ARQUUS delivers 40 modernized sanitary VAB SAN CIED armored vehicles to French Army

On March 10, Emmanuel Levacher, CEO of Arquus, gave a press conference during which he presented an overall picture of the company's achievements in 2020. Army Recognition will give an echo to some of them, starting with the delivery of 40 modernized VAB 4x4 armored vehicles in a sanitary version intended for the French troops deployed in the Sahel Region. The VAB SAN (Sanitaire - Sanitary) CIED (Counter-IED) is an armored ambulance with room for 5 stretchers or 10 sitting passengers.
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VAB SAN CIED sanitary 4x4 armored vehicle for the French Army. (Picture source: Army Recognition)

The armor of these 16-tonne VABs has benefited from an upgrade to the STANAG 4569 level, due to the fact that the jihadists viciously target these vehicles, an abject behavior that the Geneva Conventions forbid. But these conventions are naturally ignored and systematically violated, hence the absolute need to adapt the military equipment involved in the fighting of those terrorists. The VAB SAN CIED is now armed with a 7.62mm machine gun and protected against both IEDs (hence its CIED designation) and RPG hits. Its 240hp Renault engine is coupled to a ZF6HP500 transmission (5 FW + 1 R gears). The vehicle can accommodate 6-7 people, including two wounded on stretchers, all benefiting from the air conditioning. A precious addition, the vehicle has an electric self-recovery winch at the front.

The Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé, or VAB ("Armoured vanguard vehicle" in French), is an armoured personnel carrier and support vehicle designed by Renault, now Arquus. It entered service in 1976; around 5,000 were produced. As of 2021, it remains the standard APC of the French Army (waiting for the VBMR Griffon) and has also been exported to more than 15 countries. It saw combat in various conflicts in Africa, Asia and Europe and is currently involved in Operation Barkhane, in the Sahel Region.

Overhauled vehicles are known as "VAB Valorisé". From 1990, the VAB NG (new generation) with improved armor and a 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 converter oil reservoir bracket, modifying the existing right-hand engine bracket and the installation of a cooling unit.

In 2003, Renault Trucks Défense took over marketing the VAB from GIAT. At Eurosatory 2010, Renault unveiled the heavier VAB Mk II, an upgraded version of the standard VAB with more internal space and Level 4 protection. In Eurosatory 2012; the VAB Mk III was presented publicly, being a new vehicle with better protection against IEDs and anti-vehicle mines up to STANAG Level 4 protection. Armored plating against RPG rockets is made in collaboration with Plasan. 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.

The upgrade of the VAB with MEXAS composite armor aimed at increasing from protection against light infantry weapons to protect 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 lightweight and the armor 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.

The recent VAB Ultima version is the latest upgraded variant delivered to the French army.