|Type||Main battle tank|
|Place of origin||France|
|Wars||Yemeni Civil War (2015–present)|
|Manufacturer||GIAT Industries (now Nexter)|
|Unit cost||₣rs104,304,000 in 1993, US$4+million in 2016 |
|Produced||1990–2008 (The last unit was produced in 2007 and the production line was closed, although Nexter retains the capability to build more if there is a need)|
|Mass||series 1: 54.5 tonnes|
series 2: 56.3 tonnes
series XXI : 57.4 tonnes
|Length||9.87 m (6.88 without gun)|
|Crew||3 (Commander, gunner, driver)|
|Armour||modular composite armor|
SXXI version include titanium and semi-reactive layers.
|GIAT CN120-26/52 120mm tank gun |
40 rounds (1 round ready to fire in the chamber, 22 rounds inside the autoloader magazine with additional 18 rounds cylinder in the hull)
|Engine||V8X SACM (Wärtsilä) 8-cylinder diesel engine|
1,100 kW (1,500 hp)
|Fuel capacity||1300 litres (1700 with fuel drums)|
|550 km, 650 km (400 mi) with external fuel|
|Maximum speed||71 km/h (44 mph) on the road 55 km/h (34 mph) on all-terrains|
The Leclerc tank (French: char Leclerc) is a main battle tank (MBT) built by GIAT, now Nexter of France. It was named in honour of General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, who led the French element of the drive towards Paris while in command of the Free French 2nd Armoured Division (2e DB) in World War II. The designation "AMX-56" – while very popular – is incorrect.
The Leclerc is in service with the French Army and the United Arab Emirates Army. In production since 1991, the Leclerc entered French service in 1992, replacing the AMX 30 as the country's main armoured platform. With production now complete, the French Army has 222 Leclercs and the United Arab Emirates Army has 388.
During the Iron spear exercise, October 2019, Leclerc tanks crewed by the Lynx 6 Tactical Inter-Service Sub-Group (S-GTIA) participated in an inter-alliance exercise and surpassed the American M1A2 Abrams, German, Spanish and Norwegian Leopard 2s, Italian Ariete C1 and Polish P91.
In 1964, studies were initiated about a possible replacement vehicle for the AMX-30 main battle tank: the Engin Principal Prospectif. In 1971, in view of the inferiority of the AMX 30 in comparison to the new generation of Soviet tanks about to be introduced, the Direction des Armements Terrestres ordered the beginning of the Char Futur project. In 1975, a working committee was created that in 1977 agreed on a list of specifications. In February 1980 however, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with West Germany involving the joint development of a MBT, called the Napoléon I in France and Kampfpanzer III in Germany. Fundamental disagreements about its desired configuration led to a failure of this cooperation in December 1982. It was announced that a purely French battle tank would be developed, called "EPC" (Engin Principal de Combat). The importation of foreign equipment, like the M1 Abrams, the Leopard 2, or the Merkava, had been studied and rejected.
In contrast to most Western programmes of the time, much consideration was given to active, besides passive protection, to limit the overall mass of the vehicle. Mobility for evading enemy fire and fire control systems were given particular attention. Nevertheless, it was a stated design goal to achieve at least double the protection against KE-penetrators in comparison to the level attained in then current MBTs of the fifty ton weight class, the latter indicated at about 400 mm RHA equivalency, the higher level at the same time protecting against shaped charges.
Partnership with a foreign state was sought to limit the cost per unit, and this was found when the United Arab Emirates ordered 436 vehicles, adding to the 426 units already planned for the French Army.
In 1986, the project was started under the name of "Leclerc", six prototypes being built swiftly. Mass production started in 1990 with the four-unit Batch 1, used mainly for comparative tests in foreign countries. The 17 units of Batch 2 were shipped, with improvements in the turret and in the hull armour. These units were diagnosed with problems in the engine and suspension, and were quickly retired. Batch 3 followed with some improvements and have been used to define the doctrine of use, and instruction.
Batches 4 and 5 were better built, eliminating the recurrent problems in the powerplant, and are still in service, after having been refitted at the end of the 1990s. The second series started with Batch 6, with an added climate control system in the right rear of the turret. Batch 7 introduced a transmission system to the command vehicle, and a data system giving instantaneous vision of the state of all battle tanks and acquired targets. It also incorporated minor improvements in the visor. Batch 8 was a modernisation of the electronic system, and Batch 9 replaced the thermal imaging ATHOS by a SAGEM Iris with better resolution.
All previous batches will be modernised up to the standards of Batch 9 from 2005. In 2004, Batch 10 was presented, incorporating new information systems which could share the disposition of enemy and friendly units to all vehicles on the battlefield, and a new armor package. This was the beginning of the 96-unit third series. By 2007, 355 tanks should have been operational, 320 of them incorporated in four regiments, each of 80 Leclerc vehicles.
As of 2010[update], after a French defence review, each of the four regiments operated 60 Leclerc tanks for a total of 240 in operational units; with a further 100 in combat ready reserve. Due to finance cuts, only 254 tanks were fully operational in 2011.
The four regiments are:
- 1e régiment de chasseurs stationed near Verdun, part of the 7th Armoured Brigade
- 4e régiment de dragons stationed in Carnoux-en-Provence, part of the 7th Armoured Brigade
- 12e régiment de cuirassiers stationed in Olivet, part of the 2nd Armoured Brigade
- 501e régiment de chars de combat stationed in Mourmelon-le-Grand, 2nd Armoured Brigade
The Leclerc is armed with a 120 mm modèle F1 smoothbore gun designed by the arsenal of Bourges (EFAB) under the designation of CN120-26. Its barrel is 52 calibres long instead of the 44 calibres common on most main battle tanks of its generation, giving the projectile a higher muzzle velocity.
The Modèle F1 is compatible with 120x570mm NATO ammunition. This gun features a magnesium alloy thermal sleeve and an automatic loading mechanism. Elevation (+20°), depression (-8°), and turret traverse (360°) are electrically powered. The Leclerc EMAT used by the French Army relies on compartment overpressure for barrel fume extraction while the UAE tropicalized Leclerc uses a compressed-air fume extraction system.
Located inside the turret bustle, the autoloader is designated CHA (French: CHargement Automatique, "automatic loading") and was designed by Creusot-Loire Industrie. The autoloader itself weighs 500 kg (empty) and has a total volume of 1.68 m3 (1.40 x 2.40 x 0.50 m). In case of ammunition cooking off, the deflagration is vented by two blow-out panels.
The autoloader allows the reloading of the gun while firing on the move, providing it a sufficient rate of fire to deal with six targets in one minute. The nominal firing sequence is below 8 seconds and the repetition rate (loading two ammunition of the same type one after another) is below 6 seconds. The autoloader is managed by a TM Motorola 680021 microprocessor.
The autoloader consists of a continuous link carrier magazine made of 22 cells and a rammer assembly. It can accommodate all types of ammunition that are to the NATO standard. Up to six different types of ammunition can be selected.
The cell positions the selected round for loading. At the same time, the main gun is decoupled from the stabilization system, indexed to -1.8° elevation and locked in alignment with the loading gutter.
Then, a telescopic rammer pushes the round from the cell into the gun breech via a fiberglass gutter. After loading, the weapon is automatically driven back to the specified angle in accordance with the fire control system.
In case of power outage, the conveyor can be put into motion by using a hand-cranked electric generator.
The ammunition is normally inserted in the autoloader through a port in the rear wall of the turret bustle. A control panel allows the autoloader cells to be rotated to present a new empty cell. Two barcode readers identify the introduced ammunition in order to manage its position in the conveyor at any time. If the ammunition does not have a barcode, its type is entered through the control keyboard. It is possible to replenish the autoloader under armor, through a port in the inner bulkhead by using the 18 rounds cylinder located to the right of the driver's position.
The Leclerc is also equipped with a 12.7 mm coaxial M2 heavy machine gun and a roof-mounted 7.62 mm machine gun, whereas most other NATO tanks use 7.62 mm weapons for both their coaxial and top machine gun mounts; the major exception is the American M1 Abrams, which has a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun and two top-mounted machine guns, one 7.62 mm and one 12.7 mm.
Fire control and observation
The last 96 MBT XL Leclerc tanks have the ICONE TIS battle management system with digital communication system which integrates data from other tanks and upper levels of command. Since 2009, all the Leclerc tanks in service (S2 and SXXI) have ICONE BMS. The digital fire control system can be operated independently by the gunner or the commander, and it offers real time integrated imaging from all of the tank's sensors and sights, including the gunner's SAVAN 20 stabilised sight, developed by SAGEM.
The Leclerc tank features the HL 60 gunner's primary sight from SAGEM. The sight has two day channels; a direct one with ×3.3 and ×10 magnification (×14 in case of the UAE version) and a video channel with ×10 magnification. The thermal channel offers ×3 and ×10 magnifications.
The Athos thermal imager has a detection range of 5000 m, can recognize targets at 2500 m and identify them at 2000 m. The laser range finder is of the Nd:YAG type. No emergency or auxiliary sights are mounted.
The tank commander can observe the surroundings through 7 episcopes and the SFIM HL 70 stabilized panoramic sight. The HL 70 is equipped with a day channel at ×2.5 and ×10 magnification and a night channel with ×2.5 magnification. The UAE tropicalized Leclerc uses the improved HL 80 panoramic sight which features an electronic zoom ×2 and a laser range finder of the Nd:YAG type. The image intensifier is replaced by an Alis thermal imager. The Leclerc SXXI uses the HL 120 panoramic sight that incorporates an Iris thermal imager. Both sights are also equipped with a semi-auto tracker for target acquisition. The combination of the gunner's primary sight and commander's panoramic sight allows the Leclerc to operate in a hunter-killer mode.
A feature of the Hyperbar system used by the V8X1500 engine is that it does not emit visible smoke during acceleration, allowing to reduce the infrared signature of the tank. The exhaust temperature of the TM-307B gas turbine never exceeds 370°, whatever the engine speed.
Original protection requirements were sent by the EPC project manager to AMX-APX on February 8, 1980. The protection of the future French main battle tank must guarantee a certain degree of invulnerability against 125 mm APFSDS and 130 mm shaped-charges warheads over its frontal arc. The whole fighting compartment must be protected against RPG-7 warheads and all-around protection should be provided against threats such as 30 mm autocannons.
Stéphane Ferrard (1947-2015), a military historian and French journalist, stated in his book "The Leclerc System" that :
Over its 60-degree frontal arc, the tank should be able to withstand multiple impacts of APFSDS ammunition belonging to the largest caliber currently available on the market.
The turret and the hull are made of welded steel plates with a thickness ranging from 30 mm to 50 mm on which removable composite armor modules are mounted. Twelves modules surround the turret (six per side), they are numbered from 1 to 6, starting from the front end. The modules are covered by an anti-slip coating made of fiberglass.
The turret bustle that contains the autoloader is protected on both sides against the 30 mm armor-piercing rounds and shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon such as the RPG-7.
The composite storage boxes around and onto the turret have a triple role: carrying the tool set, reduce the radar cross-section and act as spaced armor.
Structural self-sealing fuel tanks are located to the right forward part of the hull, in front and above the ammunition drum. Six heavy ballistic side skirts protect the front third of the hull sides, each of them is made of a composite panel covered by a steel outer shell.
At the end of 1990s, a study was initiated to protect the Leclerc tank against the latest threats. Those threats were represented by ATGM with tandem shaped-charge warhead capable of penetrating more than 1000 mm of RHA steel as well as long-rod APFSDS with a length-to-diameter ratio of 30:1 with penetration performance exceeding 700 mm in RHA.
The technical approach consisted of replacing the passive composite modules protecting both sides of the turret bustle by lighter, reactive modules, incorporating semi-reactive layers. This weight saving allowed the use of titanium in the ballistic protection of the turret frontal arc. Furthermore, this shifted the center of gravity towards the front of the turret, closer to the traverse axis ; facilitating the dynamic laying of the turret drives.
Block 10 and 11 (T10 and T11) Leclerc SXXI tanks are recognizable by their add-on ceramic armor plates bolted on the top of the reactive modules protecting both sides of the autoloader compartment.
Fourteen 80 mm dispensers of the Lacroix GALIX self-defence system are mounted onto the rear part of the turret, the French Army use four types of ammunition :
- Galix 3 : three smoke grenades creating an opaque screen in the visual range during 50 seconds.
- Galix 4 : two fragmentation grenades.
- Galix 6 : one infrared decoy with a burning time of 10 seconds.
- Galix 13 : three smoke grenades creating an opaque screen in the visual and infrared ranges during 30 seconds.
The Leclerc has an eight-cylinder SACM (now Wärtsilä) V8X-1500 1,500 hp Hyperbar diesel engine and a SESM (now Renk AG)  automatic transmission, with five forward and two reverse gears. The official maximum speed by road is 71 km/h and 55 km/h cross country (speeds in excess of 80 km/h were reported on road). The maximum range is given as 550 km, and can be extended to 650 km with removable external tanks. The "hyperbar" system integrates a small Turbomeca TM 307B gas turbine in the engine, acting both as a turbocharger and an APU giving auxiliary power to all systems when the main engine is shut down. The Hyperbar name comes from the unusually high boost pressure of 7.5 bar and the resulting mean effective pressure of 32.1 bar. To compare, the largest diesel engine in the world (the Wärtsila RTA96) has a mean effective pressure of 18.6 bar. In addition, with boost available even at idle, this arrangement also works as an anti-lag system.
At a combat weight of just 56 tons, the Leclerc is one of the lighter main battle tanks in the world, though still considerably heavier than Soviet and later Russian designs; this gives it one of the best power-to-weight ratios among the Western tanks (27 hp per ton) and makes it one of the fastest MBTs of its generation (0 to 32 km/h in 5 seconds).
The engine exhaust, exiting at the rear left, is cooled to reduce the thermal signature of the Leclerc. Transmission is a hydromechanical type with five forward and two reverse gears. Fuel tanks carry 1,300 litres and act as extra protection for the tank; two 200-litre external tanks can be fitted on the rear of the turret, but these have to be jettisoned before entering combat, since they limit turret rotation.
The gearbox is equipped with a hydrokinetic retarder, which can slow the Leclerc down at a deceleration rate of 7 m/s2 (0.7 g) which is automatically used over 30 km/h.
In service since 1992 (after the Persian Gulf War), the Leclerc has mostly seen deployment on low-intensity conflicts, including 15 Leclerc stationed in Kosovo (KFOR) and others in Lebanon (UNIFIL) within UN peace-keeping operations, where their performance was judged satisfactory by French officials.
Until 2010, 13 Leclercs were deployed in the south Lebanon for a peacekeeping mission with UNIFIL.
As of August 2015, Leclerc tanks of the United Arab Emirates were deployed in combat operations in Yemen (near Aden) as part of the Saudi-led coalition. It is estimated that 70 Leclerc MBTs were deployed by the UAE in Yemen, 15 of them equipped with the AZUR package. During one month, three tanks were damaged, two by antitank mines and one by an RPG, which damaged the grid without piercing the hull. In a single incident; one Leclerc tank was hit and penetrated in the driver's hatch by an ATGM, possibly of Konkurs or Konkurs-M type, resulting in the death of the driver and injuries to the legs of the commander. None of these tanks were completely destroyed.
Variants and upgrades
Séries 1: Original production model
Leclerc 'Flakpanzer' SPAAG: Early 1990s development of the Leclerc fitted with a turret derived from that of the German Flakpanzer Gepard. Armed with twin 35 mm Oerlikon KDA autocannons and two twin pack Mistral SAM launchers (total of four ready missiles). It was not adopted for service due to post-Cold War defence cutbacks.
Leclerc Crotale: A proposal from the same time period to fit the Crotale NG SAM system to a Leclerc chassis. Intended primarily to protect armored formations on the move against aerial attack. Again not proceeded with due to cutbacks. No prototype known to have been built.
- new NBC system which integrates a hybrid air conditioner.
- independent air conditioning unit installed on the back roof behind the gunner's hatch.
- In order to balance the turret since the adding of the air conditioner, the turret frontal armor is thickened a few centimeters ahead of the commander's station.
- revised sprocket cooling fins.
- extra splash guard added to the front hull.
- Remote operated hydraulic track tensioner.
- bolt-on appliqué armor on each hull sponsons.
- Athos thermal camera on the gunner's sight is replaced by the new Iris thermal camera since the block 9 (T9).
- SIT ICONE battlefield management system added in 2009
- New composite armor package containing titanium. Turret bustle modular armor also includes semi-reactive layers made of explosive materials.
- Turret storage bins have been tailored for the larger armor package.
- The commander has now the HL 120 panoramic sight which now features a laser rangefinder and the Iris thermal camera.
- Higher electrical turret output.
- IFF indicator.
- SIT ICONE battlefield management system.
Leclerc AZUR Action en Zone Urbaine: proposed urban warfare kit for actions in urban areas.
Leclerc EPG Engin Principal du Génie: "main engineering vehicle": armoured engineering
Leclerc DNG Dépanneur Nouvelle Génération: recovery tank
Leclerc MARS : Moyen Adapté de Remorquage Spécifique: provisional armoured recovery vehicle prior to the arrival of the DNG.
Leclerc Tropic (Leclerc EAU): version of the United Arab Emirates; it is fitted with :
- EuroPowerPack with the 1,100 kW MT883 diesel engine built by the German company, MTU Friedrichshafen - the United Arab Emirates has interests in this company and preferred built by them.
- Extended hull with increased fuel capacity.
- Externally mounted diesel auxiliary power unit with a tank infantry telephone fitted on its armored box.
- Redesigned engine compartment (louver, access panels).
- Engine-driven mechanical heavy-duty air-conditioning mounted in the left part of the hull.
- HL-80 commander panoramic sight with Alis thermal camera and laser rangefinder.
- ATO (Armement Télé-Opéré) remote-controlled weapon station for a 7.62 mm FN MAG machine-gun operated under-armour by the HL-80 panoramic sight.
- Leclerc Battlefield Management System (LBMS).
- Completely automated driving and turret functions with pictograms on the buttons for use by crew with only basic training.
- Thermal tarp.
- Some bustle storage bins are replaced by baskets.
Leclerc Koufra, or Leclerc T40 : A proposal from the late 2000s to convert existing Séries 1 vehicles into a 'heavy' reconnaissance scout, primarily for urban warfare. The conversion included a brand new turret incorporating a CTA CT40 Case Telescoped Weapon System (CTWS) as well as grenade launchers, along with provision for two side-mounted anti-tank missiles.
Leclerc T4 : Prototype with an elongated turret built in 1996. It was armed with a 140 mm smoothbore gun designed by the arsenal of Bourges (EFAB). In order to avoid being scrapped, the prototype turret has been restored in the 2010s and mounted on a former Leclerc hull which was used in its last years as a towing vehicle. Following its restoration, the tank has been nicknamed Terminateur (Terminator) by the director of the technical section of the French Army (Section Technique de l'Armée de Terre or STAT) that made everything to preserve this technological demonstrator. In 2017, the Terminateur was presented with the experimental Scorpion camouflage.
Leclerc XLR : Newest upgrade package part of the SCORPION program. Inclusion of new tactical interfaces, new armor packages, RWS turret, as well as several additional sensors and grenade launchers. Retrofitting starting in 2020.
|Description||Leclerc Série 1||Leclerc Série 2||Leclerc Série XXI||Tropicalized Leclerc|
|Date||1992–1996||1997-2003||2003-2008||1994 – early 2000s|
|Batch||T1 to T5||T6 to T9||T10 to T11||Not applicable|
|Combat weight||54.5 t||56.3 t||57.6 t||57 t|
|Hull weight||36 t||37 t||37.5 t||x|
|Turret weight||18.5 t||19 t||20.5 t||x|
|Gunner sight||HL 60||HL 130||HL 60|
|Commander panoramic sight||HL 70||HL 120||HL 80|
|Engine||SACM V8X Hyperbar 8-cylinder diesel engine||MTU MT 883 Ka 500 12-cylinder diesel engine|
|Engine displacement||16,470 cm3||27,361 cm3|
|Forced induction ratio||7.8||3|
|Power output||1500 hp (1,118 kW) at 2500 RPM||1500 hp (1,118 kW) at 2700 RPM|
|Maximum torque||4850 Nm at 1700 RPM||4545 Nm at 2000 RPM|
|Acceleration from 0–32 km/h (0–20 mph)||5 seconds||5.5 seconds||6 seconds|
|Transmission||SESM ESM 500||Renk HSWL 295 TM|
|Suspension system||12 SAMM ESO twin-cylinder oleopneumatic suspension|
|Maximum speed||71 km/h (backwards 38 km/h)|
|Fuel capacity||1,300 liters (up to 1700 liters with external fuel drums)||1,420 liters (up to 1820 liters with external fuel drums)|
|Hull length||6.88 m||7.03 m|
|Width||3.43 m (3.60 m with ballistic side skirts and 3.71 m with side-view mirrors)|
|Height||2.53 m (turret roof)|
|Ground clearance||500 mm|
|Wading depth without preparation||1.1 m|
|Wading depth with snorkel||4 m||Not applicable|
|Trench passability||3 m|
|Climbing ability||1.1 m|
|Turret rotation time (360°)||12 seconds||9 seconds||12 seconds|
- France 222 + 17 armoured recovery vehicles.
- Jordan 80 Tanks were donated by UAE.
- United Arab Emirates 388 + 46 armoured recovery vehicles.
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