Design work on the AMX-13 light tank began in 1946 at the Atelier de Construction d'lssy-les-Moulineaux and the first prototype was completed two years later. Production was undertaken at the Atelier de Construction Roanne (ARE) from 1952, with the first production tanks completed the following year.
The basic chassis has been used for a wide range of vehicles including the AMX VCI mechanised infantry combat vehicle, the 105 mm self-propelled howitzer, the 155 mm self-propelled gun Mk F3 and the twin 30 mm DCA self-propelled anti-aircraft gun system. Details of all of these vehicles are given later in the volume with the exception of the 30 mm DCA and 105 mm SPH, which is no longer in service.
Without changing the basic design, many improvements were announced at the 1985 Satory Exhibition of Military Equipment.
These included a new power pack consisting of a diesel engine coupled to a fully automatic transmission and the replacement of the torsion bar suspension by a new hydropneumatic suspension for improved crosscountry mobility.
The armoured vehicle division of Mecanique Creusot-Loire is now part of Giat Industries and is responsible for after sales support for all members of the AMX-13 family of light armoured vehicles, as well as for the provision of upgrade packages. The AMX-13 is no longer being marketed by Giat Industries.
It is estimated that total production of the AMX-13 family of light tracked vehicles, including the light tank, amounted to 7,700 units, of which around 3,400 were exported. The AMX-13 light tank was phased out of service with the French Army many years ago.
Description (basic vehicle)
The hull of the AMX-13 is of all-welded steel and divided into three compartments, with the driver and engine compartments at the front and the turret mounted at the rear. The driver is seated at the front of the vehicle on the left side with the engine compartment to his right and the differential in front of him. The driver is provided with a single-piece hatch cover that opens to the left and three periscopes, the centre one of which can be replaced by an image intensification periscope for night driving.
The turret is mounted at the rear of the hull and the type of turret depends on the model of the tank and its armament. All turrets are oscillating. In all models the commander is seated on the left of the turret and the gunner on the right. The commander is provided with eight periscopes and a domed hatch cover that opens to the rear. The gunner has two periscopes and a single-piece hatch cover that opens to the rear.
The torsion bar suspension consists of five rubber-tyred roadwheels with the drive sprocket at the front and the idler at the rear. Trials have been completed with the torsion bars replaced by hydropneumatic suspension units. There are three (or in some cases two) track-return rollers which support the inside of the track only. The first and last roadwheel stations have hydraulic shock-absorbers. The steel tracks have 85 links per side and can be fitted with rubber pads if required.
The AMX-13 does not have an NBC system, cannot be fitted for deep wading and as built was not fitted with any night fighting equipment, although several armies have fitted their vehicles with such systems: for example, an infrared searchlight to the rear of the gunner's position and an infrared sight for the gunner.
More recently, the AMX-13 has been offered fitted with passive or thermal night firing and night driving equipment, a laser range-finder and an automatic display of the battle sight.
Model 51 with 75 mm Gun
This was the first model of the AMX-13 to enter service and is fitted with the FL-10 turret armed with a 75 mm gun with a single-baffle muzzle brake. The weapon is fed from two revolver-type magazines in the turret bustle, one either side, each magazine holding six rounds. Once the gun has been fired, the empty cartridge case is ejected out of the rear of the turret through a trapdoor hinged on the left. A rate of fire of one round every 5 seconds can be achieved until the two magazines are empty. Once empty, the magazines have to be refilled by hand from outside the tank. The gun fires fixed APC and HE rounds.
A 7.5 mm or 7.62 mm machine gun is mounted coaxially to the right of the main armament and a similar weapon is often mounted externally at the commander's position. There are 37 rounds of 75 mm and 3,600 rounds (in belts of 200) of machine gun ammunition carried. In addition there are two electrically operated grenade dischargers either side of the turret.
AMX-13 with 90 mm Gun
This entered service in the early 1960s. It is armed with a 90 mm gun in an FL-10 turret and the barrel is fitted with a thermal sleeve and a single-baffle muzzle brake. The gun fires fixed ammunition including APFSDS, canister, HE, HEAT and smoke.
The turret also has a coaxial machine gun and a similar weapon can be mounted at the commander's position. There are 32 rounds of 90 mm ammunition carried, 21 of which are in the turret (12 in the magazines) and 11 in the hull, plus 3,600 rounds of machine gun ammunition.
Existing 75 mm armed AMX-13s can be retrofitted with the 90 mm gun and this was carried out by the French Army from 1970.
AMX-13 with 105 mm Gun
This was developed specifically for export and has an FL-12 turret armed with a 105 mm gun which fires the same smoothbore rounds as the AMX-30 MBT but with a smaller and therefore lighter propellant. This turret is also fitted to the Austrian SK 105 used by Argentina, Austria, Bolivia, Botswana (delivered early 1999), Morocco and Tunisia. Details of this are given earlier in this section under Austria.
AMX-13 with FL-15 Turret
This is very similar to the older FL-12 but observation equipment includes seven M554 periscopes and a pair of OB-44 night observation binoculars for the tank commander and two M556 periscopes for the gunner.
Sighting equipment consists of an M212 periscope/ telescope with magnifications of x1.6 and x6.5 for the tank commander and a telescope with magnifications of x8 (day) and x6 (night) for the gunner. A fire-control system will facilitate target acquisition, reduce target engagement time and increase first round hit probability.
Turret traverse is 360° and the top part of the turret can be elevated from -8 to +12° by the commander or gunner with the former having overriding control.
Types of ammunition fired by the 105 mm gun include Giat Industries APFSDS, HEAT-T, HE, smoke, illuminating, HEAT (training) and HE (training).
Giat Industries Add-on Armour
Giat Industries has developed a range of add-on armour packages suitable for its AMX-13 range of light tanks as well as the US M113 APC series.
The add-on package for the AMX-13 light tank weighs under 650 kg with no single unit weighing over 50 kg, enabling it to be installed or removed by the crew using onboard tools.
In the case of the AMX-13 light tank the add-on armour package is installed on the turret front and sides and on the nose and glacis plate of the hull. When fitted it provides protection for both areas against penetration by 20 mm armour-piercing projectiles fired from a range of 100 m over an arc of approximately 180°. The AMX-13 armour is made of high-hardness steel.
In addition, Giat Industries offers a wide range of kits enabling users to upgrade their vehicles to the latest production standard including improvements in armour, mobility (for example new engine, transmission and suspension) and firepower (for example new armament and fire-control system).
Cockerill 90 mm Regunning Packaging
Cockerill Mechanical Industries offered a 90 mm Mk IVA3 regunning package for the AMX-13 light tank as a replacement for the existing 75 mm or 105 mm ordnance. The new ordnance incorporates a bore evacuator, a muzzle brake and breech ring accessories with turret modifications including changes to the two six-round ammunition drums, the turret basket ammunition racks and the existing automatic loading system. A total of 22 of these 90 mm regunning packages had been produced for export. This upgrade package- is no longer being marketed by Cockerill Mechanical Industries.
The Royal Netherlands Army was one of the largest users of the AMX-13 family of vehicles but all of these have now been phased out of service. Some, including AMX-13 light tanks, AMX VCI infantry fighting vehicles and AMX 105 mm Mk 61 self-propelled howitzers, have been overhauled by RDM Technology of the Netherlands and passed on to Indonesia.
GLS of Munich, Germany, a subsidiary of Krauss-Maffei (which became Krauss-Maffei Wegmann on 1 January 1999), has proposed improving the mobility of the AMX-13 light tank by improving its suspension system. The original suspension system has been replaced by a new connector-type track with centre guide and replaceable track pads. The original roadwheels will be replaced by M113 roadwheels and the original idler will be replaced by an M113 idler. The existing sprockets and final drive will be modified, as will the existing suspension arms. The existing track-return rollers will be modified and telescopic shock-absorbers replaced by dual-action hydraulic telescopic shock-absorbers on the first, second, fourth and fifth roadwheel stations.
GLS also offers new torsion bars for the AMX-13 and
installs hydraulic bump stops.
In addition to purchasing vehicles from France, Argentina assembled a number of vehicles from components supplied directly from France.
It is believed that most of these have had their original SOFAM petrol engines replaced by KHD V-8 diesels developing 260 hp. Peru is understood to have refitted its AMX-13 light tanks with this engine and Venezuela refitted its vehicles in batches of 10.
AMX-13 Model 1987 with 105 mm Gun
Late production Model AMX-13 light tanks have many improvements over earlier vehicles and significant improvements in armour, mobility and firepower.
Externally the appearance of the vehicle has changed and a new hull front with improved ballistic protection is installed, the old torsion bars have been replaced by new hydropneumatic units and sand guards help to keep down the dust, while a 105 mm gun is fitted as standard.
The petrol-engined AMX-13 had a range of 350 to 400 km on roads but when fitted with a diesel engine this is increased to between 550 to 600 km. There are two diesel engines currently offered, both with an output of 280 hp. These are the Detroit Diesel Model 6V-53T or the French Baudouin 6F 11 SRY. They give a road speed of 65 km/h and a new cooling system enable?, the engine to operate in high ambient temperatures.
An automatic transmission from Rockford Powertrain is proposed.
The installation of the new engine, transmission and suspension system gives a much improved crosscountry mobility and provides a better ride for the crew, as well as a more stable firing platform.
The turret has the 105 mm Giat Industries gun which can fire many types of ammunition including APFSDS. An extensive range of modular firing controls with integrated range-finder can be fitted without any modification.
In 1988, Ecuador awarded a contract for the upgrading of its fleet of 108 AMX-13 light tanks armed with 105 mm guns. SOPELEM supplied the basic day version of its SOPTAC 18 fire-control system which comprises a laser range-finder and its control unit, a digital computer that calculates the firing elevation and a module that injects an aiming graticule into the gunner's original sight. The graticule is positioned automatically to correspond to the gun elevation calculated by the computer, which takes into account the range obtained by the laser range-finder, atmospheric pressure, gun chamber pressure and the tank's horizontal attitude, all of which are obtained by integrated sensors, while the side-wind, type of ammunition and barrel wear information is fed in manually.
Fives-Cail Babcock provided kits to modify the 105 mm gun and its ammunition system to allow APFSDS rounds to be fired.
Work on upgrading the AMX-13s started in Ecuador late in 1988 and was completed in 1990.
In the future Ecuador may replace the current petrol engines with a diesel engine and also give the vehicles a night fighting capability.
Singapore AMX-13 SM1
In addition to the 36 AMX-13 light tanks delivered by France in the mid-1950s, late in 1988, Mecanique Creusot-Loire won a contract from Venezuela for the supply of 31 90 mm armed, overhauled and modernised AMX-13 light tanks. These were ex-French Army vehicles stripped down by the company and refurbished. They now have the US Detroit Diesel Model 6V-53T engine developing 280 hp coupled to a Borg Warner three-speed fully automatic transmission with torque converter, a new Chausson air-water/oil cooler with a thermostatically controlled centrifugal fan, an alternator or 200 A generator and NATO 6TN batteries. The original torsion bar suspension has been removed and replaced by hydropneumatic units for increased cross-country mobility.
A SOPELEM 18-02 SOPTAC fire-control system incorporating an M213 day sight and a TCV-107 laser range-finder has been fitted.
Main armament comprises a 90 mm gun with a 7.62 mm NF1 coaxial machine gun. An Israeli Tadiran communications system is fitted.
Final deliveries of the upgraded AMX-13 light tanks to Venezuela were made in late 1990.
Venezuelan AMX-13 Rocket Launchers
Venezuela has approximately 25 AMX-13 light tank chassis fitted witti the Detroit Diesel 6V-53T diesel engine, with the turret replaced by the Israel Military Industries 160 mm LAR multiple rocket launcher system, details of which are given in the Multiple rocket launchers section.
NIMDA Upgrade Package for AMX-13
The Israeli company NIMDA offers a complete retrofit package for the AMX-13 light tank including a new Detroit Diesel Model 6V-53T developing 275 hp at 2,800 rpm coupled to a new NIMDA N303 automatic transmission, new armament, a computerised fire-control system, additional armour protection and afire/ explosion detection and suppression system.
AMX-13 Armoured Recovery Vehicle
The AMX-13 ARV (Char de Depannage Model 55) is used to recover other members of the AMX-13 family as well as changing major components such as turrets and engines. Equipment fitted includes a front-mounted A-frame, a 15,000 kg capacity winch with 50 m of 25 mm diameter cable, a secondary winch with 120 m of 6 mm diameter cable, four spades at the rear of the hull and tools and other equipment. The vehicle has a crew of three consisting of commander, driver and winch operator and weighs 15,300 kg. Armament consists of an externally mounted 7.5 mm or 7.62 mm machine gun and grenade dischargers.
The AMX-13 bridgelayer (Char Poseur de Pont AMX-13) is fitted with a folding Class 25 bridge which has an unfolded length of 14.01 m. The bridge is launched over the rear of the vehicle and two stabilisers steady it when the bridge is being positioned. The vehicle has a loaded weight of 19,700 kg and without the bridge weighs 15,000 kg.