Developed in the late 1960s by Panhard as an armored personnel carrier and complementing the AML reconnaissance vehicle, the Panhard M3 was a fairly successful French combat vehicle.

Over 1,000 units have been produced and exported to dozens of countries globally, the M3 being a low cost combat vehicle and rather basic for Western standards.

The M3 is an extremely versatile design which can be configured for a wide variety of auxiliary battlefield roles. The most popular variants of the base personnel carrier included an armoured ambulance, a mobile command post, and an internal security vehicle. It could also be fitted with a wide variety of turrets and armament, ranging from a single general-purpose machine gun to medium calibre autocannon.

The M3 is derived from the AML reconnaissance vehicle and the 4×4 chassis share 95% of the automotive components. This reduces costs for nations operating both types of vehicles. In the M3 the driver is seated at the front in the middle with the engine right behind him. The infantry compartment is at the rear and the infantry can access the vehicle by means of doors in both sides and the rear. On each side there are three hatches that serve as both windows and firing ports. The hull of the M3 is of all-welded steel construction varying in thickness from 8mm to 12mm.

The driver is seated at the front of the vehicle and provided with a single hatch cover in the glacis plate opening to the right. The engine and transmission are housed in a compartment directly to the driver’s rear. All the interior space to the rear of the engine and transmission is the troop compartment Aside from the driver, the M3 can carry eleven passengers. The infantry section debarks from two entry doors on either side of the hull or from two entry doors at the rear of the hull. If needed, the troop compartment can be reconfigured to carry up to a tonne of cargo.

The M3’s relatively light weight and the location of its air and exhaust outlets on the hull roof made it possible to design it as an amphibious vehicle. The M3 is propelled at a modest speed of 4 km/h through water by all four wheels. Although never adopted by the French Army, the M3 series was procured in vast quantities by foreign armies and security forces, especially in Africa and the Middle East. The M3 continues in service today and has seen combat exposure as recently as the Yemeni Civil War. It has proven serviceable as both a military- and security-minded vehicle. By the time production ceased in 1986, it was the most common wheeled APC produced by any Western nation in the world.

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