Ukraine: Why does France not deliver Leclerc tanks?

Although London has given the green light to supply battle tanks to Ukraine, and Berlin may soon resolve it, France refuses.

By Théo Sauvignet

Here, during exercises in Estonia in early 2022, the Leclerc tank can be compared to its German and British counterparts, despite its superiority over the British Challenger 2, equipped with NATO-standard ammunition.

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VS’It is noted that the British will hand over their 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Kiev. Poland is ready to donate Leopard II tanks to Germany, but must wait for the green light from Berlin to begin the operation. Germany still disagrees with Kiev’s purchase of its tanks, which are among the best models on the market, without outright opposition.

The idea of ​​giving up a part of more than 200 Leclerc tanks in France is also relevant. If the technical qualities of this tank are recognized at the international level, why does Paris not make a decision?

Inactive resources, however, are not useless

The Army received a total of 406 Leclerc tanks in the early 2000s, but after various state and budget cuts, the country now has 200 Leclerc tanks in service. The rest, about 200 units, are kept to serve as a warehouse of parts for those in service, because the Nexter production lines, in Roanne (Loire), were converted years ago.

Leclerc is a very complex piece of equipment whose “availability” fluctuates by about 60% over a very long period of time. The removal of part of the fleet from active service, together with other maintenance in operation (MCO) reforms, made it possible to achieve more than 80% machine “availability” in 2021. Understand: 200 tanks distributed in different regiments, more than 160 of which are immediately serviceable. These twenty-year-old machines are starting to be modernized to last until 2040.

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How many of the 200 units in stock are operational? How many French armored cavalry regiments can be surrendered without adversely affecting their operational capability? The answer to these questions is not clear, but it is likely that France will not be able to simply give up a copy without touching its military capabilities, which is a red line for the Minister of Armies, Sébastien Lecornu.

Very complex machines

This is also one of the reasons why France gives less equipment to Kiev than its allies: the French military is a sampler – it has everything, but in small quantities – it uses a lot of its equipment and operates with very little inventory. , just in time.

Across the Channel, the situation is comparable, but significantly different: the British army bought about as many Challenger 2 tanks (of the same generation) and also reduced its manpower by using reserve units to keep them active. But Great Britain has only two battle tank regiments left, and France has four. With about fifty tanks each regiment, the British had a little more freedom than the French to leave part of their fleet.

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The accessibility problems faced by the French or British armies will be the same for Kyiv. Modern Western tanks are very complex machines that require the creation of special logistics. Although very few, fourteen of these tanks would create a lot of maintenance, parts and ammunition supply concerns for the Ukrainians who only had Soviet armor.

A toxic gift?

An increase in the supply of various equipment could ultimately be a poisoned gift for Kyiv. The Ukrainians also expected trouble and wanted Leopard II tanks instead, of which more than 2,000 were produced for European customers.

With active modernization chains and fourteen different operators – many candidates likely to sell part of their fleet – the German tank would be a boon for Kyiv. Ukraine can hope to get with it a very modern and fairly unified fleet that meets NATO standards.

We can interpret the British decision from a political point of view: it would be an appeal to Berlin to allow the delivery of tanks to Ukraine, rather than increasing the real potential of Kiev. We can compare this gesture with the announcement in Paris a week ago of the delivery of AMX-10RC reconnaissance armored vehicles, which led to an increase in the strength of Ukraine’s supply.

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