Armor: September 9, 2001

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France designed it's Leclerc tank during the 1980s and began using them in the early 1990s. It was an unusual design by Western standards. It only had a three man crew (like Russian tanks, using an automatic loader.) The Germans particularly didn't agree with this because they thought that four men were needed to properly maintain a tank in the field. The Germans also did not like the turret layout and the large autoloader), because the commander and gunner could not see each other. These should not be considered trivial issues, for in 1940, the French had more, and on paper superior, tanks than the Germans. But one of the shortcomings of the French tanks in 1940 were cramped turrets. The Leclerc is much heavier (56 tons) than earlier French tanks and uses composite armor. France hoped for export sales, but the end of the Cold War doomed that plan. There are so many cut rate, and more highly regarded Leopards and (M1) Abrams tanks on the market that Leclerc has a hard time competing. Sales were made to Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates. As a result, there are more Leclercs in use by foreign nations (which have about 300 in use) than by France (which has a few less.) Leclercs are still being built and in the next few years about a thousand should be in use. Leclerc has gotten a constant stream of upgrades, especially to it's electronics. Leclerc has a battle management system very similar to that being used in the most modern American M1 tanks.

 


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