Due to its name, the AMR 35 has typically been described as a reconnaissance or scout tank but this is inexact and possibly misleading. Specialised reconnaissance was carried out, not by an AMR but by an AMD (Automitrailleuse de Découverte). The only ZT vehicles that really functioned in the reconnaissance rôle are the ZT 2 and ZT 3 that were part of reconnaissance units, that would distance themselves from the main force in search of the enemy or of routes that were free of enemy presence. The other AMR 35s however, were to the contrary originally intended to be part of the main force and functioned as its, "first contact", direct security screen: this was at the time the meaning of reconnaissance in the French Cavalry doctrine. Even this task however, would later become secondary to what was to be the AMR's main function: to provide direct fire support to dismounted cavalry or mechanised infantry units; the armoured trucks used by the latter had not even a machine-gun armament.
When the AMR 35 was first introduced no sharp distinction was made between the AMR 33 and 35, but this was to change in 1937. In 1936 and 1937 two Cavalry armoured divisions were created, the Divisions Légères Mécaniques ("Mechanised Light Divisions", with "light" meaning "mobile"). Initially it was intended that each of these would be equipped with seven AMR squadrons: four of these in their organic armoured brigade, the Brigade de Combat (two in each of two RRCs, Régiments de Reconnaissance et Combat) and three in their mechanised infantry regiment or RDP (Régiment de Dragons Portés). As each squadron had a strength of twenty tanks: four platoons of five each, there was a need for 280 vehicles. There thus seemed a clear prospect of further AMR 35 orders and a necessity for a temporary use of certain number of AMR 33s — indeed some were taken into service by the DLMs. Within the RRCs the AMR 35s would have to form a first shock front ahead of the SOMUA S35s, engaging likely enemy light tanks, such as the Panzerkampfwagen I. The use of so many light tanks in a combat rôle had been forced upon the Cavalry by a shortage of S 35s: the original procurement plans for the medium tank had been cut in half by budget limitations.
However, already in 1936 it was decided to redirect the production of the Hotchkiss H35, an infantry light tank that had been rejected by the Infantry in favour of the Renault R35, towards the Cavalry that decided to use it instead of the AMR 35 in the RRCs, even though the H 35 was not very fast: its poor armour weighed very heavily against the AMR 35 as the French military in this period became increasingly convinced lightly armoured vehicles could not survive on the modern battlefield. The function of the AMR 35 was thus limited to that of direct infantry support; this was reflected by the later procurement of 7.5 mm machine-gun vehicles only.
The total DML requirement was diminished to six squadrons, four of them active, or 120 tanks. Therefore it was decided to relegate all AMR 33s to the older DCs (Divisions de Cavalerie) and even equip one of these, 1re DC, with two squadrons of the AMR 35, in its 1e GAM (Groupe d'Automitrailleuses). Apart from these however, all AMR 35s should be concentrated into the DLMs. Some had already found their way into other units: during the general revision of 1937 they would be reallocated. This involved twee exemplars taken from 6e GAM, four from 7e Chasseurs, two from 3e GAM, two from 9e Dragons and three from the 1re BLM (Brigade Légère Mécanique). From photographic evidence it is known that earlier other units had made a temporary use of some vehicles.
Initially it was intended to reform the 1re DC into the 3e DLM; its AMR 35s would then automatically reach their proper destination — within a DLM instead of a DC. However, plans were changed at the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939: at mobilisation the reserve AMR squadron of the 1st DC was equipped with the Hotchkiss H35 and its stocked AMR 35s relegated to the other seven squadrons — two reserve tanks for each — and, in a number of six, to the general matériel reserve. At the end of 1939 1e DC was changed into the 1re Division Légère de Cavalerie.
Battle of France
In the Battle of France 120 AMR 33's and 187 ZT's were available. The AMR 35s were used to equip three squadrons in the 1st and 2nd DLM, 66 tanks in each division; and one squadron of 22 in the 1st Cavalry Light Division, for a total organic strength of 152; each platoon of five typically had two 13.2 mm machine-gun vehicles and three 7.5 mm machine-gun vehicles. The GRDI (Groupes de Reconnaissance de Division d'Infanterie) of the five DIM (Divisions d'Infanterie Mécaniques), each had an antitank-platoon with two ZT2's and two ZT3s.
Five AMR 35 were present in the driver school at Saumur; eight were in the general matériel reserve.
Of the ten Renault YSs, four were used by the Cavalry, four by the Infantry and two by the Artillery. The Renault YS 2 prototype, despite not being made of hardened steel, was deployed by the 71e RA, the artillery regiment of 2e DLM.
During the battle the 13.2 mm machine-gun proved to be incapable of defeating even the German armoured cars at normal combat ranges, its bullets being deflected by their sloped armour. However most AMR's were lost due to mechanical trouble. All vehicles assigned on 10 May had been lost by the end of the month.
In June, an ad hoc-unit was created, the 7e DLM and part if this was the 4e RAM (Régiment de Automitrailleuses) that used some AMR 35s taken from the matériel reserve.
The Germans used some AMR 35s as the Panzerspaehwagen ZT 702 (f); the Renault YSs were also taken into service. The ZT4s, being brand new, were partly fitted with the schwerer Granatwerfer 84 in an open superstructure to produce a self-propelled 81 mm mortar; some received the AVIS-1 turret.
Most of these vehicles were used by the occupation forces in France. In May 1945 three ZT4s were discovered by the Soviet forces entering Prague; they had been captured by the Czech resistance and turned against their former owners.