DEFEA 2023: Arquus displaying Greek army new VBL Ultima armored vehicle

Many may know Arquus better under its former names, Renault Trucks Defense, ACMAT and Panhard, although the company has now been present under its new identity for five years and Arquus has been present at the two last DEFEA exhibitions. The partnership between Arquus and the Hellenic Army started in 1997 with the delivery of a first batch of 13 Panhard VBL light armored reconnaissance vehicles.
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Arquus recently delivered two VBL Ultima to the Hellenic Army, one of which is on display on Arquus’ stand at DEFEA 2023 (Picture source: Army Recognition)

The VBL has immediately been appreciated for its versatility, mobility and adaptability, which makes it a vehicle of choice for reconnaissance, communications, mobile command post, anti-tank and general-purpose transport missions. Throughout the years, the total number of vehicles delivered has reached 240, making it one of the largest VBL fleets in service in the world. The VBLs have since been serving in foreign deployments, sometimes even shoulder-to-shoulder with their French cousins.

Since the delivery of the first VBLs to Greece, Arquus has always been at the side of the Hellenic Army, creating together solutions for training, spares procurement and fleet management. As part of this commitment, Arquus has carried out numerous technology transfers to give the Hellenic Army operational autonomy for the maintenance of VBLs up to level 5.

As part of the same long-term commitment, Arquus recently delivered two VBL Ultima to the Hellenic Army, one of which is on display on Arquus’ stand at DEFEA 2023. The VBL Ultima is a new standard for the VBL, aimed at further enhancing the capabilities of the vehicle, developed for the French Army and currently being implemented by Arquus in their plant in Saint-Nazaire. A production line has specifically been set to ensure the success of this much-expected program for a very demanding client.

Under this new standard, the original 95-horsepower diesel engine is being replaced by a new 130-horsepower diesel engine, as well as a new gearbox, allowing a speed greater than the 95 km/h of the original standard, as well as improved acceleration.

The upgraded VBLs also feature a new Brake Assist System and improved front and rear suspension systems to accommodate increased payload and to improve vehicle handling. Finally, the new standard accommodates air conditioning to improve comfort during operations.

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With the Ultima version, Arquus restored the amphibious capability of its VBL, as demonstrated during tests in its facility of Saint-Nazaire (Picture source: Arquus)

The VBL Ultima has received very good reviews from Hellenic Army personnel, who have appreciated the increase in mobility, safety, reliability, and comfort, while also granting the vehicle new decades of operational life.

Arquus is looking forward to building on their long-running cooperation with the Hellenic Army and to offering the Ultima upgrade package to the whole fleet of the VBLs currently in service.

The upgrade of the VBL Ultima requires many work hours, being a comprehensive package of repair and overhaul, thus comprising in-depth diagnosis of the current vehicles and integration of new systems.

The modernization of the Greek VBLs could take place in Greece at the Army depots or at the facility of a Greek industrial partner with the support of Arquus, to benefit from local know-how and work capacities, as close as possible to the Army bases. The Army personnel who would take part in the upgrade program would also receive the best training to become maintenance experts for the whole life cycle of the VBL Ultima fleet.

This upgrade would not cover the Marine units, which would need to keep their amphibious capability. However, several other units could benefit from the increase in performance offered by the Ultima version.

The VBL has recently attracted renewed attention from different countries looking for a new, light, stealthy reconnaissance, and combat vehicle. To address these needs, Arquus has recently unveiled the VBL MK3, a new version of the VBL combining the upgrades of the VBL Ultima and other sensible integrations such a new dashboard and central tire inflation systems. Such developments underline the relevance of the VBL concept in an age where mobility, stealth, and systems integration matter as much as protection on the battlefield.

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Hellenic and French Arquus VBLs in Afghanistan (Picture source: Arquus)

Defense News May 2023