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Moncure J, Mar-1997. Leclerc - New French Tank, Like the M1A2, Uses Digital Architecture, Armor

Moncure J, Mar-1997. Leclerc - New French Tank, Like the M1A2, Uses Digital Architecture, Armor

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Published by: Foro Militar General on Apr 07, 2013
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They call it the first tank of the 3rdgeneration.
The new French main bat-tle tank, the AMX-Leclerc, designedaround its central computer system, in-corporates many of the latest technolo-gies in armored vehicle design.
For theFrench, the adoption of this new tank isan extraordinary leap from its prede-cessor, the 1960s vintage AMX-30, theequivalent of transitioning directlyfrom an M60 to the M1A2.
Its charac-teristics set it apart in the communityof modern armor as it reflects uniquelyFrench cultural and psychological pref-erences. From its conceptual phase, thedesigners of this tank saw it from anew perspective, likening it to a fighteraircraft more than to a traditional tank.
As the “master work” of the French ar-maments industry and the latest symbolof French national pride, it is a “pro-tected species” in an army that has justannounced 40 percent cuts in strength.Evolving French conventional doctrineis revolving around this new weaponsystem as their army prepares for the21st century.The most striking difference of theLeclerc from other modern Westerntanks is its size. In the perennial debateover mobility vs. protection, the Frenchhave always opted for the former. TheAMX-30 weighed 20 tons less than itsNATO contemporaries. Likewise, theLeclerc weighs only 56 tons in com-parison with the tendency toward 70tons for its cousins. The French haveachieved this feat by replacing the hu-man loader with a chain-driven loadingsystem and by a most judicious place-ment of special armor. Thus, while thetank has roughly the same height asother modern systems, it is consider-ably shorter. Its weight gives it two ad-vantages over its contemporaries: it isstrategically more easily deployed, andit is more agile.Agility, rather than silhouette, was thecritical value for the French designers.The Leclerc power plant consists of an8-cylinder, 1,500-horsepower “Hyper-bar” engine, manufactured by the firmof Wärtsilä, married to an SESM auto-matic transmission.
This remarkablesystem, with its integrated turbine, pro-vides instant pressure into the cylin-ders, up to 7
atmospheres (as com-pared with about 3 atmospheres in con-ventional engines), on demand. From adead stop to 32 kmph requires fewerthan 6 seconds. In all gears, it acceler-ates quickly and smoothly. From thisaspect, the Leclerc matches perfectlythe French armored gospel of mobility.In designing the Leclerc, the Frenchbegan from the inside. The digital ar-chitecture preceded the design of thetank, and ensures a complete harmonyof fire control, navigation, mechanics,and communications. The Conduct of Fire Calculator directs the 15 othercomputers, receiving wind speed, tem-perature, atmospheric pressure, appar-ent target motion, and range data, aswell as ballistic characteristics of theround. The result is routine first-roundhits on targets at ranges in excess of 2,500 meters. The tank has achieved aremarkably soft recoil, a combinationof the 42cm recoil travel and the hy-dro-pneumatic suspension. Wrappedaround this fire control system, astightly as possible, are ergonomic crewpositions and controls. The TC, gunner,and driver can reach virtually all theircontrols with little motion. Indeed, mo-tion is almost impossible in this form-fitted tank. Crew members have no vis-ual contact with each other. The TCand gunner are so well fitted in theirpositions, in fact, that they cannot oper-ate the turret standing up. These char-acteristics are a function of the originalconcept of the tank.While the Leclerc has all the attrib-utes of a modern tank, the French per-ception of it differs, sometimes dra-matically. Because of its design, a crewcan operate it only for a relatively shortperiod of time — 6 hours is generallyseen as the optimum — after which theunit must be replaced in the line, or re-placement crews called up. Currently,15 crews are being trained for each 13-tank company going through transition.Few maintenance responsibilities be-long to the crew. The tank has a num-ber of access plates along the sidesfrom which mechanics can interrogatethe tank, replace filters, etc., without
March-April 1997 
New French Tank, Like the M1A2, Uses Digital Architecture 
by Lieutenant Colonel John Moncure
the crew dismounting. Likewise, main-tenance and logistics troops in Leclercunits will be trained to conduct rearm-ing and refueling operations. The activeLeclerc unit is experimenting with anexamination which, once refined, maybe used to select gunner or driver can-didates with desirable Leclerc-specificcharacteristics. Leclerc is a specializedsystem. In the threat-rich environmentof 21st century wars, French doctrinalthinkers see it being accompanied byother vehicles to protect it. In manyways, this vehicle is viewed less like atank and more like an aircraft.Like its American and German coun-terparts, the Leclerc includes a digitalcommunication system. The Frenchhave developed a three-tiered architec-ture, of which the Command Informa-tion System (or SIC, at division level)and Regimental Information System(SIR) have been developed, and theTerminal Information System (SIT) isunder study. Leclerc platoon leaderscommunicate with their company andbattalion commanders using SIR. Atpresent, the platoon sergeant and thetwo wingman tanks can transmit onlycurrent location, logistics data, and thelocations of three designated targets.SIT will add graphics and various mes-sage sets. Recognizing the internationalenvironment, the French participate ina panel to develop protocols to trans-late IVIS and the German GeFüSys.The communication system of the tank,like its other high-performance charac-teristics, also ensures that it must beviewed differently from its predecessor.The French Army has created a neworganization for the Leclerc. Pre-viously, tank regiments consisted of 52or 70 AMX-30s, depending upon thenumber of companies. Leclerc regi-ments have 80 tanks divided into two40-tank battalions (GEs, or grouped’escadrons). The first such unit, the501st/503rd Tank Regiment (each GEcarrying the colors of a historic tank regiment), stationed at Mourmelon ineastern France, is in the process of drawing its Leclerc tanks. It will befollowed next year by the 6th/12th Cui-rassier Regiment. In combat, the GEs,which in peacetime share the logisticsand administrative assets of the regi-ment, become completely independent.Operational concepts for this tank have not been written. French doctrinewriters correctly realize that some ex-perience with a shoot-on-the-movehigh performance system is necessarybefore they commit themselves. How-ever, some innovative ideas have sur-faced.
Given the performance possi-bilities of the Leclerc, the French be-lieve it is best suited for highly mobileoperations, rapid concentration and dis-persion of force, pursuit and decisiveaction, in depth. They believe that thetank should operate in a mixture of pa-trols (2 tanks) and platoons (4 tanks)depending upon the situation.Infantry, artillery units, logistics, andplanning processes will have to adaptto the new tempo of combat that theLeclerc will afford. With the new in-strument at their disposal, French cav-alry commanders will again be able tooperate in a manner consistent withtheir history of élan. Whatever doctrineemerges from the field trials and think tanks, we can expect the new Frencharmor force to perform aggressively.The Leclerc is causing a revolution inFrench military thinking. While themachine is only appropriate to its gen-eration — having some advantages andsome disadvantages compared to othermodern tanks — it has liberated theFrench perspective of mid- to high-in-tensity warfare. Anchored to older sys-tems and sidelined for 30 years fromNATO cross-pollination, the French fo-cused their innovative energies onother subjects. The Leclerc haschanged all that. Paradoxically,France’s relative isolation permits itgreater freedom of thought. Unfetteredby the evolutionary development of doctrine in NATO, and armed with ahigh performance tank, we can expectthe French to develop unusual solutionsto the challanges that the new tech-nologies pose.
March-April 1997 
AMX-Leclerc Main Battle TankData and Organization
Crew3Main gunGIAT 120 mmWeight55.6 tsmoothborePower to wt ratio26.97 hp/ton52 caliberGround pressure0.9 kg/cm (12.8psi)Ammunition type1 piece fixedLength (hull)6.88 mcombustible caseLength (gun front)9.87 mstub metalWidth (overall)3.71 mAmmunitionWidth (over track)3.31 m natureAPFSDSHeight (turret)2.53 m APFSDS-TPT(overall)2.92 m HEATGround clearance500 mmHEAT-TPTTrack width0.635 m LoadingautoloaderTrack base4.32 m Max rate of fire6 rds per mEngine typeUni-Diesel UDAmmunitionV8V, 8 cyl, stowed22 rds readydiesel40 rds totalEngine power1500 HP/1100kW Coax12.7 mmGearbox typeSESM ESM 500Commander MG7.62 mmNo. of Gears5/2GrenadesGALIXMax speed (road)71 kmph (41 mph)smokeRange550 km (344 mi) AP700 km w/externaltanksFuel consumption1.07 mpg cruising15.79 gal/hr idleTrench3.0 mStep3.0 mDatabusDigibusFire ControlComputerDassault ElectroniqueCCTCommander SightSFIM HL-70360°panoramicDayImage IntensifierGunner SightSAGEM HL60DayTINd YAG laser

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