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AMX-30 main battle tank

Written by Sakhal


Ending the Second World War, France quickly developed three armored vehicles: the light tank AMX-13, the reconnaissance vehicle armed with a heavy cannon Panhard EBR 8x8 and the heavy tank AMX-50. This latter was a particularly interesting vehicle, with the hull and the suspension very alike with the ones of the German tank PzKpfw V Panther, which was used in small numbers by the French Army in the immediate years of the postwar. The prototype AMX-50 was fitted with an oscillating turret, characteristic adopted as well by the AMX-13. The first prototype had a 90-millimeter cannon, the second one a 100-millimeter cannon and the third one a 120-millimeter cannon. During some time it was attempted to start the serial production, but the whole program was cancelled when large quantities of the American medium tank M-47 were available, thanks to the MAP (Military Aid Program) of United States. In 1956, France, Germany and Italy set their requirements for a new assault tank that should enter service in the 1960s. France and Germany would project, individually, a tank around the same specifications. Both models would be then evaluated and the best one would enter production in both countries to be used in the three countries involved in the agreement. But this project, like other military international projects of that time, was cancelled.

The AMX-30

In the mid 1950s, when failing the plan to develop a 30-ton tank jointly with Germany, France started a project to make its own tank of similar characteristics, while Germany focused its efforts in the Leopard I. The prototype of the AMX-30 was completed in 1960 and in 1966 it started the serial production in the state-owned "Atelier de Construction" at Roanne, the only production plant of large size for tanks existing in France then. In 1967 the new tank entered service, replacing the American M-47. From the beginning, the new French tank - the first "universal" tank built in France - was to be fast and light, according to the offensive doctrine of the French Army in that time, preferring speed over the high levels of protection granted by a heavy armor. The result was that the AMX-30 was vulnerable in comparison with the contemporary American or German models and specially with the British and Soviet counterparts. So in at least this factor, the AMX-30 was already outdated from the moment of its introduction. It had also a non stabilized cannon and even worse, a very simple fire control system. However, the AMX-30 still was in service in the last 1990s and many small countries found it economical, both in acquisition and maintenance, leading to important sales in the international market. The most important customer was Saudi Arabia, which ordered about 300 "desertized" exemplars (AMX-30S), fitted with laser telemeter, skirts to protect the wheel ensemble from the sand and lower gear ratios. Other customers were Chile, Greece, Irak, Libya, Morocco, Peru, Spain and Venezuela. In the early 1980s, it was estimated that about 2500 exemplars had been produced, half of them serving in France.

Still, when the AMX-30 was ready for production it weighed seven tonnes more than the 30 initially specified. In spite of that, the election of a polyfuel engine HS-110 Hispano-Suiza developing 700 horsepower made possible to keep the projected maximum speed of 65 kilometers/hour. The hull was made by casting and welding and the turret was casted in a single piece. The driver was placed in the front part to the left and the rest of the crew in the turret, the commander and the gunner to the right and the loader to the left. Engine and transmission were placed in the rear part and the whole ensemble could be disassembled in one hour. The wheel ensemble, moved by the rear drive sprocket, comprised five road wheels of medium size supported by torsion bars and five return rollers. The 105-millimeter cannon was almost mandatory in that time; but France, considering their restless situation inside the NATO, choose to manufacture its own cannon of this caliber, the GIAT CN-105 -F1, which was not compatible with the ammunition of the British L7, its American derivative M68 or the later model Rh-105 by German manufacturer Rheinmetall. In return, the French model offered a wider range of ammunition, including an illumination projectile. The cannon had an elevation arc ranging from +20 to -8 degrees and the movement was servoactuated.

AMX-30 main battle tank

Front and side view of the amx-30. In the commander's cupola there are not less than ten periscopes to achieve a full panoramic view. The commander uses one of x10 magnification to aim his 7.62-millimeter machine gun, which can be loaded and fired from inside. The cupola is counter-rotatory, which allows the commander to keep the machine gun aiming to the target while the rest of the turret rotates to aim the main cannon or the coaxial armament. The AMX-30 was fitted with a GIAT L/56 105-millimeter cannon. This assault tank served with the Spanish Army from the early 1970s and it was produced under license in Alcala de Guadaira (Seville) from 1974 - by the state-owned Santa Barbara de Construcciones Militares -, with the denomination AMX-30E. The AMX-30 was, with 36 tonnes, the lightest assault tank of its generation, but it was supposed to reunite notable characteristics of protection, firepower and mobility. However, in the end the results disappointed.

The main cannon of the AMX-30 could use five types of ammunition: shaped charge, high explosive, smoke, tracer and practice. The preferred type of anti-tank ammunition in France was the shaped- charge projectile (actually until 1981 there was no piercing projectile available for the GIAT cannon), albeit the GIAT cannon had rifled bore. Shaped-charge projectiles work better if they do not rotate in flight; therefore, to neutralize the rotation imposed by the rifled, it was developed a complex sleeve with a ball-bearing where the explosive charge was mounted, allowing it to rotate much slower than the rest of the projectile. Despite of all, the 11-kilogram charge with a muzzle speed of 1000 meters/second was still able to pierce a 400-millimeter vertical armor at distances up to 3000 meters. When finally it was developed a subcalibrated kinetic energy projectile - of 26 millimeters in diameter and 3.8 kilograms in weight - with a muzzle speed of 1525 meters/second, it was able to perforate 150 millimeters of armor with an inclination of 60 degrees from a distance of 1000 meters. As secondary armament, the original AMX-30 carried a 12.7-millimeter machine gun in a coaxial mounting; later this one was replaced by a 20-millimeter cannon M 693 GIAT with double ammunition feeding, which was installed as well in the AMX-40. This weapon could fire incendiary ammunition of the types high-explosive shrapnel and piercing; the ammunition belts of both types were loaded on different place of the mechanism depending on need. To fight helicopters and other aerial threats, the secondary gun could be disconnected from the main cannon to raise it independently up to 45 degrees.

The AMX-30 is able to ford a depth of up to 1.3 meters without any preparation; by using a schnorkel - placed on the loader's hatch - this depth can reach 4 meters. The series vehicle was fitted with infrared optics for night driving and two infrared projectors, one in the commander's hatch and other on the left of the cannon, and also NBC (Nuclear-Bacteriological-Chemical) protection. For exportation, the tank could be delivered without the infrared systems and the NBC equipment, as well as with a simplified cupola. Along the years, the AMX-30 was improved with the addition of a fire control system with integrated laser telemeter and LLTV (Low-Light Television), the prevision to carry armored skirts and applications of armor in the turret, and an explosive reactive armor against shaped-charge projectiles. The chassis of the AMX-30 has been used for the usual range of supporting vehicles and for mobile launchers for the anti-aircraft missiles Roland and Shahine, the surface-to-surface tactical nuclear missile Pluton, the anti-tank missile ACRA and the system of anti-aircraft rockets Javelot. It also served as vehicle for the self-propelled 155-millimeter howitzer GCT and for two 30-millimeter anti-aircraft cannons directed by radar. In an attempt to make of this tank a serious competitor for the exportation orders that, logically, would have went to better armed and protected tanks, it was developed a derivative known as AMX-32, with improved protection and a GIAT 120-millimeter smoothbore cannon, but it reached only level of prototype. With its 43 tonnes, it weighed the same than a much better alternative, the AMX-40, a totally new model but basically similar, with laminated front armor and a Diesel engine of 1300 horsepower. But none of both tanks had actual success, excepting the experience acquired during the design. The tanks AMX-30B2 (44 in total) entered active service taking part in the operation Daguet, the French contribution to the liberation of Kuwait in 1991. Despite the fact that these tanks never faced anything stronger than the infantry, there was enough criticism about their general actuation.

AMX-30 main battle tank

The AMX-30 and its derivatives were projected to operate in temperatures up to 50 Celsius degrees, with the purpose of conquering the exportation market of Middle Orient. But they never were produced in large scale. In the image, the AMX-40.

AMX-30 main battle tank

Experimental versions

The AMX-30D is the armored recovery vehicle, with a crew of four (commander, driver and two mechanics). The equipment includes a bulldozer blade in the front and a crane capable of lifting 15 tonnes, both hydraulically operated, and two windlasses, one capable of towing 35 tonnes and the other 4 tonnes. The armament consists of one 7.62-millimeter machine gun mounted in the command cupola and several smoke launchers. The bridgelayer version allows to cross ditches of up to 20 meters with a scissor-type bridge. The crew is only three: commander, driver and bridge operator. Another vehicle allows to launch the tactical nuclear missile Pluton; this one is raised for being launched and its maximum range is 100 kilometers. This missile replaced in the French Army the American missile Honest John, of inferior prestations. The anti-aircraft version armed with two 30-millimeter cannons and fitted with all-weather fire control was specially produced for Saudi Arabia; in the French Army the chassis of the AMX-13 was used instead for this purpose. Saudi Arabia ordered as well the version Shahine, a development from the Crotale system, in use in the French Army and in other countries, mounted in a wheeled vehicle. The Shahine uses the chassis of the AMX-30 and it is armed with six missiles ready to be launched and fitted with a launching radar. Another vehicle using the same chassis, fitted with exploration and tracking radars, completes the system. The French Army used the chassis of the AMX-30 to transport the system of anti-aircraft missiles Roland. This version carries two missiles ready to be launched and another eight missiles in reserve. Two variants existed: Roland I, not able to operate with bad weather, and Roland II, with all-weather capability. The Roland, designed jointly with Germany, was acquired by Brazil, Norway and United States. Brazil and Germany, however, used the chassis of the infantry combat vehicle Marder. United States built the system under license to be installed in the chassis of the howitzer M-109.

AMX-30 main battle tank

Armored recovery vehicle AMX-30D carrying a tank engine.

AMX-30 main battle tank

AMX-30S 401A armed with two 30-millimeter cannons.

The AMX-30E

In the mid 1960s the Spanish Army started studies for acquiring a new model of assault tank to complement or replace the American models M-47 and M-48. Initial preferences favored the German model Leopard, but political problems arose because the cannon that this tank used was the British Vickers L7 and the Laborist Government of London was opposed to the sale of military material to the regime of General Franco. Since every other western medium tank of that time used a British cannon, the only remaining option was the AMX-30, whose prestations were not so different to the ones of the Leopard. In the early 1970s 19 exemplars painted in sand color were bought to be assigned to the Spanish Legion in the Western Sahara. In that inhospitable place the AMX-30 suffered numerous breakdowns, but this was attributed to the rigorous climate and the inexperience of the crews in the manipulation of such modern tanks. So this was not obstacle to negotiate the production under license of the AMX-30, and for such a new production plant was installed in Alcala de Guadaira, a suburb of Seville. The factory delivered the first exemplars in October 1974 and in the early 1983 about 300 units had been built. Actually, dozens of manufacturers accross the country participated in the construction of the AMX-30E, whereas in Seville it was made the final assembly.

The AMX-30E introduced a number of improvements over the original model, but both were practically the same tank. For the driver, in addition to the infrared standard equipment, it was installed a moonlight intensifier with a range of 50 meters. The cannon GIAT CN-105-F1 was semiautomatic, with an effective anti-tank range of 3000 meters, and able to hit a target without requiring to rectify the angle of fire up to a distance of 1400 meters. The tube of the cannon was fitted with a thermal shirt and there was a device for gas evacuation and ventilation by means of compressed air, to assure the evacuation of the gases on the bore through the muzzle. Maximum rate of fire was eight shots per minute and with high-explosive shrapnel projectiles the maximum range was 20000 meters (the effective range was estimated in three four parts of the maximum range). The AMX-30E used four types of ammunition: anti-tank, of non-rotary shaped charge, fin-stabilized with a muzzle speed of 1000 meters/second and weighing 10.95 kilograms, able to perforate 360 millimeters of vertical armor or 165 millimeters if the angle is 65 degrees, at a distance of 3000 meters; antipersonal, high-explosive shrapnel projectile weighing 12.1 kilograms and with a muzzle speed of 700 meters/second; smoke projectile, weighing 12.8 kilograms and with a muzzle speed of 695 meters/second; and tracer projectile, weighing 10.95 kilograms and with a muzzle speed of 1000 meters/second. Next to the main cannon was installed a Browning M2 12.7-millimeter machine gun, whose effective range is 1200 meters. In the cupola was installed one MG 42 machine gun, German model produced in Spain under license. The vehicle transported 50 projectiles of caliber 105 millimeters, 748 of 12.7 millimeters and 2050 of 7.62 millimeters.

The fire control systems of the AMX-30E comprised: a coincidence rangefinder with x12 magnification and range of 3500 meters operated by the commander, usable with any of the three guns; the gunner operated an articulated monocular aiming telescope, with x6 magnification and a field of vision of 165 thousandths of degree; an infrared equipment with x5 magnification and range of 800 meters for nocturnal observation and aiming; and an infrared searchlight coaxial with the main cannon able to spot a vehicle beyond 1000 meters afar. The command cupola could rotate independently of the rotation of the turret. The engine Hispano Suiza HS-110 was of polyfuel type, indistinctly fed with gasoline, gasoil or kerosene. Operative range - between 400 and 600 kilometers - varied according to the type of fuel used and the engine could remain in continuous operation during 18 hours. Its maximum power was 720 horsepower at 2600 revolutions/minute and the engine displacement was 28.728 liters. Fuel tanks had a maximum capacity of 962 liters and consumption was about 50 or 60 liters per hour. Maximum speed on road was 65 kilometers/hour and on cross-country 35 kilometers/hour. Average speed in road was 50 kilometers/hour. The AMX-30E could ford a depth of 1.3 meters without any preparation, 2.3 meters with a light preparation and up to 4.5 meters with a snorkel to deliver air to the engine. In such case a diver was required to guide the vehicle. The process to manufacture and assemble one of these tanks required about 8000 hours of work.

The AMX-32

The AMX-32 was projected particularly for exportation to those countries which required a vehicle with greater firepower and better armor than the amx-30. The first prototype, armed with the same 105-millimeter cannon than the AMX-30, was presented in the exposition of military material of Satory in 1979; but two years later was presented the version with a 120-millimeter smoothbore cannon of national production and improved armor. Other than that, the configuration was similar than in the amx-30. The cannon was provided with a thermal shirt fitted with holes in its lower part to exhaust the smoke produced by the shots. This cannon used two types of ammunition: APFSDS with a muzzle speed of 1630 meters/second and a polyvalent projectile with a muzzle speed of 1050 meters/second. Besides, it could use as well the ammunition provided for the Leopard 2. Coaxially to the cannon was mounted a 20-millimeter cannon M693 which could move in elevation, with independence of the main cannon, up to 40 degrees. Onboard the tank were stored 38 projectiles for the 120-millimeter cannon (17 in the turret and 21 in the hull) and 480 projectiles for the 20- millimeter cannon. In the command cupola was mounted a 7.62-millimeter machine gun and in the fore part of the turret a battery of two smoke tubes on each side.

One of the most important differences between the AMX-30 and the AMX-32 is the fire control system COTAC which equipped the latter. This system would allow the AMX-32 to attack static or moving targets, during daytime or nighttime, with a 90 percent of chances of hitting at the first shot. To the left of the 20-millimeter cannon was mounted a low-light camera which transmitted images to the commander's and gunner's television displays. The commander had at his disposition an aiming device installed in the top of the turret, fully stabilized and with magnification from x2 to x8 in daytime configuration and x1 in nighttime. This device could be used either for localization or watching of a target. The gunner's gunsight had x10 magnification and incorporated a laser rangefinder. The engine was the same Hispano Suiza of 720 horsepower used in the AMX-30, but the AMX-32 could receive as well a supercharged model developing 800 horsepower. However the greater weight of the AMX-32 decreased the power/weight ratio to 17.5 horsepower/tonne. The suspension was a modified version of that used in the AMX-30 and side skirts were added as protection against HEAT grenades of shaped charge. The turret of the AMX-32 had been projected "ex novo" and the armor in the fore part of the hull had been improved. The AMX-32 was fitted with an NBC system and a snorkel which would allow to ford depths of up to four meters. As "optional" elements there were a different transmission, systems for fire extinction and air conditioning, tracks and a device for injecting Diesel fuel in the exhaust, which would produce a cloud of smoke.

AMX-30 main battle tank

[1] Telecamera DIVT 13 [2] Elevation sensor [3] Gunner's telescope M581 [4] Gunner's panel [5] Gunner's television display [6] Box of the gyroscopic accelerometer of the cannon [7] Commander's television display [8] Commander's panel [9] Box of the gyroscopic accelerometer of the turret [10] Cupola [11] Commander's telescope M527 [12] Radio devices [13] NBC panels [14] Flow valve [15] Ammunition compartment [16] Radiator for engine cooling [17] Oil cooler (gearbox cooling) [18] Box of hydraulic system [19] Filter for air intake [20] Air purifier [21] Loader's seat [22] Commander's seat [23] Gyroscopic box [24] Gunner's seat [25] Box of electronic systems [26] Driver's seat [27] Reversing control [28] Steering wheel [29] Gearbox [30] 20-millimeter cannon with superelevation device [31] 105-millimeter cannon [32] Caterpillar tracks with rubber pads.

Specifications for AMX-30

Crew: 4

Armament: One 105-millimeter 56-caliber cannon; one coaxial 12.7-millimeter machine gun or 20-millimeter cannon; one 7.62-millimeter machine gun in the commander's cupola; two smoke launchers on each side of the turret

Ammunitions: 50 for 105-millimeter cannon; 600 for 12.7-millimeter machine gun; 1600 for 7.62-millimeter machine gun

Armor: 15-80 millimeters

Lenght (total): 9.48 meters

Lenght (hull): 6.59 meters

Width: 3.10 meters

Height: 2.85 meters

Weight: 36 tonnes

Ground pressure: 0.77 kilograms/square centimeter

Ground clearance: 44 centimeters

Engine: Hispano Suiza 110 polyfuel of 12 cylinders, water-cooled, developing 700 horsepower at 2400 revolutions per minute

Power/weight ratio: 19.5 horsepower/tonne

Maximum speed (in road): 65 kilometers/hour

Maximum operational range (in road): 650 kilometers

Maximum surmountable trench: 2.9 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 0.93 meters

Maximum surmountable slope: 60 percent

Maximum fording: 1.3 meters

Specifications for AMX-32

Crew: 4

Armament: One 120-millimeter 52-caliber cannon; one coaxial 20-millimeter cannon; one 7.62-millimeter machine gun in the commander's cupola; two smoke launchers on each side of the turret

Ammunitions: 38 for 120-millimeter cannon; 480 for 12.7-millimeter machine gun

Armor: Of composite type

Lenght (total): 9.85 meters

Lenght (hull): 6.59 meters

Width: 3.24 meters

Height: 2.96 meters

Weight: 40 tonnes

Engine: Hispano Suiza 110 polyfuel of 12 cylinders, water-cooled, developing 700 horsepower at 2400 revolutions per minute

Power/weight ratio: 17.5 horsepower/tonne

Maximum speed (in road): 65 kilometers/hour

Maximum operational range (in road): 530 kilometers

Maximum surmountable trench: 2.9 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 0.93 meters

Maximum surmountable slope: 60 percent

Maximum fording: 1.3 meters

Specifications for AMX-40

Crew: 4

Armament: One 120-millimeter smoothbore cannon; one 20 millimeters coaxial cannon; one 7.62-millimeter machine gun in the commander's cupola; three smoke launchers on each side of the turret

Armor: Laminated

Lenght (with the cannon aiming forward): 10.10 meters

Width: 3.36 meters

Height (including command cupola): 2.38 meters

Weight: 43.7 tonnes

Ground pressure: 0.85 kilograms/square centimeter

Ground clearance: 45 centimeters

Engine: Diesel of 1100 horsepower

Power/weight ratio: 25.2 horsepower/tonne

Maximum speed (in road): 70 kilometers/hour

Maximum operational range (in road): 600 kilometers

Maximum surmountable trench: 3.2 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 1 meter

Maximum surmountable slope: 60 percent

Maximum fording: 1.3 meters

Article updated: 2016-09-28

Categories: Tanks - Cold War - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-05-15

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