The tank-killing armored vehicle that France is sending to Ukraine is ‘a bit of an oddity,’ but don’t call it a tank

French troopers in an AMX-10RC in Afghanistan’s Surobi district in September 2010.JOEL SAGET/AFP through Getty Photos

  • France mentioned on January 5 that it might ship the AMX-10RC armored automobile to Ukraine.

  • French and Ukrainian officers and others have referred to the AMX-10RC as a “gentle tank.”

  • It does not fairly qualify as a tank, however it is going to be a beneficial addition to Ukraine’s arsenal.

France’s choice to ship the AMX-10RC to Ukraine sparked pronouncements that the West is lastly delivering tanks to Ukraine.

The “tank” vs. “armored automobile” debate is an extended and sometimes contentious one, however AMX-10RCs are armored reconnaissance autos and never tanks, which normally have large-caliber fundamental weapons, heavy-duty armor, and tracks.

Whereas the symbolism of delivering it to Kyiv is necessary, it stays to be seen how helpful a thinly protected, Nineteen Seventies-vintage armored automobile will probably be on the battlefield in Ukraine.

That France and Ukraine have described the AMX-10RC as a “gentle tank” is important. Regardless of Ukraine’s pleas, the US and different international locations have refused to ship first-line tanks such because the M1 Abrams.

This has left Ukraine reliant on a motley assortment of Soviet-designed tanks acquired earlier than the struggle, Russian tanks captured in battle, or refurbished fashions supplied by international locations reminiscent of Poland and the Czech Republic.

French Foreign Legion AMX-10RC

A French International Legion AMX-10RC throughout an train at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in October 2017.US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Damarko Bones

The AMX-10RC can be a six-wheeled armored automobile. Designed within the early Nineteen Seventies and first deployed by the French Military in 1979, it’s a 16-ton automobile able to touring 50 mph.

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Its wheeled design means it may transfer quick on roads and easy terrain — and requires much less upkeep — than a heavy, tracked automobile such because the 70-ton Abrams.

The AMX-10RC’s skinny armor protects in opposition to small arms and shrapnel however not large-caliber tank rounds or anti-tank missiles. Whereas its producer, Giat Industries, does supply an add-on package with additional armor and missile countermeasures, the AMX-10RC is extra suited to finding the enemy — and beating a hasty retreat if mandatory — reasonably than going cannon-to-cannon with fundamental battle tanks.

France operates 245 AMX-10RCs and has deployed the automobile in Operation Desert Storm and in counterinsurgency operations in Africa. Morocco, Qatar, and Cameroon additionally function the AMX-10RC, although the French navy is changing it with the Jaguar, a 25-ton armored scout automobile armed with a 40 mm rapid-fire cannon and two anti-tank missiles.

Wheeled armored scout automobiles will not be unusual. Russia, for instance, nonetheless makes use of the Nineteen Sixties-era 7-ton BRDM-2, Japan the 15-ton Sort 87, and the US the 19-ton M1127 Stryker scout variant.

French soldiers in an AMX-10RC in Afghanistan

French troopers follow firing an AMX-10RC in Afghanistan’s Surobi district in September 2010.JOEL SAGET/AFP through Getty Photos

However what’s hanging concerning the AMX-10RC — and maybe why it has been referred to as a “gentle tank” or “tank destroyer” — is that it packs a 105 mm cannon reasonably than the same old small cannon or heavy machine gun.

Whereas smaller than the high-velocity 120 mm cannons discovered on fundamental battle tanks, the AMX-10RC’s gun is highly effective sufficient to take out a tank at shut vary and can be lethal in opposition to lighter armored autos and infantry.

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“The US Military was by no means very keen on” wheeled armored preventing autos, mentioned Steven Zaloga, an creator and professional on armored autos, who in contrast the AMX-10RC to the US’s now-retired M551 Sheridan and M3 Bradley cavalry preventing automobile, each of which have tracks.

The AMX-10RC additionally resembles the US’s M1128 Cellular Gun System, the fire-support variant of the wheeled Stryker armed with a 105 mm gun, which the US Military has determined to discard.

The AMX-10RC is a “little bit of an oddity,” in response to Olivier Schmitt, a professor on the College of Southern Denmark’s Heart for Struggle Research.

“It was conceived for recon and fireplace assist, and, within the Eighties, was the heaviest armored automobile assigned to the ‘fast motion power'” arrange by France to hurry throughout Germany in response to a Soviet assault, Schmitt tweeted this week.

French troops AMX-10RC on a ship

French troops again an AMX-10RC onto a ship in Toulon in June 1995.ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP through Getty Photos

In different phrases, the AMX-10RC was designed to be a part of a light-weight mechanized power that rides to the rescue of NATO forces desperately defending in opposition to a Soviet blitzkrieg. That is not the state of affairs in Ukraine now. Preventing there has change into trench warfare, with incremental features reasonably than sweeping armored offensives by which quick, armored scout autos excel.

Certainly, Ukraine has proven that fashionable reconnaissance depends on drones and satellites. Armored autos are nonetheless important on the battlefield, however an armored automobile might have restricted utility in opposition to swarms of anti-tank missiles, assault drones, and good artillery shells.

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But the navy worth of the AMX-10RC is not actually the purpose. What’s necessary is that the West is sending armored preventing autos.

France’s announcement was shortly adopted by the US asserting that it might ship M2 Bradley infantry preventing autos and Germany asserting that it might ship Marder infantry preventing autos to Ukraine. Each autos are tracked and heavier than the AMX-10RC however have smaller fundamental weapons, although additionally they carry anti-tank missiles.

Tank or not, if the AMX-10RC boosts Ukrainian morale — and reminds Russia that heavier Western armor could also be coming — than it is a beneficial weapon.

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. Observe him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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