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

Submersion towers of several heights fixed to the loader’s hatch were available for training. For combat use the narrow combat schnorkel was fixed to the loader’s periscope aperture, which permitted crossings in water as deep as four meters. In the early 1970s, AMX-30B-equipped armoured regiments in the Forces Francaises en Allemagne placed great importance on submerged crossing in the annual training schedule. Because river lines criss-crossed so much of the potential battlefield in central Europe, and enemy bridge demolition was assumed as a matter of course, submerged crossing offered a quicker means of river crossing than waiting for engineers to bridge rivers under fire. It was considered a critical task for at least a full peloton in each escadron to be proficient in submerged crossing in each régiment blindé, and the process always received due publicity within the army. Schnorkel operations for submerged river crossings were regularly practised right until the late 1990s.

The muzzle flash of the 105mm CN F1 at the moment of firing. [Jonathan Cany]

Submerged crossings, though a rite of passage for AMX-30 crews, were not the only means by which river crossings were addressed by the French Army. The post-war experience of fighting in the colonies and the importance of river crossing operations in 1944-45 had driven a thorough approach to solving river crossing problems and explains the weight given to submerged crossing capabilities in the AMX-30B specification. The Pont Gillois was a second such solution.
The Gillois mechanised ferries employed by the French Army’s Genie (Engineers) at divisional level were models of the type, and remained in service for many years. The army also deployed the bridgelaying AMX-13 Poseur de Pont, although the latter bore a bridge too lightly rated to carry an AMX-30 series vehicle, and a standard AMX-30 Poseur de Pont never entered service in any numbers. Some of the massive Gillois vehicles could be combined to carry three AMX-30B or AMX-30B2 gun tanks at the same time whilst crossing a major water course, and drivers had to master placing their tanks on these monsters carefully to not affect the Gillois’ trim in the water. Another task for the driver to master involved getting a battle tank onto the trailer of the large Berliet Porte Char (tank transporter) or onto the railway flats of the SNCF or Deutsche Bahn for transport to and from training areas. Both demanded skill and close communications with the logistics troops who conducted these operations on a daily basis in some instances. As in any tank, the AMX-30 driver had a heavy workload and good drivers were highly valued. Perhaps as recognition that his tank was a demanding vehicle to drive, in most regiments AMX-30B drivers were not expected to do night guard duty whilst on manoeuvres.

The Thales DIVT-16 CASTOR thermal gunnery camera, and the layout of the ERA bricks on the mantlet, the front slope of the turret roof and on the turret sides are visible. [Pierre Delattre]

The periodic mechanical problems common to the AMX-30B were taxing to the driver, and engine overheating and transmission failures were common, especially in the early part of the AMX-30B’s career. One of the critical drills the driver had to master quickly was the shut-down procedure, which took about fifteen minutes of idling the main fan revolutions per minute slowly downwards. An abrupt engine shutdown risked the cooling fan’s blades shattering with grievous consequences to the hydraulic hoses and oil lines in the engine compartment. Even in the later part of the 1970s the incidence of power pack changes could be frequent and the regiment’s AMX-30D recovery vehicles were at times hard pressed to keep up with breakdowns. When the tank was in good mechanical order the driver trained hard at charging from one fire position to the next on the training ground at the commander’s orders. French doctrine stressed high speed in the attack and to avoid enemy fire, but the AMX-30’s fire control system was designed to shoot at the halt. The AMX-30B was amongst the fastest and lightest vehicles of its type, and with its stiff suspension, it always meant a bumpy ride for the crews.
 The use of the M208 optical rangefinder and fire control system by the turret crew were practised and assessed at set times in the training year with the luxury of live firing on ranges with live ammunition being closely controlled for budgetary reasons. The gunner employed an M271 telescopic sight for daylight use and an infra-red OB17A sight for use in night operations. Each regiment was put through its paces in the annual autumn NATO manoeuvres, which was the climax of every training year in the Arme Blindé Cavalerie as it was in all other NATO armies. The AMX-30B’s turret was laid out ergonomically and a rapid rate of fire was possible, with roughly half the available 47 rounds of main armament ammunition in racks in the turret bustle. Up to three TRVP13A or TRVP213B wireless sets could be fitted, operated by the commander and loader, and incorporating the crew intercom system. A squadron or regimental command tank could be identified by three antennas on the turret roof, while a platoon command tank had two, and a standard battle tanks only carried a single antenna.

AMX-30B2 Greek Cypriot National Guard, Cyprus, Between 1990 and 1995, at least 50 AMX-30B2 tanks were sold to the Greek Cypriot National Guard by GIAT. The Cypriot AMX-30B2s carried at least two variations on the sand, green, and brown scheme, with thin white and black dividing stripes sometimes applied as seen here. The vehicles included mid production AMX-30B2 conversions with DIVT-13 Low Light Television gunnery cameras and later DIVT-16-equipped conversions. Markings included the Hellenic cross on the plated over rangefinder ports, and regimental emblems carried on the hull rear above the vehicle serials. Stowage was to French practice. [Painted by Sławomir Zajączkowski]


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