More Chinese APCs for Gabon

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Three years after revealing it was operating VN1 8×8 armoured vehicles, Gabon’s military has for the first time displayed new VP11 4×4 vehicles acquired from China, although the VP11’s predecessor was designed with South African collaboration.

Thirteen Norinco VP11s were seen at Gabon’s Independence Day parade in the capital Libreville on 17 August, along with Maverick, Aravis and VN1 armoured vehicles.

Janes reports the VP11s are in service with the Republican Guard, which is tasked with providing presidential security and supporting the rest of the country’s armed forces. During the parade, the TV coverage commentator said the VP11s are part of the 2nd Reconnaissance and Combat Squadron of the Republican Guard’s Armoured Intervention Group and have been used by the Gabonese contingent that served with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), Janes added.

The VP11 is based on Norinco’s 8M, which was developed just over a decade ago by South African company EWI2 and China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco). The 8M mine resistant, ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle was unveiled in June 2012. This 8 ton vehicle is powered by a 5.9 litre Cummins QSB diesel giving a top speed of 120 km/h. The 8M has seating for eight people or a payload of 2 500 kg. It can withstand a 7 kg mine blast under the hull and a 10 kg mine blast on any wheel.

At the time of its launch, EWI2 said that the 8M was the first success in a series of collaborative projects to be completed over the coming years by EWI2 and Norinco after the two companies established a cooperation agreement in 2010.

By 2015, Norinco had made some changes to the 8M and rebranded it as the VP11, with seating for eight and ability to have a 12.7 mm machinegun mounted on the roof. New windows with circular gun ports were also added.

The VP11 has a combat weight of 10 tonnes and offers all-round STANAG Level 1 protection, which can be increased to Level 2 using add-on armour. A V-shaped hull is designed to mitigate mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Gabon has acquired numerous batches military hardware over the last decade. In 2019 it emerged that the VN1 was in service with Gabon – this is an export variant based on the ZBL-08 (Type 08) IFV that is fully amphibious, weighing 21 tonnes. It has a two-man turret equipped with a 30 millimetre main gun and a 7.62 millimetre coaxial machine-gun. It is capable of carrying seven soldiers in addition to three crew members. The modular armoured vehicle is used for infantry fire support, battlefield logistics and quick reaction operations.

Other relatively recently delivered hardware includes Dongfeng EQ2050 vehicles and, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), 19 Type-07P IFVs. Gabon took delivery of eight Aravis IFVs from French company Nexter between 2015 and 2016 and 24 Matador APCs from Paramount in 2010. Five VAB-VTT vehicles were supplied second hand by France for Gabon’s UN peacekeeping forces.