The VAB was designed as a wheeled troop transporter, complementing the tracked AMX-10P. Specifications for the project called for an NBC-proof, amphibious, lightly armoured vehicle to provide infantry with basic protection against shrapnel and light infantry weapons. These features were dictated by its possible usage in the event of an all-out conventional war breaking out against the Warsaw Pact; in particular, the amphibious capabilities were needed to bridge the rivers in Eastern France and in Germany.
Companies Panhard and Saviem/Renault answered the requirement, and the Renault prototype was selected in May 1974, with 4,000 units ordered. The first delivery occurred in 1976, and production continued at a rate of 30 to 40 units a month.
An armoured double-door at the rear allows access to the passenger compartment. Two inward-facing, foldable benches provide seating for 5 soldiers each. The crew enters the front compartment through two lateral hatches, the driver on the left and gunner on the right; two additional hatches in the roof give access to armaments and provide emergency exits. The front windows are bullet-proof and heated. All the windows can be further protected by armoured panels, which can be shut entirely or leaving a small observation slit. The engine is located behind the driver, while the right side of the vehicle is kept free, providing a passageway between the crew and passenger compartments.