Armor: LeClerc Fades Away


May 5,2008: France is reducing its tank force, currently consisting of 396 AMX-56 LeClerc, reducing it to 314. The oldest versions will be put on the used tank market. Only 240 will be for combat units (four battalions), while the rest will be for training. The original Cold War plan was to buy 1,400, but lack of money, and a compelling foe, drove that down to 406. Another 458 were built for export.

The 55 ton tank was designed in the late 1980s and entered mass production just as the Cold War ended. Its three man crew, effective auto-loader and impressive electronics made for an attractive package. But it was not superior to the earlier 1980s designs (the U.S. M-1, German Leopard II and British Challenger). The LeClerc was all dressed up, but there was nowhere to go. The tank has never been in combat and faced stiff competition from those other tanks when it came to export orders. There were a lot of second hand, hardly used and inexpensive, M-1s and Leopard IIs out there. LeClerc production finally ceased in 2005. France also has about 1,000 1960s era AMX-30 tanks, but only about 600 are in active service.


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