28 January 2015 by defenceWeb
The French army has deployed 16 VBCI wheeled armoured vehicles to support its forces in the Central African Republic (CAR), where it says the vehicle is proving highly effective for asymmetric operations.
The VBCI brings together in one vehicle all the characteristics required in Central Africa: mobility, speed, protection, observation and fire support, the French Army said.
Alongside the short-range DRAC unmanned aerial vehicle used for reconnaissance and the Tiger combat helicopter, whose HAD version is gradually entering the theatre of operations, the VBCI armoured infantry fighting vehicle strengthens the Sangaris force and in turn the multinational Minusca force.
Since its introduction into the Central African theatre of operations in early August 2014, the VBCI has continued to improve and to demonstrate its capabilities, both for deterrent effect and for command and support roles, according to the French Army.
"The deployment of VBCI in the area was accompanied by the return of calm…and the lowering of inter-communal tensions," said Captain Christophe, commander of the GTIA sub group Korrigan, which operates the VBCI in the city of Dekoa, 190 km north of Bangui.
Thanks to its armour protection, this latest-generation vehicle is able to cope with different kinds of threats, ranging from simple stones to grenades. Its imposing size and firepower has earned it the nickname of "fire bull" by the Central African population.
Approximately 2 000 French soldiers are currently deployed in Operation Sangaris alongside 8 500 Minusca personnel. Launched on December 5, 2013, Operation Sangaris aims to restore a minimum level of security in the Central African Republic and to accompany the establishment of the UN mission.
The Nexter Systems VBCI (Vehicule Blinde de Combat d’Infanterie – Armoured Infantry Combat Vehicle) entered service with the French Army in 2008 and has been deployed to Afghanistan, Lebanon and Mali. Several hundred have been delivered to the French military where they are replacing the tracked AMX-10P.
The VBCI features modular steel and titanium armour fitted to an aluminium hull. Its 8x8 configuration is designed for high mobility, giving a top speed of 100 km/h via a 410 kW diesel engine. Weapons options include a 25 mm cannon or 7.62 mm machinegun. Two crew are carried in addition to nine troops.