The Panhard VBL (light armoured vehicle) is a 4×4 wheeled all-terrain vehicle manufactured by Panhard General Defense, for the French armed forces. The vehicle is primarily deployed in patrol and surveillance missions.
The VBL can also be used for anti-tank or air defence missions. It is the frontrunner of the French armour units. The vehicle has been successfully deployed for the past 15 years in various missions in Africa, Lebanon, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
The Kuwaiti Ministry of the Interior placed an order in June 2008, for 20 VBL Mk2 light armoured vehicles to equip its special forces. The vehicles were delivered in October 2009.
In October 2012, Panhard General Defense was acquired by Renault Trucks Defense, a subsidiary of Volvo.
More than 2,300 VBL vehicles are operational within 16 armies worldwide, including 1,600 vehicles in service with the French Army.
The VBL is offered in a number of mission variants, including troop carrier, scout vehicle, reconnaissance, security, command and control, and anti-tank vehicle.
The VBL Antichar is an anti-tank defence variant armed with anti-tank missiles to engage main battle tanks. The VBL Source, developed in cooperation with Thales, allows reconnaissance units to extend their range of operations and ensures scout units to share an integrated communications network.
The VBL Mk2 is an improved version of the VBL. It is equipped with a 132hp engine, day/night observation scope, and a remotely operated WASP turret mounting a machine gun. The VBL Mk2 is in service with the Kuwait Police Special Forces.
VBL design and features
The Panhard VBL incorporates an all-welded steel hull. The driver is seated in the front of the crew cab on the left, with the commander to his right. Crew can enter or exit through a door located on either side of the vehicle. The rear compartment is accessible via a large door at the rear that opens to the left.
The vehicle measures 4.09m in length without equipment and 2.02m in width. The height to the roof top is 1.7m. The VBL can accommodate up to four crew members. The combat weight of the vehicle is 4,000kg, and the payload carrying capacity is 900kg.
The self-supporting body is built of very high-density steel with thickness from 5 to 11mm, while the armoured windows provide the same level of protection as the steel.
Observation and control of VBL vehicles
The driver is provided with an emergency periscope. A single-piece hatch cover is fitted on the top of the driver’s position. The commander is also provided with a single-piece circular hatch cover. A small bullet proof window behind the cabin crew provides observation of the rear side.
The roof of the rear compartment includes a single-piece hatch cover.
Armament and self-protection of Panhard light armoured vehicles
The VBL Mk2 features a PL127 turret, mounting a 12.7mm heavy machine gun. The gunner’s position is very well protected. The vehicle is also fitted with a 40mm grenade launcher in place of 12.7mm gun. The anti-tank versions of the VBL are armed with anti-tank guided missile systems such as Milan, Kornet, Tow and Ingwe.
The armoured integral hull of the vehicle protects the crew from 7.62mm rounds and shrapnel, and anti-personnel mines. The armoured body offers STANAG level 1 protection.
The vehicle is optionally fitted with nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection system.
VBL engine and mobility
The VBL is powered by a Peugeot XD 3T 95hp engine or Steyr 125hp engine coupled to a ZF four-speed automatic gearbox. The engine provides a maximum speed of 95km/h. The 100L tank capacity allows the vehicle to reach a distance between 600km and 800km.
The VBL is equipped with a central tyre inflation system for better mobility across different terrains. The vehicle can negotiate a side slope of 30% and gradient of 50%. The approach and departure angles of the VBL are 80° and 60° respectively.
The armoured fighting vehicle is propelled in water at a speed of 5.4km/h by an optionally fitted amphibious kit. The trim vane forward of the vehicle is manually erected before entering water. The VBL is air transportable by helicopters and transport aircraft such as C-160 and C-130.