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HISTOIRE & COLLECTIONS
VBL Panhard. By Yves Debay with Eric Baltzer; color plates by Jean Restayn. Hard covers, 8.75 x 11.5-inches, 136 pages. Contains 329 color photos, 35 color images of unit or national insignia, four sets of 1/48th-scale and two sets of 1/35th-scale general arrangement drawings, one set of tactical signs, six line illustrations, four color plates, and six full color organization charts. ISBN 2-913903-16-9. Price: $44.95 USD.
Small, lightly-armored wheeled military vehicles have always proved to be versatile and extremely useful assets in all sorts of scenarios. They provide mobility, protection and offensive power at relatively little cost. They are not as intimidating as tanks or other tracked AFVs and require a smaller logistical tail; additionally their “footprint”, political or otherwise, is not unduly large. The US Hummer is one such current vehicle. The French VBL Panhard (Véhicule Blindé Léger; light armored vehicle) is another such type.
Published in 2004 as part of a series entitled “Les Matérels Militaires du Monde” (Military Equipment of the World), this hard-cover book features the outstanding photography of the well-known military photo-journalist, Yves Debay. In addition, his photographs are supplemented by images from his co-author, Eric Baltzer, photos and drawings from the manufacturer, and color plates by Jean Restayen. Together, this all provides for a sumptuous visual feast.
The text (and captions) is in French, so only a little of it is easily understood by those who cannot read the language. There are enough technical terms which are universal to the world’s military services sprinkled throughout, which will allow for some understanding of what the author is describing. Having failed high school French with alarming consistency, I can still work my way slowly through parts of the book. Others may have a lesser or greater problem. Suffice to say, it’s too bad the publisher has not seen fit to produce an English-language edition as they have with several other large format books in their range. But I digress.
The text covers the development, production and employment of this diminutive LAV, while the captions well-inform the reader as to what they are looking at. It then goes on to cover individual French units, some of which are seen deployed in combat in such diverse places as Africa, the Balkans and Afghanistan. The use of the VBL by several other nations is described, and there is a table that lists how many are used by each one. All very useful stuff to be sure.
It should not surprise the reader to see me state that the graphic content is what the book is really all about. Without exception, the full-color images are simply outstanding. They depict a huge variety of locales, color schemes, markings systems and vehicle types. Interior details are covered as is the engine compartment, suspension system and drive-line. Radio equipment is depicted as are the fair variety of weapons mounted externally. Several segments depict the VBL in an amphibious mode of travel, while other sections show it in the act of being parachute-delivered, or pulled out of the rear door of a transport using the LAPES (Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System) method. For good measure, it is also seen sling-loaded beneath a Super Puma helicopter.
Other graphics include sets of drawings in the popular 1/48th- and 1/35th-scales; these depict five views each of the “châssis court” (short wheel-base) and the “châssis long” (long wheel-base) versions. Charts depict the organization of various French units and other charts show the numbers deployed by foreign users; others show Tac signs. Four color plates by Jean Restayn depict various color schemes and markings systems in use by France’s Armeé de Terre (Ground Forces). These are accompanied by Tac markings and descriptions of their locations, while the colors themselves are even given their official French specifications and designations. Again, all very useful stuff, especially for modelers.
This is a very fine effort and should prove very useful to students of military vehicles in general. Now, all we need is a readily-available styrene kit (in 1/35th-scale, please!) from one of the major manufacturers, so we modelers can get on the band-wagon.
Frank V. Curly Stooge De Sisto
Histoire & Collections books are available in North America from Casemate Publishing. For details see their web-site at: www.casematepublishing.com.