AMX-30 Main Battle Tank (France)

After the end of the Second World War, France developed three armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs), a light tank (AMX-13), an armoured car (Panhard EBR 8 x 8) and a heavy tank (AMX-50). The AMX-50 was an interesting vehicle as it used a hull and suspension very similar to that used on the German PzKpfw V (Panther) that the French Army used in some numbers after the end of the war. The tank had an oscillating turret, a feature that was adopted on the AMX-13 light tank as well. It was planned to put the AMX-50 into large-scale production but the programme was eventually dropped, as large numbers of US M47 tanks were being made available under the military aid programme to Western Europe. A decade later in 1956, Germany, Italy and France drew up their requirements for a new tank to enter service in the 1960s. It was expected that France and Germany would design a main battle tank with the same general specifications, the two would be evaluated against each other and all three would adopt the best one. Unfortunately, like many programmes to come, the project came to nothing and the countries went their own way, with the Germans adopting the Leopard 1, the Italians adopted the American M60A1 and the French going ahead with production of the AMX-30. Design work was carried out at the Atelier de Construction d'Issy-les-Moulineaux (the only major tank plant in France, at Roanne) under the direction of the Direction des Etudes et Fabrications d'Armament (which would become the Direction Technique des Armaments Terrestres). The first two prototypes were completed in 1960 with another seven prototypes following. In July 1963, the French Army adopted the tank as a replacement for the M47 and production commenced in 1966, the AMX-30 entering service in 1967. Spain has also produced the AMX-30 under license. Production finished in 1993 when the last AMX-30s were produced for the French Army.

The hull of the AMX-30 is made of rolled steel plates that are welded together. The driver sits at the front of the hull on the left and has a single-piece hatch with three periscopes, the centre one of which can be replaced by either a image intensification periscope (Thomson-CSF TH9478) or a SOPELEM OB-16A periscope that has a binocular system for the infrared light at night or a monocular system for use during the day. Both the infrared and day channel have a magnification of x 1, but the infrared has a 35 degree field of view, while the day channel has 24 degrees. The commander and gunner are on the right of the turret, while the loader (who operates the radio) is on the left. The commander has a TOP 7 cupola with ten periscopes for all-round vision. Mounted on the forward part is a SOPELEM M270 prism head which swivels in elevation and reflects the image of the terrain towards the M267 day sight or OB-23A infrared telescope, that has a magnification of x 4 and 9 degree field of view). The cupola also mounts a 7.62mm machine gun with a PH-9-A infrared searchlight. The prism can also be used to aim the 20mm coaxial autocannon. The tank commander also operates the SOPELEM M208 rangefinder that has a magnification of x 6. The gunner has three periscopes, one of which is an M271 day sight with a magnification of x 8 that can be replaced by an OB-17A night sight, which has a magnification of x 5.4. The engine is a Hispano-Suiza HS-110 multi-fuel engine (oil, petrol or paraffin) manufactured by Renault (720hp) coupled to a transmission consisting of an automatic clutch, combined gearbox and steering unit, brakes and two final drives. The tank has a torsion bar type suspension with five rubber-tyred twin road wheels, with an idler at the front and drive wheel at the back and five track return rollers. The AMX-30 can ford to a depth of 1.3m without preparation and 2m with preparation. When deeper rivers are encountered, a snorkel can be erected and used in the same way Russian tanks cross such rivers.

The tank is fitted with a battery powered electric pump for refuelling, a power receptacle in the driver's compartment that can charge the battery from another tank, NBC system, heater, automatic fire alarm system, crew intercom system and infantry telephone. The main armament is a Giat Industries 105mm rifled gun designated the CN-105-F1 with a length of 56 calibres (with less twist than on many guns because of the specially designed ammo). It can fire French designed ammunition as well as standard 105mm ammunition for the L7 series of guns. Forty-seven rounds of ammunition are carried, nineteen of which are in the turret and twenty-eight in the hull. A Giat Industries 20mm Model F2 (Type M693) cannon is mounted coaxially to the left of the main gun. The cannon can be fired with a dual (HEI and armour-piercing rounds) or single feed (American M56 ammunition). It has an elevation of up to 40 degrees. There are two smoke dischargers on either side of the turret. The aiming system is a hydraulic one, the SAMM Model CH 27-1S. There are a number of variants available. The first is the AMX-30S which is a slightly simplified version adapted for desert operations. It has a sand shield, a reduction in gearbox ratios and a less-powerful engine. Saudi Arabia has a number of AMX-30S tanks and these are fitted with CILAS / SOPELEM M409 sighting system which has a day sight (x 8), an infrared night sight (x 4.5) and a laser rangefinder. The AMX-30 B2 is an AMX-30 with an integrated COTAC fire control system (APX M581) incorporating a laser rangefinder and thermal sights, a new gearbox (SESM ENC 200) and a number of other improvements, including a new commander's sight (M496), a new HS-110-2 engine that has 45hp more power, a new engine cooling system, an improved NBC system and new torsion bars for the suspension. The French Army took delivery of 166 new AMX-30 B2 vehicles and 493 existing AMX-30s were upgraded to the B2 standard. The French Army has recently placed an order for 500 units of a new engine (RVI Mack E9 diesel) from Renault that is rated at 750hp. It features double stage turbocharging, a Bosch direct fuel injection system and a dry sump. The E9 should be more reliable and have lower life-cycle costs. There are also armoured recovery vehicle (AMX-30D), bridgelayer, combat engineer tractor, air defence (twin 30mm gun turret), Surface-to-Air Missile (Roland SAM), 155mm self-propelled artillery, driver training and mine clearing (AMX-30 B DT / AMX-30 B2 DT) versions. The AMX-30 and its variants are in service with a number of countries including France (1,700), Bosnia (36), Chile (50), Croatia (42), Cyprus (52), Greece (154 - thought to be in reserve), Qatar (35), Saudi Arabia (572), Spain (327 with 238 operational), UAE (Abu Dhabi - 68) and Venezuela (85).

Hull length: 6.59m. Hull width: 3.1m. Height: 2.29m. (turret roof) Crew: 4. Ground Clearance: 0.44m. Weight: 36,000kg (combat). Ground pressure: 0.77kg/sq.cm. Max speed: 65km/h. Max range (internal fuel): up to 600km (on road). Armament: 105mm CN-105-F1 rifled gun, 1 x 20mm cannon coaxial, 1 x 7.62mm machine gun mounted on turret roof.

Foss, Christopher. Jane's Main Battle Tanks, 2nd Edition, Jane's Publishing Company Ltd, London, 1986.
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Gelbart, Marsh. Tanks: Main Battle and Light Tanks, Brassey's (UK) Ltd, London, 1996.
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How to cite this article: Antill, P. (1 June 2001), AMX-30 Main Battle Tank (France), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_amx30.html

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