The AMX-30 is a main battle tank designed by GIAT and first delivered to the French Army in 1966. The first five tanks were issued to the 501st Régiment de Chars de Combat (Tank Regiment) in August of that year. The production version of the AMX-30 weighed 36 metric tons (40 short tons), and sacrificed protection for increased mobility. The French believed that it would have required too much armour to protect against the latest anti-tank threats, thereby reducing the tank's maneuverability. Protection, instead, was provided by the speed and the compact dimensions of the vehicle, including a height of 2.28 metres. It had a 105-millimetre (4.1 in) cannon, firing an advanced high explosive anti-tank warhead known as the Obus G. The Obus G used an outer shell, separated from the main charge by ball bearings, to allow the round to be spin stabilized by the gun without affecting the warhead inside. Mobility was provided by the 720 horsepower (540 kW) HS-110 diesel engine, although the troublesome transmission adversely affected the tank's performance.

In 1979, due to issues caused by the transmission, the French Army began to modernize its fleet of tanks to AMX-30B2 standards, which included a new transmission, an improved engine and the introduction of a new fin-stabilized kinetic energy penetrator. Production of the AMX-30 also extended to a number of variants, including the AMX-30D armored recovery vehicle, the AMX-30R anti-aircraft gun system, a bridge-layer, the Pluton tactical nuclear missile launcher and a surface-to-air missile launcher.

It was preceded by two post-war French medium tank designs. The first, the ARL 44, was an interim tank. Its replacement, the AMX 50, was cancelled in the mid-1950s in favor of adopting the M47 Patton tank. In 1956, the French government entered a cooperative development program with Germany and Italy in an effort to design a standardized tank. Although the three nations agreed to a series of specific characteristics that the new tank should have, and both France and Germany began work on distinctive prototypes with the intention of testing them and combining the best of both, the program failed as Germany decided not to adopt the new French 105-millimetre (4.1 in) tank gun and France declared that it would postpone production until 1965. As a result, both nations decided to adopt tanks based on their own prototypes. The German tank became known as the Leopard 1, while the French prototype became the AMX-30.

As early as 1969, the AMX-30 and variants were ordered by Greece, soon followed by Spain. In the coming years, the AMX-30 would be exported to Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Cyprus and Chile. By the end of production, 3,571 units of AMX-30s and its variants had been manufactured. Both Spain and Venezuela later began extensive modernization programs to extend the life of their vehicles and to bring their tanks up to more modern standards. In the 1991 Gulf War, AMX-30s were deployed by both the French and Qatari armies - Qatari AMX-30s saw action against Iraqi forces at the Battle of Khafji. However, France and most other nations replaced their AMX-30s with more up-to-date equipment by the end of the 20th century.

Country Name Origin Year
France 1966
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Bosnia-Herzegovina View
Chile View
Cyprus View
France 1986 View
Greece View
Nigeria View
Qatar View
Saudi Arabia View
Spain View
United Arab Emirates View
Venezuela View

De Gaulle decided that France, though formally remaining a member, would no longer participate in the NATO military organization. This caused a rift between France and West Germany, which then started to emphasize standardization with American equipment, especially in armament, and to follow the new NATO policy to use multifuel diesel engines. German defence minister Franz Josef Strauss began to oppose the common tank project. In July 1963, the defence committee of the German Bundesrat decided to procure a purely national tank. In response, the same month the French government decided likewise.

Comparative trials were nevertheless held at Mailly-le-Camp, Meppen, Bourges and Satory between five French and five German prototypes between August and October 1963, under Italian, Dutch, Belgian and American supervision. The French type had received a separate national designation: AMX 30. The trials indicated that the German type, on 1 October also getting its own name Leopard, had a better mobility and acceleration. The French government decided that it could not procure a new tank until 1965, while the Germans refused to adopt the Franco-German 105-millimeter (4.1 in) tank gun, in lieu of the British Royal Ordnance L7, of which they had already ordered 1,500 in the autumn of 1962, their plan having failed for Rheinmetall to produce in Germany a common type of munition of sufficient quality. Suggestions to save the project by combining the French turret with the German chassis failed. As a result, the program was cancelled and the French and Germans definitely decided to adopt their two separate tanks.

The prototypes of the AMX-30 weighed 32.5 metric tons (35.8 short tons), and were compact, with a width of 3.1 metres (10 ft), comparable only to the Swiss Panzer 61, and a height of 2.28 meters (7.5 ft), comparable only to the Soviet T-55. In contrast to the AMX 50, the AMX-30 was issued a conventional turret, because it was found that it was more difficult to seal oscillating turrets from radioactive dust and against water when the tank was submerged. Oscillating turrets also had a large ballistic weakness in the area of the skirt and turret ring. Originally, the first two prototypes were powered by a 720 horsepower (540 kW) spark ignition engine, named the SOFAM 12 GSds. Later, a multi-fuel diesel engine was adopted, developed by Hispano-Suiza. The seven 1963 prototypes of the AMX-30 were later rebuilt with the new diesel engine. Two further prototypes, meant to be direct preproduction vehicles, were delivered in November 1965. Besides the diesel engines, they had changed hull and turret casts and different gun mantlets; the latter would again be changed in the production vehicles.

The first production versions of the AMX-30, named AMX 30B to distinguish them from the AMX 30A prototypes, were completed in June 1966, manufactured with a welded and cast hull and a fully cast turret. The production version of the tank had a combat weight of 36 metric tons (40 short tons). The AMX-30's survivability was based on its mobility; French engineers believed that the tank's mobility would have been compromised had they added enough steel plating to protect against modern anti-tank threats, including high explosive anti-tank warheads (HEAT). As a result, the type had the thinnest armour of any main battle tank produced at the time. The turret has a maximum armour thickness of 50 millimetres (2.0 in), the armour sloped at 70 degrees on the front plate and 23 degrees on the side, offering protection against 20-millimetre (0.79 in) armour piercing projectiles. The Line-of-Sight armour values are: 79-millimeter (3.1 in) for the front of the hull; 59-millimetre (2.3 in) for the forward sides of the hull; 30-millimetre (1.2 in) for the rear sides and rear of the hull; 15-millimetre (0.59 in) for the hull top and bottom; 80.8-millimeter (3.18 in) for the turret front; 41.5-millimeter (1.63 in) for the turret sides; 50-millimetre (2.0 in) for the turret rear and 20-millimetre (0.79 in) for the turret top. Further protection is offered by a nuclear, biological and chemical protection suit, including a ventilation system.

One of the unique features of the AMX-30 was the Obus à Charge Creuse de 105 mm Modèle F1 (Obus G) HEAT projectile and its main gun, the Modèle F1, a monoblock steel 105-millimeter (4.1 in) cannon. HEAT warheads suffer when spin stabilized, a product of rifled barrels, causing the French to develop the Obus G, (Gresse). This projectile was composed of two major parts, including the outer shell and a suspended inner shell, divided by ball bearings. This allowed the projectile to be spin-stabilized, and therefore more accurate than a normal fin-stabilized HEAT-round, while the inner shell did not move, allowing the warhead to work at maximum efficiency. The warhead, containing 780 gram hexolite, could penetrate up to 400 millimeters (16 in) of steel armour and was effective against tanks at up to 3,000 meters (3,300 yd). As it combined a good accuracy with a penetration that was independent of range, it has been considered an "ideal round" for its day The AMX-30 was also designed to fire the OCC F1 Mle.60 high explosive projectile, the SCC F1 training warhead and the OFUM PH-105 F1 smoke round. The main gun was coupled with a 380-millimeter (15 in) recoil brake, which had a maximum extension of 400 millimeters (16 in), and could depress to -8 degrees or elevate to 20 degrees. The turret's firepower was augmented by a coaxial 12.7-millimeter (0.50 in) M2 Browning machine gun. The tank commander also made use of a 7.62-millimeter (0.300 in) anti-aircraft machine gun on the turret roof. The vehicle carried 50 105-millimeter (4.1 in) projectiles, 748 12.7-millimeter (0.50 in) rounds and 2,050 7.62-millimeter (0.300 in) bullets. The tank commander was issued a cupola which offered ten all-around direct-vision episcopes, and a binocular telescope with 10x magnification. The commander was also given an optical full-field coincidence range finder. The gunner was given a telescoping gun sight and two observation periscopes.

The production version of the AMX-30 was fitted with Hispano-Suiza's HS-110 diesel engine, located in the rear of the hull. The 28.8 liters (1,760 cu in) engine could be replaced on the field in 45 minutes, and produced 720 horsepower (540 kW), offering the tank a maximum velocity of 65 kilometers per hour (40 mph) on roads. The fuel efficient engine, in conjunction with a total fuel capacity of 970 liters (260 U.S. gal), gave the AMX-30 a maximum road range of up to 600 kilometers (370 mi). The engine's drive is taken through a Gravina G.H.B.200C twin-plate centrifugal clutch. The gearbox was an AMX 5-SD-200D, with five forward gears and five reverse gears. This transmission was heavily influenced by that of the German Panther tank and was based on a project which had begun in 1938. The transmission was one of the AMX-30's major faults and caused a variety of mechanical problems, including that the driver would have to manually change gears at specific times, even if the tank was moving over rough terrain. The tank's weight is distributed over five double, aluminum-alloy, rubber-tyred road wheels on either side, propelled on 570-millimeter (22 in) wide tracks. The tank could ford 1.3-meter (1.4 yd) deep water obstacles without preparation, up to 2 meters (2.2 yd) with minor preparation, and up to 4 meters (4.4 yd) with full preparation.[38] Full preparation for water operations consisted of the addition of a snorkel tube, the installation of blanking plates, carried on the front of the hull, over the engine compartment's air intake louvers, and the installment of infra-red driving equipment, including a searchlight. In 1969 a single special dive training vehicle was adapted, nicknamed the AMX 30 Gloutte (from French faire glouglou, "gurgle"), without engine and tracks, that over a ramp could quickly be lowered into a reservoir by a winch; it was equipped with an escape tube.

Qatari AMX-30s saw combat during the Gulf War at the Battle of Khafji, where on 30 January 1991 they counter-attacked in an attempt to retake the city of Khafji from Iraqi forces which had occupied it the night before. During the action, Qatari AMX-30s knocked out three Iraqi T-55s and captured four more. At least one Qatari AMX-30 was lost during the battle.

The French participation in the Gulf War, codenamed Opération Daguet, saw the deployment of the 6e Division Légère Blindée ("6th Light Armoured Division"), referred to for the duration of the conflict as the Division Daguet. Most of its armoured component was provided by the AMX-10RCs of the cavalry reconnaissance regiments, but a heavy armoured unit, the 4e Régiment de Dragons ("4th Dragoon Regiment") was also sent to the region with a complement of 44 AMX-30B2s. Experimentally, a new regimental organisational structure was used, with three squadrons of thirteen tanks, a command tank and six reserve vehicles, instead of the then normal strength of 52 units. Also six older AMX-30Bs were deployed, fitted with Soviet mine rollers provided by Germany from East German stocks, and named AMX 30 Demin. The vehicles were all manned by professional crews, without conscripts. The Daguet Division was positioned to the West of the Coalition forces, to protect the left flank of the U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps. This disposition gave the French commander greater autonomy, and also lessened the likelihood of encountering Iraqi T-72s, which were superior both to the AMX-10RCs and the AMX-30B2s. With the beginning of the ground offensive of 24 February 1991, French forces moved to attack its first target, "Objective Rochambeau", which was defended by a brigade from the Iraqi 45th Infantry Division. A raid by Gazelle helicopters paved the way for an attack by the 4e Régiment de Dragons. Demoralized by heavy coalition bombardments, the Iraqi defenders rapidly surrendered. The following day, the 4e Dragons moved on to their next objective, "Chambord", where they reported destroying ten tanks, three BMPs, fifteen trucks and five mortars with the assistance of USAF A-10s, and capturing numerous prisoners. The final objective was the As-Salman air base ("Objective White"), that was reported captured by 18:15, after a multi-pronged attack, with the 4e Dragons attacking from the South. In all, the AMX-30s fired 270 main gun rounds.

Manufacturer(s)GIAT Industries
StatusProduction complete. In service with France.
Production Period1966-1981Production Quantity1701
Length, overall9.5mLength, hull6.6m
Width, overall3.1mHeight, overall2.9m
Combat Weight36000kgUnloaded Weight34000kg
Radio, externaln/aCommunication, crewn/a
Main Armament105mm L/56 CN-105-F1 rifled gunAmmunition Carried47
Gun Traverse360°Elevation/Depression+20°/-8°
Traverse Rate30°/sElevation Rate5.5°/s
Gun StabilizationnoneRangefinderyes
Night VisionactiveAuto-Loaderno
Secondary Armament20mm F2 gun (coaxial)
7.62mm MG (AA)
Ammunition Carried1050x20mm

EngineHS110 12-cylinder water-cooled multi-fuelTransmissionENC200 5F/5R
Horsepower655hp at 2600rpm (1)Suspensiontorsion bar
Power/Weight Ratio20hp/tTrack Width57.0cm
Speed, on road65km/hTrack Ground Contact412cm
Fuel Capacity970 lGround Pressure412cm
Range, on road600kmGradient60%
Fuel Consumption160 l/100kmVertical Obstacle0.9m
Turning Radiusn/aTrench Crossing2.9m
Ground Clearance0.44mFording1.3m/4m
Smoke Laying2 x 2 smoke dischargersNBC Protectionyes
Armor DetailsExplosive reactive armour modules are available to increase protection. Hull armor thickness: 79mm (front); 30-57mm (sides); 30mm (rear); 15mm (top/floor). Turret: 81mm (front); 42mm (sides); 50mm (rear); 20mm (top).

(1) Horsepower estimate is based on the claim that the AMX-30 B2 has an increase of 45hp

End notes