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Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé
VAB armoured personnel carrier DSC00846-b.jpg
A VAB carrier during a Bastille Day celebration in Paris, France
Type Armoured personnel carrier
Place of origin  France
Service history
In service 1976- present
Used by France and numerous others
Wars Gulf War

2001 invasion of Afghanistan

Production history
Designer GIAT Industries
Weight 13.8 Mg (13.8 tonnes loaded)
Length 5.98 m
Width 2.49 m
Height 2.06 m
Crew 2

Armour Protection against 7.62 mm bullets and mines.
1 × AA52 7.62 mm machine gun
Engine Renault MIDR 062045
235 kW (320 hp)[1]
Power/weight 17 W/kg (23 hp/t)
Payload capacity 2 crews front + 10 troops rear
Suspension wheeled
Ground clearance 0.40 metres[2]
Fuel capacity 310 litres [2]
1,200 km[2]
Speed 90 km/h
2.2 m/s in water [2]

The Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé or VAB ("Armoured Vanguard Vehicle" in French) is an armoured personnel carrier and support vehicle designed by the Euro Mobilité Division of GIAT Industries of France. It entered service in 1976; around 5000 were produced.[3]



The VAB was designed as a wheeled troop transporter, complementing the tracked AMX-10P. Specifications for the project called for an NBC-proof, amphibious [4], lightly armoured vehicle to provide infantry with basic protection against schrapnels and light infantry weapons. These features were dictated by its possible usage in the event of an all-out conventional war breaking out against the Warsaw Pact; in particular, the amphibious capabilities were needed to bridge the rivers in Eastern France and in Germany. [5]

Companies Panhard and Saviem/Renault answered the requirement, and the Renault prototype was selected in May 1974,[6] with 4000 units ordered. The first delivery occurred in 1976, and production continued at a rate of 30 to 40 units a month. [3]

A double armoured door at the rear allows access to the passenger compartment. Two inwards-looking, foldable benches provide space for 5 soldiers each. The crew enters the forwards compartment through two lateral hatches, the driver on the left, and the gunner of the right; two more hatches in the roof give access to armament and provide for emergency exit. The front windows are bullet-proof and heated, and can be further sheltered from incomming fire by armoured pannels which can be either entirely shut, or leave a small slit for observation; the windows on the side and rear doors are covered by a similar system.

The engine is located behind the driver, while the right side of the vehicle is kept free, providing a passageway between the crew and passager compartments.

Modern versions of the VAB have had more than 1,000 improvements compared to the initial version.[7] From 1998, the VABs in usage in the French Army underwent three major overhauls:

  • replacement of the manual gear by an automatic transmission (T1)
  • replacement of the breaks and automated tire pressuring (T2)
  • armour upgrade (T3)

With a modest 13-tonne mass, the VAB can easily be airlifted for deployment abroad.[2] It is capable of tracking a 4-tonne trailer. The large wheels of the VAB allow it to sustain slopes of 60%, and cants of up to 30%.[8]

In 2003, Renault Trucks Défense took over marketing the VAB, as part of a commercial agreement with GIAT.


Armour upgrade

A VAB armed with a 20mm gun turret, with added armour, deployed in Afghanistan on 19 August 2009

The armour upgrade of the VAB aimed at increasing from protection against light infantry weapons to protection against heavy machine guns, typically 12.7 mm projectiles. This increased the weight of the vehicles by about two tonnes, thereby loosing its amphibious capabilities.

The amphibious design of the hull, the relatively light weight and the armour upgrade seem to give the VAB strong resistance against mines: when exposed to an explosion from below, the VAB tends to be lifted in the air, which allows most of the strength of the explosion to be dispersed away from the vehicle; furthermore, the shape of the hull and the disposition of the wheels deflect the shock wave, helping to maintain hull integrity. [5]


The heavy machine gun version of the VAB carries a M2 machine gun in an open turret; the light version sports an AA52 in a similar arrangement. In both cases, the crewman who mans the machine gun is protected from incoming fire only by an armoured panel on the front and by the two halves of the hatch door on the sides, giving him little protection against indirect fire, surprise attacks and explosions [9], or if the VAB rolls over [10]. As of July 2007, all the personel killed by mines aboard VABs had occupied the gunner position, though serious injuries were sometimes sustained by crewmen inside the hull. [5]

From 2007, repeated requests were issued by the Army head of staff for tele-operated 12.7mm turrets to be fitted on these vehicles as a crash requirement. [11] A programme was launched, scheduling turret and battle command upgrades for over 500 VABs, now labeled VAB TOP.

In early May 2008, Renault Trucks Défence signed an eight-year, 20 million euro contract with Kongsberg Gruppen of Norway, for equipping the VAB with subsidiary Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace's Protector M151 Remote Weapon Station.[12] Delivery are planned to range from 2009 to 2016[7]. About 60 VAB-TOP were deployed in Afghanistan from early 2009, and they fired in anger for the first time during the Battle of Alasay. Field experience shows a markable drop in ammunition consumption with the tele-operated turret, whose computer allows the operator to fire efficient single shots, rather than bursts. [13] This somewhat alleviates concerns raised by the need to reload the turret from outside. [14]


Replacement of the VAB is scheduled for around 2020. A diesel-electric vehicle stemming from the EBM10-EBM20 programme is due to be selected. The Armoured Multirol Carrier‎ has been cited as a strong contender.

Combat history

VAB deployed with the French contingent of the ISAF (right), next to a US MRAP, 7 August 2009.

VABs have been deployed in virtually all theatres where French infantry troops were present, notably Kuwait, the Ivory Coast, Yugoslavia, and Chad. VABs belonging to the Royal Moroccan Army ( FAR ) have seen heavy combat during the conflict with Polisario rebels of the Western Sahara.

French troops supporting ISAF in Afghanistan also use the VAB. During the Uzbin valley ambush, a VAB was hit by a rocket propelled grenade, with no injuries. One soldier manning the rooftop machine gun of a VAB was later killed when the road collapsed under his vehicle and it rolled over.[15] In March 2009, a VAB driver was killed by a rocket attack during the battle of Alasay.[16]


VOA artillery spotting variant
VIB 20 mm turret variant
Mephisto anti-tank missile variant
The VXB VBRG Gendarmerie version being replaced by the VAB Variant

Variants may be 4×4 or 6×6 wheels, the 6×6 yielding a 10% increase in cost. [3] The French military mainly uses 4-wheel versions, while the Engineers Corps (Génie) use 6-wheel versions with enhanced amphibious capabilities. Export versions are also 6×6s.

  • VAB VTT: 4x4 APC version, crew of two and ten passengers
  • VAB T-20/13: VAB equipped with a turret mounted 20 mm gun recovered from old AMX-13 VCIs and refurbished and intended for fire support and for counter sniping
  • VIB: IFV version fitted with the Toucan system, a tele-operated turret fitted with a 20 mm cannon and a AA52 7.62 mm machine-gun. Used by the French Air Force for airfield defence.[11]
  • VAB VOA: Artillery observation vehicle
  • VAB RATAC: Radar Artillery target acquisition vehicle, carries a doppler radar with a range of 20 km
  • VAB RASIT: Reconnaissance vehicle, carries the RASIT ground surveillance radar
  • VAB PC: Command vehicle
  • VAB SIR: Digital regimental C4ISTAR information system
  • VAB Bromure: Electronic warfare vehicle
  • VAB Echelon: Maintenance and repair vehicle
  • VAB Génie: Engineering vehicle
  • VCAC Mephisto: Anti-tank vehicle, carries the Euromissile Mephisto system with four ready-to-fire HOT anti-tank missiles and eight more in reserve
  • VTM 120: Mortar towing vehicle, can carry 70 bombs for the Thomson-Brandt 120mm mortar
  • VPM 81: Mortar carrier with an 81mm mortar firing through a roof opening
  • VAB SAN: Armoured ambulance
  • VAB Reco: NBC reconnaissance vehicle
  • VAB ATLAS: Artillery fire command and control vehicle
  • VAB AZURE: Urban warfare vehicle equipped with a dozer blade and with panoramic periscopes to observe and monitor.
  • VBC-90: Armoured car variant in service with the Mobile Gendarmerie
  • VAB TOP: 4x4 APC version fitted with a Kongsberg Protector M151 RWS with 12.7mm machine gun and ceramic addon armour

Versions reserved for export:

  • VCAC UTM800: Export model anti-tank vehicle, carries the Euromissile UTM800 turret, with four ready-to-launch HOT missiles, and 16 more in reserve. In service with Qatar and Cyprus
  • VAB Vehicle: Maintenance vehicle (with crane)
  • VAB workshop

The French Gendarmerie also uses a variant of the VAB, which replaced the VXB, called VBRG (Véhicule Blindé de Reconnaissance de la Gendarmerie) for riot control. This version may be equipped with a water cannon and/or a bulldozer blade.



Sources and references


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e VAB, Ministry of Defence
  3. ^ a b c d "1976 RENAULT VAB VCI". Retrieved 2009-11-11.  
  4. ^ propulsion either by wheels, or by two water jets mounted on either side of hull rear
  5. ^ a b c d La bonne surprise du VAB face aux IED : avoir été amphibie..., Jean-Dominique Merchet, Secret Défense, Libération
  6. ^ VAB Blindé de transport de troupe - Armoured personnel carrier,
  7. ^ a b "VAB (Vehicule de l'Avant Blinde) Wheeled Armoured Fighting Vehicle, France". Retrieved 2009-11-11.  
  8. ^ Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé (VAB), FAS
  9. ^ Adjudant Laurent Pican (13 BCA) was killed by an explosion on 21 September 2007 [1]
  10. ^ Soldier Melam Bouama was killed during the Uzbin valley ambush
  11. ^ a b Faute de VAB, utilisons les VIB !, Jean-Dominique Merchet
  12. ^ Weapon Control Systems framework agreement with France – Kongsberg Gruppen press release, 02.05.2008
  13. ^ En Afghanistan, baptême du feu pour le VAB-TOP
  14. ^ Destinés à mieux protéger leurs occupants, les premiers VAB-TOP livrés en Afghanistan
  15. ^ Merchet, Jean-Dominique (19/08/2008). "Afghanistan: le récit de l'embuscade". Libération. Retrieved 2008-08-22.  
  16. ^ Fontaine, Caroline (17 March 2009). "Français au combat en Afghanistan". Paris Match. Retrieved 2009-05-04.  

External links


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