Cold War French Tanks

Japanese Armor in French Service

Nation Flag IconFrance (1945-1946)
11 tanks used

If the French colonial empire was to have two shining pearls, one would be the close shores of French North Africa. The other would be the distant colonial ensemble that was French Indochina. The result of a long process of colonial expansion began during the Third French Empire establishing control over Cochinchina and Cambodia in 1862-1863. The formation of the French far east colony ended with France taking over lands previously belonging to the Rattanakosin Kingdom in 1907.

This far-away colony comprised the lands of current Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It suddenly became very vulnerable when France fell to Germany in 1940. French Indochina was nominally loyal to the legal government of France, which was the Vichy Regime. However, in practice, the long distance between what remained of the unoccupied mainland and Indochina – thousands of kilometers of ocean, patrolled by British ships to which the Vichy French were by no means friendly – meant the colony was practically on its own. This resulted in East Asian powers taking back the initiative against the French colonizers. First, the Japanese-supported Kingdom of Thailand attacked during the Franco-Thai War of October 1940-January 1941, leading to an inconclusive military situation but Thailand taking back some contested territories. The decisive hit to Indochina’s integrity and French control would be made by Japan though, with the Japanese first entering Indochina in September of 1940. Japan would then progressively eat at the integrity and independence of the French colonial authorities, until all French administrators and soldiers were detained, in conditions not different from those of other war prisoners, in March of 1945.

Return of the tricolor

The surrender of Japan left a big power gap in what used to be Indochina, which the local independence movement – the Viet Minh – would use to try and seize power during what would be called the “August Revolution”. From late August 1945 onward though, French troops would start to return to Indochina – with the French government determined to keep its eastern colonial jewel intact. At first, there was a sort of uneasy peace between the French and Viet Minh, with only some occasional skirmishes, as both sides were trying to reach some sort of compromise. At the same time, a conflict in the future was still a likely occurrence, and French forces in Indochina were preparing for such an eventuality.

Though French forces did return with some armor, in the form of mostly M5A1s, M8 Greyhounds and Scotts, Coventry and Humber armored cars, many of these were war-weary, and it took time to ship them to Indochina. As such, any additional armor that could be found locally was welcome.

A column of the Commando Blindé du Cambodge, headed by a Type 89, in 1945. The vehicle appears to retain a Japanese camouflage, and this photo was likely taken in the first months of the French use of Japanese vehicles. Source: char-français

In Cambodia, several Japanese armored vehicles could be found – these likely being located in the capital, Phnom Penh. 11 tanks were found in total – including at least 4 Type 95 Ha-Gos and 1 Type 89 I-Go. A number of Renault UE tankettes were also found – they may have been some vehicles converted into light armored fighting vehicles by mounting a small machine gun armed casemate back in 1940.

The formation of the Commando Blindé du Cambodge

All these armored vehicles recovered in Cambodia would be used to create an ad-hoc unit, the Commando Blindé du Cambodge (ENG: Armored Commando of Cambodia). This was a small unit of three platoons, each comprising three tanks and two Renault UEs, formed in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Phen on 16th September 1945.

The unit’s service life appears to have been fairly uneventful – seeing as most of the year 1946 was spent with little to no open conflict. The unit was moved from Phnom Phen to another city to the north-west, Siem Reap, in August 1946, in order to reinforce the local garrison formed by the French 1er Bataillon de Parachutistes SAS (SAS paratroopers battalion).

A Type 95 Ha-Go of the Commando Blindé du Cambodge with all hatches open, likely on parade. Source: char-français

Operation of the Japanese armor

Very little is known of the Commando Blindé du Cambodge, on how it used and how it maintained its Japanese vehicles. The most that is known can be deduced from the photographs of the unit’s Japanese vehicle fleets.

The most noticeable thing can be found on the Ha-Gos. The French up-armored the vehicles they used.

Four Type 95 Ha-Gos. They have the symbol of the 5ème Cuirassiers Regiment, suggesting the photo was taken shortly after the Commando Blindé du Cambodge’s reform into one of the unit’s squadrons. This photo gives a decent view of the French up-armoring of the Ha-Go. Source: char-français

This was done by the addition of bolted-on armored plates both to the hull front and turret sides. The thickness of these is unknown, but it is distinctly observable, particularly on the hull. The plates included a cut-out for the central hull machine gun. When it comes to the turret, the additional plates did not cover the entire sides, but rather the top three-quarters of the turret’s flanks. It is also on these additional side-plates that the names given to the vehicles by the troops of the Commando Blindé du Cambodge were inscribed. Three vehicle names are known currently: “Joffre”, “Lyautey” and “Dupleix”. Lyautey and Dupleix were both figures of France’s colonization progress (Lyautey in Morocco in the early 1900s, and Dupleix in India back in the 18th century) while Joffre was a famed World War One Marshall of the French Army. As for the Type 89s, one is known to have been named “Bugeaud”, after a figure of the French colonization of Algeria.

A view of four Ha-Gos and one I-Go of the Commando, likely in Phnom Phen. Source: char-français

Out of operation… before the fighting actually began

In September of 1946, the Commando Blindé du Cambodge would be reformed into the 8th escadron of the 5ème Régiment de Cuirassiers. The Japanese tanks were apparently used by the regiment for a very short time, and appear quickly have been replaced by the standard vehicles operated by the 5ème Cuirassiers at that time: British Coventry and Humber armored cars. This was before hostilities escalated in Indochina, from the November of 1946 Haiphong Incident onward. As such, it would appear that the Japanese tanks re-used by the French were never employed in combat, or if so, only in very light protection duties.

A photo of the Type 89 “Bugeaud”. The large symbol of the 5ème Cuirassiers on the sides as well as the camouflage, which appears more along the line of classic French camouflages than the original Japanese one, suggests this photo was taken later in the service life of the vehicle. Though the exact retirement date of Japanese armor is unknown, there is no known information of its use in combat during the war. Source: char-français

Conclusion – Another example of the use of captured vehicles by the French

The Commando Blindé du Cambodge was but one of multiple examples of the French making use of captured Axis material during the last months of the Second World War and the following months. In Europe, the use of vehicles captured from the Germans was also very common. Another ad-hoc unit was formed in France using captured German vehicles, the Escadron Autonome Besnier, and it would actually see some action against German coastal pockets in the last months of World War Two. On the front itself, the French re-used captured Panther tanks, which would soldier on for several years after the war. Much lesser known is the fact that the French also reused Italian armor in North Africa. L6/40s, M13/40s and AB 41 are known to have been used by the French, with the later appearing to still remain in use by the French Gendarmerie in 1949.

On the flip-side, Japanese forces appear to have made use of whatever few armored vehicles were captured in Indochina, though their use of French armor is even more nebulous. A notable known case is that a rare (only four were fully completed and sent to Indochina) colonial version of the Panhard 178 armored car, the Panhard 178 colonies, fitted with a one-man APX 5 turret, was captured by the British in Malaysia at the end of the hostilities – suggesting the vehicle had been actively used and moved between different Japanese-occupied territories.

A poor quality photo showing a colonial Panhard 178 among Type 89 tanks in a British captured vehicles park in Malaysia, 1945. Only four of the colonial Panhard 178, which had a smaller turret ring, were completed and sent to Indochina. Four others were not given a turret in time in 1940, and were apparently used during the campaign of France without turrets. It appears some may even have been used for the Panhard 178 CDM conversion. Source: war-thunder forums
The up-armored Type 95 “Joffre”; the symbols on the vehicle are, from left to right, the French flag, the symbol of the 5ème Cuirassiers, and a Cambodian flag.
The unmodified Type 89 “Bugeaud” with the same symbols. Both illustrations created by Pavel “Carpaticus” Alexe, based on work by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.


Tous les blindés de l’Armée Française 1914-1940, François Vauvillier, Histoire & Collection editions
French Armour in Vietnam 1945-1954, Simon Dunstan, Osprey Publishing
La Cavalerie en Indochine, Michel Bodin, Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains 2007/1 (n° 225)

Cold War French Tanks

AMX-13 Avec Tourelle FL-11

France (1954)
Improvised Light Tank – 5 Built

By February 1952, the French had been fighting in the First Indochina War (1946 -1954) for six years. This war was fought between the French and Việt Minh (Việt Nam độc lập đồng Minh, Fr: Ligue pour l’indépendance du Viêt Nam, Eng: League for the Independence of Vietnam). The Việt Minh wanted to put an end to French rule and take control of Indochina. The French Minister of State for Relations with Associated States, Jean Letourneau, requested that the French Military’s latest tank, the AMX-13, be sent to Cavalry units battling the Việt Minh. The tanks equipping the Cavalry at the time – namely the M5A1 and M24 Chaffee light tanks – were too heavy and poorly armed to fight a guerilla war in a dense jungle environment.

However, the AMX-13 was also unsuitable for such warfare in its current configuration. Its large FL-10 turret and long, high-velocity 75 mm (2.9 in) gun was simply impractical for this Asian environment. There was also a requirement for air-transportability, but the AMX was just a bit too heavy to achieve this.

To meet the requirements, it was decided that modifications were needed for the AMX-13 to be suitable for constricted environments and light enough to be transported by air, thereby allowing it to be fielded in colonial policing operations, no matter the environment or enemy. This was achieved by mating the newly developed FL-11 turret – designed for the Panhard EBR (Engin Blindé de Reconnaissance, Eng: Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle) – with the existing AMX hull. This created the AMX-13 Avec Tourelle FL-11 (AMX-13 with FL-11 Turret). While it was a successful conversion that saved 1.5 tonnes (1.6 tons) of weight, the vehicle, for a number of reasons, would not go into large scale production.

The AMX-13 with FL-11 turret. This mated the hull of the AMX light tank with the turret of the Panhard EBR armored car. Photo: Pen & Sword Publishing

The AMX-13

Designed and built by Atelier d’Issy les Moulineaux or ‘AMX’, the officially titled Char de 13 tonnes 75 modèle 51 (Tank, 13 tonnes, 75mm gun, model of 1951) – often shortened to Mle 51, was more commonly known as the ‘AMX-13’. The tank was designed in the late 1940s and appeared in service in the early 1950s. It was designed to be a lightweight, highly mobile tank destroyer that could also perform the reconnaissance tasks of a light tank.

It was lightly armored, with the toughest plates being just 40 mm (1.57 in) thick. Its main armament consisted of the 75 mm Canon de 75 S.A. Mle 50, often known simply as the CN 75-50 or SA-50. The design of this gun was derived from the powerful Second World War German KwK 42 gun mounted on the Panther. The gun was mounted in an innovative oscillating turret and was also fed via an autoloading system.

The AMX weighed in at around 13 tonnes (14 tons) and was 6.36 m (20 ft 10 in, with gun) long, 2.51 m (8 ft 3 in) wide, and 2.35 m (7 ft 9 in) tall. It was operated by a 3-man crew consisting of the Commander, Driver, and Gunner. The tank went through many upgrades with many variations based on its highly adaptable chassis. The French Military only retired the AMX in the 1980s, but many other nations retain it in service.

The Standard AMX-13 Light Tank or, as it is officially known, the Char de 13 tonnes 75 modèle 51. Photo:

Fives-Lille (FL) Turrets

The engineering company Fives-Lille – shortened to FL – was responsible for the design of the turrets used on the AMX-13 series of light tanks. They were based in Fives, a suburb of Lille in Northern France.

The FL-10 turret. Note the long, high-velocity 75 mm SA 50 gun and the large turret bustle containing the autoloading system. Photo: Peter Lau, Rock Publishing

For the AMX-13 program, FL produced the 2-man FL-10 turret. This became the standard turret for the 75 mm armed Mle 51s. The high-velocity 75 mm Canon de 75 S.A. Mle 50 was fed via an auto-loading system which consisted of two revolving cylinders located in the turret bustle. It was an oscillating turret. These consist of two parts that move on a separate axis. The first is the top ‘roof’ section which holds the rigidly mounted main armament which moves up and down. In a conventional turret, the gun moves separately from the turret body, on its own trunnions. The second is the bottom ‘collar’ part attached to the ‘roof’ via trunnions and fixed directly to the turret ring, allowing conventional 360-degree traverse. The gap between the ‘collar’ and ‘roof’ could be covered with either a canvas or rubber covered material screen known as bellows. The FL-10 turret was the source of the problem for military heads that wanted the tank to operate in constricted environments, such as the dense jungle of Indochina, to provide close infantry support, not an ideal task for the SA 50. The high-velocity gun was long and, due to the autoloading mechanism, the turret bustle was large.

The FL-11 Turret

As the AMX-13 was in development, so too was the Panhard EBR armored car, which utilized a smaller oscillating turret produced by Fives-Lille – the FL-11. These turrets were manufactured alongside those destined for the EBR by Société des Ateliers de Construction du Nord de la France (SACNF, Eng: ‘Society of Construction Workshops in Northern France’) and the Société Alsacienne de Constructions Mécaniques (SACM, Eng: ‘Alsatian Society of Mechanical Constructions’).

It was decided that the FL-11 turret would replace the FL-10 on the AMX-13 hull. The FL-11 had the same level of armor protection as the FL-10 at 40mm (1.57 in) thick. The FL-11 turret was much smaller than the FL-10. This was because it lacked the bustle, due to the fact that the FL-11s gun was manually loaded.

Production diagram of the FL-11 turret. A: roof section, B: collar, C: turret basket. Note the lack of bustle and shorter 75mm SA 49 gun. Photo: Peter Lau, Rock Publications

The new gun was the 75 mm SA 49. It was shorter and had a lower velocity of 625 m/s (2050 fps) compared to the 1000 m/s (3280 fps) of the 75mm SA 50. This made the use of High Explosive (HE) shells far more effective, making the tank far more appropriate for close support tasks. The lower velocity, however, made it less effective against armored targets. Even so, firing Armor-Piercing Ballistic Capped (APBC), the gun could punch through 80 mm (3.14 in) of armor at 1000 meters (1093 yards). Secondary armament consisted of a coaxial 7.5 mm MAC31 Reibel machine gun located on the left of the main gun. Elevation range of the gun in this turret was +13 to -6 degrees. Four smoke-grenade launchers were also installed with two on each side of the ‘collar’.

The manually loaded 75 mm SA 49 gun. It was much shorter and had a lower shell velocity than the 75 mm SA 50 gun. Photo: Peter Lau, Rock Publishing

Like the FL-10, the FL-11 was a two-man turret with the crew consisting of the Commander and Gunner. However, with the lack of an auto-loader, the Commander also had the responsibility of loading the SA 49 gun. The Commander sat on the left of the turret with the gunner on the right. Both men had their own turret hatch. The Commander sat under a large cupola featuring 7 periscopes around its circumference. A mounting for an external machine gun could be installed on the cupola but, while it was used occasionally on the EBR, it is unknown if it was utilized on the AMX. The vehicle’s antennae were installed into the turret’s ‘collar’ with a base on the left and the right side.

Production diagram of the rear of FL-11 turret. Note a few details such as B: Commander’s cupola, H: Gunner’s hatch, P: smoke grenade launchers, K: ventilator, and J: stowage straps. Photo: Peter Lau, Rock Publishing

The AMX Hull

The AMX hull went through no alterations. It retained the same dimensions, as well as its forward-mounted engine and transmission. The tank was powered by a SOFAM Model 8Gxb 8-cylinder, water-cooled petrol engine developing 250 hp, propelling the tank to a top speed of around 60 km/h (37 mph). The vehicle ran on a torsion bar suspension with five road-wheels, two return rollers, a rear-mounted idler, and a forward-mounted drive-sprocket. The driver was positioned at the front left of the hull, behind the transmission and next to the engine.


The conversion was approved by the French Military, with an order for 5 vehicles being placed in February 1954. One was to be built immediately for test purposes. Air transport tests then commenced in March of 1954. By May of that year, the remaining 4 vehicles had been built and troop testing was underway. At this time, an additional 15 vehicles were also ordered.

Left side view of the AMX-13 FL-11 test model. The FL-11 turret was placed on an unmodified AMX hull. Photo:

Air Transportability

One of the key aspects of this conversion was to give the AMX-13 the ability to be air-transportable in the Armée de l’Air’s (French Air Force’s) cargo aircraft. The typical cargo aircraft of the Air Force’s fleet at this time was the Nord ‘Noratlas’. The original AMX-13, weighing in empty at 13.7 tonnes (15.1 tons), was too heavy. Replacing the FL-10 for the FL-11 resulted in the vehicle losing 1.5 tonnes (1.6 tons) of weight, making the new variant 12.2 tonnes (13.4 tons). This was still too heavy for the Nord, which had a load capacity of 6.7 tonnes (7.5 tons). Because of this, further tests were carried out using the larger English-built Bristol Type 170 Freighter, with a capacity of 7.9 tonnes (8.75 tons).

In the end, it was found that the vehicle was compatible with air transportation, but there was one small snag; the vehicle had to be completely stripped down and disassembled. The only way engineers could achieve the task of transporting the AMX was to take it apart and strap it down to three separate pallet loads of roughly 4 tonnes (4.4 tons) each. One pallet carried the entirety of the turret and rolled up tracks, the second carried the suspension and most of the automotive components, and the last pallet carried the entire hull unit with integral components. One aircraft could only carry one pallet, this meant that there would three aircraft to one tank, assuming three were available. If not, one craft could be making three round trips.

The AMX-13 FL-11 disassembled into three separate loads. Left to right we have the hull unit, suspension components, and the turret and track. Photo: Pen & Sword Publishing

Not only did this result in the logistical nightmare of transporting the loads, but also of reassembling the thing at the destination. This may not have been an easy task depending on the environment of said destination. The split also presented the risk of things going missing, not ideal when you need an operational tank on the front lines.


Unfortunately, not much is known about the service history of this AMX-13 variant. By the time the initial batch was built in 1954, the First Indochina War had come to an end and the need for this tank had evaporated, resulting in the cancellation of the order for 15 more units.

An AMX-13 FL-11 is taken down a steep embankment. Both the driver and gunner are visible in this photo. Date and location unknown. Photo:

The 5 vehicles that were built were dispatched to Morocco (still a French Protectorate in the early-mid-1950s) to be operated by the 2e Régiment Étranger de Cavalerie, (2e REC, Eng: 2nd Foreign Cavalry Regiment), a cavalry regiment of the French Foreign Legion, based in Oujda, Northeast Morocco. Their time here is not well documented, but it is known that in 1956 – when Morocco gained independence – the tanks were sold to the fledgling Moroccan Army. Details of their service here are also unknown. They were still present in the Moroccan arsenal in 1973.

There is a possibility that the Moroccan Army used the tanks in combat. In 1963, Morocco fought a border war with Algeria – the ‘Sand War’. Morocco fielded AMX tanks in that conflict, so the FL-11s may well have been among them.

In a typically French fashion, the crew (the three closest to the tank) of this AMX-13 FL-11 relax with what appears to be a bottle of wine next to their vehicle with an unknown guest. Date and location unknown. Photo:


It is currently believed that no examples of the AMX-13 Avec Tourelle FL-11 survive today. How long they served and what happened to them in Morocco is currently a mystery.

This variant of the AMX-13 highlights what can happen when tanks that are designed for a specific purpose arrive too late to serve that purpose. They become destined to see out their service in obscurity, never having the chance to prove themselves in combat. The vehicle was also a bit of a failure when it came to the illogical air-transport element of its design. A feature that was one of its most important aspects. Despite this, however, the vehicle was a stepping stone to more French experiments with the concept of an air-transportable tank. These experiments would lead to the ELC EVEN and AMX-ELC programs.

As for the FL-11 turret, it would continue seeing service for a long period in the French army on its original mount, the EBR. Though the fleet of FL-11 equipped EBR were supplemented by some FL-10 equipped vehicles from the second half of the 1950s onward, the vehicles fitted with the original turret would be re-armed with a 90mm low-pressure gun with high-penetration HEAT-FS ammunition in the 1960s. Re-armed in this fashion, the FL-11 equipped EBRs would continue seeing service until the early 1980s, whereas the FL-10-equipped ones were phased out in the 1960s.

The AMX-13 Avec Tourelle FL-11. This was a mating of the AMX’s 13-tonne light tank and the Fives-Lille FL-11 turret, more often found on the Panhard EBR. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet, modified by Andre ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin.


Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.36m (4.88m without gun) x 2.5m x 2.3m
(20’9″ (16’0″) x 8’2″ x 7’5″
Total weight, battle ready Aprx. 15 tons
Crew 3 (Commander, Gunner, Driver)
Propulsion Renault gasoline, 8-cylinder water-cooled 250 hp
Suspension Torsion arms
Maximum speed 60 km/h (40 mph)
Range (road) 400 km (250 mi)
Armament 75 mm SA 49
7.5 mm MAC31 Reibel machine gun
Armor Hull & turret 40 mm (1.57 in)
Production 5


M. P. Robinson, Peter Lau, Guy Gibeau, Images of War: The AMX 13 Light Tank: A Complete History, Pen & Sword Publishing
Peter Lau, The AMX-13 Light Tank, Volume 2: Turret, Rock Publications
Olivier Carneau, Jan Horãk, František Kořãn, AMX-13 Family in Detail, Wings & Wheels Publications.
R. M. Ogorkiewicz, Profile Publications Ltd. AFV/Weapons #39: Panhard Armoured Cars
National Intelligence Survey #48, Morocco; Armed Forces, March 1973.

Cold War French Tanks Improvised AFVs

AMX-US (AMX-13 Avec Tourelle Chaffee)

Improvised Light Tank (1957) – 150 Built

In 1956, the French Army and the Direction des Etudes et Fabrications d’Armements (Directorate of Studies and Manufacture of Armaments, DEFA, an institution within the French Military) were looking into affordable methods of modernizing their fleet of aging M24 Chaffee light tanks. One method was to somehow combine France’s new domestic light tank, the AMX-13, with the M24.

The officially designated AMX-US was a result of this. It would ‘mate’ the turret of the M24 with the hull of the AMX-13. The AMX-13 would become one of the world’s most popular light tanks to come out of the Cold War era, appearing in the early 1950s. While this particular variant goes by the official name of ‘AMX-US’, there are many other unofficial names, including ‘AMX-13 Chaffee’ – as it was known by troops – or ‘AMX-13 Avec Tourelle Chaffee (with Chaffee Turret)’.

Just a small number of these vehicles were produced. They initially found service in French Military Units tasked with policing colonies such as Algeria. They eventually found use as driver training vehicles once they were discharged from frontline service.

Two AMX-US’, ‘Lamarck’ and ‘Lagalissoniere’, sit side by side in Algeria in the early 1960s. The AMX-US was a convenient improvisation, ‘mating’ the new AMX-13 hull, with the older turret of the M24 Chaffee. Photo:

French Chaffees

After the Second World War, France’s armored force consisted, almost entirely, of US-built vehicles, such as the M4 Sherman, M26 Pershing, and M24 Chaffee (among others). France received these vehicles as aid as part of the Marshall Plan and the Mutual Defense Assistance Act (MDAA). These aid pacts also financed the reconstruction of France’s economy and armed forces from 1948 until the late 1950s. In April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed, and NATO was born, resulting in the United States extending the MDAA. This resulted in France receiving newer vehicles, such as the M47 Patton II tank.

In total, France would operate around 1,250 M24s which were identical to their US counterparts. It was a small tank at 5.45 meters (16 ft 4 in) long, 2.84 meters (9ft 4in) wide, and 2.61 meters (9ft 3in) tall. It weighed 16.6 tonnes (18.37 tons), utilized a torsion bar suspension, and was armed with a 75 mm gun. The tank had a 5 man crew: Commander, Gunner, Loader, Driver, Bow Gunner. The ‘Chaffee’ was named after WWI US Army General, Adna R. Chaffee Jr.

The French Army deployed its M24 in both the 1954-1962 War in Algeria, and the 1946-1954 First Indochina War. It served with distinction in both theatres but would ultimately end up being fully replaced by the AMX-13.

M24 Chaffee of the French Army’s 3rd Company, 1st Light cavalry Regiment (3/1 RCC), in Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam. Photo: Osprey Publishing

The AMX-13

Designed and built by Atelier d’Issy les Moulineaux or ‘AMX’, the officially titled Char de 13 tonnes 75 modèle 51 (Tank, 13 tonnes, 75mm gun, model of 1951) – often shortened to Mle 51, was more commonly known as the ‘AMX-13’. The tank was designed in the late 1940s and appeared in service in the early 1950s. It was designed to be a lightweight, highly mobile tank destroyer that could also perform the reconnaissance tasks of a light tank.

It was lightly armored, with the toughest plates being just 40 mm (1.57 in) thick. Its main armament consisted of the 75 mm Canon de 75 S.A. Mle 50, often known simply as the CN 75-50 or SA-50. The design of this gun was derived from the powerful Second World War German KwK 42 gun mounted on the Panther. The gun was mounted in an innovative oscillating turret and was also fed via an autoloading system.

The AMX weighed in at around 13 tonnes (14 tons) and was 6.36 m (20 ft 10 in, with gun) long, 2.51 m (8 ft 3 in) wide, and 2.35 m (7 ft 9 in) tall. It was operated by a 3-man crew consisting of the Commander, Driver, and Gunner. The tank went through many upgrades with many variations based on its highly adaptable chassis. The French Military only retired the AMX in the 1980s, but many other nations retain it in service.

The Standard AMX-13 Light Tank or, as it is officially known, the Char de 13 tonnes 75 modèle 51. Photo:

Char Meets Chaffee

In 1956, DEFA and the French Military were investigating ways to efficiently upgrade the aging Light Tank M24. Initially, this led to the mating of the Mle 51’s FL-10 oscillating turret to the hull of the Chaffee. While cheap and feasible, this configuration never went further than trials. This was largely due to a perceived safety issue with the High-Explosive (HE) rounds fired by the CN 75-50 cannon. Inside the FL-10 turret, the CN 75-50 gun was fed via an automatic loading system, which was reloaded externally. If an alternate shell-type needed to be fired, HE, for example, it had to be loaded into the breach manually by the Commander. This was a tricky task in the tight confines of the turret on the standard AMX, made worse by the notoriously sensitive fuze of the HE rounds. This process would be even more dangerous on the smaller hull of the Chaffee. As a result, the inverse of this mounting was decided upon, mounting the Chaffee’s turret on the Mle 51’s hull.

M24 Chaffee hull fitted with the Mle 51’s (AMX-13’s) FL-10 Oscillating turret. This version of the mating of the two tanks was not pursued, largely due to the sensitivity of the fuses on the HE shells fired by the CN 75-50 gun. Photo: reddit

Avec Tourelle Chaffee

By 1957, work on the inverse of mounting the Chaffee turret to the AMX hull had begun. This was seen as a safer and easier alternative. It was also a convenient way of recycling useful Chaffee turrets by separating them from their worn hulls. It also created a vehicle lighter than the regular Chaffee, meaning it was easier to transport.

The M24 turrets went through very little modification for their installation, retaining all the same main features. The only modification necessary was the introduction of an adapter or ‘collar’ to the AMX hull’s turret ring. This was needed as the Chaffee turret had quite a deep basket. The collar granted the basket clearance from the hull floor for uninterrupted, full 360-degree rotation.

This photo shows what happened to these tanks once they were retired from active service. They were disarmed and became training vehicles. However, this photo also shows the adaptor ‘collar’ installed on the Mle 51s turret ring to allow the attachment of the Chaffee’s turret. Photo:

Turret Details

The Chaffee turret was a standard design with a typical 3-man crew of the time: Gunner, Loader, and Commander. The Commander sat at the left rear of the turret under a vision-cupola, the gunner sat in front of him. The loader was located at the right-rear of the turret under his own hatch. Armor on the turret was 25 mm (.98 in) thick on all sides, with the gun mantlet being 38 mm (1.49 in) thick. Armament consisted of the 75 mm Lightweight Tank Gun M6 which had a concentric recoil system (this was a hollow tube around the barrel, a space-saving alternative to traditional recoil cylinders). Variants of this gun were also used on the B-25H Mitchell Bomber, and the T33 Flame Thrower Tank prototype. The shell velocity was 619 m/s (2,031 ft/s) and had a maximum penetration of 109 mm. The elevation range of the gun was around -10 to +13 degrees. Secondary weapons were also retained. This included the coaxial .30 Cal (7.62 mm) Browning M1919 Machine Gun, and the .50 Caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning Heavy Machine gun which was mounted on the rear of the turret roof.

A regular M24 Chaffee (left) sits alongside a Mle 51 ‘Avec Tourelle Chaffee’. The Mle 51 is noticeably lower. Photo:

The AMX Hull

Apart from the adaptor or ‘collar’, the AMX hull went through no alterations. It retained the same dimensions, and forward-mounted engine and transmission. The tank was powered by a SOFAM Model 8Gxb 8-cylinder, water-cooled petrol engine developing 250 hp, propelling the tank to a top speed of around 60 km/h (37 mph). The vehicle ran on a torsion bar suspension with five road-wheels, two return rollers, a rear-mounted idler, and a forward-mounted drive-sprocket. The driver was positioned at the front left of the hull, behind the transmission and next to the engine.


Trials with what would be designated the ‘AMX-US’ were undertaken between December 1959 and January 1960. The vehicle was well received, with an order for 150 conversions being placed by the French military in March 1960. Conversion work was carried out at a plant in Gien, North-Central France.

A French tank platoon consisting of 3 AMX-US’ and a single M8 HMC enter an urban area in Algeria during the conflict. Photo: Pen & Sword Publishing

The AMX-US was operated by a four-man crew, as opposed to the three-man crew of the standard Mle 51, due to the three-man turret of the Chaffee. The AMX-US saw brief service in the War in Algeria – otherwise known as the Algerian War of Independence or Algerian Revolution. They served well, but a few were lost in combat. One known operator was the 9e Régiment de Hussards (9th Hussar Regiment) based in Oran. There is no evidence to suggest they served in any other location with the French military, such as in France or West Germany based regiments.

After the conflict in Algeria, the vehicles were returned to France. They did not last long in active service after this, with many vehicles being repurposed into driver trainers. For this, the vehicles were disarmed, with the 75 mm gun and mantlet removed from the turret face. In its place, a large plexiglass windscreen was installed. In this capacity, the AMX-US stayed in service until the 1980s, when they were finally completely retired. After this, many were ‘sentenced to death’ as range targets or simply scrapped.

An AMX-US Driver Trainer with removed armament. Photo:


The AMX-US is an example of an effective improvisation. It ‘mated’ old technology with new technology, creating a cheap yet effective light tank that did its job without issue. It also solved the problem of what to do with useful surplus and excess material. An interesting observation is that this is the only AMX-based upgrade or conversion that resulted in the hull being used and not the turret – apart from the AMX-13 (FL-11). The M4/FL-10 is a successful example of this.

Due to the AMX-US’ fate, the vehicles are now extremely rare, with almost none surviving. Some, however, do still sit rusting away on military ranges.

The crew of two AMX-US tanks take a break in Algeria. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

AMX-US ‘Lamarck’ during the Algerian Conflict of the early 1960s. The combination of the Mle 51’s hull with the M24 Chaffee’s turret was achieved with a simple adaptor ‘collar’ placed on the turret ring.

When they were retired from active service, many AMX-US’ were turned into driver trainers. They were completely disarmed, with a large window on the front of the turret replacing the gun and mantlet.

These illustrations were produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.


Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.36m (4.88m without gun) x 2.5m x 2.3m
(20’9″ (16’0″) x 8’2″ x 7’5″
Total weight, battle-ready Aprx. 15 tons
Crew 4 (Commander, Loader, Gunner, Driver)
Propulsion Renault gasoline, 8-cylinder water-cooled 250 hp
Suspension Torsion arms
Maximum speed 60 km/h (40 mph)
Range (road) 400 km (250 mi)
Armament 75 mm Lightweight Tank Gun M6
.30 Cal. (7.62 mm) Browning M1919 Machine Gun
.50 Caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning Heavy Machine gun
Armor Hull 40 mm (1.57 in), turret 38 mm (1.49 in)
Production 150


M. P. Robinson, Peter Lau, Guy Gibeau, Images of War: The AMX 13 Light Tank: A Complete History, Pen & Sword Publishing, 2019.
Olivier Carneau, Jan Horãk, František Kořãn, AMX-13 Family in Detail, Wings & Wheels Publications.
Steven J. Zaloga, New Vanguard #77: M24 Chaffee Light Tank 1943-85, Osprey Publishing
Jim Mesko, M24 Chaffee in Action, Squadron/Signal Publications

Cold War French Tanks


France (1965)
Main Battle Tank. 3571 built.

The French coldwar Main Battle Tank

Designed at the same time that the German Leopard, the AMX-30 was France’s attempt to provide its armoured forces with a potent second generation main battle tank, and the first French medium tank built since the late 1950s. The AMX-30 was a radical step forward of previous designs like the AMX-50/100. According to the doctrine which dictated the initial requirements, the technological advances in ammunitions rendered all standard protections obsolete. Therefore providing the adequate protection would have seriously hampered the mobility of any tank model. Instead, it was chosen to improve mobility and firepower, the protection being active, helped by a smaller and lower profile, and speed, making it a harder target to hit.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

AMX-30 armour scheme
The AMX-30 “all or nothing” type armour shcheme.


The AMX-30 could be traced back to the immediate postwar tank developments. The rushed ARL-44 was merely an up-gunned B1 in disguise, and the German Panther had some influences on the AMX-50 which also tried the concept of an oscillating turret. The most common French tank in the late 1950s was the AMX-13, the only worldwide mass-produced with this kind of turret. This model already traded protection for firepower and speed, for tactical reasons. Then the AMX-50 project was eventually abandoned and US-built M47 Patton tanks supplied instead. In 1955, the Batignolles-Châtillon 25 tons tank was unveiled and tested as a possible medium tank.
In 1956, due to improving Franco-German relationships, there were concerns about a replacement for the M47 that could the needs of these countries, Italy, and NATO as a whole in Europe. The FINBEL (integrating Italy, The Luxemburg, Belgium and the Netherlands) military staff organization was extended into the FINABEL with both countries. The 27 October 1956 at Colomb-Béchar, a special bilateral agreement was reached. The “Europanzer” or “Europa-Panzer” project war born and refined by the Franco-German military research institute at Saint Louis. Original FINABEL 3A5 requirements as closed in 1957, asked for a 30 tons, 3.15 metres (10.3 ft) wide, 2.15 metres (7.1 ft) high, 105 mm armed model, with a 30 hp/ton ratio, and 350 kilometres (220 mi) range. Both countries agreed to built two prototypes each.
French Europanzer prototypeFrench Europanzer prototype
However in 1958 the accession of De Gaulle to power and the choice to develop solely a nuclear capability, excluding Germany (and Italy) to avoid antagonizing USA and UK. But this led to a first setback as Germany began to lose interest in the common tank project. Eventually, the Germans eventually rejected the French proposition to use the French 105-millimetre (4.1 in) tank gun and chose the British L7 for license production instead, nailing the project’s coffin for good. Eventually, Italy left the project too. The French developed their own line of prototypes which led to the AMX-30, following a quite different path while West Germany developed the Leopard I for the Bundeswehr.


The Atelier de Construction d’Issy-les-Moulineaux (A.M.X.), under the direction of General Joseph Molinié (of the Direction des Études et Fabrications d’Armements or DEFA), was charged with the project. Under head engineer Heissler supervision, the first prototype was completed in September 1960 and tested afterward. The second was unveiled in July 1961 and tested a new rangefinder and tracks. Both had a well-sloped hull and hemispheric turret reminiscent of the Soviet models, and Sofam petrol engines. No less than seven other prototypes would test a sleeker cast turret design until 1963.
Despite the decision of De Gaulle to leave NATO and opposition by West-German defense minister Franz Josef Strauss to pursue the project, comparative trials were nevertheless held at Mailly-le-Camp, Meppen, Bourges and Satory, under the supervision of several NATO members, and between five prototypes of each country, from August to October 1963. The results were confidential, however probably decisive in the decision of several of these countries to adopt the Leopard.
The French prototypes were light (only comparable to the Swiss Panzer 61) and very low (equal to the T-55). The turret design was conventional, the rejection of the oscillating design being dictated by NBC and fording tests, skirt and turret ring weaknesses and shot trap effect. The two first prototypes had a 720 hp (540 kW) SOFAM 12 GSds petrol engine. The later were equipped with a multi-fuel Hispano-Suiza diesel, according to the new NATO standard. The two last prototypes were delivered in November 1965 as pre-production vehicles, with several modifications including the hull, turret casts, different gun mantlets. Later on, the whole line of prototypes was re-designated AMX-30A and the production tanks AMX-30B.


Hull & general characteristics

As built in June 1966 the production AMX-30B had a part-cast, part-welded hull with a pronounced front slope, which ended with a rounded beak. The sides were also sloped, and the rear engine deck was elevated, like on the Leopard. The turret was fully cast and had an oval, hemispheric shape, and the tank had a combat weight of 36 metric tons (40 short tons). For this weight, the protection was as follows: 50 millimeters (2.0 in) at the thickest, sloped at 70° (front plate), 23° sides, enough for 20-millimetre (0.79 in) IFVs AP projectiles.
In direct fire, the equivalents were 79 mm (3.1 in) for the front and 59 mm (2.3 in) for the hull forward sides and 30 mm (1.2 in) for the rear sides and rear plate. The Hull top/bottom was 15mm (0.59 in). The turret front was 80.8 mm (3.18 in) thick, and its side 41.5 mm (1.63 in), rear 50 mm (2.0 in) and only 20 mm (0.79 in) on top. The AMX-30 was the most lightly protected of any MBT in Europe for the time. The design philosophy indeed favored entirely active protection given by the speed, agility and small dimensions. The amphibious sealing and NBC lining were completed by a slight overpressure and ventilation system.
AMX 30 on display at the French Tank Museum, Saumur, France.
AMX 30 on display at the French Tank Museum, Saumur, France.


The unique feature of the AMX-30 was its monoblock steel 105-millimeter (4.1 in) F1 cannon completed by the Obus G (G for “Gresse”, literally “G shell”). It combined an outer shell and a suspended inner shell, divided by ball bearings, allowing the outer shell to spin while the inner one remains stationary. It was unlike fin-stabilized HEAT-round of the day, and more accurate, and this, independently of the range. Indeed the F1 was still rifled but had a practical range of 3000 m (3300 yards), and the 780g hexolite-filled warhead was capable to defeat 400 mm of armor equivalent (16 in) at this range.
The gun was fitted with a 38 cm recoil brake, had a 40 cm course, and -8 +30 depression/elevation. It could fire also the OCC F1 M60 HE projectile, SCC F1 training warhead and OFUM PH-105 F1 smoke round. A total of 50 rounds were in store, some ready in the turret, others in the hull. There was also a coaxial 12.7 mm (0.5 in) M2 Browning machine gun in the mantlet, and a 7.62 mm (0.3 in) AA machine gun on the turret roof, respectively with 748 and 2080 rounds in store.
AMX-30 Bustle


The commander cupola was given 10 all-around direct-vision episcopes, a binocular telescope with 10x magnification, and an optical full-field coincidence range finder. He also had a searchlight at the right-front of the cupola. The gunner had at his disposal a telescoping gun sight and two observation periscopes. The driver which sat on the left was given a hatch with three vision blocks. The pear-shaped section cast turret had a coincidence rangefinder and large storage areas defined by metallic handbars, with fastening straps which runs all along the turret until the rear basket. Radio equipment was stored in this area.


The powerplant was the Hispano-Suiza HS-110 diesel engine, multi-fuel, 28.8 liters (1,760 cu in) in capacity, which produced 680 to 720 hp (540 KW) for a power-to-weight ratio of about 20 hp/ton. This engine could be replaced in the field in 45 minutes and was able to give a 600 km range (370 miles), thanks to a 970 liters (260 U.S. gal) fuel tank capacity. Top speed of the production AMX-30B was 65 kph (40 mph), good performances for the day, although not astounding (63 kph for a Leopard I).
The engine was served by a Gravina G.H.B.200C twin-plate centrifugal clutch coupled to an AMX 5-SD-200D, with five forward gears and five reverse gears, largely inspired by the German Panther gearbox. However, this demanding gearbox was the source of many problems and was replaced in later production models (see issues). The drivetrain comprised rear adjustable drive sprockets, front idlers, five double reinforced aluminum roadwheels with rubber tires, and five rubberized return rollers per side.
The suspensions were relatively complicated, counting torsion arms for each doubled roadwheels, and shock absorbers. There was two “bogies” with independent torsion arms per side, and one independent set at the rear. Shock absorbers/dampers were placed at the front and rear. The steel tracks with rubber shoes were 570 mm (22 in) wide. On trials, the AMX-30 showed it could ford 1.3 m to 2 m (4.2 to 6.5 fts) deep water obstacles without or with fast preparation, and up to 4 meters (13 feets) with a full preparation, which includes sealing the air louvres with blanking plates, installing the snorkel tube, and the infra-red driving equipment and searchlight.
AMX-30C2 prototype at Saumur
AMX-30C2 prototype preserved at Saumur

Production and evolution

Production took place at the Atelier de Construction de Roanne in Burgundy (south-eastern France), near Lyon. This industrial facility set up in 1952 had already some experience in producing 1900 AMX-13s. This was where took place the final assembly, from suppliers which were responsible of the powerplant (Atelier de Construction de Limoges), armoured hull (Ateliers et Forges de la Loire), turret (Atelier de Construction de Tarbes), main gun (Atelier de Construction de Bourges), machine-guns (Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne), optics (Atelier de Construction de Puteaux) and many subcontractors (later all concentrated into the GIAT group).
The initial order was for 300 vehicles, later 900 (1971) subdivided into eight batches, plus extra chassis for the variants. By 1966 the manufacturing rate was about ten tanks a month, then reached 20 and then 10 again in 1969. The last deliveries of this original order ceased in 1975. With the B2, production was launched again, culminating to 1171 vehicles in 1985. By 1989 the very last tanks were built for export (Cyprus) while 166 B2 had been delivered and 493 more converted, for a total of 1,355 accepted in French service.
Added to this were 195 auF1 155 mm howitzer variants, 44 ATL Pluton launchers, 183 AMX-30R (Roland) SAMs, 134 AMX-30D ARVs, 48 EBG, and later in 1994, 20 GCTs. By then, the old AMX-30 was hopefully replaced by the Leclerc, 3rd gen. MBT. The remainder were built for export (see later).

Issues and limitations

The AMX-30B was not without serious issues: The major one was the transmission, which development dated back from 1938. It needed good training and careful handling, proved difficult to maintain and was reputed unreliable. For example, the driver had to manually change gears at specific times, and this was especially difficult when moving over rough terrain. This proved also a brake for export until this issue was solved in the 1980s. The protection was not improved since 1965, and barely compensated by the top speed.
Late 1970s tanks like the American M1 Abrams, or the Soviet T-80, both turbine-propelled, were much faster while having a far better protection. Comparatively the Leopard I, also lightly armored at the beginning, was up-armored in later versions, almost doubling its protection value. To have another clue of its battlefield survivability, ten countries operated this model, and only one retained these tanks in active service, versus 30+ for the Leopard I, many of which still retained them frontline, like Greece (which replaced its AMX-30 by this model). It was considered at risks against the T-62 and T-72.

1st modernization phase (1972-1973)

In 1972, the gun stabilization system was modernized, and in 1973, the coaxial heavy MG was replaced by a 20 mm (0.8 in), dual-purpose fast autocannon. Built by Hispano-Suiza, which also produced aircraft cannons, it could depress to -8 but elevate to 40° which made it a potent weapon against low-flying attack helicopters. The same year, a research program began to provide a more thorough modernization under the name of AMX-30 Valorisé (meaning “upgraded”). In 1979 this program was concluded into a new production run as well as well as a major modernization campaign. Non-modernized vehicles were made available for export.

The AMX-30B2 (1980)

This was the major upgrade of the series, inaugurated by the first production models in January 1982. It included a much-improved fire control system and most important, a new transmission. The COTAC APX M-508 FCS received a laser rangefinder and a low-light televisor (LLTV). Ammunitions comprised now the APFSDS round, and the engine was upgraded to the more powerful HS-110.2. The transmission was now a SESM ENC200 with a torque converter for smoother rides. New torsion bars and shocks absorbers with a longer course were also adopted. By 1998, a further upgrade was applied to 500 tanks, which received new Renault Mack E9 750 hp engines, far more powerful and more fuel-efficient.

The BRENUS (1995)

This ultimate upgrade was a “kit” developed by GIAT and deployed permanently only to the 1er/ 2e Chasseurs vehicles (of the Rapid Reaction Force), while it was made available for a quick conversion of the 2e/5e Dragons tanks if needed. “Brennus” was an acronym for this protection called in French briques réactives de surblindage (“up-armor reactive bricks”) was also the name of a famous Gallic chieftain of the IVth century BC which defeated the Romans on the river Allia and sacked Rome. This ERA set comprised 112 G2 bricks installed on the turret and hull front.
To compensate for the additional weight (1.7 metric tons or 1.9 short tons), a new 725 hp capable HS engine was installed. This protection gave the equivalent of 400 mm (16 in) on a 60° slope. The latest experiments on the AMX-30, in the 2000s, was to try stealth technologies, with the Démonstrateur Furtif à Chenille, fitted with a newly-shaped turret coated with a radar-absorbent material, but also reworked air cooling, redrawn hull surfaces and various tests of numeric and visual camouflage.


The AMX-30 chassis was declined into a large variety of armored vehicles which some are still in service today, prototypes and special versions.

The “basic AMX-30”

This export version could be compared to the Soviet “Monkey” T-72. The infra-red searchlight is suppressed, as well as the pressurized air filtering, the periscopes are day-only capable, and a specifically simplified commander’s cupola was developed. A 7.62 mm machine gun replaced the coaxial 20 mm autocannon.


A bit like the US-built Sheridan, a special version was developed in 1966-1967 with a 142 mm (5.6 in) tank gun able to fire the supersonic missiles of the ACRA Anti-Char Rapide Autopropulsé anti-tank guided missile type, as well as same caliber HE rounds for support. The turret was enlarged also to allow bigger guns (like a 120 mm smoothbore) to fit in. However, due to the cost of the missile program, it was abandoned in 1970.

The AMX-32

This modernized export variant was first presented in June 1979 (Satory exhibition). It was based on the B2 but equipped with spaced armor and extended protection features against ATGMs. The 20 mm coaxial autocannon was a standard, as well as a dual purpose 7.9 mm roof machine-gun. No orders were placed for this version.

The canon automoteur de 155 GCT

The most common variant is the self-propelled artillery version, AuF1. The “GCT” stands for Grande Cadence de Tir, fast rate of fire. A fully-traversable turret house the 155 mm (6.1 in) 40 cal. howitzer have an autoloader for an 8 rounds per minute fire at a top range of 30 km (19 mi), extended with the LU211 round. The maximum range is obtained thanks to a 66 degrees elevation. 42 rounds of ammunition are carried, with combustible cartridge cases. The program was started in 1969, seven prototypes were built in 1979, then 6 pre-production vehicles, for a total of 190 SPGs.


This program was started in 1969, both for national needs and the export market. The system was intended against low-altitude attacks and comprised a tailored turret S401 A (previously tested on the AMX-13) with two independent Hispano-Suiza 831A 30 mm fast autocannons, coupled with the Oeil Noir (“Black Eye”) fire control system and a Doppler radar exploited by an analog computer. The radar could be folded and protected by an armored box when not in use. The guns were provided with 1,200 rounds, and fired by 5 or 15-round bursts depending on the selected mode, for 650 rounds per minute rate of fire. The radar, however, worked on visual tracking and was not efficient in bad weather. For this reasons and the program cost, the French Army declined any purchase, but a contract was awarded later to Saudi Arabia in 1975.


Developed by Thomson-CSF from the SPAAG version and the AMX-30R chassis, this surface-to-air missile system version was only built for Saudi Arabia apparently in 1975. It comprised two SA-10 Shahine launchers around a modified turret and relatively similar equipment.

The AMX-30 Roland SAM

This French surface-to-air missile system was developed around a 16 km (9.9 mi) range radar and a small remote-operated turret equipped with two missile launcher tubes. The operators are situated in the front compartment while the rear one housed a reserve of 8 missiles, with an automatic loader. 183 vehicle were produced in all, starting with an order in 1977.

The AMX-30 TEL Pluton

The standard Tactical Missile Launcher (Transporter Erector Launcher) of the French Army was developed in 1980 to fire the nuclear-capable (120 kt) Short-range (120 km) ballistic missile system called Pluton (“Pluto”). It was conceived originally to operates in Western Germany against advancing Soviet forces. 100 were built but only 70 were retained in operations, the remainder being placed in reserve in case of emergency. They were deployed into five regiments based in the North-west of France, 6-TEL strong each. These vehicles were phased out in 1993 in favor of the long range HADES missile launchers.


The “D” stands for “Dépanneur Niveleur” and was the dozer/ARV version. A total of 105 of these Armoured Recovery vehicles was ordered in 1972, entering service in 1973 (pre-production) for a full production in 1975. It was equipped with a main winch of 35 tons capacity, an auxiliary winch of 20 tons capacity, a crane with 10 tons lifting power. A spare power pack was carried for replacement on the battlefield, and a front dozer blade for digging scrapes, as well as anchoring the vehicle in operations.

The AMX-30H AVLB Bridgelayer

A scissor-bridge system with a 20 m overall span (22 yds) with a weight capacity of 46 tons, and 3.1 m width which could be extended to 3.95 m (4.32 yd) thanks to appliqué panels. The program was started in 1963, with the first prototype in 1967. A pre-production prototype H was built in 1968 and tested in 1971. But no orders were placed. Only Saudi Arabia ordered 12 vehicles.


The EBG combat engineer tractor had a launching tube for demolition charges, four anti-tank mine launching tubes, a dozer blade, a 20-ton cap. Winch, and a hydraulic arm for lifting obstacles with pincers or auger. It was served by a three man crew (commander, sapper and driver).

The AMX-30EBD Demin

This armored minesweeper is converted with a front Russian kit mine plough/rollers, supplied by Germany from an old East German stock. 6 of these vehicles were used once during the 1st Gulf War operations. When operating the turret is turned backward. “Demin” stands for déminage (minesweeping).


One of the first customers of the AMX-30 would have been Israel, which already bought gun packages and AMX-13s, but the negotiation failed when the British Government eventually agreed to let Israel built under license the Chieftain in 1966. Both Belgium and the Netherland declined the type, choosing the Leopard I instead. However, the AMX-30 was exported to less affluent countries, and dictatures at the time (Germany was forbidden by constitution from selling tanks to autocratic regimes).


The local army received 32 AMX-30s, second-hand from Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, after the war.


Due to growing tensions with Argentina, Chile placed an order for 46 tanks, but the delivery was cut short to 21 when the French government applied its veto.


By the early 1990s, Greek AMX-30s were phased out and 90 transferred to the Cypriot National Guard. 12 more were obtained later, as well as 52 B2s in the early 2000s. They are still frontline today.


By 1969 the Greek military junta entered negotiations to acquire the French tank, concluded by a purchase of 190 AMX-30Bs, plus 14 AMX-30Ds. They were phased out in the 1990s.


By a 1977 agreement, 24 AMX-30B, were purchased, and then 30 B2s in 1987. Their replacement by the Leopard 2 is under way.

Saudi Arabia

Through the “Palmier contract” in 1973, Saudi Arabia acquired 190 AMX-30S. The S versions were simplified and adapted for desert combat. Later one, under the same contract, 59 MX-30Ds, 12 Ps, and 51 SPGs were obtained, and in 1979, the 52 SPAAG (SA) versions and 50 AMX-30C1 Shanine-2s SAMs. The last was delivered in 1989. In 1977, 64 AMX-30 and one ARV were purchased also to form a complete brigade. However the AMX-30S fleet was placed into reserve gradually in the 2000s or sold, and 45 are now deactivated and in storage.


Spain considered purchasing or producing locally the Leopard I but due to the ban on 105 mm L7 gun from Britain and then proposal from France to allow building the AMX-30 under license, a deal was concluded in 1970 for 19 tanks and provisions for a local assembly of 180 more. A second batch was ordered in 1977, for a total of 299 AMX-30Es, as well as 10 AMX-30Ds and 18 AMX-30Rs. However, in 1987, a six-year modernization program saw the fleet upgraded to the EM1/EM2 standard. This included a complete renewal of the indicators, brakes, on-board electronics, a new engine and gearbox, a new kinetic energy penetrator, and a modernized FCS. However their active service was cut short by their replacement by M60A3s, and B1 Centauro wheeled tanks in the late 1990s and 2000s.


The Tunisian Armored Forces acquired an unknown number of ex-Saudi AMX-30Ss in the 1990s.


In 1972 this country placed an order for 142, then reduced to 82 AMX-30Vs, and four AMX-30D. By the mid-1980s they were taken in hands for an upgrade, with the adoption of a Continental AVDS-1790-5A diesel engine producing 908 hp (677 kW), coupled to an Allison CD-850-6A transmission. New fuel tank was adopted for an extended range of 720 kilometers (450 mi) and the FCS was upgraded to a Lansadot MkI assisted by an Elbit Systems Ballistic computer. Their actual status is unknown.

Active service

The French Army first unit to receive the new tank was the 501st Régiment de Chars de Combat (RCC) in August 1966. By the fall of the 1990s, the 501st and 503rd tank regiments were the first to shift from the B2 to the new Leclerc, followed by the 6th and 12th Cuirassier Regiments. Apart from some minor peace-keeping operations in Africa and Bosnia, the French AMX-30s saw action within the light “Division Daguet” (the 6e Division Légère Blindée), which operated from the extreme left (west) of the coalition forces at the eve of the ground assault on Iraq – Operation Desert Storm, in 1991.
This fast force was to provide a cover to the left flank of the XVIII Airborne Corps and was relatively autonomous. This force comprised light wheeled AMX-10RCs of the cavalry reconnaissance regiments, reinforced by a heavy armored unit, the 4e Régiment de Dragons with 44 AMX-30B2s divided into three 13-tanks strong squadrons, one command and six tanks in reserve. Six older AMX-30s were equipped with ex-soviet mine rollers (“Demin”). They all succeeded to take their objectives, “Rochambeau” (against the Iraqi 45th Infantry Division), “Chambord” (ten tanks kills and many other vehicles reported destroyed) assisted by A-10s, and eventually the As-Salman air base (“Objective White”). This force reported no casualty and fired some 270 gun rounds.
Only one of the Greek tanks saw action, during the 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising. It is now preserved at the Greek Army Armour training center. The Qatari AMX-30s were bloodied at the Battle of Khafji on 30 January 1991, knocking out or capturing several T-55, why one AMX-30 was lost. The Saudi Arabian AMX-30s were apparently not used in combat as it was feared that encounters with the superior Iraqi T-72s would turn to its disadvantage.


The AMX-30 on wikipedia
On military-today

AMX-30 specifications (1973)

Dimensions (L-W-H) 9.48m (6.59m without gun) x 3.1m x 2.29m
(31’1″ (21’6″) x 10’2″ x 7’5″
Total weight, battle ready: 36 Tons (26000 ibs)
Crew : 4 (Drivers, Commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion: Hispano-Suiza HS, 12-cylinder flat water-cooled 680-720 hp
Suspensions: Torsion arms & shock absorbers
Top Speed 65 kph(40 mph)
Range (road)/Fuel consumption 650 km (250 mi) for 380L – 50L/100
Armament (see notes) 105 mm F1 with 56 rounds (2 in)
20 mm HS dual autocannon with 480 rounds (0.8 in)
1 x 7.62 mm LMG (0.3 in) 4500 rounds
Armour Hull nose and turret mantlet 50 mm, sides 30, bottom 15, rooftop 15 mm
Total Production 3571

AMX-30 Gallery


Batignolles Châtillons 25 ton prototype

Batignolles Châtillons
The two 25 ton Batignolles-Châtillon light/medium tanks (1958) were early precursors of the AMX-30, testing the oscillating turret for a 105 mm main gun.
Batignolles-Châtillon light/medium tankThe Batignolles-Châtillon prototype tank preserved at the French Tank Museum in Saumur, France.

AMX 30 B
by Degit22
on Sketchfab

AMX-30A prototype, 1964.
AMX-30A prototype, 1964.
Early production vehicle of the 501st RCC
Early production vehicle of the 501st RCC (tank regiment) in manoeuvers, 1966.
Modified AMX-30B of the 12th Cuirassier Regiment
Modified AMX-30B of the 12th Cuirassier Regiment with side skirts in exercises, 1970s.
AMX-30 B2
Camouflaged AMX-30B2 “Domjevin”, 1985.
AMX-30B2 with side skirts
AMX-30B2 with side skirts “Ivan le Fou”, 1990s.
French AMX-30B2 of the 4th Dragoons in the Iraqi desert
French AMX-30B2 of the 4th Dragoons in the Iraqi desert (Division Daguet), Operation desert Storm, 1991.
AMX-30B2 “BRENUS” ERA 1995.
French FORAD (FORce ADverse) AMX-30B2 tactical training tanks in the 1990s. Outwardly they differ from regular B2 series by missing bustle storage and NBC bin, AANF1 LMG and mounting, fake smoke evacuator, disguised IR light, T-72 fake skirts, modified rear plate with 2 cans (often missing during exercises), fake snorkel, ammo crates of French 20 mm. The ground direct support phone was dismantled and supports of fuel feeders. Sometimes a wet feeder is mounted between the two cans. The grey livery was standard.
Spanish AMX-30EM2, 1990s.
Spanish AMX-30EM2, 1990s.
Cypriot AMX-30
AMX-30B of the Cypriot National Guard.
Chilean AMX-30B2, 1990s.
Chilean AMX-30B2, 1990s.
Venezuelian AMX-30V, 2000s.
Venezuelian AMX-30V, 2000s. This version was completely re-engineered and the engine compartement and chassis were lenghened.
155mm GTC
French canon automoteur de 155 mm GTC, 1980s.
Roland SAM
AMX Roland SAM
Pluton Hades
Pluton TME (Tactical Missile Erector) in 1985.
United Emirati Arab Army AMX-30SA SPAAG
United Emirati Arab Army AMX-30SA SPAAG
AMX-30 Shahine SPAAML
United Emirati Arab Army AMX-30 Shahine SPAAML

Cold War French Tanks


Light tank (1952-64) – 7700 built

An oscillating turret success

France tried, after the war, to integrate the lessons learned in a new tank doctrine integrating new models, which emphasized firepower and mobility. At the same prewar tactics regarding well-armed fighting reconnaissance armored cars, which could act as anti-tank units as well were also utilized. The German adaptation of high velocity AT guns on various light chassis also indicated some pathways for French engineers to work with. The French Army fully exploited the new promising oscillating turret concept to fit this doctrine.

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The oscillating turret was basically a way to integrate a larger gun in a smaller turret, allowed by the use of an autoloader, while the lower part of the turret was conventional and still fully traversed. What it meant was that the whole “upper” (oscillating) turret was depressed or elevated as a single block, comprising much of its equipment and personal. In a conventional turret, the gun was elevated and depressed independently inside, the turret providing only traverse. The advantages of such a system were to provide a much smaller -thus lighter- kind of turret, which could mount a bigger gun compared to the size of the chassis, just like tanks-hunters.

The French army designed a whole array of experimental and semi-experimental heavy tanks equipped with heavy guns using oscillating turrets, namely the AMX-50, Somua SM and Lorraine 40t. But this concept only proved successful on large series light vehicles, like the 8-wheeled Panhard EBR and AMX-13. The US Army also experimented with the concept (T69, T54E1, T57) at the same time but ultimately dropped it. The AMX-13 was probably the best known vehicle mounting such a turret, as it was also the most used worldwide, still used by some armies today. It remains the most produced tank by any country in western Europe and by far the biggest French tank production of any time. At the same time, it showed the limits of the concept, hard to fit in any conventional tactical structure, not to mention NATO.


The development of a new light tank suited for reconnaissance and flanking protection was stated by the French tank doctrine of the time. It asked for a light and fast tracked vehicle armed with the most effective gun possible. Work started in 1946 and two years later the first prototype was completed. A long line of prototypes led to the production version. The 2A had only 4 roadwheels per side and a trailing idler, while the 2B 5 roadwheels and raised idler, the 2C was the first to mount the FL-10 turret and had two support rollers, while the 2D had 4 support rollers. The next generation was fitted with a 90 mm (3.54 in) gun, introduced on the 2E (1964) also sporting 3 support rollers, followed by the 2F, with 2 support rollers, also the first to test a thermal sleeve.

Design of the AMX-13


Although the chassis was a conventional one, light and sturdy, the very essence of the AMX-13 was its oscillating turret, only rendered possible by using an automatic drum autoloader. This new, original loading system led to the creation of this unusual two-part turret. The lower part was cast and connected to the chassis in a conventional turret ring, while the upper part, cast and welded, was attached to it in such a way that its entire mechanism and attached equipment moved freely inside the fighting compartment. The 75 mm (2.95 in) gun and coaxial machine gun were rigidly attached to the turret top. Rotation and pointing was provided by hydraulic power, traverse to a maximum speed of 30° per second, and vertically to 5° per second. Angles of elevation and depression were +12° and -8°, the elevation angle being limited aft by the recess of the turret roof over the chassis. Turret management was carried out by a gunner and the commander, but the gun did not have a stabilizer. Outside, the turret was equipped with grenade launcher for smoke screens, two banks of three with 12 grenades total. Total weight of the turret without ammunition was 4.5 tons, and comparatively to the gun caliber it was a fair trade.
This design allowed the use of a new system with automatic loading arms, consisting of two revolver cylinders, 6 shots each. After the shot gun recoil forces rotated another shell into the barrel bore. Cartridge cases were ejected through a special hatch in the stern of the tower. This system provided an excellent rate – up to 12 rounds per minute. However, a significant drawback is the small ammunition store. It was quickly used up and the tank became virtually unarmed. It was assumed that when the tank remained without shells it left the fight and went to recharge shops. New shells were loaded through hatches in the roof of the tower.
Introduction of an autoloader reduced the crew to just three and therefore allowed a significant reduction in turret size. The tank commander was located left of the gun, and above his position was the commander cupola and hatch, which hinged backwards. The cupola was not traversible, but was fitted with seven prismatic observation prisms L794B protruding at its base, giving full peripheral visibility. Also at the disposal of the commander was a telescopic sight with a range 1.5 to 6 magnification. The gunner was located on the right side and had two prismatic observation devices L794D, with 7.5 magnification and a laser rangefinder TCV 107, providing targeting data both for the gunner and commander. The driver/mechanic was located in the front left, with the engine partly occupying the right side.


Initially, the tank had a 75 mm (2.95 in) rifled gun, and overall 2,000 vehicles of this configuration were built for the French Army. In the course of modernization in 1965, a new 90 mm (3.54 in) rifled gun was mounted on a modified FL-10 turret. This gun had a new muzzle brake and heat insulated housing. Five types of ammunition were used, standard armor-piercing (APFSDS), anti-personal canister, high explosive (HE), cumulative (HEAT) and smoke. 32 shots were stored, 21 inside the turret and 11 in barillets. The tank had two 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine guns (one coaxial and one in an anti-aircraft mount) fed with 200 round bands, 3600 rounds stored in all.


The AMX-13 protection was quite weak compared to its firepower. It was made of regular bulletproof reinforced steel sheets, with a frontal thickness of about 40 mm (1.57 in), whereas the sides and turret were 20-25 mm (0.79-0.98 om), the rear 15 mm (0.59 in), while the turret top, hull deck and bottom were only 10 mm (0.39 in) thick. Only the frontal armor was able to withstand heavy machine-gun and small autocannon projectiles, the rest of the tank being vulnerable to most projectiles. The AMX-13 was not protected NBC, and night vision was optional.
Creusot-Loire attempted to create additional armor panels for the AMX-13. A complete set weight weighted some 650 kg (50 kg for each section). Additional armor could be installed by the crew in the field, on the front and upper side parts of the hull and turret. Fully installed add-on armor provided 20 mm (0.79 in) extra thickness.

Powertrain & wheeltrain

The engine/transmission compartment was at the front-right of the chassis. The motorization was provided by a proven 8-cylinder gasoline liquid-cooled engine, giving 250 hp. The manual transmission comprised 5 forward gears and one reverse, with a steering gear differential. The powertrain being at the front determined the position of drive sprockets, steering wheels with the track tensioning mechanisms behind. The torsion bar suspension comprised the first and last roadwheel with a hydraulic shock absorber each. Each steel track was 350 mm (13.7 in) of wide and contained 85 links, receiving rubber shoes when running on asphalt roads.


The maximum speed was 60 km/h (37 mph) and the fuel tank capacity was 480 liters, reserve sufficient for nearly 400 km (248 mi). The AMX-13 had a ground clearance of 370 mm (15 in), could cross a trench 1.6 m wide (5 ft 3 in), climb a vertical obstacle 0.65 m (26 in) tall or 60° side slope, or ford a 0.6 m deep (24 in) river.

Production and exports

The AMX-13 was produced from 1952 to 1964, and under license in Argentina until 1985. It has experienced many upgrades and was exported to 25 countries (out of more than 7000 vehicles produced, half were exported). The AMX-13 chassis was used for conversions including self-propelled artillery and anti-aircraft guns, armored personnel carriers and bridge-carriers, and others.

The 1964 version

In 1962, following the planned retirement of the M47 Patton, and before the introduction of the well awaited AMX-30, it was decided to modernize a large portion of the fleet as well as producing a new version of the AMX-13. This massive undertaking comprised no further changes in protection, but increased firepower. First, a new 90 mm (3.54 in) gun was mounted, as the Cockerill Regunning Package. Second, on the front part of the gun base was mounted an SS-11 ATGM system (anti-tank guided missiles). These were wire-guided. Other upgrades delivered by Giat Industries included an Add-on Armour package installed on turret front/sides and a new glacis plate.

The 105 mm (4.13 in) version

This version was accompanied by othes improvements and announced at the 1985 Satory Exhibition (near Paris). These included a new diesel engine coupled with a fully automatic transmission, new hydropneumatic suspension for improved cross-country mobility (recognizable by their modified torsion arms and four smaller return rollers above), as well as new, improved storage compartments. Last but not least, the new 105 mm (4.13 in) high velocity gun allowed this model to punch well above its weight. This was the biggest export success of the French tank industry so far.

The Modèle 1987

This late production model had significant improvements in firepower, mobility and armor and was solely aimed at the export market. Externally it received a new hull with a modified front/glacis for improved ballistic protection, new hydropneumatic units instead of torsion bars and sand guards. Moreover, the thermal sleeved 105 mm (4.13 in) gun with updated optics and improved laser rangefinder was also part of the package.


Later on, another upgrade was attempted when a modified FL-12 turret was equipped with the latest 105 mm (4.13 in) gun paired with a laser rangefinder. The cumulative energy projectile had an initial velocity of 800 m/s and could penetrate 400 mm (15.74 in) of armor.
In 1983, an experimental AMX-13 was equipped with a new FL-15 turret with improved observation systems, scopes and laser rangefinders. The automatic transmission was replaced, and it was re-equipped with improved suspension.
Other experiments included an A14 fitted with the German HS-30 turret, AMX-13 fitted with a 105 mm (4.13 in) howitzer barrel (which served as a test base for SPGs), the AMX-13/75 or the Char AMX-13 with a special 57L/100 gun. Anti-aircraft versions include the twin 20 mm (0.79 in) version in welded turret without bustle (a DCA variant), the “Char 48FCM” for “four guns”, or 12T FCM DCA fielding four 20 mm (0.79 in) cannons in a FL-4 turret and the Char 13T DCA de 40 mm Bofors L/70 with the gun in a large faceted turret. Other notable types were the AMX-13 GTI with improved suspension by Krauss-Maffei, the AMX-13 THS which experimented hydrostatic transmission, and two missile versions, the AMX-13 – Rapace 14 MBRL and the AMX-13 HOT (fitted with HOT ATGM launchers).
Including the prototype, there are possibly a hundred variants, including the local built versions, like the Singaporean SM-1. The AMX-13 was built or upgraded over the decades, from 1952 to 1987.
AMX-US (avec tourelle Chaffee): temporary solution applied only to a few vehicles, coupling the AMX-13 chassis with the M24 turret.
– AMX 13 DTT: vehicles with the Chaffee turret truncated, serving as driver training tanks.
– AMX-13/FL-10(1) modele 1951: The original version with a high-velocity 75 mm (2.95 in) gun and 2 top rollers, later 4 and revised stowage.
– AMX-13/FL-10(2) modele 1951: Second version with 4 top rollers and revised stowage (both used the Panhard EBR turret).
– Giat AMX-13: upgrade by Giat Industries.
– LAR-16: Venezualean MBRL (multiple rocket launcher, with 26 120 mm/4.72 in HE projectiles) version.
– Turretless AMX-13: used for driver training (generally former 1952 versions) well into the 90s.
– AMX-13 AD: Venezualean versions fitted with M42 Duster turrets.
– AMX-13/90: FL-12 turret with F3 90 mm (3.54 in) gun, standard 1952 version, also called AMX-13 FL-12.
– AMX-13/90 LRF: Laser rangefinder for the F3 gun (introduction unknown).
– AMX-13/FL-12: or Modèle 1958, incorporating the new 105 mm (4.13 in) gun into the FL-12 turret, used by the Netherlands.
– AMX-13/FL-12 modernized, received a searchlight and FN MAG machine-guns.
– AMX-13/FL-15: Dutch FL-12s refitted with an FL-15 Turret.
– AMX-13/105: Export version with thermal sleeve and revised hull front.
– AMX-13 avec obusier de 105 mm sous tourelle: 105 mm (4.13 in) howitzer SPG.
– AMX-13 Canon de bitube de 20 mm: or DCA, with twin 20 mm (0.79 in) guns in a welded turret without bustle.
– AMX-D Dépannage Modele 55: 1955 recovery version.
– AMX-13 GTI: semi-experimental version testing a new suspension built by Krauss-Maffei.
– AMX-13 HOT: prototype fitted with HOT ATGM launchers.
– AMX-13 Modèle 1987: late 105 mm production version (4.13 in).
– AMX-13 mod.56: 81 mm (3.19 in) mortar carrier for the Belgian Army.
– AMX-13 mod.56: command post, Belgian Army.
– AMX-13 mod.56: with rear-mounted ENTAC missile launcher, Belgian Army.
– AMX-13 mod.56 VCI: APC fitted with a .30 (7.62 mm) Browning mounted in a CALF38 turret, Belgian Army.
– AMX-13 mod.56: cargo, transport version, Belgian Army.
– AMX-13 PDP: or “Porteur de Pont” prototype scissor-type bridgelayer.
– AMX-13 PDP Modèle 1951: the production version of the above.
– AMX-13 PDP Modèle F1: improved bridgelayer version.
– AMX-13S SAE: major standard AMX-13 upgrade.
– AMX-13 SM1: was the Singaporean Armed Forces modernized version.
– AMX-13 T75: the standard missile-equipped version, with SS-11 ATGM launchers, guided by wire.
– AMX-13 T75/TCA: received an electronic guidance system for the SS-11 missiles.
– AMX-13 THS: prototype fitted with a new hydrostatic transmission.
– AMX-13V CLI: upgraded AMX-13/90, Venezuelan Army.
– AMX-13 VCPC: upgraded AMX-13 VCI, Venezuelan Army.
– AMX-40 DCA: air defense vehicle using a single 40 mm (1.57 in) gun.
– AMX-113: the Argentinian upgrade version.
– AMX-105A: or AMX Mk. 61. Automoteur de 105 du AMX-13 en casemate, or howitzer SPG version.
– AMX-105B: or AMX Mk. 62, 105 mm (4.13 in) turreted SPG, and 63 (same with a machine-gun cupola fitted to turret).
– AMX-155: or AMX Mk. F3, or “Obusier de 155mm sur affut automoteur AMX 13 T”, standard 155 mm (6.1 in) SPG version.
– AMX-DCA: the standard SPAAG version armed with twin 30 mm (1.18 in) autocannons.
– AMX-DCA 30: same as above upgraded with a radar.
– AMX DOZER: turretless dozer blade equipped version.
– AMX-GWT: Dutch army version of the VCTB.
– AMX-LT: artillery fire control vehicle based on the VTT.
– AMX-PC: command post version based on the VTT.
– AMX-VCA: support vehicle for the AMX-155 based on the VTT.
– AMX-VCTB: ambulance version based on the VTT.
– AMX-VTP: the original APC version with a 20 mm (0.79 in) autocannon in turret.
– AMX-VTT/VCI: modernized APC version equipped with either a 12.7 mm (0.5 in) or 7.62 mm (0.3 in) MAC machine-guns.
– AMX-VTT Cargo: specialized cargo version of the VTT.
– AMX-VTT/NA2: this version received an ATGM launcher.
– AMX-VTT PADTA: air surveillance radar specialized VTT.
– AMX-VTT RATAC: ground surveillance radar vehicle based on the VTT.
– AMX-VTT ROLAND: experimental Roland SPAAML VTT-based vehicle.
– AMX-VTT TOW: Dutch Army version of the VTT with TOW launcher placed on the cupola.
– AMX-VTT Modele 1987: modernized version with better mobility, fire system and other improvements.
– AMX-VTT/Minotaur Mine System: scatterable mine-laying system place on the rear of a VTT.
– AMX Mk 61: Dutch Army, cal 0.30 (7.62 mm) Browning machine gun fitted in the commander cupola.
– AMX-13 57L/100: prototype with a new 100 mm (3.94 in) gun.
– AMX 12 FCM DCA: quad 20 mm (0.79 in) autocannon version in the FL-4 turret.
– AMX13/Cockerill: 90 mm (3.54 in) Regunning Package upgrade.
– DNC-1 “Grua”: locally modified Modele 1955 dépannage, Mexican army.
– Giat Add-on armor package: installed on turret front/sides & glacis plate, upgrade.
– Leichter Panzer 51: Swiss Army version
– NIMDA Upgrade: retrofit package, Israel.
M4 Sherman/AMX-13 turret: an upgrade only used by Egypt (some were captured later by Tsahal in 1967).

Main derivatives

AMX VCI (former VTT)

VCI stands for “Mechanized Infantry Vehicle” (in French), was produced in 1957. This was a completely new superstructure built above the light chassis, with a machine-gunner above the driver compartment. He fired a 7.9 mm (0.31 in), cal.50 (12.7 mm) and culminating with a tele-operated 20 mm (0.79 in) gun turret. The VCI could carry a platoon (ten men), but was quite cramped. More than 3000 were built. It was exported to twelve other countries and derived into twenty-six versions.


The standard 105 mm (4.13 mm) self-propelled howitzer of the French army from 1955, until it was replaced by the version derived from the AMX-30 chassis. The first version had a fixed turret, later had a traversing one. Variants were the Mk. 61 to Mk. 64, also widely exported. 550 were produced in all.


This was the 155 mm (6.1 in) self-propelled gun F3, also called “Obusier de 155 mm sur affut automoteur AMX-13 T”, meant to replace the US-built M41 Gorilla in the French army in 1952. Due to the weight and size of the gun, there was no turret, the crew was operated from behind, unprotected. A support vehicle was needed to carry them, plus the ammo. But it was and remains the smallest and lightest of this kind ever built. It was produced to around 600 vehicles and exported to nine other nations. Decommissioned in 1997 in France.


Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun DCA. Two main versions and several prototypes were tested. The AMX-12 served as a testbed, as the AMX 12 FCM DCA, with a quad 20 mm (0.79 in) (same as for the US. the M3 half-track version). The initial version had a single 40 mm (1.57 in) Bofors gun (modernized) inside a rotating welded turret, with flat faces. Also called AMX-40, it seems to have been produced in limited numbers. The main version was the AMX DCA bitube de 30 mm SPAAG, with twin 30 mm (1.18 in) guns in a cast turret, which received a guidance radar as an upgrade. They were phased out and replaced by AMX-30 based versions in the eighties.

AMX Bridgelayer

Also called PDP for “Poseur De Pont” (French for bridgelayer), this version was developed and issued to units in 1955 (it was also called “Mle 55”). This was a scissor-type bridgelayer, with a practical span of 12 m (13 yards) when deployed.

Operators/Operational records


French units absorbed the bulk of the 75 mm (2.95 in) (first model) production, with some 3000 vehicles. It was spread among regular division, then equipped with M47 and later M48 Pattons, as screening units. Their tactical use imposed four-strong AMX-13 platoons divided in two sections, two scout sections of infantry and scout vehicles, plus the ammo truck and a command vehicle. The recce section located and determined the nature of enemy forces, then searched for a firing position and engaged the enemy, followed by the second section while the first retired for reloading. Both alternated until the bulk of medium tanks arrived.
When the AMX-30 entered service in the late sixties, the tactical use of this vehicle began to change. The AMX-13 saw action in the decolonization war of Algeria (1954-1962), in a limited way due to the absence of opposition and the rough nature of the Algerian countryside from where the Fellagas (Algerian nationalist guerrillas) operated. When the AMX-13 was upgraded to the 90 mm/SS-11 (3.54 in) system, its role as an active screening force became more intertwined with the normal operations of the AMX-30, which were faster than the former US Tanks in operations. These relatively cheap vehicles were more often committed in foreign theaters of operation, mainly in Africa. It also began a second-hand carrier in the hands of well-equipped mercenary forces involved in various operation in Africa in the seventies and eighties. After 1985, the AMX-13 was gradually decommissioned and put in reserve. However Nexter (former Giat Industries) still maintained update kits parts for various export customers until the late 1990s. The AMX-13 was not an overall success though. The revolver loading system imposed frequent reloading operations on the outside, making the crew easy targets. The gun was accurate and good enough for WWII era mediums, but showed deficiencies against modern MBTs, partly compensated by missiles. Elevation was limited by the turret design, and maintenance was not easy. The protection was so light it forbade any engagements against MBTs and modern mediums on open fields, requiring instead well-prepared ambush camouflaged positions, helped by its tiny silhouette and surrounding vegetation. Another severe drawback was its complete lack of NBC protection. But it was nevertheless cheap, adaptable, fast, and largely punched above its weight.

The Netherlands

This was the first country to operate the 105 mm (4.13 in) version outside France (modele 1958), initially with the FL-12 standard turret, then upgraded with a laser rangefinder and thermal sleeve gun. This was the AMX-13/FL-12 modernized with searchlight and FN MAG machine-guns. Then the AMX-13/FL-15 was a Dutch FL-12 version refitted with an FL-15 turret, kept in service until the late 80s. VTTs were also largely employed and knew local variants. In all, Holland had 131 AMX-13s in service for its light tank battalions.


The Swiss army introduced the AMX-13 as the Leichter Panzer 51, with a few local modifications. 200 were received between 1952 and 1954, and equipped light tanks battalions until 1961. They were gradually phased out in the 1980s. The Swiss army also extensively tested four 105 mm (4.13 in) howitzer vehicles (AMX-105B), but declined any purchase.

Other European users

The Belgian army purchased an unknown numbers of AMX-13 and AMX-VTT APC versions, which knew two local variants. Austria also purchased one AMX-13/105 for trials. The SK-105 Kurassier was derived from it, but with many local modifications performed by Saurer-Werk. It was ready by 1967 and was the second most-produced oscillating turret tank in Europe, with over 700 delivered by the seventies. It was also exported to Argentina, Bolivia, Botswana, Brasil, Morocco and Tunisia.


Before France decided to place an embargo on weapon deliveries to Israel, the Tsahal acquired and operated some 400 AMX-13s, then its first modern light tanks, received just before the Sinai campaign (1956). They complemented the heavier British Centurions of the first generation. They fought in the 1953 Suez canal offensive, later in 1956 but also all along the 1967 war, where three AMX-13 battalions fought actively. Their battle records (notably the 4th Mechanized Bigade) showed that they did have some troubles with Syrian/Egyptian T-54/55s and M48s, both on the Jordanian front and the Golan Heights. They saw limited use in 1973. By the eighties, the AMX-13s grew obsolescent and IDF developed a solution, both for his own needs and the export market (Singapore).
This was the NIMDA Upgrade Package. Performed by the Israeli company NIMDA, a complete retrofit package was developed, including a new Detroit Diesel 6V-53T engine which produced 275 hp at 2800 rpm, coupled to a NIMDA N303 automatic transmission with improved automation which included a dry type, mechanically actuated clutch and cooling system, computerized Elbit LANCELOT Fire Control System dramatically improving the first round hit probability, which could be adapted to either the 75, 90 or 105 mm (2.95, 3.54 and 4.13 in) versions. It also included additional armor protection and a fire/explosion detection and suppression system. All former IDF non-modernized AMX-13s had been sold to Singapore by 1969, and those modernized also in the 1990’s.

Other African/Middle East users

Kuwait seems to have receive some AMX-13s, but no information is available about these. Lebanon also received 35 in 1976. They saw extensive service during the Lebanese war against the Hezbollah in the hand of various armed groups in and outside Beirut. Egypt received some, and also upgraded ageing M4 Shermans with AMX-13 105 mm (4.13 in) turrets, later captured and reused by the IDF. Morocco also made use of some, later discarded, while 4 were captured by insurgents of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and POLISARIO combatants in Western Sahara. Morocco swapped its AMX-13s for more advanced Austrian Kurassiers (still in service). Algeria also seemingly captured a few AMX-13 during its Independence war. Tunisia also purchased some AMX-13s during the seventies.

Asian AMX-13s

Indonesia is still using 500 AMX-13s of the early 105 mm (4.13 in) version. Little is known however about the extent or nature of their modernization, but their storage facilities were apparently completely overhauled on the same lines as the Singaporean SM-1. They are mounting a standard NATO 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine-gun aside the commander cupola. Some are retired or in reserve. Singapore is the other user of the AMX-13/105, former IDF vehicles modernized twice, first with the NIMDA package, then with a local set of additional modifications called SM-1. The latter includes a modernized communications set, new diesel engine, improved transmission and suspension, a more recent laser range-finder and upgraded ST Kinetics night vision system. Nepal and Cambodia apparently also operate a few AMX-13s. India once received up to 75 vehicles (two squadrons of 75 AMX-13/75s), well-used during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. At the Battle of Asal Uttar they performed relatively well against Pakistani M47/48, but were wiped out at the Battle of Chawinda against M48s. A single squadron was again active in the 1971 war.

South American AMX-13s

The biggest user of the main AMX-13 variant, the VCI SPG, is Mexico, with 409 still in use. Ecuador also operates some 105 AMX-13s, followed by Peru with 210 AMX-13/105s, the export version with thermal sleeve and laser rangefinder. The Peruvian army also tried the AMX-13PA5 Escorpion and AMX-13PA8 Escorpion-2, well-modernized versions, and the derivative 155 mm (6.1 in) howitzer version. Chile also operated 12 of these AMX F3 155 mm (6.1 in) SPGs and Argentina 60, now in reserve. The Dominican Republic also used 15 vehicles. Guatemala and El Salvador also apparently received twelve AMX-13s each, now retired.

Venezuelan AMX-13s

36 AMX-13/76 were purchased in the mid-1950s, followed by an additional 31 of the 90 mm (3.54 in) version, later overhauled and modernized. These were stripped down and refurbished with a Detroit Diesel Model 6V-53T engine coupled to a Borg Warner three-speed fully automatic transmission, torque converter, Chausson air-water/oil cooler alternator, 200 A generator and NATO 6TN batteries. The suspension comprised new hydropneumatic units. The new Soptac 18-02 fire control system incorporated the M213 day sight and TCV-107 laser range-finder. These vehicles are visually identified by their gun equipped with thermal sleeve and large mud/sand guards and side skirts.


The AMX-13 on Wikipedia
The AMX-13 on JED site
The AMX-13 on (French)
On (In Russian)

AMX-13 (1952 75 mm version)

Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.36m (4.88m without gun) x 2.5m x 2.3m
(20’9″ (16’0″) x 8’2″ x 7’5″
Total weight, battle ready 15 tons
Crew 3 (driver, co-driver/machine-gunner, commander/gunner)
Propulsion Renault gasoline, 8-cylinder water-cooled 250 hp
Suspension Torsion arms
Maximum speed 60 km/h (40 mph)
Range (road) 400 km (250 mi)
Armament 75 mm (2.95 in) SA50 with 12 rounds (barillet)
2 x 7.5 mm (0.295 in) MAC machine-guns, 3600 rounds
Armor Hull nose and turret 40 mm (1.57 in), sides 20 mm (0.79 in), bottom 15 mm (0.59 in), rooftop 10 mm (0.39 in)
Production (French army alone) 4300

AMX-12T, a prototype forerunner of the AMX-13.

AMX-13/75 Modèle 52, High Definition illustration.
AMX-13/75 with SS-11
AMX-13 T75 fitted with four SS.11 ATGM launchers.

AMX-13/90 SS11, 1968.
AMX-13 T75 TCA
AMX-13 T75/TCA (electronic guidance system for the missiles) in 1969.
AMX-13/90 FL-10
AMX-13/90 Modèle 52, FL-10 turret refitted with the F3 90 mm (3.54 in) gun, 1955.
AMX-13/75 in Indian service
Former indian army AMX-13/75 captured by Pakistani forces during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965.
AMX-13/90 wit thermal sleeves
Camoufaged French AMX-13/90 with thermal sleeves operating in Africa, 1970s.
AMX-13/90 SS.11 ATGM
AMX-13/90 Modèle 65, with SS.11 ATGM launchers.
AMX-13/90 LRF (equipped with a laser rangefinder), Djibouti, 1980s.

AMX-13/90 with thermal sleeve, 1980.
French camouflaged AMX-13/90
AMX-13/90 wih thermal sleeves, fully camouflaged.
FL12 model 58
AMX 13 FL-12 Mle 58, the original 105 mm (4.13 in) version, here stationed in Africa.
Dutch AMX-13/105 Recce Sqn B16
Dutch AMX 13/105, “B16” from the 103rd reconnaissance batallion (Cavalerie Verkenningseskadron), 1985.

AMX-13/105 of the Indonesian army.
Singapore SM1
AMX-13/75 SM-1 (Singapore Modernized 1).
AMX-13/75 IDF
AMX-13/75 of the IDF, 1967\’s Six-Day War.

Giat Industries\’ modernized AMX-13, 1987 version, with thermal sleeve 105 mm (4.13 in), improved suspension, laser rangefinder, improved optics and targeting system, new engine and transmission, revised storage, mud guards, side skirts, cal.30 (7.62 mm) and cal.50 (12.7 mm) machine-guns plus four AT missiles.

AMX-VCI (VTT) armored personal carrier.
AMX-105A, Automoteur de 105 du AMX-13 en casemate or mle.50, early fixed casemate version, 1955. This version was also called AMX Mk.61 for export. The Mk.61 was the Dutch version. A second one (Mk.62 or AMX 105B) introduced a traversible turret in 1958.

AMX-155 SPG canon de 155 mm (6.1 in) mle F3 automouvant, 1st Marine Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Melun, 1972.
AMX DCA bitube 30 mm (1.18 in) SPAAG, in its modernized version, 1980s.

AMX-13 Gallery

Former IDF AMX-13 at Latrun museum
A former IDF AMX-13/75 now exposed at the Latrun Museum. (Wikipedia Commons)


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