Panhard AML

The Panhard AML-245 (Auto Mitrailleuse Légère, or "Light Gun Car") is a fast, long-ranged, and relatively cheap first-generation armoured car with excellent reconnaissance capability. Designed on a small, lightly armoured 4X4 chassis, it weighs an estimated 5.5 tonnes - much lighter than a tank - and is therefore more rapidly employable. Since 1959 AMLs have been marketed on up to five continents; several variants remained in continuous production for half a century. These have been operated by fifty-four national governments and other entities worldwide, seeing regular combat.

The AML-245 was once regarded as one of the most heavily armed scout vehicles in service, fitted with a low velocity DEFA D921 90mm (3.54 in) smoothbore cannon firing conventional high explosive and high explosive anti-tank shells, or a Brandt LR 60mm (2.36 in) breech loading mortar with 53 rounds and dual 7.5mm MAS AA-52 NF-1 machine guns with 3,800 rounds, all mounted coaxially in the turret. An AML is capable of destroying targets at 1,500 meters with its D921 main gun. In this configuration it is considered a match for second-line and older main battle tanks.

AMLs have appeared most prominently in Angola, Iraq, and the Falkland Islands, where they were pitted against British FV101 Scorpions by Argentine forces, as well as in the Lebanese Civil War between 1975 and 1990.

Panhard AML
Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer Panhard
Origin France
Country Name Origin Year
France 1959
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Algeria View
Argentina View
Bosnia-Herzegovina View
Burkina Faso (Upper Volta) View
Burma View
Burundi View
Cameroon View
Chad View
Djibouti View
Dominican Republic View
Ecuador View
Egypt View
El Salvador View
France 1961 View
Gabon View
Iraq View
Kenya View
Lebanon View
Lesotho View
Mauritania View
Morocco View
Niger View
Nigeria View
Pakistan View
Rwanda View
Saudi Arabia View
Senegal View
Somalia View
Sudan View
Togo View
Tunisia View
United Arab Emirates View
Venezuela View
Yemen View
Bahrain View
Democratic Republic of the Congo View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Panhard 1961 4000 View

During World War II, the French Army and their Free French successors used a wide variety of vehicles for reconnaissance duties, ranging from the compact Laffly S15 to the Panhard 178, which could mount the same 75mm armament as contemporary heavy tanks, and multi-wheeled designs such as the Type 201. After the war it became less desirable to maintain this plethora of armoured cars. In July 1945 Paris issued a requirement for a postwar design combining those features of previous assets - especially the Type 201 - that had shown potential both during and prior to the Battle of France. This led to the 8x8 Panhard EBR (Type 212) which entered service in 1950. Similarly, in 1956 the French Ministry of Defense was persuaded to commission a replacement for the Daimler Ferret scout car. Also manufactured by Panhard, the successor was the AML (Type 245) which entered service in 1961.

As with much postwar hardware based on the experience of subsequent colonial theaters, the AML was recognized for its outstanding ruggedness, dependability, firepower-to-weight ratio, and adaptability to the numerous minor conflicts waged since 1945. This reputation has led to amazing export success in over forty countries, Africa being one of its biggest markets.

France

French military doctrine recognised two separate fields of armoured vehicle deployment, the first consisting of primary tasks such as maneuver and combat, while the second included other tasks such as rearguard defence, liaison, and deception. The latter was to be the responsibility of a mobile reserve which provided interior security during wartime - designated Défense Opérationnelle du Territoire (DOT) armoured cavalry regiments. Initially equipped with AMLs and jeeps modified for scouting purposes, these units worked closely with the French police and National Gendarmerie. Their goal was to intercept hostile special forces or airborne units which specialised in deep penetration behind the front line. Secondary tasks included counter-insurgency, passive observation, and guarding static installations.

Each DOT troop came to include three AML platoons. As they were expected to remain faithful to the traditional mission of reconnaissance where observation had priority over combat, a number of the Panhards seem to have been stripped of their main armament, necessitating crew dependence on the vehicle's secondary automatic weapons. Nevertheless, as French reconnaissance theory also suggested the occasional need to engage hostile armour and force it to deploy, AML-90s were favoured as well. DOT regiments came to hold a generic pool of sixteen AML-90s and thirty-four other AMLs of varying configuration.

As the AML was readily air transportable, it came to form the materiel strongpoint of the French Foreign Legion's rapid deployment force. The Legion AMLs saw combat overseas, either as part of single deployments by the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment or to provide fire support for other Legion regiments. Crews perfected unique airfield assaults in which AML-90s were unloaded directly from Transall C-160s onto the objective, with infantry joining them by parachute. These vehicles first saw combat against BTR-152s manned by FROLINAT rebels in Chad during Opération Tacaud. In the subsequent months, additional AML-90s rushed in by the Régiment d'infanterie-chars de marine (RICM) helped repel a major counter-offensive by the Chadian Democratic Revolutionary Council, which was backed by fifty Libyan T-55 tanks and EE-9 Cascavel armoured cars.

The Mobile Gendarmerie operated over a hundred AML-60s and AML-90s, which were allocated to nineteen separate squadrons. In subsequent decades, a number may have been replaced by the much heavier Renault VBC-90. France is still believed to possess three hundred AMLs in storage.

Middle East

At least 52 AML-90s were delivered to the Lebanese Army in 1970-72, and saw considerable action during the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990). AMLs of the Irish Army (under UNIFIL) were also involved in actions against Lebanese militia armour at Atiri in South Lebanon in 1980. Two crew members received one of Ireland's highest military honours, the Military Medal for Gallantry, for their actions at Atiri.

The Israel Defense Forces ordered 29 AML-90s in 1960 and received them by the end of 1963. At least 9 were in service with a reconnaissance company of the Harel Brigade during the Six Day War. These vehicles participated in the capture of Ramallah in June 1967. Several were later destroyed attempting to engage Jordanian tanks on the Damia Bridge during the Battle of Karameh.

Saudi Arabia purchased 235 AMLs as part of an $90 million arms deal with France in 1967. The Saudi vehicles were blooded near Daraa during the Yom Kippur War, having been airlifted to assist its Syrian defenders in Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft loaned from Iran. At least four were lost in subsequent Israeli air and ground strikes, including one captured. Saudi Arabia has since retired much of its Panhard fleet and exported surplus stocks to various African nations, including Somalia, Senegal, Niger, and Morocco.

AML-90s were deployed, somewhat ineffectually, by Iraqi reconnaissance units against USMC and Saudi National Guard forces during the Battle of Khafji.

South America

In the Falklands War, the Argentines deployed 12 AML-90s from Escuadron de Exploracion Caballeria Blindada 181 (181st Armoured Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron) and an unknown additional number from Escuadron de Exploracion Caballeria Blindada 10 near Port Stanley. During the Battle of Wireless Ridge the only armour versus armour engagement of the war was fought when these units encountered FV101 Scorpions and FV107 Scimitars of the Blues and Royals. The armoured cars were abandoned in Stanley after the conflict ended.

At least one AML-90 was destroyed by FMLN insurgents with rifle grenades and an M67 recoilless rifle in the Salvadoran Civil War.

Africa

During the Portuguese Colonial War, the Portuguese Army operated AML-60s in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau. Approximately 50 were ordered in 1965 to replace the heavier Panhard EBR. Severe maintenance problems were encountered in the corrosive African environment, and custom air intakes cannibalised from utility vehicles had to be installed accordingly. Local engineers also copied several modifications applied to the Eland Mk7 for improved performance in this theater. In Portuguese service, the AML-60 equipped reconnaissance platoons, mainly used in convoy escort.

In 1987, during the Toyota War, FANT's use of swift wheeled vehicles, including AML-90s, allowed Chadian forces to break through combined arms formations and cause severe damage before the slower Libyan tanks could track or engage their targets. The Panhards, deployed in concert with MILAN missile teams at strategic hill junctures, frequently ambushed T-55s at a range of under three hundred metres.

In mid-December 2010, AMLs manned by Laurent Gbagbo's supporters were used to intimidate Ivorian civilians in Abidjan and the western countryside.

The Ecole de Formation et d'Application des Troupes Blindes, at Mbanza-Ngungu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was originally established by French Military Cooperation Mission to instruct African AML crews. Today, the academy can host 70 trainees; ten African armies are currently participating in the program.

Type Armoured Scout Car
Place of origin France
Service history
Used by See Operators
Wars List of Conflicts
Production history
Designed 1959
Manufacturer Panhard
Produced 1961–
Number built 4,000
Variants See Variants
Specifications
Weight 5.5 tonnes (6.1 short tons; 5.4long tons)
Length 5.11 m (16 ft 9 in)
 length 3.79 m (12 ft 5 in) (hull)
Width 1.97 m (6 ft 6 in)
Height 2.07 m (6 ft 9 in)
Crew 3 (commander, driver, gunner)
Main
armament
90mm GIAT F1 (20 rounds)
60mm Brandt mortar (53 rounds)
Secondary
armament
7.62 mm MAS coaxial machine gun (2400 - 3800 rounds)
Engine Panhard 1.99 l (121 in3) Model 4 HD flat 4-cylinder air-cooled petrol
90 hp (67 kW) at 4,700 rpm
Power/weight 16.36 hp/tonne (11.9 kW/tonne)
Suspension Wheeled 4x4
Ground clearance 0.33mm
Fuel capacity 156 litres
Operational
range
600 km
Speed 100 km/h

End notes