The first violin of the European security system
France found itself in a rather difficult situation. On the one hand, the country can hardly be called the head of the European Union, since there is an economically more powerful Germany. On the other hand, the latter enters into electoral uncertainty that threatens to shake the foundations of European unity.
In addition, France will in any case remain the militarily strongest country in the EU. Germans have no nuclear weapons, there is no aircraft carrier of its own and there is no base that would provide a full cycle of development and production of combat aviation... The only thing Germany is objectively better at is armored vehicles. However, soon the superiority of the German Leopard 2 over the French Leclerc may be called into question.
Leclerc itself began production in 1990 and entered service in 1992. There is something that sets him apart from others tanks West. This is the weaponry. While maintaining the general classic layout, the tank, like domestic vehicles, has an automatic loader (German and American tanks are not equipped with it).
This made it possible to reduce the crew to three people.
The decision to equip the tank with such a unit affected the cost of the project, which, due to the introduction of a large number of expensive electronics, turned out to be very large anyway. De facto, until the Asians created their K2 Black Panther and Type 10, the French tank remained the most expensive, which, of course, severely limited its export opportunities. In addition to France itself, only Jordan and the United Arab Emirates bought the car. A total of 860 vehicles were built. For comparison: the number of Leopard 2 built has exceeded 3000 long ago.
New life of a new tank
Now the French tank fleet is one of the largest in the EU, although it is difficult to "see" against the background of the Russian or American. As of 2020, 222 Leclerc tanks remained in the army. The French will have to live with them for a long time.
How recently сообщил blog of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies bmpd, the General Directorate of Armaments of the Ministry of the Armed Forces of France issued on June 50 to the French group Nexter a contract for the repair and serial modernization of the first XNUMX Leclerc tanks of the French army according to the Leclerc XLR variant. This is the most significant milestone for the French armored forces in more than a decade.
A batch of fifty cars will be handed over from 2022 to 2024. There is an option for the remaining 150 vehicles with the completion of the modernization program in 2028.
What will the Fifth Republic get?
The main aspect concerns the electronic filling, namely the integration of the tank into the network of the French armed forces Scorpion.
“It is also planned to modernize the fire control system, install a laser warning system, a GALIX multispectral smoke jamming system, a BARAGE radio suppression system, a new diagnostic system, a new display system for the commander and gunner, modernize the navigation system, strengthen ballistic and mine protection, gratings in the rear of the hull and turret ... ",
- gives data blog bmpd.
The issue of armament for a tank in the 120st century is almost more acute than for combat vehicles of past eras, which is associated with a sharply increased protection. Apparently, the tank will retain its 2mm gun, but new shots will be added to the arsenal. In addition, the vehicle will receive the FN Herstal T7,62B remotely controlled weapon station with a XNUMX mm machine gun mounted on the turret.
This solution, at first glance, looks half-hearted. Indeed, back in 2019, it became known that the French corporation Nexter was actively testing a version of the Leclerc tank armed with a 140 mm cannon. According to the information provided at the time, the modified tank fired over 200 successful shots, and the developers said that the gun was 70 percent more effective than the 120 mm NATO tank guns currently in use.
However, everything falls into place if we recall the new German-French program for creating a promising new generation tank Main Ground Combat System (MGCS). One of the main components of which should be a fundamentally new gun.
Leclerc acted as a test bed in this sense. German rivals Nexter from Rheinmetall went a similar route, installing a promising 130mm cannon on the chassis of the British Challenger 2 tank. We recently saw this vehicle being tested.
No matter how successfully things are progressing with the new weapon, the serial MGCS will not appear until the mid-2030s. By that time, Russia is likely to have finalized the "Armata" (most likely, this will happen even earlier by a dozen years), and other EU countries are seriously modernizing their armored forces.
It makes no sense to compare the Leclerc XLR tank with the Russian T-14: these are vehicles of different generations, although they have approximately comparable firepower. Recall that the Russian tank received a carriage layout with an uninhabited turret, the most modern sensors and was originally positioned as a network-centric one.
It is much more interesting to compare the Leclerc XLR with other European MBTs. As a reminder, this year Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land and the British Ministry of Defense signed a contract to upgrade 150 Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Challenger 3 level. They are to receive the Israeli active protection systems (KAZ) Trophy. Earlier, Germany signed a contract to equip its Leopard 2 with these KAZ.
The system creates a protected hemisphere above the tank, tracking potential threats using radars and destroying anti-tank missiles fired at the vehicle.
It is pertinent to recall that the United States has long begun to equip some M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams tanks with KAZ. At the same time, the Americans consider the Trophy active protection complex "intermediate": it is planned to use it on the Abrams tanks before the appearance of a new active protection complex developed as part of the Modular Active Protection System (MAPS) program.
The French were less fortunate in this sense. Neither the Leclerc tanks currently in service, nor the modernized vehicles, as far as can be judged, can boast of anything like that. It is difficult to say how important this is, however, according to experts, a modern KAZ (as, for example, the Trophy mentioned above) increases the tank's survivability on the battlefield by several times.
Considering that in terms of armor, mobility and firepower, European main battle tanks are generally similar, the presence of a KAZ can give a significant advantage to one of them. Of course, to consider the complex of active protection a panacea against all threats is an extreme, but, apparently, in the future its presence will become the new standard for any tank.
On the whole, the modernization of Leclerc is a perfectly logical and justified step in the face of growing international tension. It must be assumed that more than one modernization of the French MBT is ahead of us.