Véhicule Blindé Léger

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VBL RHP Afghanistan.JPG
VBL of the 1st Parachute Hussard Regiment in Afghanistan, with wire snag/cutter braced on bonnet.
TypeScout car
Place of originFrance
Service history
Production history
Produced1985 – 2010
Mass3.5 to 4 tonnes
Length3.80 m (4.00 m long version)
Width2.02 m
Height1.70 m

ArmourSTANAG level 1 (protection against 7.62×51 NATO rounds and shrapnel)
depends on the version
EnginePeugeot XD3T turbo-diesel
95 hp (70 kW)
Power/weight29.5 hp/t
Suspension0.35 m ground clearance
600 to 800 km
Speed95 km/h

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.


Internal view of the cockpit of the VBL
Internal view of a VBL

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.[1] The last VBL left the plant in 2010.[2]

The VBL has two compartments: a motor compartment, placed forward, that protects the combat compartment.[3] The crew takes place in the combat compartment. Its compact internal dimensions led to the design of a lengthened version of the VBL.[4] The crew of the VBL is protected against NBC weapons.[5] The recce versions have a two-man crew while the anti-tank versions have a three-men crew.[6]

The French Army version of the VBL is equipped with a Peugeot XD3T turbo-diesel engine.[4] 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.[6] Its 95 hp power and 29.5 hp/t power ratio enable the VBL to speed at 95 km/h.[4] It has a fuel consumption of 16 litres per 100 km.[7] Its autonomy of 600 km can be extended to 800 km by two external fuel tanks.[4] Designed to be lighter than 3.5 t, the mass of the VBL has increased to 4 t.[8]

The VBL is fully amphibious and can swim at 5.4 km/h;[9] 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.[10]

Combat experience[edit]

A soldier stand in front of a convoy of military vehicles, with KFOR markings and Portuguese flags. The second véhicule is a Portguese VBL.
A Portuguese VBL deployed in Kosovo, 2000.

The VBL has been used in many peacekeeping operations of the French Army, notably in Lebanon,[11] Bosnia,[12] Rwanda[13] and Kosovo.[14]

In the 2000s and 2010s, the VBL has also been used by French forces in Ivory Coast,[15][16] in Afghanistan,[17] in Northern Mali[18] and the Central African Republic.[19]

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.[12] It earned the nickname of "Sarajevo Taxi".[20] Some have been captured by the Army of Republika Srpska after the NATO bombings against Bosnian Serb Force.[21]

The Forces Armées Rwandaises used their VBLs against the Rwandan Patriotic Army during the Rwandan Civil War.[22] Vehicles captured by the Rwandan Patriotic Army later saw action in the First and Second Congo Wars.[23]

The Portuguese VBLs have also been deployed as part of the Implementation Force in Kosovo.[24] The Greek VBLs have been used in Kosovo, North Macedonia and Afghanistan.[25]

The Mexican VBLs faced the Zapatista Army of National Liberation during the Chiapas conflict.[26] The Djiboutian VBLs served during the Djiboutian Civil War in the 1990s.[27]

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.[28] They have seen further use during the Boko Haram insurgency, some being lost to Boko Haram.[29]


A short VBL during the military parade on the avenue des Champs-Élysées
VBL standard
A VBL with an heavy machine gun during the military parade on the avenue des Champs-Élysées
A VBL with an anit-tank missile during the military parade on the avenue des Champs-Élysées

French versions[edit]

  • 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[30]
  • VBL MILAN: Anti-tank medium range combat. It uses one MILAN missile fire unit with six missiles,[31] and mounts a MIRA Thermal camera.[13]
  • VB2L POSTE DE COMMANDEMENT: ("VBL Long") Command version. Lengthened version[32] 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.[33]
  • 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.[34] The M2 machine gun can be replaced by a 40 mm grenade launcher.[35]
  • VBL Ultima: upgraded version, , with a 130 hp diesel engine, new communication devices and without amphibious abilities.[2]

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.[7]

Export versions[edit]

  • VBL TOW: Anti-tank long range with a TOW tube and 4 missiles.[33]
  • 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.[33]
  • VBL Mark 2: Upgraded version with a 125 hp Steyr engine and a Protector Remote Weapon Station.[36][37]

Prototype versions[edit]



A VBL of the Mexican Army in 2010.

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.[26]


Front view of a VBL with a French-style camouflage. The older Greek flag is painted on its license plate.
A Hellenic Army VBL in 2007.

Portugal ordered its first VBL in December 1987. Locally designated M-11 for the short version[24] 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.[40] The M-11s are armed with a Browning M1919 machine gun or with a MILAN missile[41] 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 [ru] radar.[42] 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.[25]


A VBL with an heavy machine gun drives among other automobiles
A Gabonese VBL in 2009.

Niger ordered 1 VB2L and 6 short VBLs with 7.62 machine guns in 1985, all delivered in 1986.[43] 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.[44] Togo ordered and received in 1986 2 standard VBLs.[43] Rwanda ordered 16 VBLs, including VBL PC, VBL standard and 6 VBL MILAN in 1986.[22] 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.[43] The 1st squadron of the Guluf Battalion of the Djiboutian Army has been equipped with 7 VBLs since 1987.[45] Some of these VBLs are equipped with a NSV machine gun.[45] 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.[28]

Arabian peninsula[edit]

Kuwait National Guard received 12 VBL TOW and 8 VBL with PL 127 in 1996.[46] All these vehicles are armed with a secondary FN MAG machine gun.[47] Qatar ordered 16 VBLs, in three versions (standard with FN MAG, CTM-105 and MILAN) to equip a recce squadron.[48] 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.[49] The Kuwait Ministry of Interior ordered 20 VBL Mk 2 for its special forces in 2008.[36]


Indonesia ordered 18 VBLs, armed with FN MAG, in 1996. Economical crisis and the Timor Leste crisis prevented more to be bought.[50]


Former operators[edit]

Failed exports[edit]

A green unarmed VBL moves in the mud
VBL Mark 2 at a Russian arms show in 2013.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Debay 2004, pp. 4-5.
  2. ^ a b c Foss, Christopher F. (26 March 2019). "First upgraded French VBL due this year". Jane's International Defence Review.
  3. ^ Debay 2004, p. 8.
  4. ^ a b c d Debay 2004, p. 9.
  5. ^ Debay 2004, p. 14.
  6. ^ a b Foss, Christopher F. (4 October 2001). "Panhard VBL". Jane's Armour and Artillery 2002-2003.
  7. ^ a b "VBL - Véhicule blindé léger". defense.gouv.fr (in French). 13 July 2016.
  8. ^ "La prolongation des Véhicules blindés légers (VBL) à l'étude". opex360.com (in French). 8 July 2015.
  9. ^ Debay 2004, p. 12.
  10. ^ Debay 2004, p. 16.
  11. ^ Debay 2004, p. 28.
  12. ^ a b Debay 2004, p. 36.
  13. ^ a b "Le RICM au Rwanda" (PDF). L'Ancre d'Or (in French). January 1995. pp. 18–23.
  14. ^ Debay 2004, p. 71.
  15. ^ Debay 2004, pp. 86-88.
  16. ^ Guisnel, Jean. "Ce que les Français ont vraiment fait à Abidjan". Le Point (in French).
  17. ^ Debay 2004, p. 52.
  18. ^ "Mali : l'opération Serval monte en puissance". forcesoperations.com. 15 January 2013.
  19. ^ Agence France Presse (26 November 2013). "Centrafrique: l'armée française monte en puissance à Bangui" (in French).
  20. ^ Gast, Thomas (2015). Eine Frage der Ehre: Sarajevo 1992 1993 (in German). p. 24. ISBN 9783738047905.
  21. ^ a b Debay 2004, p. 40.
  22. ^ a b c Debay 2004, p. 118.
  23. ^ Debay 2004, p. 119.
  24. ^ a b c Debay 2004, p. 100.
  25. ^ a b Debay 2004, p. 109.
  26. ^ a b Debay 2004, p. 98.
  27. ^ Debay 2004, p. 121.
  28. ^ a b Debay 2004, p. 122.
  29. ^ Agence France Presse (14 December 2017). "Nigerian soldiers warned after Boko Haram attack".
  30. ^ Debay 2004, p. 18.
  31. ^ Debay 2004, p. 20.
  32. ^ Debay 2004, p. 22.
  33. ^ a b c d e "VBL Panhard 4x4 Light armoured vehicle". armyrecognition.com. 3 September 2018.
  34. ^ Debay 2004, p. 19.
  35. ^ "VBL 4 X 4 reconnaissance PL 127 avec lance-grenade". ixarm.com (in French). Direction générale de l'armement. 5 May 2010.
  36. ^ a b "VBL Mk2 Combat All-terrain Reconnaissance Armored Vehicle". armyrecognition.com. 25 November 2018.
  37. ^ Foss, Christopher F. (22 February 2015). "Middle East moves to balanced vehicle fleets [IDX15VP]". Jane's 360.
  38. ^ Debay 2004, p. 6.
  39. ^ "L'armée de terre évalue les blindés Azur en combat urbain". Raids (in French). No. 252. May 2007. p. 38.
  40. ^ Debay 2004, p. 104.
  41. ^ Debay 2004, p. 101.
  42. ^ Debay 2004, p. 102.
  43. ^ a b c Debay 2004, p. 114.
  44. ^ Debay 2004, p. 115.
  45. ^ a b Debay 2004, p. 120.
  46. ^ Debay 2004, p. 124.
  47. ^ Debay 2004, p. 125.
  48. ^ Debay 2004, p. 128.
  49. ^ Debay 2004, pp. 130-134.
  50. ^ Debay 2004, p. 135.
  51. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Trade Registers". Armstrade.sipri.org. Retrieved 2015-01-01.
  53. ^ "Des blindés Panhard pour la Russie". France Soir (in French). 23 February 2011.
  54. ^ "Создание в России бронеавтомобиля ASTAIS-VBL приостановлено". arms-expo.ru (in Russian). 26 July 2014.
  55. ^ Debay 2004, p. 31.

External links[edit]