During WW2, commander of the Free French 2nd Armoured Division was General Philippe de Hauteclocque “Leclerc”. He was to lead the drive towards Paris after landing in Normandy and in his honour France’s main battle tank was named Leclerc. A total of 406 AMX-56 Leclerc main battle tanks are in service with the French Army, and 388 Leclercs are used by the United Arab Emirates Army.
The AMX-56 Leclerc was designed to replace the ageing AMX-30 after importation of foreign equipment, such as the American M1 Abrams or the Israeli Merkava main battle tanks, was abandoned. A cooperation between France and Germany was studied but rejected, Germany went on to produce the Leopard 2 and France concentrated on its national project.
France found a partner in the United Arab Emirates for the further development of the new tank, thus limiting the unit cost. The Leclerc was designed to be as light as possible while ensuring a highly mobile vehicle. Stress was put on active protection, rather than passive protection as well as mobility for evading incoming fire and firing control systems. Mass production started in 1990, and Leclerc entered service in 1992, too late to see action in the Gulf War. To this day the Leclerc has not been used in all-out war, although the tank did participate in peace-keeping missions in Kosovo and Lebanon.
The Leclerc is fitted with the Galix combat vehicle protection system that includes nine launch tubes for 80mm grenades, smoke grenades, infrared screening rounds and anti-personnel grenades. With a firing rate of 12 rounds/minute, the GIAT CN120-26 120mm smoothbore cannon is designed to fire the standard NATO 120 mm rounds used by the German Leopard 2 and the American M1 Abrams. One of the main features of the AMX-56 Leclerc is the unique autoloading system which was specifically designed for it, and reduces the crew to three by eliminating the human loader. The turret of the Leclerc was designed around the autoloading system in order to avoid the problems common to other tanks with an autoloader.
The Leclerc is fitted with the FINDERS (Fast Information, Navigation, Decision and Reporting System) battlefield management system, developed by Nexter Systems. FINDERS includes a colour map display which shows the positions of the host tank, allied and hostile forces and designated targets and can be used for route and mission planning. The Leclerc is powered by a SACM V8X-1500 Hyperbar diesel engine providing 1,500hp that enables the Leclerc to reach speeds of up to 70 km/h.
Main variants of the AMX-56 Leclerc
Leclerc AZUR:Action en Zone Urbaine, “Improve fighting ability in urban environments”
Leclerc EPG: Engin Principal du Génie, “main engineering vehicle”: armoured engineering
Leclerc DNG: Dépanneur Nouvelle Génération: repair tank
Leclerc MARS: Moyen Adapté de Remorquage Spécifique: tugboat tank
Leclerc EAU: “Tropicalised” version of the United Arab Emirates
AMX-56 Leclerc Specifications
Crew 3 (commander, driver, gunner)
Hull Length 6.9m
Overall Length 9.9m
Combat Weight 56t
Road Speed 70km/h
Cross Country Speed 50km/h
Reverse Speed Over 35km/h
Unfuelled Range Over 500km
Power-to-Weight Ratio 27hp/t
Acceleration 0-32km/h in under 6 seconds
Main Gun 120mm, 52-calibre
Rounds APFSDS (Armour Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot) and HEAT (High Explosive Anti Tank)
Engagement 6 targets in just over 30 seconds
Muzzle Velocity (APFSDS) 1,790m/sec
Maximum Range 3,000km
SACM V8X-1500 Auxiliary Diesel 1,500hp
SESM ESM 500 Automatic Transmission 5 forward, 2 reverse gears
Here are some amazing videos with the Leclerc in action