Armor: The LeClerc Street Fighter

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June 13, 2012: The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is buying AZUR (urban warfare modifications) kits for many of its 388 French made LeClerc tanks. AZUR consists of additional armor, to defeat most anti-tank weapons, especially when attacked from the side or rear. There are also better sensors (camera coverage all-around) and a remotely controlled (from inside the tank) machine-gun. There are also some remotely controlled grenade launchers. AZUR appeared in 2006, about a year after the U.S. introduced a similar system called TUSK (Tank Urban Survival Kit) for its M-1 tanks in Iraq.

The 55 ton AMX-56 LeClerc tank was designed in the late 1980s, and entered mass production just as the Cold War ended. Its three man crew, effective auto-loader, and impressive electronics made for an attractive package. But it was not superior to the earlier 1980sdesigns (the U.S. M-1, German Leopard II, and British Challenger). The LeClerc was all dressed up but there was nowhere to go. The tank has never been in combat and faced stiff competition from those other tanks when it came to export orders. There were a lot of second hand, hardly used, and inexpensive M-1s and Leopard IIs out there, and LeClerc production finally ceased in 2005. The original Cold War plan was to buy 1,400 but lack of money, and a compelling foe, drove that down to 406. Another 458 were built for export (mostly to the UAE).

 


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