Leclerc Escadron Blindé – The Modern Cuirassier

Leclerc Escadron Blindé – The Modern Cuirassier
By Adam Brooker

As a French TY player, this must be one of the most anticipated new miniatures coming out for the French in the new NATO Forces book. It is such a wonderful model, Tim Adcock has knocked it out of the park with this one, if you haven’t heard of Tim, you should be very familiar with his work, as he designs most of the wonderful new plastic kits that Battlefront brings out these days. I for one am very grateful for the work he has put into this kit, it's fabulous!

These big boys are the modern Cuirassiers of France, the heavy cavalry of the modern French battlefield, with an impressive breastplate, speed and a massive sabre to strike their foes! The smaller, more nimble AMX-30 would be the equivalent of a Dragoon, and the Leclerc the intimidating heavy horse which would charge almost fearlessly at the foe and beat back the Russians… ahh I mean Soviets…… If you can’t tell I’m really keen for the new Ridley Scott Napoleon movie coming out later in the year..…  But the comparison is apt, as the French still today have armoured Regiments with names like the 5e Régiment de Dragons, and the 5e Régiment de Curassiers.

Leclerc Escadron Blindé – The Modern Cuirassier
A modern Waterloo re-enactor – French Cuirassier, lovely moustache!

By the mid-1970s the French could see their first generation NATO tank, the AMX 30 while nimble, could not stand up to the heavy tank designs rumoured to be coming out of the Soviet design bureaus, and they did not have the numbers to attrit the large numbers of Soviet tanks they would deploy.

So they changed tact and started to put together specifications of a vehicle that would outmatch the T-72s and T-80s they had heard the Soviets were developing. In 1980 they went into a joint development with the Germans of a shared MBT, called the Napoléon I by the French, and the Kampfpanzer III by Germany, but disagreements on configurations led them to drop the joint effort and go alone by 1982.

The new French tank would have a stronger emphasis on active protection (sensors, countermeasure munitions/launchers) to reduce the weight that more passive protection (armour) systems used and keep the speed and mobility to evade attacks. They also designed a new 120mm smoothbore gun using standard NATO ammunition, but was 56 calibres long, instead of the typical 44 calibres, so a higher muzzle velocity and greater penetration.

Leclerc Escadron Blindé – The Modern Cuirassier

French Leclerc main battle tank

Additionally, an innovative autoloader system with ammunition blow-out panels was installed which still allows reloading on the move, so no reduction in rate of fire when advancing. It has been stated to be able to engage 6 targets a minute, with a shot roughly every 8 seconds, and down to 6 seconds with a repetition of the same ammunition type. This means there is no loader, a crew of 3 in the tank, Commander, Gunner and Driver, and also explains why it doesn’t reduce its ROF on the move like Soviet autoloaders.

Another great feature of this tank is the ICONE battle management systems as well as digital fire control and communications systems, which allow shared data and comms between the unit and other units nearby. The IRIS thermal telescopic cameras, with semi-auto trackers, for the gunner and commander, and a combination of the gunner's primary sight and the commander's panoramic sight allow excellent night vision and hunter-killer functionality.

The protection system is made of a combination of steel plates and composite armour, as well as active countermeasures and thermal mitigation. It has been stated it can frontally withstand multiple 125mm APFSDS ammunition and 130mm shaped charges in its frontal arc. It also has tool and storage boxes that double as spaced armour sections, and self-sealing fuel tanks. In the 1990s this was improved by adding reactive armour modules and using titanium as ballistic protection to reduce weight, among other improvements, like ceramic armour plates. It also has a countermeasure/anti-personnel grenade launcher system on the turret rear, with multiple launchers.

Humorously the Leclerc also has had classified documents leaked online, in October 2021 an overzealous crew member tried to post them on a forum for War Thunder, but they were quickly taken down.

Leclerc Escadron Blindé – The Modern Cuirassier

Leclercs of French 5th Regiment of Cuirassiers on manoeuvres in UAE

But enough about how fantastique it is, let's see what it is like in game… Well, it is huge, deadly and very expensive, as you can see it is one of the most expensive tanks in game, and in most 100-point games I can’t see you taking more than 2 or 3 of them unless you play in a high-point ‘big cats only’ game.

Leclerc Escadron Blindé – The Modern Cuirassier

With its modern armour package, giving it a hulking front armour of 22, it is one of the most protected MBTs in Team Yankee matching only the German Leopard 2A5. The Chobham or composite armour also gives it side and rear armour of 16 versus HEAT weapons, which is normally only 8, which is its only real weakness.

Apart from great protection, the other outstanding part of this tank is its 52 calibre 120mm smoothbore gun, which not only equals the US M1A1HC with an AT of 23, but has a best-in-game range of 48” outranging all other similar tanks, and because of the autoloader, a moving and stationary RoF of 2/2. Combine this with excellent mobility, with a tactical movement of 14 inches, and an impressive cross-country and road dash of 32” it is just as fast as the Leopard 2A5. This is an impressive tank, its only downside is the side-armour of 8 and its cost, at 18 points per tank.

Aside from aircraft attacking it from the flanks or high AT laser-guided artillery, the only other thing this tank needs to worry about is flanking tank fire, so as long as you angle your tank properly in game to present your front armour and try to eliminate or mitigate (by protecting your sides with hard cover) any flanking forces, it should be very hard to kill. But if you are investing in some expensive tanks like this, it's probably worthwhile to invest in some AA to protect them, even better if they are dual purpose like the AMX-13 AA vehicles, or Roland missile vehicles, or even the cheap new Mistral Missile teams, but they require you to purchase the Rolands first.
The Leclerc Escadron Blindé Formation is new to the French in Team Yankee, but unless you are fighting the biggest of battles, I doubt you would field the full 17 Leclercs it allows you to field, it would work out to 315 points….. although a 400 point a side big cats battle would be something to see!
Leclerc Escadron Blindé – The Modern Cuirassier

You could make a cheaper force of 1 HQ, 2 Leclercs, an AMX30 Peloton of 4 tanks, and a full AMX-10P Section, to around 72 points, but it may be a little brittle. But the cost of 3 Leclercs, or an HQ Leclerc plus 2 Leclercs are the same points, 55 pts, so given the better skills of the HQ and its commander re-rolls it could be a good option as well, if you’re a bit tricksy with the mistaken target and commander rules, but 3 tanks are the more simple and safer option.

I have put together a Force below that incorporates how I would add them to a typical infantry force, I think 3 of them for 55 points would be the largest unit you should field, if you bring the cheaper 2 tank unit you run the risk of the surviving tank running if he loses his ami.

Leclerc Escadron Blindé – The Modern Cuirassier

Leclerc Escadron Blindé – The Modern Cuirassier

As you can see it’s a compact force, I would have liked to fit in a small VBL Escadron D’Eclairage Formation, but I just didn’t have the points, so I had to settle for the one unit to give me Spearhead. I would use the VBL to either deny an enemy spearhead or forward deploy units to get into position for assault. The VAB infantry company would be very useful for this as well, but I felt this was more how they would be used in practice, the AMX-10P units assaulting enemy positions, with the help from the Leclercs.

This is again more of a high-skill list, you really need to position the Leclercs well to take the hits and shrug them off, while you get your mobile infantry in position for an assault, while you soften them up with the AMX AuF1 artillery. The Milan-equipped AMX-10P unit should usually be used to hold your objective. Also keep your HQ close to the Leclercs in case they start to lose tanks, his re-rolls could keep them in the fight.

There a probably lots of other ways to incorporate the Leclercs into your lists, but this is what came to me on first peruse. I’m sure you could field a VBL and Leclerc spam list too… Sacre bleu!

Leclerc Escadron Blindé – The Modern Cuirassier

Happy Gaming

~ Adam 

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