France’s sending AMX-10RC light tanks to Ukraine is an important decision before next Ramstein meeting

5 January, 05:31 PM
The AMX-10 RC light wheeled tank is equipped with a 105 mm gun (Photo:davric / Wikimedia)

The AMX-10 RC light wheeled tank is equipped with a 105 mm gun (Photo:davric / Wikimedia)

France has confirmed its readiness to send Ukraine AMX-10RC armored vehicles classified as light tanks, which Ukraine hopes will unblock the flow of even more capable weapons, including modern tanks, from its allies.

NV explains why the French AMX-10RC are called wheeled tanks, and how their transfer to Ukraine may affect further deliveries of heavy equipment.

Purpose and history of creation

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a telephone conversation with French leader Emmanuel Macron on Jan. 4, followed by the announcement from the Elysée Palace that in response to Kyiv’s requests and needs, Paris decided to increase aid to Ukraine, “for the first time delivering French-made light combat tanks.”

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The French press clarified that it is about the AMX-10RC armored vehicles, which are often called “wheeled tanks.” It is still unknown how many units of such equipment France will provide to Ukraine.

Formally, the AMX-10RC is a French infantry fighting vehicle designed for reconnaissance in dangerous environments, which is also capable of providing fire support. It is equipped with a much more powerful weapon than most conventional IFVs – a 105 mm gun. There is an indication of this even in the name of the equipment: RC stands for Roues-Canon (“cannon on a wheeled chassis”). So, in French, this car is often called a tank (char).

The AMX-10RC is a development from the 1970s, which arose against the background of attempts to replace the outdated EBR armored reconnaissance vehicle with more modern technology. The general director of the French company AMX-APX, which worked on a series of relevant programs, proposed to develop a wheeled version of the tracked infantry fighting vehicle of the 70s (AMX-10P), but to arm it with a 105-mm gun from another project that had been cancelled (IFV ERAC ).

This is how the first prototypes of the modern AMX-10RC were created, which appeared in service with the French army in the early 1980s. Since then, such wheeled tanks were produced by the French company GIAT Industries on the order of the French armed forces, the stock and its equipment were constantly improved (improving the engine, ammunition and armor protection).

In 2010, the company Nexter upgraded 256 AMX-10RC cars. The car was improved with additional armor and various systems, including an active self-defense system using infrared missiles, a battlefield management system, smoke grenade launchers, as well as improved suspension, gearboxes and tactical communications.Such a modernized configuration has the abbreviation RCR (from the French rénové– renewed).

In recent years, France has been gradually replacing the AMX-10 RC with more modern machines for its army.

France sold such light tanks to the armies of Qatar and Morocco. The AMX-10RC has a solid history of participation in major wars.

military-today.com
Photo: military-today.com

Will France’s landmark move affect the position of the United States, Germany and other countries regarding tanks?

Although the number of AMX-10RC wheeled tanks that France is ready to transfer to Ukraine remains unknown, the very fact of the provision of a Western tank, albeit a light one, to the Armed Forces of Ukraine should become a precedent and an example for other countries, the Ukrainian government hopes.

“This is what gives a clear signal to all our other partners: there is no rational reason why Western-style tanks have not yet been supplied to Ukraine. And this is very important in order to restore security for all Ukrainians and peace for all Europeans,” said Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his evening address on Jan. 4.

According to him, just before the new Ramstein meeting of Ukraine’s allies (expected in January), “such a signal is extremely relevant.”

“It is necessary to put an end to Russian aggression this year and not postpone any of those defense opportunities that can speed up the defeat of the terrorist state. Modern Western armored vehicles, Western-style tanks are just one of these key opportunities,” Zelenskyy said.

These words were aimed primarily at Germany, a country that has so far firmly refused to hand over any of its powerful Leopard tanks to Ukraine. The German government headed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz has repeatedly insisted that Berlin will not be the first to take such a step and can hypothetically agree to the transfer of tanks for the Armed Forces only if other NATO countries also transfer similar equipment to Ukraine.

“Such weapons can only be delivered in coordination with our NATO partners,” Michael Müller, a representative of the Social Democratic Party of Germany and a fellow party member of Scholz, said in the first days of 2023.

On Dec. 9, the German government confirmed that it is still negotiating with the United States and other partners regarding the supply of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. The German media, citing their own sources, reported that Washington made it clear to Berlin that it was not against the transfer of heavy tanks to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This information was confirmed by the head of the defense committee of the Bundestag, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann.

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It was she who, after France’s decision to transfer AMX-10RC light tanks to Ukraine, was the first in Germany to call on her own government to change its position and unblock the supply of tanks for the Armed Forces.

“Other partner countries are leading again. Now we can finally start moving in the spirit of Franco-German friendship, can’t we, Olaf Scholz? The ball is now in Berlin’s court. Now we just have to score with it,” Strack-Zimmerman wrote.

Another NATO country with which Ukraine is negotiating the provision of tanks is the United States. According to Politico magazine, during his December visit to Washington, President Zelenskyy personally asked U.S. President Joe Biden to send at least 3-4 Abrams tanks to Ukraine in order to change Germany’s decision not to provide Leopard tanks. Kyiv believes that even a small number of Abrams tanks would eliminate the obstacles to a transfer of German tanks.

However, the White House has not yet accepted this request. The Pentagon believes that the U.S. Abrams tank is too difficult for Ukraine to maintain and operate.

Source of the U.S. newspaper the Washington Post’s confirmed again on Jan. 5 that the Biden administration was ruling out sending Abrams tanks to Ukraine for a number of technical reasons.

According to the publication’s source, the tanks weigh 55 tons and use a turbine engine that consumes a tremendous amount of fuel. A second official clarified that the tank is also prone to breakdowns and requires extensive maintenance experience.

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