The Panhard AML ("Auto Mitrailleuse Legere", translating simply to "Light Armored Car") was a light armored car of French design and taken on by the French Army to replace an aging stock of British-originated Daimler "Ferret" cars in same battlefield role. The type was well-received, particularly on the export market, where over forty nations found value in the product. Operators eventually ranged from Algeria and Argentina to Venezuela and Yemen. The French Army maintains about 100 of the cars in reserve (2017) while Saudi Arabia, currently the second largest operator, has purchased 300 of two variants and keeps about 235 operational.
After World War 2 (1939-1945), the depleted French Army operated with vehicles mostly of foreign origination. The war had shown the value of such armored, fast-moving and agile cars, particularly in the reconnaissance and local security role, and, with the Daimler Ferret having seen its best days, the Panhard AML was developed as a private venture successor - it was heavily influenced by the French experience with the British design. A pilot vehicle was made ready in 1959 and, following the requisite trials and evaluation period, it was adopted for service in the French inventory. Serial production was started in 1960 and over 4,800 examples were completed from there.
As built, the car featured a 4x4 wheeled arrangement which excellent ground clearance and a suspended chassis for cross-country travel. The crew numbered three - driver, commander, and dedicated gunner. A turret was set over the hull superstructure and could be outfitted with anything from machine guns to automatic cannons. A mortar was also carried as standard primary armament on most models. Drive power was from an in-house Panhard 1.99I Model 4 HD flat 4-cylinder air-cooled gasoline-fueled engine. Road speeds reached 100 kmh and operational range was out to 600 kilometers.
Economical to procure and operate, the Panhard AML saw service in notable conflicts of the latter 20th Century including the Algerian War (1954-1962), the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), and the Falklands War (1982). They were ever-present across Africa and saw much action in local rebellions and civil wars on the continent. Its lightweight nature made it relatively easy to transport by rail, road, or air and, if outfitted with the 90mm turreted main gun, made the car one of the most powerful of its kind - firepower comparable to a light tank of the period. Beyond its armor-defeating capability, a High-Explosive (HE) shell meant that the gun could easily be brought to bear against softer targets like dug-in infantry. The onboard mortar provided indirect fire support and the machine gun added an anti-infantry measure.
Major variants to emerge were the AML-60 and AML-90. The AML-60 (also "AML HE 60-7" or "AML-245B") was the original production form and fitted a turret with rounded sides as well as 2 x 7.62mm machine guns coaxially. With the AML 60-20, the two machine guns were replaced by a single 20mm automatic cannon. The AML-60-20 "Serval" carried the Hispano-Suiza Serval turret and retained the 20mm autocannon fit and modernized the mortar installation. The AML-60-12 replaced the autocannon with a 12.7mm Heavy Machine Gun (HMG).
The AML-90 (or "AML-245C") carried a 90mm DEFA main gun (rifled) which gave it exceptional firepower against lightly-armor vehicles. The AML-90 "Lynx" was a modernized form that added a ranging and sighting system for the main gun. Night sights were also offered.
The AML S530 was developed as a Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft (SPAA) system with 2 x 20mm automatic cannons. The AML-20 fitted a 20mm automatic cannon in a new powered turret. The AML-30 was a prototype fitting the Hispano-Suiza HS.831 30mm gun in a powered turret. The AML-NA-2 was a proposed Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) carrier. The Panhard M3 became an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) model sporting up to 95% commonality of parts with the original AML offering.
South Africa produced the car under license under the Sandock-Austal brand label. It was known locally as the "Eland".