It was just after the first of the year when France stepped up to say that they would be sending the AMX-10rc to Ukraine. That announcement preceded the series of main battle tank agreements that started later in January. Now it seems those vehicles will also be first when it comes to arrival in Ukraine.
We covered the AMX-10rc back when the announcement was first made. Over the last two decades, France has used the vehicle very much in the sense of being a “light tank.” It’s played the tank roll in a lot of small unit combat situations, often in locations where there was little to no armor on the opposing side and conditions (think hot, dry, and sandy) where the vehicle could display its full agility and speed. But … what is it going to do in Ukraine?
Not only is the 105mm gun challenged by the armor on newer Russian tanks, it’s also not stabilized. So as fast as the AMX-10 may be, it has to stop if it wants to fire accurately.
How those wheels will work in Ukraine, especially in what has turned out to be a sort of winter-long mud season, is a really good question. An even better question is what kind of role the AMX-10rc is going to play. It’s a fraction of the weight of even the lighter Russian tanks. It’s not a troop transport. Its real advantages are that it can cover a huge distance on much less fuel than a full-on tank, and it can travel down the highway at automobile speeds. It’s been a highly successful vehicle in the role of armored recon … only, how much need for that role is there in a war where half the sky sometimes seems to be made of drones? This is a vehicle literally designed to fight in small African and Middle Eastern conflicts where ability to operate at long distances from cities and supply bases was the primary restriction. That doesn’t come close to describing Ukraine.
In a situation like the Kharkiv offensive, the AMX-10rc might be the ideal vehicle to punch through, race deep into the enemy backfield, and just kick ass in all directions. But what’s it going to do at Bakhmut, or anywhere else where it’s facing a nose-on fight with Russian tanks and very few passable routes down which to travel?
Figuring how this vehicle is going to be used may take longer than training operators and mechanics. So even though this is one of the first Western “hey, don’t call that a tank!” to arrive in Ukraine, don’t expect to see it on the battlefield tomorrow. Unless, of course, they go tearing down the road to Mariupol tomorrow. Because that seems weirdly possible. But not likely.
If the AMX-10rc doesn’t qualify as a tank, the Leopard 2 certainly does. The latest indications are that both Germany and Poland intend to deliver Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine at the end of March. By then the squadron of U.K. Challenger 2 tanks should also be rolling in Kyiv. Oh, and the first group of Bradley fighting vehicles started their journey toward Ukraine in the last week of January. When they’ll actually arrive isn’t clear, but they might even beat the French wheel-guns to the show.
Deciding how all these things will play together is going to be a big part of turning a collection of machines into an effective strategy. Building up logistical chains that will support all these new vehicles is an even bigger task. But Ukraine has probably been working on those issues at least since these vehicles were first announced, so they could be a lot farther ahead than it might seem. They’re certainly not waiting for all this stuff to pile up at Zelenskyy’s door before worrying about where to send it.
Right now, too many social media posts, and even analysts seem to be assuming “arrives in Ukraine at the end of March” means that no later than tax day, Leopards will be cutting through the Russian lines. If it happens … great. But don’t be surprised if none of these machines sees action before summer. That’s actually what the U.S. is asking them to do: Wait until the gear, the logistics, the training, the strategy, and the conditions all come together so that what’s been sent will have maximum impact.
It’s good advice. It just might be hard to follow when Russian forces are pulverizing Ukrainian towns and cities day by day.
It’s certainly not “iron dome,” but it seems like a step in the right direction.
TOS-1 has been turning up at the front in several locations lately. Their short-range gun should make them vulnerable to artillery, but they’ve been living long enough to do real damage. Yesterday that included the area west of Kreminna where Ukrainian forces have reportedly been pushed slightly outside Dibrova by those damned thermobaric shells (meaning that Dibrova is another ex-town).
How the TOS-1 has made it around these battlefields without being destroyed more quickly is something of a mystery. Based on this video, are they just particularly good at moving around in mud?