Could France's Leclerc Tank Destroy America's M1 or Russia's Best Armor in Battle?
Could Paris have the world's best tank?
The Emirati Leclercs are split in two armored battalions, one of which remains stationed around Aden, while the other patrols Yemen’s mountainous central region. The armored brigade also includes a mechanized battalion of Russian BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles equipped with 100-millimeter guns, plus a battery of G6 155-millimeter self-propelled howitzers.
In videos, Leclercs can be seen racing down roads and firing their main guns in urban skirmishes. But how effective are they? It’s unclear whether the Emirati tanks have directly clashed with the Houthis’ own small number of captured tanks. But there is some information to work with.
So far there aren’t videos of Leclercs being destroyed — which can’t be said for the other vehicles of the coalition. Houthi rebels have filmed their destruction, by way of long-range anti-tank missiles, of at least nine Saudi M-1A2S tanks. At least five M-60 Pattons and two AMX-30s have also been destroyed. Additionally, the Houthis devastated a column of Emirati M-ATV mine-resistant vehicles in an ambush.
Sources in the UAE state that Leclercs have been damaged four times by anti-tank weapons. It appears two incidents involved IEDs, a third involved a rocket-propelled grenade that deflected off the target tank’s Azure slat armor and the fourth involved an anti-tank missile.
In all cases, the Leclercs survived, although a missile did kill a tank commander when it struck the commander’s hatch.
One Leclerc may have been knocked out while not in use. On Sept. 4, 2015, an SS-21 Tochka ballistic missile fired by a Yemen army unit allied with the Houthis slammed into an arms depot at Marib Airfield. The ensuing detonation killed 45 people and reportedly damaged a parked Leclerc.
To be clear, other factors may explain the lack of combat losses. To begin with, there are far more Saudi tanks of all varieties in Yemen than there are Emirati Leclercs. Furthermore, the Saudis may be operating in sectors where the Houthi have concentrated more of their anti-tank weapons.
Finally, some of the videos suggest the Saudi tank losses reflect poor tactics and a lack of combined-arms coordination. It’s possible the UAE tanks have deployed more carefully and in coordination with supporting arms.
Nonetheless, there are a few other signs that suggest the Leclerc is performing well.
UAE tankers have conveyed to their French counterparts their satisfaction with the Leclerc. The armies of the coalition are reportedly “strongly impressed” by its performance.
In January 2016, the Saudi government approached the Leclerc’s manufacturer, Nexter, to express interest in purchasing a few hundred of the French tanks.
This first appeared in WarIsBoring here.
Image: Creative Commons 2.0 License/Wikicommons.