AMX-10 RC: light battle tank or armored combat vehicle?
AMX-10 RC: light battle tank or armored combat vehicle?
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| Gaétan Powis | Source : Air&Cosmos 672 mots

AMX-10 RC: light battle tank or armored combat vehicle?

The recent announcement of the delivery of the AMX-10 RC to Ukraine has launched many different classifications: light tank, battle tank, armored combat vehicle, etc. This article presents the French Armed Forces' point of view, a NATO definition of the battle tank and finally, a comparison of the characteristics of the AMX-10 RCR and the Leclerc battle tank according to this definition.

A French delivery of AMX-10 RC

On January 4, 2023, after speaking by phone, the Ukrainian and French Presidents both confirmed a forthcoming delivery of " light tanks AMX-10 RC " from France to Ukraine (article on the subject). However, the qualification of " char " seems to have launched some debate in the press and generally on social networks. Here are some clarifications.

A French view

Generally speaking, the AMX-10 RC is analyzed as an armored combat vehicle or even an armed reconnaissance vehicle. However, by tradition and as a result of its employment tactics, the French Armed Forces sometimes nickname its AMX-10 RCs as tanks or even light tanks. For example, a video presenting this vehicle by the Army, published on Youtube on September 14, 2021, used the term tank to refer to the AMX-10 RC (link to video, starting at 00:37).

However, it should be noted that military equipment qualifications can vary by country. For example, in terms of naval qualification, the French Navy only uses frigates. Yet, the two Horizon class ships correspond more to missile destroyers than frigates.

But what is a tank?

The arrival of the MBT

As the Cold War began to take hold, the land armament industries of many countries improved and developed new technologies, changing the concept of the tank entirely, divided (roughly for this article) into light, medium, heavy or super-heavy tanks. These tanks are then gradually replaced by a new tank : the MBT (Main Battle Tank or main battle tank), also called battle tank or battle tank (Battle tank). Specifically this new tank takes:

  • the equivalent (and then superior) firepower of a super-heavy tank (such as the German Maus)
  • the equivalent (and then superior) protection of a heavy tank (German Tiger I and Tiger II, Soviet IS-2, etc.)
  • the equivalent (and then superior) mass of the medium tank (American M4 Sherman)
  • the equivalent (and then superior) mobility of the light tank

In the French language the char de combat/main battle tank then gradually gave way to the simple "char" while the English language retains the term MBT generally.

A NATO definition

In 1996, NATO published the main characteristics of the battle tank (point 7 of this page):

"The term "battle tank" means a self-propelled armoured fighting vehicle, capable of heavy firepower, primarily of a high muzzle velocity direct fire main gun necessary to engage armoured and other targets, with high cross-country mobility, with a high level of self-protection, and which is not designed and equipped primarily to transport combat troops. Such armoured vehicles serve as the principal weapon system of ground-force tank and other armoured formations.

Battle tanks are tracked armoured fighting vehicles which weigh at least 16,5 metric tons unladen weight and which are armed with a 360-degree traverse gun of at least 75 millimeters calibre. In addition, any wheeled armoured fighting vehicles entering into service which meet all the other criteria stated above shall also be deemed battle tanks."

Comparison between an AMX-10 RCR and a Leclerc main battle tank

Comparison between an AMX-10 RCR and a Leclerc battle tank with respect to the NATO definition.
Comparison between an AMX-10 RCR and a Leclerc battle tank with respect to the NATO definition. © Air&Cosmos International, 4e Régiment de chasseurs- 4RCH (Facebook), Armée de Terre
Comparison between an AMX-10 RCR and a Leclerc battle tank with respect to the NATO definition.

The AMX-10 RCR and the Leclerc battle tank have many points in common according to the NATO definition. However, armor remains a negative point for the AMX-10 RCR. A second negative point is its use as the main vehicle of armored forces. The mobility of the AMX-10 RC allows it to support the other light armored vehicles of the forces involved. Therefore, from this perspective, the AMX-10 RC can become a main vehicle for light armored forces.

In conclusion, this vehicle can be quite qualified as a light battle tank, in view of the 1996 NATO definition. Moreover, light tanks are, in general, very often used in missions of reconnaissance of armored forces and support of engaged troops. Nevertheless, this qualification is not 100% accurate : other definitions do not qualify the AMX-10 RC as a light tank but as an armed reconnaissance armor or even as an armored reconnaissance vehicle. As explained at the beginning of this article, the definitions are specific to each country's armed forces.

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