Light armoured vehicle

A VBL from a recon squadron of the 3rd Hussards regiment on a hill above Kosov

Personnal collection

Alone in it's category

Created in the 80s to replace the aging Hotchkiss jeeps, it is thought with reconnaissance units in mind, to be the eyes of the newly created AMX 10RC.

Conceived for the Cold War, it is made to be in front of other units during a full blown war in the worst environments possible. NBC proof, able to cross rough terrain and water patches, it's quick, agile and can adapt to every terrain.

An old Hotchkiss jeep in the desert

Picture from indiancars

Compared to other recon vehicles, the french VBL has no equals among its peers.

Fairly compact, easy to hide, very nimble and agile, it is the only vehicle used in recon to be this small.
Beside that point, it is capable of numerous types of missions and offers to its crew the capability to navigate over very longue distances in the worst terrains you can find.

VBL of the french 12RC tank regiment, equipped for blue on blue training

Picture from automotomagazine

Missile mounted on a Milan VBL

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The VBL is not only a moving vector, it's also a living quarter and above all a fighting post.

Two size are developped, the regular VBL and the longer VB2L (Long Light armoured Vehicle) from which every other variation stems from.
Beside lenght itself, it's mostly the armament that can widely differ and offer a wide range of capabilities.
Numerous variants are fielded, including the light 7,62mm machinegun sporting at first a french AANF1 and then a belgian Mag58 (GPMG for the brits), the 12,7mm with its turret at the back, missiles with the french Milan and even an AT4CS variant for close antitank fighting.
More than those, the VBL shows its flexibility when it's intented for export. A great deal of weapon systems are adapted for it and it can use a wide variety of calibers.

Greek army VBLs, 12,7 on the left but with an offset turret that is hazardous to the balance, 40mm automatic grenade launcher on the right

Seen on flickr

Tinkered 12,7 turret to allow some shadow from the harsh desert sun, as well as tinkered "boxes" on the sides for extra rations and water bottles in case of long range patrols

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Tow variant for export

Seen on armyrecognition

Mistral AA missiles for area denial

Picture from strategic-bureau

After 30 years in use at the benefit of the french army and more than 15 other coutries, the VBL is paramount to it's units of dotation's doctrines.

20mm canon prototype, you can see it's using a different fan on the hood

Picture from the warthunder forum

Back of a VB2L long variant used by 2RH operators

from the army site sengager.fr

A real all terrain vehicle

It is very complicated to mention every variant that has been fielded for the VBL, you can see here a small fraction of what has been used with it.

What equipment it is bearing is not all there is to marvel at, for its ways of transporting it is what is the real deal.

Beaching from a landing craft with the marines

Picture from avionslegendaires

Long range patrol of the 2RH crossing waters with no hassle, a small propeller is embedded at the back of the VBL

Picture from timagazine

There is so much to say on this gem of a vehicle, and everyone that served with it holds it in high regards.
VBL patrols got a strong crew spirit, coming from the harsh conditions they face when using it, often a long way from friendly units.
I'm not a mechanic, that's why I avoided talking about tech specifics but focused on how the VBL is used, it's capabilities and what makes it so unique.

With a surprising agility, the VBL moves with no difficulties over very rough terrain, compensating it's meagre top speed of 95km/h (and that is when it's on a road, with a steep incline and a lot of wind coming from behind) by an impressive ease of movement for an armoured car.

On the ground, across the water or through the air, the VBL simply ignores it's fate of being a big heavy metal box to appear where we least expect it to be.
It is also completely airtight because of an embedded NBC device that allows it to keep fighting even in hazardous nuclear or chemical environments.

Not only made for driving through everything, the VBL has been conceived to be transportable.

It's small lenght and berth allows it to be stacked in number inside of boats or airplanes.
A well thought system of hooks makes it easily lifted by a helicopter or dropped on parachutes.

2RH VBL lifted by an RAF Chinook

Picture from facebook


Prototype VB2L presented at Eurosatory in 2006 in t's Milan variant. It's never been fielded in a VB2L body to my knowledge but it illustrate pretty well how the missiles are loaded on the right. You can get a glimpse of the air conditioning unit between the driver and the passenger, that piece of equipment is only available in VB2L variants and everyone serving on regular VBLs in the desert is jealous of that

Picture from shutterstock

Mexican army wanted more firepower, both a Milan missile and a 40mm grenade launcher

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Delivery by air for this VBL

Picture from wikimedia

Fine tuning of optics on a training range

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French recon platoon on the Tessalit FOB in Mali

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I wanted to end this article by saying that I am damn proud to have served in this tin box, that moved me, protected me and allowed me to get through my assignments.
This subject, more than others is dear to me.
I hope to have done justice to this excellent vehicle, even if it's old, does not have air conditioning, is not as "armoured" as the name suggest and is very prone to blow up on IED; it also gave me the best and fondest of memories and is a great way to insert small recon units fast and deep.