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AMX-56 Leclerc main battle tank

By Sakhal

Note: the following historical information about the AMX-56 Leclerc corresponds to the year 2000. Exclusive detailed information about the first prototype of this tank and associated electronic devices can be seen in the article AMX Leclerc - Main battle tank for the year 2000.

Considered by some the most technically advanced tank at the beginning of the 21st century, the AMX-56 Leclerc was the result of the effort of the French military industry for occupying an important sector within the large worldwide arms market and, in particular, for satisfying the necessities of some armies in the Persian Gulf region. Following an order from United Arab Emirates, a tropicalized version was developed for utilization in the desert, where it has demonstrated its suitability for this role, showing great mobility to overcome any type of slopes and obstacles. On the other hand, this version features a propulsion system of German origin and can be differentiated from the standard version by its sand color scheme and rear hookings for supplementary fuel tanks.

AMX-56 Leclerc main battle tank

This tank, conceived to equip the armored forces of the French Army, incorporates the most sophisticated electronic advances, as well as enviable protection levels and a profile that is low enough to difficult its detection on the battlefield, and only requires three crew members for its operation. It is equipped with a very advanced combat system which allows to open fire during night and without having to stop its march, against targets moving at distances of up to three kilometers, with a high probability of hitting the target in such conditions. Since the introduction of the AMX-30 the French Army had not received a more advanced tank, even if its industry evaluated newer projects such as the AMX-32 and AMX-40. To face the challenges of the incoming new century, in the early 1980s studies were started for what in that moment was called Engin Principale du Combat (Main Combat Vehicle). Its definition was completed in 1985 by the engineers from the Atelier de Construction d'Issy-les-Molineaux.

To check the validations of the diverse subsystems, technicians worked on five development and investigation modules that studied the suspension, propulsion and weapon systems. The 30th January 1986 it was announced that the resulting model would be named Leclerc in memory of the famous French general. That same year it was approved the construction of six protoypes that would serve to validate the results and test the prestations. This process was started in 1989 with the delivery of the first of them, which was presented to the specialized press in the 1990 Satory Exhibition. The satisfactory trials led the Government to contract, with the company GIAT Industries, the production of the first series exemplars, which began to be delivered to the Army in January 1992.

To face the challenge of the construction of this tank, of which the Army intended to incorporate about 400 units at a pace of about forty per year, six GIAT factories were employed. The turret would be built in Tarbes, to be then installed in Roanne, where the hull was built, while the factories in Toulouse, Saint-Chamond, Tulle and Bourges would produce the diverse components, such as the management system, the propulsion plant, the optical devices and the main weapon. Parallely to the delivery to the French Army, United Arab Emirates decided to incorporate 436 exemplars, which should be delivered between 1994 and 1999. Of these, 388 units are of the tropicalized variant which is adapted to operate on very high temperatures, while the rest are training and recovery vehicles.

AMX-56 Leclerc main battle tank

AMX-56 Leclerc main battle tank

Low profile, compact size, automatic loader, advanced protection system, great agility and capability for receiving and transmitting information in real time about diverse aspects of the battlefield are distinctive features incorporated in the AMX-56, a project that marks an inflection point in respect of how future developments will be. To be able to face the rapid destruction of a high number of targets, the AMX-56 was equipped with a GIAT CN-120-26 120-millimeter 52-caliber cannon, fed by an automatic loader which can accommodate up to 22 projectiles and which grants a rate of fire of up to twelve rounds per minute, while reducing the crew to only three members. The great firepower of the main weapon is linked to a fully automatized fire control system comprising a programmable computer, a two-axis stabilized optical system (SAGEM HL-60 for the gunner and SFIM HL-70 for the commander) and diverse presentation displays. Five different targets could be acquired in just 35 seconds thanks to thirty data processors distributed in different places. The fire control process is enhanced with the incorporation of the FINDERS command system, which receives information in real time from other units in the battlefield, which allows the crew members to know many variables, from the weather forecast to the movements of the enemy forces recorded by satellite.

AMX-56 Leclerc main battle tank

To confer to the tank the necessary destructive capability diverse 120-millimeter ammunitions have been developed of the types APFSDS F1-T, HEAT-MP-F1 RDX-TNT and HEAT-TP-F1, and it was started the conceptual validation of a FMTA (Future Tank Main Armament) 140-millimeter cannon that should allow to face the armored threats on a medium-term future.

AMX-56 Leclerc

GIAT Industries produces the specific ammunitions which can be used in the 120-millimeter cannon of the AMX-56. From those stand out the APFSDS 120F1, fitted with a tungsten piercing projectile; the HEAT-MP 120F1, able to pierce the single or triple NATO heavy target; and the HEAT-TP 120F1, inert round for training.

The 1500-horsepower propulsion plant grants the ability to accelerate from 0 to 32 kilometers/hour in just six seconds, while allowing to advance at an average speed of 50 kilometers/hour across the battlefield. To the agility of the AMX-56 contributes as well its hydropneumatic suspension, which allows to overcome different types of obstacles and to move across any type of terrain. The weak point is that the propulsion plant produces a black smoke that can facilitate enemy detection. To counter any enemy reaction the AMX-56 has been provided with an advanced armor that is enhanced by its low profile. It is made of a combination of aluminum, armor steel, ceramic elements and advanced ballistic fabrics able to stop the impacts received before reaching the crew members. Complementary defense systems include protection against NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) threats, an ultrafast fire extinction system and the GALIX self-defense system, which combines detectors with launchers for infrared decoys and smoke grenades.

AMX-56 Leclerc main battle tank

The propulsion plant and the suspension of the AMX-56 provide a notable tactical mobility in any type of terrain and against the most diverse obstacles. Besides, the tank has a considerable strategic mobility which can be extended with the utilization of auxiliary fuel tanks. The AMX-56 has been designed with a reduced silhouette that renders the tank harder to spot on the battlefield, increasing the chances of survivability against diverse types of threats.

AMX-56 Leclerc main battle tank

To improve the training of future crews, specific simulators and instruction tools have been created which allow to learn how to handle the tank and its different subsystems. Besides, there are specific modules that allow maintenance workers to learn about the different processes and methods required for facing the possible failures. To keep the AMX-56 totally operative it has been configured on the vehicle itself an integrated logistic support system which comprises self-testing devices, assisted self-diagnosis devices for fast finding possible breakdowns and modular elements that can be easily replaced, either in the specific maintenance facilities or in the battlefield. Besides, the tank is usually stored inside an inflatable watertight dome that allows to maintain the most adequate humidity and temperature levels for its complex electronic systems.

AMX-56 Leclerc main battle tank

In the AMX-56 every element, from the largest to the smallest one, has been placed in a rational way. The commander occupies the left side of the turret along with the co-axial gun and the observation periscope, while the gunner occupies the right side along with the aiming sight. The mechanisms of the main cannon, the automatic loader and the ready-for-fire ammunition occupy the remaining space inside the turret. The fore part of the hull is occupied by the driver, to the left, and the ammunition in reserve, to the right. The fire control computer is placed behind the driver and the engine occupies the rear part of the hull.

AMX-56 Leclerc main battle tank

Self-defense system: The AMX-56 is the first tank incorporating as standard equipment the advanced self-defense system GALIX, which includes diverse laser sensors intended to detect enemy signals, along with some launchers integrated in the rear part of the turret for infrared and electromagnetic flares intended to divert enemy missiles.

Auxiliary armament: In a mounting placed in the top of the turret is located a machine gun of caliber 7.62 x 51 millimeters, associated to a sophisticated system which allows its operation from the interior without exposing the crew to enemy fire.

Commander's sight: The commander has at his disposal a sophisticated SFIM HL-70 panoramic stabilized sight, with laser emitter and automatized operation for observation and tracking functions.

Cannon: The AMX-56 is equipped with a 120-millimeter 52-caliber cannon, which can fire APFSDS projectiles at a velocity above 1790 meters/second and with an effective rate of fire of almost twelve rounds per minute.

BMS equipment: The commander has at his disposal diverse presentation displays, among which stands out that belonging to the BMS equipment (in the center), which shows command and control information at the level of squadron. The AMX-56 is the only tank in the world incorporating this system as standard.

Sophisticated armor: Both in the front and the sides were placed diverse armor elements that protect the crew from any foreseeable threat. Besides, those in the sides can be removed from the hull to reduce its weight during air transport or its width when passing by narrow lanes.

Great mobility: The propulsion plant is located in the rear compartment to which, if necessary, two auxiliary fuel tanks can be attached to increase in about 200 kilometers the operational range of the vehicle and which, once empty, are very easy to disengage.

Diesel engine: Impulsed by an eight-cylinder engine SACM UDV 8X Hyperbar with a performance of 1500 horsepower at 2500 revolutions per minute, the AMX-56 is able to reach a maximum speed of about 50 kilometers/hour on rugged terrain.

Price: 10 millions of dollars

Crew: 3

Armament: One GIAT CN-120-26 120-millimeter 52-caliber cannon; one 7.62-millimeter co-axial machine gun; one 7.62-millimeter machine gun in the top of the turret; six decoy/smoke launchers in each side of the turret

Ammunitions: 40 x 120-millimeter cannon; 3000 x 7.62-millimeter co-axial machine gun

Armor: Composite (aluminum, steel, ceramics, advanced fabrics)

Lenght (total): 9.87 meters

Lenght (hull): 8.88 meters

Width: 3.71 meters

Height: 2.53 meters

Weight (in order of combat): 54.5 tonnes

Ground pressure: N/A

Engine: Diesel SACM UDV 8X Hyperbar with 8 cylinders and a maximum power of 1500 horsepower at 2500 revolutions per minute

Power/weight ratio: 27.52 horsepower/tonne

Maximum speed (in road): 71 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed (in countryside): 50 kilometers/hour

Maximum operational range: 550 kilometers

Maximum operational range (with external tanks): 750 kilometers

Maximum surmountable trench: N/A

Maximum surmountable step: 1.25 meters

Maximum surmountable slope: N/A

Maximum fording (without preparation): 1 meter

Categories: Tanks - 21st Century - [General] - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2017-12-25

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