French Panhard VBLs for soft-loose ground traveling to Kyiv?

The title has a question mark because there is no confirmed delivery to Ukraine, but there are no announced sales either. Here is what the Russian think tank Rybar reports:

“Readers from the Czech Republic shared footage of a train passing through the town of Chocen in the northeastern part of the country. The composition includes the Swiss-made MOWAG Piranha armored personnel carrier.

There are also French Panhard VBL 4×4 armored vehicles in the train (at least eight units), and at the very beginning of the train, there are several Leopard tanks. The convoy is moving towards Slovakia.

French Panhard VBLs for soft-loose ground traveling to Kyiv?
Photo credit: Telegram

If everything with the Swiss “Piranhas” can be explained by the “exchange of rings” we already talked about, then the transfer of the French “Panhard” is an unusual event.

There are no reports of deliveries of armored buggies to any of the Eastern European countries. There was also no information about the transfer of Panhard for the needs of the armed forces of Ukraine.

But if we take into account that the Western countries announced the supply of one or another weapon to Ukraine weeks or months after the actual appearance on the front, then it is likely that French armored fighting vehicles will appear in the armed forces of Ukraine.

In addition, the characteristics of the VBL are ideal for operations by mobile amphibious groups, including on soft and loose ground. It is this type of armored fighting vehicle that would be useful to Marines planning an assault on the left bank of the Dnieper.

A happy coincidence, isn’t it?”

Abouy Panhard VBL

The Panhard Véhicule Blindé Léger [VBL], a French light armored vehicle, is a versatile 4×4 all-terrain creation of Panhard. It’s commonly referred to simply as the VBL. 

French Panhard VBLs for soft-loose ground traveling to Kyiv?
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Developed in a variety of designs, the VBL aims to blend the nimbleness of the Peugeot P4 liaison vehicle with apt protection against threats such as small arms fire, artillery fragments, mines, and NBC weapons. Its production spanned from 1985 to 2010, and the VBL has been deployed by the French Army and several other armies from Europe, Africa, and Central America in diverse conflicts since the 1980s. 

The initial drive for the French VBL program came in 1978, stemming from the French Army’s need for a light reconnaissance vehicle that could complement the AMX-10 RC “wheeled tank”. This necessity arose due to the redundancy of the Hotchkiss M201 jeep when juxtaposed with the Soviet BRDM-2 armored car. 

This novel vehicle was to be equipped with either a single machine gun for reconnaissance or a MILAN missile for anti-tank combat, while simultaneously providing protection against NBC hazards and small arms fire. Both Renault and Panhard presented prototypes, and after rigorous testing that commenced in 1982, the Panhard model was chosen by the French armed forces in 1985, a year after it was ordered by the Mexican Army. 

In 1985, a preliminary production of 15 vehicles was executed for the French Army. By 1990, the VBL had started its operational service in the French Army. The following years saw the French Army place orders for hundreds more VBLs and variants thereof. 

The VBL, internationally known as the ULTRAV M-11, hails from Marolles-en-Hurepoix, located 30 km south of Paris. Production rates soared to ten units monthly in 2004. Commemorating its production, the 1,500th VBL was celebrated in 2001, and the last one out of 2,600 VBLs rolled off the assembly line in 2010. 

Structurally, the VBL is split into two sections: the motor bay at the front, providing added protection to the second compartment designed for the crew. The limited interior dimensions birthed the lengthened VBL variant. Crew members inside the VBL are safeguarded against NBC weapons. Recce versions are crewed by two personnel, while anti-tank models accommodate a crew of three. 

French Panhard VBLs for soft-loose ground traveling to Kyiv?
Photo credit: Wikipedia

In its French Army version, the VBL boasts a Peugeot XD3T turbo-diesel engine, an engine common in civilian cars like the Peugeot 505, Peugeot 605, and Talbot Tagora. Apart from the engine, several other civilian standard components find use in the VBL. 

The engine touts a power output of 95 horsepower, offering a power-to-weight ratio of 29.5 hp per ton. This allows the VBL to hit speeds up to 95 km/h. It has a relatively economical fuel consumption and a substantial range, which can be amplified by adding two external fuel tanks. 

The VBL was designed to weigh under 3.5 tons, but additions of extra weaponry, armor, and systems have bumped its weight up to 4 tons. 

Remarkably, the VBL is entirely amphibious, managing a speed of 5.4 km/h in water. Not only is it air transportable via aircraft like the C-130, C-160, Il-76, and A400M, but it can also be airlifted by larger helicopters such as the AS332 Super Puma. There’s even the option for it to be para-dropped.

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