On July 21, 2023, in Libreville, Gabon, the Republican Guard received a significant reinforcement to its fleet with the delivery of four AML-90 armored reconnaissance vehicles from France.
In a symbolic ceremony held in the capital, President Ali Bongo Ondimba personally handed over the keys to the vehicles, with high-ranking officials from all branches of the Gabonese military present to witness the momentous event.
The Republican Guard, entrusted with the crucial responsibility of protecting the president and presidential properties, now stands stronger and more equipped with these advanced armored vehicles, a testament to Gabon’s commitment to enhancing its defense capabilities.
“The ceremony which has brought us here today is the reception of four new armoured vehicles which have just arrived on Gabonese soil. It’s a great honour for me, in my capacity as Commander-in-chief of the Garde Republicaine, to receive the equipment,” General Oligui Nguema, Commander of the Garde Republicaine said to the media.
French company Sofema reconditioned the vehicles to Gabon’s requirements.
The acquisition of these AML-90 armored reconnaissance vehicles comes at a critical juncture, just one month before the country’s presidential elections. Reports from Gabonese media indicate that the order for these vehicles was placed back in 2020. However, delays in delivery arose due to payment challenges faced by the Gabonese government.
Furthermore, concerns were raised by an inter-ministerial commission in France responsible for overseeing the export of military weapons, as they feared these vehicles could potentially be used to suppress protests during the upcoming general elections.
However, diplomatic negotiations between Gabonese Defense Minister Félicité Ongouori Ngoubili and French authorities led to a revision of the initial decision, culminating in the successful delivery of the AML-90s.
Late last month, Gabon approved a proposals for a $52 million loan for the purchase of a single C295 military transport aircraft from Airbus for the air force.
Designed as reconnaissance vehicles, the AML-90s are engineered to operate efficiently with a crew of three, including a commander, a driver, and a gunner. Their lightweight and compact design make them highly adaptable for various military missions, particularly in reconnaissance and surveillance roles.
The firepower of the AML-90 is no less impressive. Armed with a 90mm D921 F1 rifled cannon mounted in its turret, these vehicles offer a formidable main armament with a 360-degree rotation capability. Additionally, a coaxial armament featuring either a 7.5mm AAT-52 or a 7.62mm MAG machine gun complements the main cannon, significantly enhancing the vehicle’s combat capabilities. The AML-90 also boasts a secondary armament mounted on a pivoting support on the turret roof, providing further firepower and flexibility in diverse combat scenarios.
Under the hood, the AML-90s are equipped with a powerful Panhard Model 4 HD 4-cylinder air-cooled petrol engine, generating 90 horsepower at 4,700 rpm. This engine enables the vehicles to achieve a maximum speed of 90 km/h on roads and reverses at 5.5 km/h. With a single fuel tank capacity of 156 liters, these vehicles boast an operational range of 600 km on roads.
The AML-90s demonstrate exceptional agility, showcasing excellent obstacle-crossing capabilities, including scaling walls up to 0.3 meters, crossing trenches up to 0.8 meters wide, and handling gradients up to 60% and slopes up to 30%. Additionally, they can ford through water up to 1.1 meters deep.
Steel armor forms the foundation of the vehicle’s protection, offering a robust defense against various threats. Moreover, optional features such as NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection and a smoke system with 2×2 80mm smoke grenade launchers further enhance the AML-90s’ defensive capabilities.
While equipped with optional night vision capabilities, the AML-90s primarily rely on an optical sight without night vision for their fire control. This allows the crew to maintain effective target acquisition and tracking capabilities during daylight operations.
Gabon has been diligently upgrading its military equipment over the years, reflecting its commitment to bolstering national defence.
Over the past decade, Gabon has made substantial acquisitions of military hardware, showcasing its commitment to bolstering its defense capabilities. During an impressive August 2022 independence day parade, Gabon proudly showcased the operational fleet of VP11 4×4 vehicles acquired from China. It’s worth noting that the VP11’s predecessor was developed in collaboration with South Africa. Alongside the VP11s, the parade also featured thirteen Norinco VP11s, Maverick 4×4 vehicles, Aravis armored vehicles, and VN1 8×8 armored vehicles, underscoring Gabon’s determination to modernize its military assets.
Continuing its focus on enhancing its armed forces, Gabon has also procured Dongfeng EQ2050 vehicles, further bolstering its ground capabilities. Additionally, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the country received 19 Type-07P infantry fighting vehicles, further enhancing its mechanized infantry capabilities.
In previous years, Gabon has seen the delivery of eight Aravis infantry fighting vehicles from the French company Nexter between 2015 and 2016. Additionally, in 2010, the country acquired 24 Matador armored personnel carriers (APCs) from Paramount, showcasing its determination to enhance its armored capabilities.
Gabon’s commitment to global peacekeeping efforts is evident as well. The country received five VAB-VTT vehicles second-hand from France, which have since been utilized by Gabonese UN peacekeeping forces, underscoring Gabon’s commitment to international security initiatives.
Through these extensive acquisitions, Gabon demonstrates its dedication to ensuring a robust and capable military force, poised to address emerging security challenges and maintain regional stability. As the nation continues to invest in modernizing its military equipment, it reaffirms its commitment to safeguarding its territorial integrity and contributing to global peacekeeping efforts.