France is sending tank-killing AMX-10RC armored vehicles to Ukraine

  • France said on January 5 that it would send the AMX-10RC armored vehicle to Ukraine.
  • French and Ukrainian officials and others have referred to the AMX-10RC as a “light tank”.
  • It doesn’t exactly qualify as a tank, but it will be a valuable addition to Ukraine’s arsenal.

France’s decision to send the AMX-10RC to Ukraine prompted statements that the West is finally delivering tanks to Ukraine.

He “tank” vs. “armored car” The debate is long and often contentious, but AMX-10RC they are armored reconnaissance vehicles and not tanks, which usually have large-caliber main guns, heavy-duty armor, and tracks.

While the symbolism of handing it over to Kyiv is significant, it remains to be seen how useful an underprotected 1970s armored vehicle will be on the battlefield in Ukraine.

That France Y Ukraine having described the AMX-10RC as a “light tank” is significant. Despite pleas from Ukraine, the United States and other countries have refused to send front-line tanks like the M1 Abrams.

This has left Ukraine dependent on a motley collection of Soviet-designed tanks purchased before the war, Russian tanks captured in battle, or refurbished models provided by countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic.

French Foreign Legion AMX-10RC

A French Foreign Legion AMX-10RC during an exercise at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in October 2017.

US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. damarko bones

The AMX-10RC is really a six-wheeled armored vehicle. Designed in the early 1970s and first fielded by the French Army in 1979, it is a 16-tonne vehicle capable of traveling at 50 mph.

Its wheeled design means it can move fast on smooth roads and terrain, and requires less maintenance, than a heavy tracked vehicle like the 70-ton Abrams.

The AMX-10RC’s thin armor protects against small arms and shrapnel, but not against large-caliber tank shells or anti-tank missiles. While its manufacturer, Giat Industries, offers an add-on kit with added armor and missile countermeasures, the AMX-10RC is better suited for locating the enemy, and beating a hasty retreat if necessary, rather than going from gun to gun with main battle tanks.

France operates 245 AMX-10RCs and has deployed the vehicle in Operation Desert Storm and in counterinsurgency operations in Africa. Morocco, Qatar and Cameroon also operate the AMX-10RC, although the French military is replacing it with the Jaguara 25-tonne armored scout vehicle armed with a 40mm rapid-fire cannon and two anti-tank missiles.

Wheeled armored scout cars are not uncommon. Russia, for example, still uses the 7-ton BRDM-2 from the 1960s, Japan the 15-ton Type 87, and the US the 19-ton M1127 Stryker scout variant.

French soldiers in an AMX-10RC in Afghanistan

French soldiers practice firing an AMX-10RC in the Surobi district of Afghanistan in September 2010.

JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images

But what’s amazing about the AMX-10RC, and perhaps why it’s called a “light tank” or “tank destroyer”, is that it has a 105mm gun instead of the usual small gun or heavy machine gun.

While smaller than the high-velocity 120mm guns found on main battle tanks, the AMX-10RC’s gun is powerful enough to take out a tank at close range and would be lethal against lighter armored vehicles. and infantry.

“The US Army never liked” wheeled armored fighting vehicles, said Steven Zaloga, author and armored vehicle expert, who compared the AMX-10RC to the now M551 Sheridan and M3 Bradley cavalry fighting vehicles. retired from the US, both of which have clues.

The AMX-10RC also resembles the US’s M1128 Mobile Gun System, the wheeled fire support variant of the Stryker armed with a 105mm cannon, which the US military has issued. decided to discard.

The AMX-10RC is “a bit weird,” according to Olivier Schmitt, a professor at the Center for War Studies at the University of Southern Denmark.

“It was designed for reconnaissance and fire support and, in the 1980s, was the heaviest armored vehicle assigned to the ‘rapid action force'” created by France to break through Germany in response to a Soviet attack. schmitt tweeted this week.

French AMX-10RC troops on a ship

French troops load an AMX-10RC onto a ship in Toulon in June 1995.


In other words, the AMX-10RC was designed to be part of a light mechanized force riding to the rescue of NATO forces desperately defending against a Soviet blitzkrieg. That is not the situation in Ukraine now. Fighting there has become trench warfare, with incremental gains instead of sweeping armored offensives in which speedy armored scouting vehicles excel.

In fact, Ukraine has shown that modern reconnaissance is based on drones and satellites. Armored vehicles are still vital on the battlefield, but an armored vehicle can have limited utility against swarms of anti-tank missiles, attack drones, and smart artillery shells.

However, the military value of the AMX-10RC is not really the point. The important thing is that the West is sending armored fighting vehicles.

The French announcement was quickly followed by the US announcement that it would send M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and Germany announcing that it would send Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine. Both vehicles are tracked and heavier than the AMX-10RC, but have smaller main weapons, although they also carry anti-tank missiles.

Tank or not, if the AMX-10RC boosts Ukrainian morale, and reminds Russia that heavier Western armor may be coming, then it’s a valuable weapon.

Michael Peck is a defense writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, Defense News, Foreign Policy magazine, and other publications. He has a master’s degree in political science. follow him on Twitter Y LinkedIn.

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