The Leclerc Main Battle Tank built by Giat Industries is operational with the French Army and the Armed Forces of Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates. The Leclerc was first operational with the French Army in 1992 and with UAE in 1995. Leclerc Mk 2 tanks with improved software and engine control system entered production in 1998. The French Army has over 200 Leclerc MBT’s in service and in November 2000 ordered a further 96, out of a total requirement of 406. 380 tanks have been ordered by UAE.
BATTLE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
The Leclerc is fitted with the FINDERS (Fast Information, Navigation, Decision and Reporting System) battlefield management system, developed by Giat. FINDERS includes a colour map display which shows the positions of the host tank, allied and hostile forces and designated targets and can be used for route and mission planning.
The 120 mm 52 calibre smoothbore gun is fitted with a thermal sleeve and muzzle reference system. Fumes are exhausted with a compressed air unit. The gun, which fires APFSD (Armour Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot) and HEAT (High Explosive Anti Tank) rounds, has a firing rate of 12 rounds/minute. The aiming system is entirely electrical for improved acceleration.
The tank has an automatic loading system, which allows cross-country fire-on-the-move against mobile targets. 22 rounds of ready-to-use ammunition are carried. The tank is also armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun co-axial with the main gun and a roof-mounted 7.62 mm anti-aircraft gun.
FIRE CONTROL AND OBSERVATION
The digital fire control system allows the gunner or commander to select six different targets to be engaged in just over 30 seconds. The system's digital computer allows realtime treatment of data from the tank's sensors and sights.
The commander has eight periscopes and an HL-70 stabilised panoramic sight from SFIM Industries, now part of SAGEM. HL-70 includes laser rangefinder, day channel, and second generation image intensifier. Recognition range is 4 km and identification range is 2.5 km. The commander has a display showing the gunner's thermal sight.
The gunner's station is equipped with gunner's main sight, three periscopes and a visual display unit. The gunner's stabilised sight is SAVAN 20 from SAGEM, which contains a three field of view thermal imager.
The driver's has three periscopes, the centre periscope being the OB-60 driver's sight developed by Thales Optrosys (formerly Thomson-CSF), which has day and night channels.
Leclerc is fitted with Galix combat vehicle protection system, developed by GIAT and Etienne Lacroix. Nine launch tubes for the 80 mm grenades are fitted on either side of the turret roof. The Galix system can launch smoke or anti-personnel grenades or infrared decoys.
The Leclerc is equipped with an SACM V8X-1500 Hyperbar diesel engine providing 1,500 hp at 2,500 rpm. An electronic engine management system is supplied by SAGEM. The SESM ESM 500 automatic transmission has a hydrostatic transmission unit and five forward and two reverse gears. The engine is fitted with a Suralmo-Hyperbar high pressure gas turbine. The engine provides a road speed over 70 km/hour and cross country speed up to 50 km/hour.
The tank also has a Turbomeca TM-307B gas turbine auxiliary power unit. The hydropneumatic suspension system is from Societe d'Applications des Machines Motrices (SAMM).
UAE TROPICALISED LECLERC MAIN BATTLE TANK
The tropicalised Leclerc is optimised for tropical and desert conditions to meet the requirement of the UAE. A new powerpack and diesel auxiliary power unit has been installed and the hull is extended at the back to accommodate the powerpack and larger fuel tanks. The Euro Powerpack has the MTU 883 V-12 diesel engine providing 1,500 hp, coupled with Renk HSWL295 TM automatic transmission. For this and export versions of the tank, Giat has developed the Leclerc Battle Management System (LBMS), a derivative of FINDERS. The HL-70 commander's sight has been replaced by the HL-80, also from SFIM.
LECLERC NEW GENERATION RECOVERY VEHICLE
The Leclerc New Generation Recovery Vehicle (NGRV) has a longer hull with seven pairs of wheels. An hydraulically operated blade at the front of the vehicle is used to clear a path through battlefield obstacles. The vehicle is equipped with an hydraulic crane rated to lift 30,000 kg loads and a winch with 180 m cable rated at 35,000 kg. A secondary winch is rated at 1,500 kg. The crane and winch systems are supplied by Rheinmetall Landsystemes GmbH.
Project definition on the Engin Principal de Combat (EPC) was completed by the Atelier de Construction d'lssy-les-Moulineaux in 1985 and by that time five test rigs were already being used in component development, one for the suspension, three for automotive trials and the fifth for the weapon system.
On 30 January 1986 it was announced that the EPC would be named the Leclerc.
Project definition for the Leclerc was completed in mid-1986 and in the same year it was decided to build six complete prototypes of the vehicle; the first of these was completed late in 1989. The Leclerc made its first public appearance at the 1990 Satory exhibition of defence equipment for the ground forces.
The first production Leclerc MBT was completed by Giat Industries in December 1991 and handed over to the French Army on 14 January 1992.
A total of six Giat Industries facilities is involved in the production of the Leclerc MBT: Toulouse, Saint-Chamond, Tulle, Bourges, Tarbes and Roanne.
Turret construction and integration are undertaken at Tarbes while Roanne builds the complete chassis and then integrates this with the turret. The completed Leclerc is then tested and delivered.
The total French Army order for the Leclerc MBT has still not been decided but it is understood to be for 406 vehicles which will enable production of the Leclerc to continue through to early in the 21st century. The first batch will consist of 310 vehicles with the second batch is to be 96 vehicles.
Late in 1998, Giat Industries was awarded a contract for 88 Leclerc MBTs for delivery by March 2003. This brought the total French Army order up to 310 MBT vehicles.
Each Leclerc MBT regiment has a total of 40 vehicles, one at regimental HQ and three squadrons each with 13 vehicles, one at squadron HQ and three troops each with four vehicles.
The first regiment equipped with the new Leclerc MBT is the 501-503Rd RCC. '
By early 1999 total production of Leclerc MBT amounted to 400 vehicles of which about 170 were for the French Army and the remainder for the United Arab Emirates.