After planning the delivery of AMX-10RC and AMX-10P combat vehicles to Ukraine, France does not exclude the delivery of Leclerc tanks.
The West can only deliver nearly a quarter of the tanks committed to Ukraine by April, when Russia is expected to launch a major offensive. According to the British Times, the West committed to deliver a total of 320 main battle tanks to Ukraine, but it is estimated that only close to 50 could appear on the front lines by early April. There are concerns that they will not have a significant impact on the battlefield.
France is one of Ukraine’s main military donors. After planning the delivery of AMX-10RC and AMX-10P combat vehicles to Ukraine, France does not exclude the delivery of Leclerc tanks. If this becomes a reality, it will be an important test in a confrontation between Western and Russian tanks. According to france24, France continues to study the possibility of sending its heavy Leclerc tanks to Ukraine. The French tanks are comparable to the German-made Leopards tanks, which Berlin has agreed to send to Kyiv, but are available in much smaller quantities and would pose different maintenance and logistical challenges.
France operates about 222 Leclercs, and is the core of the French ground force. Leclerc was developed and manufactured by Nexter Systems and has been in service with the French Army since 1992. In addition, the tank is also serving with the Jordanian Army and the United Arab Emirates Army.
Compared to the current main battle tanks such as the Abrams, the German Leopard 2 and the British Challenger 2, Leclerc is lighter in weight. The weight of the original Leclerc was only 54.5 tons. The hull and the turret are made of welded steel fitted with modular armour, which can be replaced easily for repair or upgrade over the years. Due to the introduction of modernised threats, Leclerc was upgraded with new armor packages, including composite armour, titanium insert and on the sides of the turret, ERA blocks. This increased the total weight of the vehicle to 57.4 tons, but still much lighter than similar tanks.
The Leclerc is equipped with a GIAT 120mm smoothbore cannon. This cannon is capable of firing the same NATO standard 120mm rounds as the German Leopard 2 and US M1 Abrams, but in practice only French-produced ammunition is issued. The Leclerc has a unique autoloading system which was specifically designed for it, and reduces the crew to three by eliminating the human loader. The crew included commander, gunner and driver. It is claimed that Leclerc MBT can engage 6 targets, located 1.5-2 km away, within one minute with a hit probability in 95%. The Leclerc is also equipped with a 12.7 mm coaxial machine gun and a remote-controlled 7.62 mm machine gun.
Leclerc main battle tank is powered by French VD V8X-1500 turbocharged diesel engine, developing 1500 horsepower. The tank can reach a maximum speed of 72 km/h on the road. With external fuel, it has a range of up to 650km. Additional fuel tanks can be fitted at the rear of the hull.
France has provided its state-of-the-art Caesar artillery system, Crotale air defence system and most recently pledged its highly mobile AMX-10 RC light tank among other weapons. With Germany now providing Leopards to Ukraine and the US set to send its Abrams, attention is expected to turn to whether France will authorise the deployment of Leclercs. Senior French defence officials have questioned whether the tank would be helpful at a time when Ukrainian forces are having to train on a wide variety of complex Western weapons.