Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé

The Véhicule de l'avant blindé or VAB ("Armoured vanguard vehicle" in French) is an armoured personnel carrier and support vehicle designed by Renault of France. It entered service in 1976; around 5,000 were produced.[6] As of 2019, it is the standard APC of the French Army and has also been exported to more than 15 countries. It saw combat in various conflicts in Africa, Asia and Europe.

Véhicule de l'avant blindé
French VAB parked during Bastile Day in 2010.
TypeArmoured personnel carrier
Place of originFrance
Service history
In service1976–present
Used bySee Operators
WarsWestern Sahara War
Lebanese Civil War
Opération Épervier
Gulf War
Opération Turquoise
Bosnian War
War in Afghanistan
Opération Licorne
Operation Serval
Opération Sangaris
Opération Barkhane
Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen[1]
Production history
DesignerGIAT Industries
ManufacturerRenault Trucks Defense
MACK Defense[2]
No. built5,000[3]
Mass13.8 tonnes (13.8 tonnes loaded)
Length5.98 m (19 ft 7 in)
Width2.49 m (8 ft 2 in)
Height2.06 m (6 ft 9 in)

ArmourSteel armour providing protection against 7.62 mm bullets
Upgrades with MEXAS composite armour and mine protection
1 × AA52 7.62 mm machine gun or 1x M2 12.7mm machine gun
EngineRenault MIDR 062045
235 kW (320 hp)[4]
Power/weight17 W/kg (23 hp/t)
Ground clearance0.4 m (1 ft 4 in)[5]
Fuel capacity310 litres[5]
1,200 km (750 mi)[5]
Speed110 km/h (68 mph)
2.2 m/s in water[5]


The VAB was designed as a wheeled troop transporter, complementing the tracked AMX-10P. Specifications for the project called for an NBC-proof, amphibious (Its propulsion in water is either by its wheels or twin water jets),[7] lightly armoured vehicle to provide infantry with basic protection against shrapnel 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.[8]

Companies Panhard and Saviem/Renault answered the requirement, and the Renault prototype was selected in May 1974,[9] with 4,000 units ordered. The first delivery occurred in 1976, and production continued at a rate of 30 to 40 units a month.[6]

An armoured double-door at the rear allows access to the passenger compartment. Two inward-facing, foldable benches provide seating for 5 soldiers each. The crew enters the front compartment through two lateral hatches, the driver on the left and gunner on the right; two additional hatches in the roof give access to armaments and provide emergency exits. The front windows are bullet-proof and heated. All the windows can be further protected by armoured panels, which can be shut entirely or leaving a small observation slit. The engine is located behind the driver, while the right side of the vehicle is kept free, providing a passageway between the crew and passenger compartments.

With a modest 13-tonne mass, the VAB can easily be airlifted for deployment abroad.[5]

The VAB's large wheels allow it to sustain up to 60% grades and road/rail canting of up to 30%.[10]

From 1998, the French Army's VABs underwent three major overhauls:

  • replacement of the manual gear by an automatic transmission (T1)
  • replacement of the brakes and automatic tire pressurization (T2)
  • armour upgrade (T3)

These overhauled vehicles are known as VAB Valorisé. From 1990, the VAB NG (new generation) with improved armour and new engine was offered. In the 2000s, Renault offered engine upgrades to any VABs in service from MAN diesel engines to Renault MIDS 06 20 45 turbocharged diesel engines by removing the torque converterer oil reservoir bracket, modifying the existing right-hand engine bracket and the installation of a cooling unit.[11]

In 2003, Renault Trucks Défense took over marketing the VAB from GIAT. At Eurosatory 2010, Renault unveiled the heavier VAB MkII, with more internal space and Level 4 protection.[12][13] The MkII version is also shown in the BRIDEX 2011 convention.[14]

In Eurosatory 2012; the VAB MkIII was presented publicly, being a new vehicle with better protection against IEDs and anti-vehicle mines[15] up to STANAG Level 4 protection.[16] Armored plating against RPG rockets is made in collaboration with Plasan.[17]

It's being marketed only in a 6x6 wheeled configuration with either a Renault MD7 engine developing 340hp or a Caterpillar C7 developing 370hp with automatic transmission.[18]

Armour upgrade

The upgrade of the VAB with MEXAS composite armour 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 losing its amphibious capabilities.

The amphibious shape 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, allowing the force of the blast to disperse away from the vehicle. In particular, the hull shape and position of the wheels deflects the shock wave, helping maintain hull integrity.[8]


The heavy machine gun version of the VAB carries a M2HB 12.7mm machine gun in an open turret; the light version sports the AA52 7.5mm machine gun in a similar arrangement.

In both cases, the gunner's only protection from incoming fire is an armoured panel on the front and the two halves of the hatch door on the sides, giving little protection against indirect fire, surprise attacks and explosions[19] — or if the VAB rolls over.[20] As of July 2007, all the personnel killed by mines aboard VABs had occupied the gunner position (though serious injuries were sometimes sustained by crewmen inside the hull).[8]

From 2007, the Army head of staff repeatedly requested that remotely operated 12.7mm turrets be fitted on these vehicles, as a crash requirement.[21] A program was launched, scheduling turret and battle command upgrades for over 500 VABs, now labeled VAB TOP (tourelle TéléOPérée). In May 2008, Renault Trucks Defense signed an eight-year, 20 million euro contract with Kongsberg Gruppen of Norway, for equipping the VAB with subsidiary Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace's Protector Remote Weapon Station (RWS).[22][23] Deliveries were scheduled from 2009 to 2016.

From early 2009 onwards, about 60 VAB-TOP were deployed in Afghanistan, seeing their first combat during the Battle of Alasay. Field experience shows a significant drop in ammunition consumption with the tele-operated turret, whose computer allows the operator to fire efficient single shots, rather than bursts.[24] This partially alleviates concerns raised by the need to reload this turret from outside.[25]


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 Multirole Carrier has been cited as a strong contender.

Combat history

VABs have been deployed in virtually all theatres where French infantry troops were present, notably Kuwait, Côte d'Ivoire, Yugoslavia, and Chad. 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.[26] In March 2009, a VAB driver was killed by a rocket attack during the battle of Alasay.[27]


VABs belonging to the Royal Moroccan Army (FAR) have seen heavy combat during the conflict with Polisario rebels of the Western Sahara.

Middle East

A total of 95 VABs were delivered to the Lebanese Army between 1981 and 1984,[28] being extensively employed during the Lebanese Civil War, with several vehicles serving under the Shia Amal Movement militia banner after the army's predominantly Shia 6th Infantry Brigade went over to their coreligionists in February 1984.[29][30][31] After the end of the war in the 1990s, additional VABs were delivered to the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) for use in the escort and internal security roles.


Variants may be 4×4 or 6×6 wheels, the 6×6 yielding a 10% increase in cost.[6] The French military only uses 4-wheel versions, while export versions mainly are 6×6s.

The following VAB variants are/were made:[32][33]

  • VAB VTT (Véhicule Transport de Troupe) – 4x4 APC version, crew of two and ten passengers and standard pintle mount for various compatible machine guns.
    • VAB TOP (tourelle TéléOPérée) – VTT 4x4 fitted with a Kongsberg Protector (RWS) with 12.7mm machine gun and ceramic add-on armour.
    • VAB AZURE (Action en Zone URbaine) – Urban warfare vehicle equipped with a dozer blade and with panoramic periscopes to observe and monitor.
    • VAB ELI (élément léger d'intervention) – light recovery vehicle.
    • VAB MILAN – French army variant of the VTT, fitted with a pintle mount for the MILAN system at the rear hull roof.
    • VAB AT4CS – French army variant of the VTT, used by anti-tank teams armed with the AT4CS 84 mm portable rocket launcher.
    • VAB ERYX – French army variant of the VTT, used by anti-tank teams armed with the ERYX system.
  • VAB RATAC – Artillery target acquisition vehicle, carries a DR-PC 1a RATAC doppler radar with a range of 20 km.
  • VAB RASIT – Reconnaissance vehicle, carries the DR-PT 2a RASIT ground surveillance radar.
  • VAB PC (Poste de Commandement) – Command vehicle with a crew of 6 and equipped with map tables and additional signals equipment.
    • VAB SIR (Système d'Information Régimentaire) – Digital regimental C4ISTAR information system.
  • VAB BromureElectronic warfare vehicle.
  • VAB Echelon – Maintenance and repair vehicle.
  • VAB GénieEngineering vehicle that can be fitted with a light obstacle clearing blade or can be used to tow a trailer with mine-clearing charges.
  • VAB SAN (sanitaire) – Armoured ambulance with room for 5 stretchers or 10 sitting passengers.
  • VAB Reco – NBC reconnaissance vehicle.
  • VAB ATLAS (Automatisation des Tirs et Liaisons Sol-sol pour l'artillerie) – Artillery fire command and control vehicle, successor of the VAB ATILA.
  • VAB SGEA (Système de Guerre Electronique de l'Avant) – Electronic warfare variant.
  • VAB Rapsodie (Radar d'Acquisition Polyvalent pour la Surveillance et l'Observation Destiné à l'Interarmes) – Reconnaissance vehicle with radar.
  • VBR (Véhicule Blindé de Reconnaissance) – Similar to VIB but used by Génie de l’Air and fitted with a Capre turret with 20 mm F2 gun.
  • VCAC "Mephisto" (Véhicule de Combat Anti-Char) – Anti-tank vehicle, carries the Euromissile Mephisto system with four ready-to-fire HOT anti-tank missiles and eight more in reserve.
  • VCI T.20/13 (Véhicule de Combat de l’Infanterie) – VAB equipped with a turret mounted 20 mm gun recovered from old AMX-VCIs and refurbished and intended for fire support and for counter sniping.
  • VIB (Véhicule d’Intervention sur Base) – 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.[21]
  • VIT (Véhicule d’Implantation Topographique) – Vehicle for topographic teams of field artillery units.
  • VOA (Véhicule d'Observation d'Artillerie) – Artillery observation vehicle, fitted with a turret with day/night observation devices, laser range finder etc. This version is normally found in units equipped with the TR F1 towed 155 mm howitzer. The VAB OBS is an improved version.
  • VTM 120 (Véhicule Tracteur de Mortier) – Mortar towing vehicle, can carry 70 bombs for the Thomson-Brandt MO-120 mortar.
  • VAB 2R2M — self-propelled mortar 120 mm.
  • VBC-90: Armoured car variant with a 90 mm gun in a turret. In service with the Mobile Gendarmerie until 2004.
  • VAB Ultima - Upgrades to the VAB against IEDs and land mines with added blast seats not fixed to the floor, Sagem SITEL comm equipment and FELIN battery chargers.[34] Equipped with Protector RCWS for either a machine gun or AGL.[34]

Versions reserved for export:

  • VAB 4x4 VCI T.20 (Véhicule de Combat de l’Infanterie) – Export version of the VCI T.20/13, fitted with a one-man T.20 turret. In service with Cyprus.
  • VAB 6x6 ECH (ECHelon) – Maintenance vehicle (with crane).
  • VAB 6x6 VCI Toucan (Véhicule de Combat de l’Infanterie) – Similar to the VCI T.20/13 but based on the VAB 6x6.
  • VAB 6x6 VPM 81 (Véhicule Porte-Mortier) – Mortar carrier with an 81 mm mortar firing through a roof opening. In service with Oman.
  • VAB 6x6 VDAA TA20 (Véhicule de Défense AntiAérienne) – Low-altitude air-defence vehicle, armed with a double 20 mm gun in a TA 20 turret. In service with Oman, Morocco and the Central African Republic.
  • VCAC 6x6 UTM800 – 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.
  • VBMO (Véhicule Véhicule Blindé de Maintien de l'Ordre) – Police version for crowd control, fitted with a light dozer blade and optionally a TOI turret.[35] In service with Oman, Morocco and Abu Dhabi.

The French Gendarmerie also procured a small batch (about twenty) of up-armoured VABs, for use in Afghanistan. These vehicles have now (2018) been redeployed either to Versailles-Satory (near Paris) or to French New Caledonia.

Foreign-made versions:

  • MACK Lakota: A variant of the VAB Mark III, most of its parts made in America by Mack Defense via JWF Defense Systems in 6x6 and 8x8 variants, which was announced in June 2016.[36] It was first shown publicly in AUSA 2014 and AUSA 2015.[37][38] Its hull is also assembled in America.[39] It was sold in 2016 to an unnamed customer in the Middle East.[40][41]


As of 2019, it's known that the VAB is exported to more than 40 countries.[3]

Current operators

Former operators

See also


  1. International Institute for Strategic Studies (February 2016). The Military Balance 2016. 116. Routlegde. p. 315. ISBN 9781857438352.
  2. As of October 2017, using the Wayback machine on the official MACK Defense website indicates that it no longer shows the Lakota.
  3. https://web.archive.org/web/20191015105225/https://www.janes.com/images/assets/802/59802/French_armour_programmes_move_ahead.pdf
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 October 2007. Retrieved 31 August 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. VAB, Ministry of Defence
  6. "1976 RENAULT VAB VCI". charfrancais.net. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2009.
  7. Tanks and armored fighting vehicles : visual encyclopedia. New York, N.Y.: Chartwell Books. 2012. p. 309. ISBN 978-0-7858-2926-3. OCLC 785874088.
  8. La bonne surprise du VAB face aux IED : avoir été amphibie..., Jean-Dominique Merchet, Secret Défense, Libération
  9. VAB Blindé de transport de troupe – Armoured personnel carrier, armyrecognition.com
  10. "Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé (VAB), Federation of American Scientists-FAS". fas.org. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  11. https://web.archive.org/web/20061019130008/http://www.renault-trucks-defense.com/mobility_2000935_0.html?lang=en
  12. https://web.archive.org/web/20191015103516/http://www.defense-aerospace.com/articles-view/release/3/115712/renault-trucks-launches-vab-mk.-ii.html
  13. https://www.armyrecognition.com/french_army_france_wheeled_armoured_vehicle_uk/vab_mk_mark_2_multirole_armoured_vehicle_technical_data_sheet_specifications_information_description.html
  14. https://www.armyrecognition.com/bridex_2011_daily_news_actualites_pictures_video/renault_trucks_defense_last_range_of_wheeled_armoured_with_vab_mark_ii_and_sherpa_at_bridex_2011.html
  15. Administrator. "VAB Mark Mk 3 Mk3 wheeled armoured vehicle personnel carrier technical data sheet specifications – French army france wheeled armoured vehicle UK – French army military equipment vehicle UK". www.armyrecognition.com. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  16. https://web.archive.org/web/20150630105804/https://www.janes.com/article/49237/new-vab-looks-for-export-sales-idx15d1
  17. https://web.archive.org/web/20191015034734/https://armadainternational.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/ARM_COM_1310_11_IFV-APC.pdf
  18. https://web.archive.org/web/20191015034137/https://www.janes.com/article/86627/latest-vab-offers-more-of-everything-idex19d4/
  19. Adjudant Laurent Pican (13 BCA) was killed by an explosion on 21 September 2007
  20. Soldier Melam Bouama was killed during the Uzbin valley ambush
  21. Merchet, Jean-Dominique. "Secret Défense – Faute de VAB, utilisons les VIB ! - Libération.fr". secretdefense.blogs.liberation.fr. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  22. Weapon Control Systems framework agreement with France Archived 29 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine – Kongsberg Gruppen press release, 2 May 2008
  23. https://web.archive.org/web/20191015110237/http://web.archive.org/screenshot/https://www.kongsberg.com/news-and-media/news-archive/2010/protector-contract-valued-at-mnok-140-with-renault-truck-defense/
  24. magazine, Le Point. "En Afghanistan, baptême du feu pour le VAB-TOP". Le Point.fr. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  25. magazine, Le Point. "Destinés à mieux protéger leurs occupants, les premiers VAB-TOP livrés en Afghanistan". Le Point.fr. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  26. Merchet, Jean-Dominique (19 August 2008). "Afghanistan: le récit de l'embuscade". Libération. Retrieved 22 August 2008.
  27. Fontaine, Caroline (17 March 2009). "Français au combat en Afghanistan". Paris Match. Retrieved 4 May 2009.
  28. "Trade Registers". armstrade.sipri.org. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  29. Mahé, La Guerre Civile Libanaise, un chaos indescriptible (1975–1990), p. 79.
  30. Zaloga, Tank battles of the Mid-East Wars (2003), pp. 53; 57-58.
  31. Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2012), p. 21.
  32. https://www.armyrecognition.com/french_army_france_wheeled_armoured_vehicle_uk/vab_renault_wheeled_armoured_vehicle_personnel_carrier_technical_data_sheet_specifications_pictures.html
  33. http://www.military-today.com/apc/vab.htm
  34. https://www.armyrecognition.com/december_2011_army_military_defence_news_uk/new_vab_ultima_wheeled_armoured_personnel_carrier_adapted_for_french_felin_future_soldier_1512113.html
  35. https://web.archive.org/web/20071020044043/http://www.renault-trucks-defense.com/J46PAYS/web/ImageServlet?imageCode=120076&codeSite=J46RTDEFENSE&etat=1
  36. Administrator. "Lakota 6x6 armoured vehicle personnel carrier technical data sheet specifications pictures video 11502174". www.armyrecognition.com. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  37. Administrator. "Mack Defense to present Sherpa Light Scout and Armoured Wheeled Loader L 180 at AUSA 2014 0610145". www.armyrecognition.com. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  38. "AUSA 2015: Mack Defense – Sherpa Light and Lakota – IHS Jane's 360". 16 November 2015. Archived from the original on 16 November 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  39. "Mack Defense, JWF team for Lakota armored vehicle production". upi.com. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  40. Administrator. "First foreign sale for the MACK Defense Lakota 6x6 armoured personnel carrier 10310164 – AUSA 2016 Show Daily News TV Coverage Report – Defence security military exhibition 2016 daily news category". www.armyrecognition.com. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  41. https://web.archive.org/web/20170307054958/https://www.janes.com/article/67982/hard-hitting-vab-idex17d3
  42. http://jabarprov.go.id/En/index.php/news/5678/2018/05/04/Brunei-Buy-Combat-Vehicles-from-Pindad
  43. "Quelques détails sur l'armée tchadienne…". forcesoperations.com (in French). 21 January 2013.
  44. https://www.armyrecognition.com/french_army_france_wheeled_armoured_vehicle_uk/vab_renault_wheeled_armoured_vehicle_personnel_carrier_technical_data_sheet_specifications_pictures.html
  45. https://web.archive.org/web/20160709173332/https://www.janes.com/article/62008/saudi-arabia-to-receive-french-armoured-vehicles-ordered-for-lebanon
  46. "8e RA : formation de soldats géorgiens au camp de Suippes". defense.gouv.fr (in French). 15 February 2011.
  47. "10/06/10 - Afghanistan : une unité géorgienne veille sur le camp de Warehouse (vidéo)". defense.gouv.fr (in French). 10 June 2010.
  48. "25/11/09 - Afghanistan : à Warehouse, les Géorgiens succèdent aux Français (vidéo)". defense.gouv.fr (in French). 25 November 2009.


  • Christopher F. Foss, Jane’s Tank & Combat Vehicle recognition guide, HarperCollins Publishers, London 2002. ISBN 0-00-712759-6
  • Samer Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon 1975–1981, Trebia Publishing, Chyah 2012. ISBN 978-9953-0-2372-4
  • Steven J. Zaloga, Tank battles of the Mid-East Wars (2): The wars of 1973 to the present, Concord Publications, Hong Kong 2003. ISBN 962-361-613-9
  • Yann Mahé, La Guerre Civile Libanaise, un chaos indescriptible (1975–1990), Trucks & Tanks Magazine n.º 41, January–February 2014, pp. 78–81. ISSN 1957-4193 (in French)

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