LAND WEAPONS

 

MAIN BATTLE TANKS

 

AMX-30/-32/-40

 

Origin: France.

Type: MBT.

Crew: 4.

Armament: One 105mm gun; one 20mm cannon or one 12·7mm machine-gun coaxial with main armament; 17·62mm machine-gun on commander’s cupola; 2 smoke discharges on each side of turret.

Dimensions: Length (including main armament) 31·1ft (9·48m); length (hull) 21·62ft (6·59m); width 10·17ft (3·1m); height (including searchlight) 9·35ft (2·85m).

Combat weight: 81,569lb (37,000kg).

Engine: HS-110 12-cylinder water-cooled multi-fuel engine developing 720hp at 2,000rpm.

Performance: Speed 40mph (65km/h); range 280 miles (450km); vertical obstacle 3·05ft (0·93m); trench 9·5ft (2·9m); gradient 60 per cent.

 

Development: After the end of World War II France quickly developed three vehicles, the AMX-13 light tank, the Panhard EBR 8 x 8 heavy armoured car and the AMX-50 heavy tank. The last was a very interesting vehicle with a hull and suspension very similar to the German PzKpfw V Panther tank used in some numbers by the French Army in the immediate postwar period. The AMX-50 had an oscillating turret, a feature that was also adopted for the AMX-13 tank. The first AMX-50s had a 90mm gun, this being followed by a 100mm and finally a 120mm weapon.

       At one time it was intended to place the AMX-50 in production, but as large numbers of American M47s were available under the US Military Aid Program (MAP) the whole programme was cancelled. In 1956 France, Germany and Italy drew MBT for the 1960s. The basic idea was good: the French and Germans were each to design a tank to the same general specifications; these would then be evaluated together; and the best tank would then enter production in both countries, for use in all three. But like many international tank programmes which were to follow, this came to nothing; France placed her AMX-30 in production and Germany placed her Leopard 1 in production.

       The AMX-30 is built at the Atelier de Construction at Roanne, which is a geovernment establishment and the only major tank plant in France. The first production AMX-30s were completed in 1966 and entered service with the French Army the following year. The type has now replaced the American M47 in the French Army and has also been exported to a number of countries. The hull of the AMX-30 is of cast and welded construction, whilst the turret is cast in one piece. The driver is seated at the front of the hull on the left, with the other 3 crew members in the turret. The commander and gunner are on the right of the turret with the loader on the left. The engine and transmission are at the rear of the hull, and can be removed as a complete unit in under one hour. Suspension is of the torsin-bar type and consists of 5 road wheels, with the drive sprocket at the rear and the idler at the front, and there are 5 track return rollers. These support the inner part of the track.

       The main armament of the AMX-30 is a 105mm gun of French design and manufacture, with an elevation of $20° and a depression of -8°, and a traverse of 360°, both elevation and traverse being powered.

       A 12·7mm machine-gun or a 20mm cannon is mounted to the left of the main armament. This installation is unusual in that it can be elevated independently of the main armament to a maximum of 40°, enabling it to be used against slow flying aircraft and helicopters. There is a 7·62mm machine-gun mounted on the commander’s cupola and this can be aimed and fired from within the turret. Two smoke dischargers are mounted each side of the turret. Forty seven rounds of 105mm, 500 rounds of 20mm and 2,050 rounds of 7·62mm ammunition are carried. There are 5 types of ammunition available for the 105mm gun: HEAT, HE, Smoke, Illuminating and Practice. The HEAT round is the only anti-tank round carried. This weights 48·5lbs (22kg) complete, has a muzzle velocity of 3,28ft/s (1,000m/s) and will penetrate 14·17in (360mm) of armour at an angle of 0°.

 

Above: AMX-30 with its turret traversed. Note the main infra-red searchlight on the left of the turret front and another on the commander’s cupola.

 

       Most other tanks carry at least 2, and often 3, different types of anti-tank ammunition, for example HESH, APDS and HEAT. The French HEAT round is of a different design to other HEAT rounds and the French claim that it is sufficient to deal with any type of tank it is likely to encounter on the battlefield. Other HEAT projectiles spin rapidly in flight as they are fired from a rifled tank gun, but the French HEAT round has its shaped charge mounted in ball bearings, so as the outer body of the projectile spins rapidly, the charge itself rotates much more slowly. In 1980 an APFSDS projectile entered production, and this can penetrate 19·6in (50mm) of armour at an incidence of 60° and a range of 5,470yds (5,000m).

       The AMX-30 MBT is in service with France, Greece, Iraq, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and Chile. Many of these armies also operate specialized versions of the basic vehicle (for example, ARV, AVLB, SP howitzer, missile carriers).

       Latest French Army version integrated fire-control system, laser rangefinder, and 730 of the 1,173 strong AMX-30 fleet will be brought up to the new standard.

       France has also developed the AMX-32, with 120mm gun and laminated armour. This is intended for export but no orders new tank – the AMX-40 – was revealed in 1983. A totally new design, as opposed to a rehash of the AMX-30/32 series, it is also intended for export, but no orders have yet been announced. Meanwhile, the French Army is looking forward to the Engin Principa de Combat (EPC), a 50-tonne replacement for the AMX-30 and due to enter service in 1989.

 

Above: the latest French MBT, the AMX-40, shows off its 120mm smooth-bore gun. Fire control system is the COTAC as used by the AMX-32, but otherwise this is a completely new design.

 

Below: Like the AMX-40, the AMX-32 was designed specifically for export; based on the AMX-30B2, it features laser rangefinder, LLLTV system and a stabilized periscope sight for the commander.

 

 

Challenger

 

Origin: UK.

Type: MBT.

Crew: 4.

Armament: One 120mm gun; one 7·62mm coaxial machine-gun; one 7·62mm AAMG; 8 smoke dischargers.

Dimensions: Length (with gun forwards) 37·89ft (11·55m); length (hull 27·52ft (8·39m); width 11·55ft (3·52; height 9·48ft (2·89m).

Combat weight: 132,275lb (60,000kg).

Engine: Rolls Royce Condor 12V-1200 diesel; 12,000bhp at 2,300rpm.

Performance: Road speed 34·8mph (56km/h); vertical obstacle 2·95ft (0·9m); trench 9·84ft (3m); gradient 60 per cent.

 

Development: With the Chieftain in service the British Army started work on a successor in the mid-1960s. This turned into a bilateral programme with Germany from 1970 to 1977, but when this (like so many international efforts) failed, work continued on a purely national MBT-80 project. Meanwhile the Chieftain itself had been developed for export to Iran, emerging as the very advanced Shir 2. The British, therefore, faced with many other armies having Chobham-armour tanks in service before the country that invented it, decided to develop Shir 2 into an MBT suitable for British Army service, and use it to replace approximately half the Chieftain fleet. The result – the Challenger – is a very fine tank, which proved itself during Exercise Lionheart in mid-1984.

       Challenger is armed with the standard LIIA5 120mm rifled gun, but this will be replaced in the late 1980s by a new high-pressure 120mm rifled gun. Both guns fire the full range of current ammunition plus the new APFSDS round, of which 52 are carried. An MSDS Improved Fire Control System (IFCS) is fitted, which, in conjunction with the laser sights, gives a very high probability of a first round hit. Currently under development is the Thermal Observation and Gunnery System (TOGS), which will offer yet further improvements.

       The power unit is the Rolls-Royce Condor 12V-1200 diesel, fitted with Garret-AiResearch turbo-super chargers. This was selected after very thorough consideration of the US AVCO-Lycoming AGT-1500 gas turbine, which is fitted to the N1 tank. The gas turbine is lighter than a diesel of comparative power, but its much greater fuel requirements more than offset this, and its demands on the logistics system are correspondingly greater.

       The British Army now finds itself with an interesting dilemma. The aim with Challenger is to re-equip about half the existing Chieftain fleet, leaving the remainder to be replaced by a completely new tank sometime in the mid-1990s. But, will the pressure to replace the balance of the Chieftains, plus the need to keep the Royal Ordnance Factories’ production lines busy, allow this, or will the Challenger end up as the complete replacement of Chieftain?

 

Above: The uncompromising appearance of Challenger is a consequence of using the highly effective Chobham armour, which has resulted in a slab-sided turret.

 

Above: 12th Hussars Challenger on exercise in Germany in September 1984, when it proved an impressive fighting vehicle.    

 

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