Venezuelan National Guard receives two restored French AMX-VCI armored combat vehicles

Venezuelan National Guard receives two restored French AMX-VCI armored combat vehicles

On May 19, 2024, the Venezuelan National Guard added two restored variants of the French AMX-VCI armored combat vehicles (an AMX-13M56-VTT/VCI armored infantry combat vehicle and an AMX-13M56VTT/TB ambulance) to its units in Puerto La Cruz, Anzoátegui. This initiative began in mid-2022, with fifty units transferred from the Venezuelan Army to the National Guard, as part of a strategy to boost Venezuela’s fourth military component amid sanctions and trade blockades.

Venezuela has struggled to maintain its Western combat systems due to international sanctions limiting access to spare parts and technical support. These sanctions, led by the United States and supported by other Western countries, have targeted various sectors of the Venezuelan economy, including defense, leading to a shortage of necessary components and maintenance services.

The sanctions intensified in 2014 due to concerns over Venezuela’s political and human rights situation under President Nicolás Maduro. Initially targeting individuals and entities involved in human rights abuses, the sanctions expanded under the Trump administration to broader economic sectors, including the financial system, oil exports, and the defense industry. Measures included blocking Venezuela’s access to the U.S. financial system, freezing assets, and stopping oil imports.

These restrictions have hampered Venezuela’s ability to maintain military equipment, degrading the operational readiness of systems like the French tracked armored vehicles. In the early 1970s, Venezuela purchased over fifty AMX-13 light tanks and AMX-VCI (Véhicule de Combat d’Infanterie) armored personnel carriers from France. The AMX-13, with its oscillating turret and 75mm gun, was integrated into an armored brigade, while the AMX-VCI variants, based on the AMX-13 chassis, served roles including command posts, mortar carriers, and ambulances.

In response, Venezuela implemented an import substitution program to develop domestic capabilities for restoring and maintaining military equipment independently. This program aims to reduce dependence on foreign parts and services, creating local production and repair facilities. The first batch of fifty refurbished AMX-13M56-VTT vehicles was transferred to the National Guard in May 2022, with more units following in smaller quantities.

The AMX-VCI, a variant of the AMX-13 light tank developed by France in the early 1950s, was designed as an armored personnel carrier (APC) and evolved into specialized versions for various military needs. Used by multiple countries, Venezuela acquired these vehicles in the early 1970s to enhance its armored brigade capabilities, using them for roles such as infantry transport, command posts, medical evacuation, and artillery support.

The AMX-13M56-VTT/VCI is an infantry combat vehicle based on the AMX-13 chassis, designed to transport and support infantry units in combat. It typically features a turret-mounted machine gun, either an AA-52 7.5 mm machine gun or a 12.7 mm M2 Browning machine gun, and can carry ten infantrymen. Variants include command post vehicles, mortar carriers with 81 mm or 120 mm mortars for indirect fire support, and anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) launchers.

The AMX-13M56-VTT/TB (Transport Blessés) is an ambulance variant for medical evacuation on the battlefield. It can transport up to four stretcher patients or several seated wounded soldiers, providing armored protection for patients and medical personnel. The vehicle retains the base model’s mobility and durability, operating effectively in combat zones, but features interior lighting and medical equipment storage to support immediate care en route to medical facilities.

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