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Panhard VBL (Vehicule Blinde Leger)

Amphibious Wheeled Armored Scout Car [ 1990 ]

The Panhard VBL light vehicle has proven a global success with operators ranging from Central and South America to Africa and the Pacific.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 07/16/2023 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The lightweight all-terrain vehicle will always have a place on the battlefield which is why designs like the French Vehicle Blinde Leger (VBL) are still in existence and have proven utterly popular with global operators. This 4x4 armored car was developed to a 1978 French Army requirement calling for a lightweight/lightly-armored reconnaissance car that could double as a weapons carrier. This resulted in pilot (prototype) vehicles emerging from the storied French concerns of Panhard and Renault. After the requisite Army evaluations were had, the Panhard offering was adopted for serial production and formal service in February of 1985. Production began in 1990 and continues today (2017).

The vehicle takes on a traditional automobile form with the engine in a frontal compartment and driver at front-left. There is a passenger seat to his right and a large console in-between. Roof hatches are featured over the driver and passenger positions and a third is set over the rear edge of the hull roof. Automobile-style doors provide entry/exit for the two front occupants. Various weapon types can be installed over the hull roof (at center) including machine guns, automatic cannons, and Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) launchers making the VBL something of an all-in-one battlefield solution. Wheels are set against the far corners of the design for excellent balance and the chassis sits high off the ground to promote strong ground clearance characteristics - useful in off road travel. Armor protection is up to STANAG Level 1, which covers small arms fire up to 7.62mm as well as artillery spray and mine fragmentation. Multiple glass facings are bullet resistant to an extent. Power to the drive system is from a Peugeot XD3T turbo-diesel engine developing 95 horsepower. Operational range is out to 600 kilometers though this can be augmented with external fuel stores to reach as far out as 1,000 kilometers. Road speeds maximize at 95 kmh. An amphibious capability is built into the VBL's design (a propeller is set at the hull rear for propulsion).

Dimensions include a length of 3.8 meters with a width of 2 meters and a height of 1.7 meters. Weight is up to 4 tonnes. These qualities allow the VBL to be air-transportable in the belly of a Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport or similar medium-class hauler.

Primary French models include the MILAN missile carrier (anti-tank platform), the ERYX missile carrier (anti-tank platform), the POSTE de COMMANDEMENT Command and Control (C2) vehicle, the RECO 12.7 infantry support vehicle, and the AT4CS anti-tank weapons carrier.

In French hands, the VBL has seen combat exposure in the former Yugoslavia, the Ivory Coast, Afghanistan and the Mali Intervention. Much of its time abroad has been spent in support of UN-led peacekeeping endeavors to war-torn parts of the world.

Exportation of the VBL has been strong with operators seen from Benin and Botswana to Togo and the United Arab Emirates. The largest VBL operator outside of France has become Oman (132) followed by Nigeria (72). The vehicle provides a relatively cheap security system for budget-conscious shoppers. Export models include the ULTRAV M11 NBC reconnaissance platform, the TOW missile carrier (anti-tank system), the MISTRAL missile carrier (air defense system), the CANON with 20mm auto cannon turret, and the TOURELLE FERMEE featuring a Remote Weapon Station (RWS) mounting a 12.7 heavy-caliber machine gun.©MilitaryFactory.com
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December 2020 - Up to 120 modernized VBL vehicles will be ordered by the French Army in 2021.


Service Year

France national flag graphic

In Active Service.

National flag of Cameroon National flag of France National flag of Gabon National flag of Georgia National flag of Greece National flag of Indonesia National flag of Kuwait National flag of Mexico National flag of Niger National flag of Nigeria National flag of Oman National flag of Portugal National flag of Qatar National flag of Russia National flag of Rwanda National flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia National flag of Senegal National flag of Serbia National flag of the United Arab Emirates Benin; Botswana; Cameroon; Djibouti; France; Gabon; Georgia (former); Greece; Indonesia; Kuwait; Mexico; Niger; Nigeria; Oman; Portugal; Qatar; Russia (ordered); Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Serbia; Togo; United Arab Emirates
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Amphibious Assault
Traverse bodies of open water under own power with / without preparation.
Armored Car
Design, of typically lightweight nature, providing onroad/offroad capabilities for the scouting or general security roles.
Can conduct reconnaissance / scout missions to assess threat levels, enemy strength, et al - typically through lightweight design.

12.5 ft
3.8 m
6.6 ft
2.02 m
5.6 ft
1.7 m
8,157 lb
3,700 kg
4.1 tons
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Panhard VBL production variant. Length typically includes main gun in forward position if applicable to the design)
Powerplant: 1 x Peugot XD3T turbocharged diesel-fueled engine developing 95 horsepower driving conventional four-wheeled arrangement.
59.0 mph
(95.0 kph)
372.8 mi
(600.0 km)
(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the Panhard VBL production variant. Compare this entry against any other in our database)
Variable. 7.62mm to 12.7mm machine guns. Missile carriers mount various anti-tank or anti-aircraft missile types.

Supported Types

Graphical image of a surface-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a tank anti-tank guided missile
Graphical image of a tank medium machine gun
Graphical image of a tank heavy machine gun

(Not all weapon types may be represented in the showcase above)
Dependent upon armament fit: 3,000 x 7.62mm ammunition; 6 x MILAN Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs).

VBL - Base Series Designation.
VBL MILAN - ATGM vehicle.
VBL ERYX - ATGM vehicle.
VBL RECO 12.7 - Reconnaissance vehicle; 12.7mm armament.
VBL AT4CS - ATGM vehicle.
ULTRAV M11 - Export NBC vehicle.
VBL TOW - Export TOW ATGM carrier.
VBL ALBI-MISTRAL - Export air-defense vehicle.
VBL CANON - Export vehicle with turreted 20mm auto cannon.
VBL TOURELLE FERMEE - Export vehicle with RWS mounting 12.7mm HMG.

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Images Gallery

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Image of the Panhard VBL (Vehicule Blinde Leger)
Image from official Panhard marketing material.
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Image of the Panhard VBL (Vehicule Blinde Leger)
Image from official Panhard marketing material.
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Image of the Panhard VBL (Vehicule Blinde Leger)
Image from official Panhard marketing material.
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Image of the Panhard VBL (Vehicule Blinde Leger)
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS imagery database.

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