks. Designed to be lighter than 3.5 t, the mass of the VBL has increased to 4 t.
The VBL is fully amphibious and can swim at 5.4 km/h; it is also air transportable by C-130, C-160, Il-76 and A400M. It can be transported underslung by larger helicopters, such as the AS332 Super Puma, and may also be para-dropped.
Due to the contribution of the French Army to the Blue Helmets in Yugoslavia, the VBL was one of the ubiquitous sights in the Siege of Sarajevo. It was used as a mean of transport by the main commanders of the UN forces, including General MacKenzie. It earned the nickname of "Sarajevo Taxi". Some have been captured by the Army of Republika Srpska after the NATO bombings against Bosnian Serb Force.
The Forces Armées Rwandaises used their VBLs against the Rwandan Patriotic Army during the Rwandan Civil War. Vehicles captured by the Rwandan Patriotic Army later saw action in the First and Second Congo Wars.
The Nigerian Army used the Panhard VBL as part of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group during the Sierra Leone Civil War. They have seen further use during the Boko Haram insurgency, some being lost to Boko Haram.
- VBL standard, armed with a 7.62 mm machine gun AN-F1 (3000 rounds). It used to carry 12 APILAS anti-tank weapons, that has been replaced by ERYX short range ATGM
- VBL MILAN: Anti-tank medium range combat. It uses one MILAN missile fire unit with six missiles, and mounts a MIRA Thermal camera.
- VB2L POSTE DE COMMANDEMENT: ("VBL Long") Command version. Lengthened version that operates a VHF system with two PR4G radios, a HF System with one SSB radio for long range and a Radio/intercom system for the crew. Its armament is a ring-mount fitted with a 7.62 mm machine gun (1400 rounds). Specific equipment: A work station with map board and folding table, additional batteries to meet the requirements of the radio and auxiliary services giving up to 8 hours additional endurance, and a folding seat for 4th crew member.
- VBL RECO 12.7: reconnaissance and troops engagement. Operates one M2 machine gun on PL-127 ring-mount protected by side armour. Older versions had a CTM-105 ring-mount. The M2 machine gun can be replaced by a 40 mm grenade launcher.
- VBL Ultima: upgraded version, , with a 130 hp diesel engine, new communication devices and without amphibious abilities.
The Reco version (7.62 or 12.7) is equipped with TR-VP 213 or PR4G radio, OB 41 and OB 43 night vision goggles and DUK-DUR 440 radiation meter and a dosimeter. In the MILAN version, the TR-VP 213 is replaced by a TR-VP 13 radio and the OB 41 by OB 51 night goggles.
- VBL TOW: Anti-tank long range with a TOW tube and 4 missiles.
- VBL ALBI-MISTRAL: Air defense version armed with twin-round ALBI turret firing the MISTRAL "fire-and-forget" air defence missile, 6 missiles including 2 on the fire unit.
- VBL Mark 2: Upgraded version with a 125 hp Steyr engine and a Protector Remote Weapon Station.
- VBL MVO: version for riot control and internal security tasks.
- VBL (à flancs redressés) CANON: With a MK 20 Rh 202 automatic 20 mm cannon on an automated turret.
- VBL TOURELLE FERMEE: With a 12.7 mm remotely controlled turret.
- VBL Azur: Urban warfare version.
The first user of the VBL was the Mexican Army, that ordered 40 in 1984. They were the first ones to be delivered, in 1985. Three versions were bought: standard armed with a FN MAG, VBL PC (command post, on short chassis) and VBL MILAN.
Portugal ordered its first VBL in December 1987. Locally designated M-11 for the short version and M-11D 4x4 M/89-91 for the long version, they have been serving alongside the Bravia Chaimite in the Recce squadron of the Intervention Brigade and in the Recce squadron of the Brigada Aerotransportada Independente. The M-11s are armed with a Browning M1919 machine gun or with a MILAN missile and the M-11Ds with M-2 Browning machine gun or SB-40 grenade-launcher on a PL127 ring-mount or with a AN/PPS-5 radar. Greece ordered six VBLs in 1997 to use them in Albania, where the Hummer was too large and too unstable in frozen roads. The success of the vehicles drove to ten more orders between 1997 and 2004. The Greek VBLs are similar to the ones of the French Army, with short and long chassis, some with PL-127 ring-mount or with MILAN missiles.
Niger ordered 1 VB2L and 6 short VBLs with 7.62 machine guns in 1985, all delivered in 1986. Gabon ordered in 1985 12 VBLs for its presidential guard, one with an Elta radar, the others with a 12.7 machine gun on a CTM-105 mount or with an AA-52. Togo ordered and received in 1986 2 standard VBLs. Rwanda ordered 16 VBLs, including VBL PC, VBL standard and 6 VBL MILAN in 1986. Cameroon ordered in 1987 one VB2L PC and four short chassis others with a 12.7 machine gun on a CTM 105 ring-mount or with a 7.62 machine gun. The 1st squadron of the Guluf Battalion of the Djiboutian Army has been equipped with 7 VBLs since 1987. Some of these VBLs are equipped with a NSV machine gun. A first order of 40 VBLs signed in 1985 by Nigeria was canceled but 72 were ordered in 1992 and delivered, including 10 with CTM-105 ring-mount, 10 VB2L PC and others with FN MAG machine guns. Around 30 were in operational service in 2004.
Kuwait National Guard received 12 VBL TOW and 8 VBL with PL 127 in 1996. All these vehicles are armed with a secondary FN MAG machine gun. Qatar ordered 16 VBLs, in three versions (standard with FN MAG, CTM-105 and MILAN) to equip a recce squadron. After intensive tests in 1994, the sultanate of Oman ordered more than 132 VBLs for its anti-tank and recce squadrons. Several versions have been ordered, such as te standard FN MAG version, the VBL TOW, the VBL CTM-105 and a version with Mistral SAMs. The Kuwait Ministry of Interior ordered 20 VBL Mk 2 for its special forces in 2008.
- Benin: 10
- Botswana: 37
- Cameroon: 5,
- Djibouti: 10-15
- France: 1,621
- Gabon: 12-14
- Greece: 242,
- Indonesia: 18
- Kuwait: 40
- Mexico: 40
- Niger: 7
- Nigeria: 72
- Oman: 132
- Portugal: 37-38
- Qatar: 16
- Saudi Arabia: 2
- Senegal: 9
- Togo: 2
- United Arab Emirates: 24
- Russia: the Ministry of Internal Affairs considered the building of 500 to 1000 VBL Mark 2 for its security forces in 2011. This prospect was cancelled in 2014 due to the international sanctions during the Ukrainian crisis.
- West Germany: the Bundeswehr tested the VBL at the end of the 1980s.
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