Panhard as a company was doing fairly well in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The VBL (Véhicule Blindé Léger) light armored vehicle, developed in 1988, was a massive success with around 2300 built since 1990.
Small, rugged and practical, it was one of the best vehicles ever built by the company and one of the reasons why the Panhard brand was allowed to continue on when the company was purchased by Auverland in 2004 and subsequently by Renault Trucks Defense in 2012.
It is no wonder then that an attempt was made to follow up on the success of the VBL with another such vehicle, designated VBR (Véhicule Blindé a Roues). Development of the VBR started in 2001 as a private venture by Panhard and was based on two defining traits:
- Increased payload compared to the VBL
While the basic design was taken from the VBL, the VBR was made bigger to increase the vehicle's carrying capacity. This allowed it to carry not just more cargo, but potentially also heavier weapon systems, including remote-controlled turrets. To make the vehicle affordable as well, a number of civilian components was used in the vehicle's construction (including the engine and transmission).
A single prototype of the VBR was built in 2002 and revealed to the public the same year. It weighed approximately 8 tons and had a crew of two – the driver on the left and the commander/ weapons operator on the right, controlling the weapons station on the vehicle's roof. It could also carry 2 to 8 troops in an APC configuration or 2.5 tons of cargo.
The remote-controlled weapons station was armed with a 12.7mm (.50cal) M2 heavy machinegun, but a wide variety of heavier weapons systems was also offered, including autocannons, grenade launchers and guided missiles. A variant equipped with a SWARM missile launcher was shown to the public in 2004.
It was powered by a commercial 325hp MTU 4R106 diesel engine and its maximum speed was around 110 km/h.
The protection was STANAG 4569 Level 2 – its armor could protect the crew against 7.62mm AP ammunition and fragments from 155mm shell explosions at 80 meters. According to Panhard Defense data, it can be enhanced to Level 4, protecting against 14.5mm AP rounds at 200 meters or more and against fragments from 155mm shell explosions at 60 meters. Following the introduction of the prototype, versions equipped with the Israeli Iron Fist Active Protection System appeared as well.
The VBR prototype attracted some attention back in 2001, but no contracts were ever finalized. Libya was looking into purchasing a number of VBRs, but the volatile political situation and subsequent fall of Qaddafi’s regime prevented the deal from going through. Russia too showed some mild interest, but little more than that. As of 2016, Panhard is still offering the VBR in its catalogue but, even after 14 years, it is still waiting for its first buyer.
In Armored Warfare, the VBR will be a heavier successor to the Tier 6 VBL – an extremely agile vehicle and a dedicated scout, capable of incredible maneuvers. As with its predecessor, players will have the option to select either guided missiles or 30mm automatic cannon as the top armament option, making the vehicle suitable for several playstyles.
We do hope you like it and we'll see you on the battlefield!