Military science students man the SARP weapon stations fitted to Qatar's upgraded VAB armoured personnel carriers during Exercise ‘Lebsair'. (Qatar Ministry of Defense)
Qatar unveiled its modernised 6×6 Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé (VAB) armoured personnel carriers (APCs) on 31 May, when its Ministry of Defense released a video showing several being used in a training exercise.
The video showed students from the Military Sciences Diploma course using three VABs to simulate an assault at a coastal training facility north of Dukhan as part of Exercise ‘Lebsair'. The APCs have been fitted with the Aselsan SARP remotely operated weapon stations with .50 calibre machine guns and close-range surveillance cameras to provide 360° situational awareness.
Serhan Özsoy, Aselsan Land and Weapon Systems programme director, told a conference in November 2022 that his company had also fitted Qatari VABs with new radios and internal communications systems. He said that 50 VABs were upgraded and delivered four months before the 2022 FIFAWorld Cup that began in Doha that month.
The upgraded VABs have also had their exhausts removed from their right side and new ones installed in a housing added to their left side, indicating they have been fitted with new engines, possibly the MD7 340 hp diesel used in the VAB MK 3. The vehicles' water-jets and folding flotation screens have also been removed, revealing a new air intake.
France's Arquus, the VAB's manufacturer, released a photograph in February 2023 showing four VABs being modified in this way at its factory. It was reported in June 2021 that Arquus was upgrading 24 VABs for an unidentified Middle East customer.