AMX Leclerc

The AMX Leclerc, is a main battle tank (MBT) built by GIAT, now Nexter of France. It was named in honour of General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque who led the French element of the drive towards Paris while in command of the Free French 2nd Armoured Division (2ème DB) in World War II.

The Leclerc is in service with the French Army and the army of the United Arab Emirates. In production since 1991, the Leclerc entered French service in 1992, replacing the AMX 30 as the country's main armoured platform. With production now complete, the French Army has a total of 406 Leclercs and the United Arab Emirates Army has 388. The price in 2011 was €9.3 million, which made it the most expensive tank in history at the time. Following the devaluation of the Euro[clarification needed] its price fell dramatically, and in 2014 the K2 Black Panther surpassed the Leclerc's price record.

AMX Leclerc
Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer Nexter
Production Period 1990 - 2008
Origin France
Country Name Origin Year
France 1983
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
France 1993 View
United Arab Emirates View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Nexter 1990 2008 862 View

In 1964 studies were initiated about a possible replacement vehicle for the AMX 30: the Engin Principal Prospectif. In 1971, in view of the inferiority of the AMX 30 in comparison to the new generation of Soviet tanks about to be introduced, the Direction des Armements Terrestres ordered the beginning of the Char Futur project. In 1975 a working committee was created that in 1977 agreed on a list of specifications. In February 1980 however, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the Federal Republic of Germany involving the joint development of a MBT, called the Napoléon I in France and Kampfpanzer III in Germany. Fundamental disagreements about its desired configuration led to a failure of this cooperation in December 1982. It was announced that a purely French battle tank would be developed, called "EPC" (Engin Principal de Combat). Importation of foreign equipment, like the M1 Abrams, the Leopard 2, or the Merkava had been studied and rejected.

In contrast to most Western programmes of the time, much consideration was given to active, besides passive protection, to limit the overall mass of the vehicle. Mobility for evading enemy fire and fire control systems were given particular attention. Nevertheless it was a stated design goal to achieve at least double the protection against KE-penetrators in comparison to the level attained in then current MBTs of the fifty ton weight class, the latter indicated at about 400 mm RHA equivalency, the higher level at the same time protecting against shaped charges.

Partnership with a foreign state was sought to limit the cost per unit, and this was found when the United Arab Emirates ordered 436 vehicles, adding to the 426 units already planned for the French Army.

In 1986, the project was started under the name of "Leclerc", six prototypes being built swiftly. Mass production started in 1990 with the four-unit Batch 1, used mainly for comparative tests in foreign countries. The 17 units of Batch 2 were shipped, with improvements in the turret and in the hull armour. These units were diagnosed with problems in the engine and suspension, and were quickly retired. Batch 3 followed with some improvements and have been used to define the doctrine of use, and instruction.

Batches 4 and 5 were better built, eliminating the recurrent problems in the powerplant, and are still in service, after having been refitted at the end of the 1990s. The second series started with Batch 6, with an added climate control system in the right rear of the turret. Batch 7 introduced a transmission system to the command vehicle, and a data system giving instantaneous vision of the state of all battle tanks and acquired targets. It also incorporated minor improvements in the visor. Batch 8 was a modernisation of the electronic system, and Batch 9 replaced the thermal imaging ATHOS by a SAGEM Iris with better resolution.

All previous batches will be modernised up to the standards of Batch 9 from 2005. In 2004, Batch 10 was presented, incorporating new information systems which could share the disposition of enemy and friendly units to all vehicles on the battlefield, and a new armor package. This was the beginning of the 96-unit third series. By 2007, 355 tanks should have been operational, 320 of them incorporated in four regiments, each of 80 Leclerc vehicles.

As of 2010, after a French defence review, each of the four regiments operated 60 Leclerc tanks for a total of 240 in operational units; with a further 100 Leclerc in combat ready reserve. Due to finance cuts, only 254 tanks were fully operational in 2011.

In service only since 1992 (after the Persian Gulf War), the Leclerc has no notable experience in true warzone environments, but has seen deployment on multiple low-intensity conflicts, including 15 Leclerc stationed in Kosovo (KFOR) and others in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the context of UN peace-keeping operations, where their performance was judged satisfactory by French officials.

Until 2010, 13 Leclerc were deployed in the south Lebanon for a peacekeeping mission with UNIFIL.

Type Main battle tank
Place of origin France
Service history
In service 1993–present
Production history
Designed 1983–1989
Manufacturer GIAT Industries (now Nexter)
Unit cost ?rs104,304,000 in 1993, €6,549,486.47 in 2001
Produced 1990–2008 (The last unit was produced in 2007, and the production line was closed, although Nexter still retains the capability to build more if there is a need)
Number built ˜862
Weight series 1: 54.5 tonnes
series 2: 56.3 tonnes
series XXI : 57.4 tonnes
Length 9.87 m (6.88 without gun)
Width 3.60 m
Height 2.53 m
Crew 3 (Commander, gunner, driver)
Armour modular composite armor
SXXI version include titanium, tungsten and semi-reactive layers.
GIAT CN120-26/52 120mm tank gun
40 rounds (1 round ready to fire in the chamber, 22 rounds inside the autoloader magazine with additional 18 rounds cylinder in the hull)
12.7 mm coaxial M2HBmachine gun (1,100 rounds)
7.62 mm machine gun (3,000 rounds)
Engine 8-cylinder diesel SACM (Wärtsilä)
1,100 kW (1,500 hp)
Power/weight 27.52 hp/tonne
Transmission Automatic SESM ESM500
Suspension hydropneumatic
Fuel capacity 1300 liters (1700 l with fuel drums)
550 km, 650 km (400 mi) with external fuel
Speed 72 km/h (45 mph)

End notes