Ground Warfare

France Army Receives First Refurbished VBL-R Light Armoured Vehicle

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France Army Receives First Refurbished VBL-R Light Armoured Vehicle

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France Army Receives First Refurbished VBL-R Light Armoured Vehicle
France Army Receives First Refurbished VBL-R Light Armoured Vehicle

The French General Directorate of Armament (DGA) delivered the first batch of four refurbished Light Armored Vehicles (VBL-R) on February 26, 2024. These deliveries mark the commencement of the anticipated 102 VBL-R units slated for delivery this year. While the VBL-R serves as an interim solution, it will eventually be succeeded by the Armored Engagement Support Vehicle (VBAE). This program, conducted in collaboration with Belgium, saw the pre-conception contract awarded to ARQUUS, KNDS, and John Cockerill Defense by the OCCAR in December 2023. This revitalization initiative not only prolongs the operational life of the VBL but also enhances the Army’s capabilities, ensuring readiness for contemporary and future challenges on the bat

The recipients of these four VBL-R units are the French Army, who have already received a total of 247 ULTIMA-standardized VBL-Rs since 2020. Manufactured by ARQUUS at its facility in Saint-Nazaire, Loire-Atlantique, this revitalization initiative is scheduled to continue until the culmination of 2028. Originally introduced into the Army in 1990, the Light Armored Vehicle (VBL) serves as a reconnaissance asset for armored cavalry platoons (initially with AMX10RC and later with Jaguar). It also fulfills roles in tactical intelligence and deep reconnaissance missions. The ongoing revitalization program ensures the VBL’s operational relevance within the French Army until 2035.

France Army Refurbished VBL-R Light Armoured Vehicle
France Army Refurbished VBL-R Light Armoured Vehicle. (Photo by French General Directorate of Armament)

The Panhard VBL (Véhicule Blindé Léger, Light armoured vehicle”) is a French wheeled 4×4 all-terrain vehicle built by Panhard (now ARQUUS). The vehicle is offered in various configurations, and was designed to combine the agility of the Peugeot P4 liaison vehicle with adequate protection against small arms fire, artillery fragments, mines and NBC weapons. 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. Produced between 1985 and 2010, the vehicle has been used by the French Army and other European, African and Central American armies in various conflicts since the 1980s. The VBL is fully amphibious and drives at 5.4 km/h (3.4 mph) in water; 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.

VBL Ultima is an upgraded version, with a 130 hp (97 kW) diesel engine, new communication devices and without amphibious abilities. The ULTIMA standard brings significant enhancements to the VBL’s operational capabilities. Safety measures are augmented with the inclusion of ABS, power steering, and reinforced suspension. Equipped with air conditioning, the VBL is also designed to accommodate a protection kit, enhancing crew resilience in combat situations. The electrical system undergoes modernization with the installation of an alternator capable of meeting the power demands of newly integrated electronic equipment. Additionally, the crew benefits from a 300 kg increase in payload capacity.

 France Army Refurbished VBL-R Light Armoured Vehicle. (Photo by French General Directorate of Armament)
France Army Refurbished VBL-R Light Armoured Vehicle. (Photo by French General Directorate of Armament)

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