Arquus presents the new VBL Mk3 at IDEX 2023

A new vehicle built on a proven solution

The VBL (Véhicule Blindé Léger, Light Armored Vehicle) Mk3 is the latest and most advanced version of the famous Panhard VBL, which is already in service within several armies in the Gulf and around the world.

As a fully new development, the VBL Mk3 benefits from several upgrades compared with the first VBL.
The VBL Mk3 benefits from an excellent mobility. It is equipped with a 130hp modern, diesel engine and a new automatic gearbox, allowing speed and acceleration as well as added comfort for the pilot. It features a new Brake Assist system and improved front and rear suspension systems, increasing the payload and improving vehicle handling. It is also equipped with centralized tyre inflation system (CTIS) which allows for a better adaptation to the terrain conditions and improves the mobility on soft ground, especially on sand.

It is equipped from a new dashboard, allowing for a better management of the vehicle and its tactical situation.

A compact vehicle, the VBL Mk3 is a steed of choice for scouting and reconnaissance, as well as intelligence gathering missions. It can also serve as a wingman for a tank or be configured as an anti-tank vehicle with an ATGM team aboard.

Small and discreet, it is hard to spot, hard to acquire and hard to hit, while easily hiding behind terrain or obstacles and swiftly moving from cover to cover.

An anti-tank configuration for high-intensity missions

For IDEX 2023, the VBL Mk3 is fitted with a Hornet RCWS with an AKERON anti-tank missile launcher, specifically thought for anti-tank combat and developed with missile leader MBDA.

The recent combat experience has shown that anti-tank combat capabilities are key in a highly contested, highly intense battlefield. The large number of armored targets, and the rhythm of combat operations call for the integration of multiple anti-tank weapons on armored vehicles, to allow for tank-hunting and collaborative combat capabilities, or to provide with self-defense options in case of an unplanned encounter with enemy assets Such a capability is now integrated in the Hornet RCWS, which now offers anti-tank capabilities on top of its native qualities. The Akeron missile is integrated on the side of the
RCWS, which preserves the compact size of the Hornet and contributes to its stealth.

That configuration is very sensible on the VBL Mk3 due to its size and stealth. It is also a welcome addition for increased anti-tank capabilities to engage a target of opportunity close to the front lines or defend itself against an unplanned heavier threat such as a tank of an IFV.

That configuration reminds of the VBL Milan while adding several operational capabilities offered both by the missile integration on the RCWS and the AKERON missile itself.

With the Hornet AKERON, the VBL Mk3 can be used as a tank killer. With its high mobility and compact silhouette, it is a perfect vehicle for infiltration. The VBL Mk3 will be able to scout while in movement and to shoot from inside the vehicle with the Hornet AKERON or from outside the vehicle with an AKERON firing station.

Several other configurations can be derived from the VBL Mk3’s proven concept, depending on the mission at hand.

The VBL: a trusted steed for current and future missions Developed by Panhard in the late 1980s, the VBL has entered service in the French Army from 1990 to handle reconnaissance, intelligence, and surveillance missions, as well as multipurpose transport under armor. It immediately received great interest for its compactness and low silhouette, its high mobility and its protection, including in an CBN (Chemical, Bacteriological, Nuclear) environment.

An excellent base, the VBL has taken a very wide variety of roles for which it was not originally designed. It has constantly evolved to serve new purposes and counter new threats. Among its numerous versions: Scout, Command Post, Reconnaissance, with a 12.7mm or a 40mm grenade launcher on top, Anti-tank, designed to load a Milan, Eryx or AT4CS launcher combat group.

Tailored export versions also include TOW launchers, 20-mm cannons, or even SHORAD capabilities with the VBL ALBI which loads 2 Mistral2 AA missiles on top. The VBL also serves as the Leclerc tank’s wingman, both finding it targets and ensuring its close-quarters protection.

With more than 1,600 units delivered to the French Army, the VBL has taken part to all foreign operations, from Bosnia to Mali and the Barkhane Operation, as well as Lebanon and Afghanistan. A steed of choice, the VBL is the tip of the spear of all the French Army’s deployments. It is among the very first vehicles deployed on the field, and among the very last to leave.

Throughout the years, it has proven a real success on export markets with customers on all continents, from Americas and Africa to Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Arquus offers the Ultima upgrade package to VBL users

The presentation of the VBL Ultima at IDEX follows the ongoing upgrade program of the French Army’s VBLs, which are currently evolving to a brand-new standard: the VBL Ultima. Resulting from a program to upgrade the VBL (Light Armoured Vehicle) in anticipation of the VBAE (Armoured Engagement Support Vehicle) program, the VBL Ultima benefits from numerous improvements.

The original 9(hp engine is replaced by a 130hp modern, diesel engine and a new automatic gearbox. It features a new Brake Assist system and improved front and rear suspension systems, increasing the payload and improving vehicle handling. It is also equipped with a air conditioning system.

To meet the French Army’s requests, two production lines have been set on the Arquus plants of Saint-Nazaire and Marolles-en-Hurepoix. They are currently running and could accommodate additional vehicles from other customers part of the VBL club.

Current-generation VBLs could be modernized with a similar Ultima kit in order to extend their service life by 20 years and give them new capabilities, namely increased power, safety and payload. A VBL Ultima in service in the French Army is on display on IGG’s booth.

Also to see at IDEX 2023:

On top of Arquus’ own booth, Arquus products and solutions can be seen on several other points of the exhibition:

– The Jaguar on Resource Industries’s booth. The Jaguar is a 6×6 combat vehicle, developed by Arquus, Nexter and Thales in the framework of the French Scorpion program. Arquus is in charge of the mobility of the Griffon and Jaguar vehicles, as well as the procurement of the remote-controlled weapon stations, as well as the logistics of parts and spare parts for these vehicles. The first Jaguar have been delivered to the French Army in 2021. Belgium has also ordered Jaguar vehicles in the framework of the Motorized Capability program. Arquus designs and produces the complete drivelines, i.e. all the parts and components ensuring the mobility of the Griffon and Jaguar vehicles. These powertrains redefine the mobility standards of modern 6×6 armoured vehicles and offer the latest generation of off-road performance, enabling the Griffon and Jaguar to accompany the other vehicles in the Scorpion program in the best possible conditions.

– The CAESAR on Nexter’s booth. Arquus designs and produces the drivelines and armored cabs for Nexter’s CAESAR SPG. Deployed on several occasions, the CAESAR has proven over and over its mobility even on the most demanding terrains. Robust and easy to maintain, the CAESAR’s chassis is a proven solution which is currently demonstrating all its worth in Ukraine. Arquus has also been selected to provide with the driveline for the CAESAR Mk2, the future SPG for the French Army, thus continuing a successful partnership with Nexter.

– The VBCI on Nexter’s booth. Developed in partnership by Arquus and Nexter, the VBCI is the main Infantry Fighting Vehicle of the French Army. Deployed in all the recent foreign operations of the French Army, the VBCI has proven on all grounds its superior mobility, which has redefined the standards for 8×8 vehicles. Fitted with a driveline developed and produced by Arquus, the VBCI is a combat-proven vehicle, ideal for high-mobility missions and collaborative combat within a Task force combining tanks, mobile artillery and reconnaissance vehicles.

– The VBL Mk3 is presented on International Golden Group (IGG)’s booth. The VBL Mk3 combines the best of the VBL Mk2, with its evolved dashboard and central tire inflation system (CTIS) and the best of the VBL Ultima: new, more powerful engine, increased speed, improved handling, reinforced suspensions and chassis, higher payload. Combat-proven on several occasions, the VBL is a vehicle of choice for reconnaissance and cavalry missions. At IDEX 2023, the VBL Mk3 is equipped with a Hornet AKERON RCWS, combining a 12.7mm stabilized machine-gun, an AKERON launcher for anti-tank purposes, and an independent GALIX smoke grenade launcher for automatic self-protection against missiles and the heavier threats of the battlefield.

– The VBL Ultima, currently in service in the French Army, on International Golden Group (IGG)’s outside booth. Resulting from a program to upgrade the VBL (Light Armoured Vehicle) in anticipation of the VBAE (Armoured Engagement Support Vehicle) program, the VBL Ultima benefits from numerous improvements. The original 95-horsepower diesel engine is being replaced by a new 130-horsepower diesel engine, allowing a speed greater than the 95 km/h of the original standard. The upgraded VBLs also feature a new Brake Assist system and improved front and rear suspension systems to accommodate the increased payload and to improve vehicle handling. It is also equipped with a new air conditioning system to increase comfort and improve the crew’s readiness in all conditions.

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