France’s recent announcement that it will send Ukraine AMX-10 fighting vehicles triggered speculation across Europe that since Paris just decided to hand over "tanks" to Kyiv, Berlin should follow suit with its world-class Leopard 2.
France’s top news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) led Wednesday reporting on the AMX-10 transfer, as "German Chancellor Olaf Scholz faced renewed calls Thursday to deliver Leopard tanks long sought by Kyiv, after France became the first in the West to agree to supply light tanks to Ukraine."
"The argument constantly advanced by the chancellery that Germany must not go it alone is absolutely out of date," German lawmaker Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann told AFP on the subject of tanks to Ukraine. A Scholz critic, she noted that "France is once again taking on the role that was expected of Germany."
The problem, as military analysts in and outside Ukraine were quick to point out, is that a French AMX-10 is only marginally comparable to a German Leopard, and by many standards the AMX isn’t really a tank at all.
Developed during the 1970s and – a little surprisingly - still currently serving with the French army, the AMX-10 is a wheeled vehicle with a 105 mm cannon that was outdated by the latter stages of the Cold War, optics allowing gunners to hit targets out to about 1,500 meters, and aluminum armor thick enough to keep out shell splinters, most machine gun bullets and small cannon shells, but nothing bigger.
At full load-out the vehicle weighs 22 tons.
The French military found them to be reliable and fairly mobile in African fighting, but overly poorly-armored even to be considered for use in conventional battle featuring tank-to-tank slug matches, anti-tank missiles, and dense artillery strikes.
The French army uses the AMX-10 primarily as a reconnaissance vehicle, and started phasing them out in 2021 to be replaced by the EBRC Jaguar, an armored car.
Germany’s Leopard 2 is, in contrast, a full-on main battle tank, weighing in at around 66 tons.
It rides on caterpillar tracks like a bulldozer, is equipped with the NATO top-standard 120mm cannon, and is protected by modern layered armor potentially capable of shrugging off a direct hit from a Russian T-72 main gun armor-piercing round.
A Leopard’s thermal sights enable the crew to see in the dark and reliably hit enemy vehicles at ranges, if panzer enthusiasts are to believed, of up to three kilometers.
France operates a vehicle similar to the Leopard called the LeClerc.
The LeClerc is a main battle tank armed with the same cannon as the Leopard, and comparable optics, crew comfort and armor.
Its weight is double that of the AMX-10. Paris has not offered the LeClerc, which by any standard really is a tank, to Ukraine.
France’s highest-profile donation to Ukraine to date has been 18 (with six more en route) Caesar 155mm howitzers, arguably the single most effective tube artillery system operated by either side in the Russo-Ukrainian War.
France also has dispatched about 80 armored personnel carriers, and along with the AMX-10s has promised an unnamed number of Bastion armored cars, another French combat vehicle with plenty of field experience in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.
German assistance to Ukraine, hesitant at first, has expanded to include heavy howitzers, advanced anti-aircraft missiles, anti-aircraft cannon systems, long-range rocket artillery, armored personnel carriers and tens of thousands of personal weapons and protective gear kits.
Germany’s ruling coalition – Strack-Zimmermann is in opposition – has repeatedly declared it will not send modern tanks to Ukraine without other NATO nations taking the same step.
Berlin announced its latest wave of Ukrainian military support on Jan. 5: 20 pickup trucks rigged with 70mm rocket launchers, eight reconnaissance drones, 23 pickup trucks with empty beds, two tank recovery vehicles, one tank transporter, 27 anti-drone sensors and jammers and 12 heavy-duty trailer trucks.
Germany also supplied Ukraine with 17 load-handling trucks 8x8 (35 in total), 21 generators (before: 195), 32 mobile heating systems (before: 116), one more ambulance (36 in total), and 36,400 wool blankets.
Most of what is delivered to Ukraine comes not from the stocks of Bundeswehr, the country’s armed forces, but from German industry, a Bundeswehr statement said.
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