France may be the next country to send its tanks to Ukraine, but officials worry they could be ‘a poisoned chalice’

A Leclerc tank at a coaching space in Sissonne, France in November 2012.FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI/AFP by way of Getty Photographs

  • Western international locations have dedicated to supply dozens of tanks to Ukraine in latest weeks.

  • France can also be contemplating sending its Leclerc tanks to Ukraine.

  • Some French officers are nervous that their tanks would create new logistical issues for Kyiv.

With a number of Western nations already pledging tanks for Ukraine, hypothesis is mounting that France might ship its Leclerc predominant battle tanks.

However French protection officers query how helpful the Leclerc can be, as Ukrainians already face the problem of incorporating a number of Western tanks, together with the US’s M1 Abrams, Britain’s Challenger 2, and Germany’s Leopard 2.

These designs are extra complicated than the Soviet- and Russian-designed tanks that Ukraine had earlier than the battle, thus requiring Ukrainian crews to study new gear, ways, and upkeep. These issues seem to trump earlier worries that supplying tanks to Ukraine may inflame disputes inside NATO or provoke Russian retaliation.

“There is not any political objection,” a French protection official instructed information service Agence France-Presse this week. “We’re simply questioning whether or not the Leclerc can be a poisoned chalice. The purpose is to be helpful and efficient.”

French Leclerc tank Champs-Elysees in Paris during Bastille Day

A Leclerc tank on the Champs-Elysees throughout the Bastille Day parade on July 14, 2018.LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP by way of Getty Photographs

Ukraine would beg to vary. Determined for any tanks they will get, Ukrainian troops would gladly take the Leclerc, one of many extra superior tanks on the planet.

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Designed for pace and firepower, the Leclerc can use its French-designed 120 mm smoothbore cannon and superior sensors to have interaction targets whereas on the transfer. The newest model of the Leclerc can attain a pace of fifty mph and destroy a goal so far as 2.5 miles away, the commander of a French tank regiment instructed Le Monde.

As with different French weapons by means of the years, the Leclerc is a little bit totally different than its overseas counterparts.

Weighing in at round 57 tons, it’s smaller and lighter than the 80-ton M1A3 Abrams, the 64-ton Challenger 2, and the 62-ton Leopard 2. It’s in all probability much less nicely armored than a late-model Abrams or Challenger 2, although it does mount Explosive Reactive Armor costs to deflect anti-tank rounds.

Additionally uncommon is that the Leclerc solely has a three-person crew fairly than the 4 typical in Western tanks. (Russia tanks such because the T-72 and T-90 have a crew of three.) The Leclerc, in addition to Russian tanks, use an autoloader to feed shells into the cannon.

Whereas this permits the car to be smaller, the autoloader is extra susceptible to malfunction. It additionally means one much less crewman to face watch and carry out upkeep, which results in extra work for the three-person crew.

French Leclerc tank Hohenfels Germany

A French Leclerc tank throughout an train in Germany in November 2019.US Military/Pfc. Michael Ybarra

Assessing the efficiency of the Leclerc is considerably tough given the tank’s restricted fight document. It first entered French service in 1991, when it was thought-about the costliest tank on the planet, which can have hampered its export prospects.

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Apart from France, solely the United Arab Emirates bought the Leclerc (a few of which it later donated to Jordan). The UAE operates 258 automobiles, a few of which noticed fight when it intervened in Yemen’s civil battle. Some declare it carried out higher than the M1 Abrams tanks that Saudi Arabia has utilized in that battle.

Some 862 Leclercs have been constructed earlier than manufacturing ceased in 2008: France operates 222, and 50 of these have been not too long ago slated for improve to the XLR model.

The Leclerc’s lighter weight might make it extra maneuverable than the opposite Western tanks headed to Ukraine. Alternatively, one more tank mannequin means the Ukrainian military must cope with one more set of tactical and logistical adjustments.

If France solely sends a small variety of tanks — simply as Britain is barely sending 14 Challenger 2s — then it might require loads of overhead for a comparatively small fight functionality.

French Leclerc tank Kosovo Yugoslavia

French troops and Leclerc tanks in Mitrovica, in what’s now Kosovo, in June 1999.Patrick AVENTURIER/Gamma-Rapho by way of Getty Photographs

Additionally vital is that in contrast to the Abrams and Leopard 2, there are solely three nations that function the Leclerc. Ought to issues come up with French deliveries, Ukraine would have problem discovering different sources of automobiles and spare components.

Nonetheless, the Leclerc can be a formidable — and doubtless superior — opponent of Russian tanks such because the T-72 and T-90. At least, France can be giving Ukraine an actual tank.

The AMX-10RC, which France not too long ago pledged to Ukraine, has been known as a “gentle tank.” In actuality, it is an armored automobile with an enormous cannon however gentle armor, and it is not designed for slugging it out with enemy tanks.

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France has additionally despatched Caesar self-propelled 155 mm howitzers, in addition to Crotale cellular anti-aircraft missiles. Ukraine can also obtain the extra superior French-Italian SAMP-T/Mamba air-defense system. However apart from Rafale jet fighters, essentially the most highly effective weapon — symbolically and militarily — that France may present can be Leclerc tanks.

Michael Peck is a protection author whose work has appeared in Forbes, Protection Information, International Coverage journal, and different publications. He holds a grasp’s in political science. Comply with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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