Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Ray- French Equipment

Ray is back, looking at some of the French Equipment in Afghanistan

In this article I thought I’d take a look at the equipment currently in use by the 2nd REP and by the French army in general. I haven’t made this list exhaustive but simply picked out the items that seem unusual or have that distinctive French feel to them.

The obvious place to start is with the standard issue infantry assault rifle, the very distinctive looking FAMAS (Fusil d'Assaut de la Manufacture d'Armes de Saint-Étienne). If there is anything in his equipment that gives the French soldier a distinctive look then it has to be the FAMAS. Something that has grabbed my attention when studying the war in Afghanistan is how very similar all of the ISAF forces actually are (at least in appearance), however you only have to see someone carrying a FAMAS and he’s instantly recognisable as a French soldier. The rifle itself follows the Bullpup design with the magazine and action lying behind the trigger in line with the firers face. It was first adapted by the French army in 1978 and (with a few refinements and additions) has remained in service ever since. As assault rifles go it’s nothing startling (I reckon it's pretty startling!- Ed). It has its drawbacks but seems to be generally liked by the troops who use it and is affectionately known as “le clarion” (the bugle) by the Legionnaires.

When it comes to section support, there are two options used by the Foreign Legion: The standard FN Minimi – as used by many other ISAF forces and the AA NF1. Originally issued in 1952, the NF1 been on the way out since 2010 but is still in use with the Legion.

There are two options available to the French soldier when it comes to sniper rifles; The FR-F2 (a standard 7.62mm bolt action rifle) and the PGM Hecate heavy sniper rifle, a fearsome looking 12.7mm beast that would make a sizeable hole in anyone unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end.

Soldier of the 2nd REP carrying an AA NF1 in Mali and a 2nd REP soldier carrying a PGM Hecate

If the FAMAS gives a French soldier that certain “je ne sais quoi” then the LGI-F1 is another distinctly French take on light infantry support. It’s basically a light one man mortar (very similar to the Japanese knee mortar used in WW2). It uses a form of propulsion called FLY-K which basically reduces the muzzle flash and smoke discharge to a point where it is very difficult to detect and because it does not heat up, it is capable of very rapid rates of fire.

Legionnaire of the 2e REI using the LGI in Afghanistan

The Legion uses the fairly standard AT4 - one shot anti tank missile as its standard bunker buster in Afghanistan. Alongside that they also still use the older LRAC-F1 which is steadily being phased out.

Legionnaire firing LRAC-F1, compared to an AT4 CS

Anyway, that’s enough for the small stuff, now to get to the real “boys toys” and take a look at the vehicles currently in use by the Legion.

There are three light 4x4’s that the Legion either uses currently, or did use during its service in Afghanistan.
The Peugeot P4 is an unarmoured 4x4 that has been in use with the army since the mid 1980’s It’s slowly being replaced by the PVP (Petit Véhicule Protégé – Small protected vehicle) produced by Panhard. This is lightly armoured 4x4 The PVP has been in use with the Legion since 2012

Peugeot P4 and Panhard PVP

The third light recce vehicle is the VBL (Véhicule Blindé Léger – Light armoured vehicle). A useful little amphibious ATV, it’s been in use with the legion since the mid 1990’s and comes in a variety of guises with various weapons platforms and roles. It is currently in service with the reconnaissance units of the 1er REC and 2e REI.


When it comes to troop carriers the VAB (Véhicule de l’Avant Blindé – Armoured Vanguard Vehicle) has been the workhorse of the French army since the mid 70’s and is still going strong. It is slowly being replaced however by the more modern VBCI (Véhicule Blindé de Combat d’Infanterie – Infantry combat armoured vehicle). This 8x8 is produced by Nexter systems and Renault and is currently in service with units of the 2nd REI.


Finally the heavy support: This comes in the shape of the ERC-90 Sagaie, a 6 wheeled armoured reconnaissance vehicle mounting a 90mm gun and the AMX10. It’s bigger brother armed with a formidable 105mm gun. It’s main role is that of tank destroyer but it also fulfils a reconnaissance role. Both vehicles are currently in service with the 1er REC.(The AMX10 comes in a very close second in my "favourite wheeled vehicles with ridiculous guns competition", I just love the Stryker MGS too much-Ed)

ERC 90 and AMX10 RC

So that’s it, a brief look at what the Legion is using. In the next post, (god willing), I will take a look at the Eureka figures and see how they paint up. In the meantime, I’ve succumbed to the inevitable and ordered a VAB and a VBL from Gasoline. So if they arrive first I may even do a brief review of the kits.

En Avent mes enfant!

Well Ray you will be pleased to hear that the French have arrived, although there were a LOT of French vehicles in that article, are you preparing for an armoured incursion? Looking forward to seeing the Gasoline kits too, I have heard very, very good things about them. You will definitely need to do a review of them!


  1. Thanks for sharing, very interesting.

  2. Hi Ray, nice research. Tell me you weren't tempted by the AMX10RC? I want one and I have no French!