PARIS, FRANCE — France could be the second country after Britain to supply its main battle tank to Ukraine. It is about the French Leclerc tank. Information at the moment is limited to preliminary talks within the French government.
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A few days ago, Paris announced that Kyiv will receive the AMX-10 anti-tank combat vehicle. In this regard, Sebastien Lecornu, Minister of the Armed Forces, made an interesting statement, quoted by the French site Opex360.com. According to Mr. Lecornu, the French President, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, has requested detailed instructions for the transfer of Leclerc tanks to Kyiv. Mr. Macron made this inquiry to the French Ministry of Defense along with a request for instructions on the delivery of the AMX-10 combat vehicles in question.
Ukraine’s interest in French secrets is not recent. In September last year, some French media published about Ukraine’s interest in French combat vehicles. That same month, Mr. Etienne de Ponsin, who is the French ambassador to Ukraine, confirmed to the French media that Kyiv was showing interest in the tanks. Mr. Ponsen later confirmed his claims during a hearing in the National Assembly on 9 November.
An answer was not late from the Ukrainian side. A month later, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal visited France. Then he assured the French government that Ukraine “would be very grateful” if it received Leclerc tanks.
A very sensitive issue
This brings us to yesterday’s [January 18] government hearing in the French Senate. Mr. Lecornu told the hearing that the French government was discussing the matter. However, he emphasized that for Ukraine to receive French tanks, Paris will have to find out the answers to three questions. “First, it fits a defensive logic to contain the escalation. Second, it does not degrade our security and defense model […]. Third, maintaining in working condition the already existing weapons delivered to Ukraine”.
With the third stumbling block under fire, Mr. Lecornu wanted to stress that the maintenance of the Leclerc tanks was “a very sensitive issue”. Mr. Lecornu did not say, but the facts are this: France should receive 200 XLR Leclair tanks by 2030. A not small, but indeed a large part of the 406 Leclair tanks in France is used for cannibalization. I.e. they are used as spare parts for the tanks that must be operationally ready.
For now, Britain is the only country that has agreed to provide Challenger 2 to Ukraine. There is a desire in Europe among several countries for Ukraine to receive Leopard tanks. But that depends solely on Germany, and German Prime Minister Mr. Olaf Scholz gives no indication that he will allow such a transfer. What’s more, Mr. Scholz issued a direct challenge to Mr. Joe Biden calling on the US to donate Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
The Leclerc is armed with a GIAT CN120-26/52 120mm tank gun. The secondary weapons on the tank’s turret are intended for close combat and self-defense. They are one 12.7 mm coaxial M2HB machine gun and one 7.62 mm machine gun. The Leclerc is powered by a V8X SACM 8-cylinder diesel engine delivering 1,500 horsepower.
The Leclerc tanks to be upgraded are expected to be interoperable with the Scorpion joint warfare system. This means that the tanks will retain some of their equipment, but another part will have to be significantly improved.
120mm tank gun remains as it is now. At the expense of this, the tank receives increased ballistic protection of the hull. The tank’s turret will also receive increased ballistic protection, as well as being replaced with a new RMS. According to the French government and the signed agreement, Nexter will have to develop and integrate an additional armor package for the tank.
Sources to the French media claim that the tank is getting a new tactical information system, new sensors, and grenade launchers.
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