Leclerc Main Battle Tank (France)

By the beginning of the 1980s, the French Army had realised that it would have to find a replacement for its existing AMX-30 B2 tanks. The development programme would have to start fairly quickly if the new tank was to be fielded by the start of the 1990s to combat the growing threat of increasing numbers of the latest Russian tanks being fielded in Eastern Europe. The programme started in 1983 with project definition being completed in 1985 on the tank, by the Atelier de Construction d'Issy-les-Moulineaux. By that time five test rigs were already being used in component development with one being tasked with suspension development, three for automotive trials and the final one for the weapon system. In January 1986, the tank was renamed Leclerc. The first of six complete prototype vehicles was finished in 1989 and shown at the Satory exhibition for defence equipment in 1990. Development proceeded at the first production Leclerc was delivered to the French Army on 14 January 1992, the first unit so equipped being the 501-503Rd RCC. A total of six Giat Industries sites are involved in the manufacture of the tank: Toulouse, Saint-Chamond, Tulle, Bourges, Tarbes and Roanne. Turret construction and integration are conducted at Tarbes, with the turrets then being transferred to Roanne, which builds the complete chassis and integrates the two. The completed Leclerc is then tested and delivered to the customer. In French Army service, each Leclerc regiment has forty vehicles, one at regimental headquarters, and three squadrons each of thirteen tanks (one at the squadron headquarters and three troops of four vehicles). By late 2000, the French Army order book stood at 310 tanks and fifteen Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARVs). However, in November 2000 the French Army ordered another 96 main battle tanks (with another order for fifteen ARVs expected to follow). The tank was been selected by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to fulfil its requirements following an international competition and has so far placed an order for 436 vehicles (including 2 driver training tanks and 46 ARVs). The Leclerc Mk. 1 MBT has a conventional layout with the driver at the front left of the vehicle, having a single-piece hatch cover with three periscopes, the centre one of which is a TTD OB-60 day / night periscope. The gunner sits on the right of the turret (mounted in the centre of the vehicle) and the commander on the left, both having single-piece hatches. The commander has eight day periscopes. Both the gunner and commander have stabilised sights, which are an integral component of the fire control system, that also includes a modular thermal imaging camera, Avimo HL-58 laser rangefinder, high precision digital sensors and low-drift gyroscopes. The The gunner's HL-60 sight incorporates a direct day channel with magnifications of x 3.3 and x 10, video day channel with x 10 magnification, thermal infrared channel, laser rangefinder channel, boresighting channel and an emergency mode. The gunner's sight is linked to the commander's enabling the commander to fire the main armament if necessary. The commander also has a SFIM panoramic HL-70 sight that change the field of view between 5 and 20 degrees, has magnifications for x 2.5 and x 10 and an image intensifying night channel. A VDU shows the image from the gunner's sight. Each of the commander's eight periscopes has a switch that brings the main armament to bare on that line-of-sight. The fire control system enables six different targets to be engaged in under forty seconds, moving or stationary, while the tank is moving itself. First round hit probability is quoted at ninety-five percent. Data from the battlefield management system is available to the whole crew and the tank can transmit combat status, location data and logistical data to field command units. The Leclerc uses composite armour, which is itself of a modular design and so it can be replaced quickly or upgraded if new armour is made available. The tank is powered by a SACM V8X-1500 Hyperbar diesel engine (1,500hp) coupled to a SESM ESM 500 fully automatic transmission and has a computer system that calculates fuel requirements, starting procedures and monitors the engine's performance. The Leclerc has a hydropneumatic suspension system, six road wheels with an idler at the front and drive wheel at the back. Standard equipment includes an NBC system, deep fording capability, a fire detection and suppression system and a digital communications system from Thompson CSF. The main armament consists of a 120mm CN 120-26 (F1) smoothbore gun that has the same chamber as the 120mm gun on the Leopard 2 and M1 Abrams tanks. The French gun however has a calibre length of 52 instead of the 44 of the other weapons (the Germans though are developing a 55 calibre 120mm gun to upgrade the Leopard 2 with) and therefore gives a higher muzzle velocity to APFSDS rounds (1,790m/sec). The turret contains twenty-two ready to use rounds while the remaining eighteen are stored next to the driver. The Leclerc uses an automatic loader and so has a crew of three (in the same way the more modern Russian tanks have a crew of three). The autoloader can recognise six different types of round and can achieve a firing rate of up to ten rounds per minute. A 12.7mm machine gun is mounted coaxially with the main gun and a 7.62mm machine gun is mounted on the roof. Variants include the 'Tropicalised' Leclerc, which has been sold to the UAE. It features the EuroPowerPack consisting of a MTU 883 V-12 diesel engine (1,500hp) coupled to a Renk HSWL 295 TM automatic transmission. It also has a new cooling and air filtration system, new air conditioning system, diesel auxiliary power unit, modifications to the turret storage, additional side skirts, a laser rangefinder and thermal channel for the commander's sight and the FINDERS battle management system. The installation of the MTU engine has meant a slight extension to the rear of the Leclerc and so the fuel capacity of the vehicle has been increased. The Mk. 1 was replaced in production during 1998 by the Mk. 2 after some 134 were made. The Mk. 2 incorporates a number of small modifications, including a climate control system and modifications to the software. There is a Leclerc ARV that has a crane capable of lifting 30,000kg and a main winch that has a capacity to pull 35,000kg in a single line pull, the EPG Armoured Engineering Vehicle and PTG Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge.
Hull length: 6.88m. Hull width: 3.71m. Height: 2.53m. (turret roof) Crew: 3. Ground Clearance: 0.5m. Weight: 54,500kg (combat). Ground pressure: 0.9kg/ Max speed: 71km/h. Max range (internal fuel): 450km (on road). Armament: 120mm CN120-26 (F1) smoothbore gun, 1 x 12.7mm machine gun coaxial, 1 x 7.62mm machine gun mounted on turret roof.
Foss, Christopher. Jane's Tank Recognition Guide, HarperCollins, Glasgow, 1996.
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Gelbart, Marsh. Tanks: Main Battle and Light Tanks, Brassey's (UK) Ltd, London, 1996.
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Giat Industries Leclerc MBT on Jane's Armour and Artillery 2000 - 2001 at Cranfield Leclerc on The Website for Defence Industries - Army (Current Projects) at
How to cite this article: Antill, P. (1 June 2001), Leclerc Main Battle Tank (France),

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