France is making the heavily armed AMX-10 wheeled tank available to Ukraine, and Washington is hinting at the delivery of US Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. What could the two weapons of war do in Ukraine?
The announcement from Paris caused an international sensation: French President Emmanuel Macron offered Ukraine the light battle tank "AMX-10 RC". President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy accepts with thanks. France is taking support for Ukraine "to a new level," said Zelenskyy in a video speech. "And I thank President Macron for this leadership."
The decision sets the military support for Ukraine in motion. Shortly thereafter, it also became known that the United States was also considering expanding arms aid. US President Joe Biden hinted at the delivery of Bradley armored personnel carriers. "This sends a clear signal to all our partners," Zelenskyj summarized, probably also with a view to the previous position of the federal government. "There is no rational reason why western-style tanks have not yet been delivered to Ukraine."
The announced French delivery of weapons is a three-axle wheeled tank with a comparatively large cannon. The AMX-10 stands between the categories of reconnaissance tank and main battle tank: Despite the massive gun turret, the vehicle, which weighs only around 20 tons, is faster, quieter and significantly lighter than a regular main battle tank. However, armed with a 105mm caliber cannon and two machine guns, the AMX-10 packs far more firepower than standard scout vehicles. In terms of gun caliber, the AMX-10 is on par with the former German main battle tank "Leopard 1".
The vehicle, which is used by the French armed forces as a "light battle tank" or as a "reconnaissance tank", is usually used for armed reconnaissance. The wheeled armored vehicle, which is a good nine meters long, three meters wide and 2.8 meters high, can penetrate deep into the hinterland with its 280 hp engine if necessary. The range with one tank filling is given as around 800 kilometers.
If the four-man crew encounters the enemy during their reconnaissance mission, they do not have to withdraw immediately without a fight: the powerful armament and an ammunition reserve of up to 38 grenades on board also enable active firefighting to a limited extent. Thanks to the powerful cannon, the AMX-10 can also accompany infantry forces when attacking fortified positions.
The AMX-10 has been in service with the French Armed Forces since the 1970s. The manufacturer is the French armaments group Nexter, which also offers various upgrade modules. Overall, however, the model is too weakly armored and above all too slow to keep up with the requirements of the French military. Off-road, for example, the recommended maximum speed is only 15 kilometers per hour, on the road it is at least 60 km/h. For the French, the AMX-10 is actually a discontinued model: In France, the light wheeled armored vehicles with their unusually large turret have been gradually replaced by more powerful successor models since 2020.
The US Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, on the other hand, is an entire family of vehicles that the US military has provided with different equipment for different purposes. At its core, the M2 version of the Bradley, developed in the 1970s, is a classic armored personnel carrier - i.e. an armored tracked vehicle with armament for use alongside armored infantrymen.
In the basic configuration, the tank, six and a half meters long, 3.6 meters wide and almost three meters high, has a 600 hp diesel engine, which can accelerate the vehicle, which weighs around 25 tons, to up to 65 km/h on the road. Off-road, the M2 Bradley still manages 40 km/h. After a short preparation, the fully amphibious tank can still swim at almost eight kilometers per hour.
In the rear of the M2 and M3 versions there is space for an infantry squad consisting of six fully equipped soldiers. In combat, they can quickly exit the vehicle via a rear ramp and fight "dismounted" according to US doctrine. The intended use of the Bradley is similar to its German counterpart "Marder". According to the military, the range of the US tank is between 400 and 500 kilometers. In contrast to a pure armored personnel carrier such as the older M113, the three-man crew of driver, commander and gunner of the M2/M3 Bradleys can also actively defend themselves in an emergency.
Similar to the German armored personnel carrier, the Bradleys feature a fully articulating turret with a powerful autocannon. In the case of the Bradleys, a 25mm M242 Bushmaster automatic cannon is installed there. With this, the crew can choose to attack targets up to three kilometers away with armor-piercing projectiles or explosive ammunition. In the US military, the Bradleys carry the abbreviation IFV for Infantry Fighting Vehicle. In contrast to main battle tanks, they are primarily intended as combat vehicles for armored infantry.
In addition to the standard equipment with a coaxial machine gun in the turret, the Bradleys can also be used as a platform to attack air targets or enemy battle tanks. Specially equipped versions then carry, for example, containers for launching anti-aircraft missiles of the "Stinger" type or long-range TOW anti-tank missiles. The US military is currently using Bradleys in the M2A4 version. There are also numerous special versions with special equipment, such as for drone defense or to support pioneering work.
Both tanks, i.e. AMX-10 or Bradley, are significantly weaker in protection than real main battle tanks: in both cases, the armor is only designed to withstand artillery shell fragments and fire from small arms and medium caliber weapons. The Bradley's autocannon and armor would be far too weak for a direct confrontation with heavy tanks.
It is still unclear what quantities and which versions the Ukrainian military can expect. There are at least a lot more examples of the Bradley armored personnel carriers. The vehicle is one of the most-produced armored personnel carrier models in the world. In the reserve stocks of the US Army alone, 2,000 Bradleys are said to be waiting for their next deployment. Of the French AMX-10, on the other hand, fewer than 500 were probably built.