AMX-30 Char de Bataille 1966–2006, vol. II

The AMX-30 Crew. The AMX-30B’s crew consisted of four men, and it followed a conventional layout with the driver at the front left, the fighting compartment in the center of the tank and the engine and transmission at the rear of the vehicle.

Most of the men in the Arme Blindée Cavalerie (or ABC as it was usually abbreviated to) were appelés; or conscripts. In the early days, armoured regiments differed in how they approached how to deploy their professional and conscript soldiers with the new tank.
 Some regiments only employed professional soldiers as tank commanders and NCOs in their armoured squadrons and employed conscript gunners and loaders. Conscripts selected for promotion in these cases could more often be found in the escadron porté or the escadron de commandement. Conscript junior officers and non-commissioned officers eventually became more common in the armoured squadrons as time passed. In the early days of the AMX-30’s service some regiments only used regular soldiers (engagés) for crew commanders and as drivers. The first escadron to get the new tanks in a regiment was a matter of the regimental commander’s choice. The 5e Regiment de Cuirassiers received sufficient AMX-30B in the spring of 1969 to re-equip an escadron previously serving on AMX-13 SS11 light tanks. By the latter years of the AMX-30B’s service in some regiments only the senior non-commissioned officers and officers in an armoured regiment were professional soldiers. This came about as a result of the creation of a specialised conscript category in 1975 to provide a regular supply of specialised personnel in key roles. The new category was entitled engagé volontaire spécialiste, with driver or gunner specialization. The new category was embraced to varying degrees within the regiments of the ABC.

The AMX-32, designed by GIAT from 1975 as a possible successor to the AMX-30B. Two prototypes were built, in 1979 and 1981. The French Army never bought the AMX-32, and had already ordered the improvement program that came to be known as the AMX-30B2 by 1980. The AMX-32 was an all-welded vehicle armoured with a steel armour system employing plates of differing hardness, a COTAC fire control system and the DIVT-13 low light camera. Here we can see the 1981 prototype, which featured a more angular mantlet. [Thomas Seignon]


All crew received two months of basic training known as Formation Élementaire Toutes Armes (FETTA), after which drivers were sent to the (CIABC = Centre d’Instruction de l’Arme Blindée Cavalerie), near Marseille at Carpiagne for specialisation training. Gunners received their gunnery courses at the Corps de Troupes level (with their regiments), or at Carpiagne with further training conducted within their regiments. The loader-operator (radio-chargeur or Romeo Charlie in French) followed a similar path, with much of the training being conducted in the regimental training cadre or escadron d’instruction, which was tasked with streaming suitably trained young conscripts into the escadrons for inclusion into the tank crews. Each peloton was commanded by a sous-lieutenant or a lieutenant but this too was subject to some variation, depending on the regiment. A senior non-commissioned officer, or a junior officer, would serve as a second in command known as a sous-officier adjoint (or SOA). The ideal norm expected to be established was to eventually use conscripts for all crew positions, although the reality of crewing the tanks always differed between the various regiments of the ABC.
As in any tank, the AMX-30B commander had to conduct engagements, maintain communication with the rest of the peloton and be responsible for his tank and the lives of his crew. The TOP-7 cupola gave the commander a panoramic view, and it incorporated a binocular M267 sight as well as ten M248 observation periscopes. With operations at night being accorded great importance, the commander would swap the binocular M267 sight for an infra-red OB23A sight. The TOP-7 could contra-rotate and the commander could line up the main armament on any target he observed. Asides from his cupola machine gun, after the introduction of the fully automatic 20mm CN20 F2 co-axial armament in the mid-1970s, the commander was expected to conduct any anti-aircraft engagements from his cupola due to its panoramic view. The main design purpose of this weapon on the AMX-30 series was as an anti-helicopter weapon system, but otherwise it was usually employed in the same manner as the 12.7mm co-axial weapon had been. With the ability to penetrate 15mm of armour at 1000 meters with armour piercing ammunition, or to fire high explosive rounds, it would have served admirably as a weapon against armoured personnel carriers or against infantry.