The large family of AMX-30 derivatives has served the French Army since the 1970s, and has comprehensively addressed the armoured vehicle requirements of the artillery, the engineers and the armoured regiment’s workshops. No fewer than 4 main derivative sub-types of the AMX-30 were built in quantity for the French Army...
The first AMX-30 derived vehicle to enter French service was the AMX-30D Char de Depannage. Some 235 AMX-30D were built, of which 145 were ordered for the French Army’s needs (and in 2011 some 58 examples remained in French service). The AMX-30D had a busy service life for its first years in service, where it replaced the M74 TRV from 1973 onwards in the Arme Blindée Cavalerie. Production was slow in comparison to the battle tank (continuing until 1981), and it was 1976 before the last of the American vehicles were retired. Like the Leopard Bergepanzer designed at roughly the same time, the AMX-30D design incorporated a crane that could be used for complete power pack changes, a front mounted dozer blade and a front mounted winch.
The AMX-30D was a more utilitarian vehicle than the M74. It was capable of submerged river crossings, and it followed the AMX-30 battle tank anywhere on the battlefield. In the mid-1970s it was amongst the best equipped armoured recovery vehicles in service and it remained in its original form as the ABC’s main recovery vehicle until the introduction of the Leclerc MBT. Both the crane and dozer blade were hydraulically operated. The front mounted dozer blade was used to stabilise the vehicle while the crane was being employed or as an earth anchor for winching duties. The AMX-30D’s crane could lift up to twelve tonnes and traverse through 240 degrees. With the vehicle secured with the dozer blade, the crane could also lift fifteen tonnes directly in front of the vehicle. The main winch could pull 35 tonnes and could be deployed to 90 meters. A secondary winch capable of pulling over three tonnes was also provided. A secondary task in the AMX-30D’s vehicle description was as a char nivelleur, or dozer. This was an important capability because the AMX-30B and AMX-30B2 were never provided with the bulldozer kits seen on many contemporary main battle tanks.
The AMX-30D was well regarded in service. It performed well in most conditions with the exception of icy weather, which always presented challenges because ice cleats were never supplied for the AMX-30’s tracks. Foreign sales to all the countries who bought the AMX-30 tank followed the French Army’s orders. The first foreign sales were made to Greece where 14 were purchased by the Hellenic Army, 10 followed for Spain, 4 for the United Arab Emirates, a single vehicle for Qatar, 4 for Venezuela and 57 for Saudi Arabia. In the late 1980s as the artillery and the engineers received AMX-30 based vehicles, they also received the recovery variant. A number of vehicles were rebuilt in the second decade of the 21st Century by the DCMAT to allow the AMX-30D to continue its work alongside the new Leclerc DCL recovery vehicle.
This humblest member of the AMX-30 family remains in service in small numbers in the French artillery and engineers. Its basic hull layout became the basis for that eventually adapted for the EBG in the 1980s, and was similar to that of the Pluton launcher, which was designed at around the same time as the recovery vehicle. The AMX-30D has a crew of three, including a driver at the front center of the vehicle, and a vehicle commander and a mechanic who sat behind him in the lightly armoured superstructure. The TOP7 cupola from the AMX-30 battle tank also equipped the AMX-30D, allowing a panoramic view for the vehicle commander during recovery operations. The AMX-30D carried welding equipment, tow bars and all the equipment necessary to winch out a bogged down vehicle or to tow away broken down tanks. It could be used as the basis of a mobile workshop with its crane, and a good AMX-30D crew was a valuable asset to any regiment equipped with battle tanks or with AMX-30 variants.
AMX-30 based Artillery Systems
Although the French artillery adopted the Pluton and Roland missile systems before the adoption of the Au-F1, all systems began development by DTAT at about the same time. In the case of the GCT 155mm self-propelled gun, the broad specification’s origins stretched back into the early 1950s within DEFA, and are here treated first. The artillery variants of the AMX-30 family were amongst the most sophisticated and expensive weapon systems that the French army adopted during the Cold War.
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