- Begin production
- Features of the first armored vehicle
- Louis Renault Tank
- New generation technology
- End of World War I
- Army Motorization Program
- Extraordinary armored car
- Improved model
- World War II period
- Post-war days
- Export version
- Modern times
Tank building in our time is one of the leading areas in military affairs. Many European powers, including France, have always been famous for the development of armored vehicles. It is this country that is considered one of those states that can be safely reckoned among the ancestors of the armored forces. Therefore, this article will provide a detailed overview of French tanks, analyze models and indicate the history of their development.
Everyone knows that the construction of tanks as such began during the First World War. France was the second country to use tanks on the battlefield.
The very first French tank was completed in September 1916. Its creator was J. Etienne, who, in fact, is considered the founding father of French tank building. This officer was the chief of staff of the artillery regiment. He perfectly understood how to change the situation at the front, and therefore he thought through the breakthrough of the enemy’s first line of defense with the help of tracked vehicles. After that, in the occupied territory, he planned to install artillery and suppress enemy resistance already from this position. An important remark should be made here: armored vehicles, which we call tanks, havethe French in those days were called "assault artillery tractors."
The senior command staff of France, like most military commanders of other countries of that time, was extremely wary and skeptical about the idea of building a tank. However, Etienne was persistent and had the support of General Joff, thanks to which permission was obtained to build a prototype. In those years, the Renault company was the leader in mechanical engineering. It was to her that Etienne offered to open a new era of armored vehicles. But the company's management was forced to refuse, citing the fact that they have no experience with tracked vehicles.
In this regard, the French tank was entrusted to build the Schneider company, which was the largest manufacturer of various weapons and had experience in booking the Holt tractor. As a result, at the beginning of 1916, the company received an order for 400 tanks, which later received the name CA1 (“Schneider”).
Features of the first armored vehicle
Since no specific tank concept was announced, France received two different versions of the tanks, both of which were based on the caterpillar model. In comparison with British armored vehicles, the French tank did not have tracks covering the entire hull around the perimeter. They were located on the sides and directly under the frame. The chassis was sprung, which made it easy to control the machine. In addition, this design provided comfort to the crew. However, the frontpart of the car body hung over the tracks, and therefore any vertical obstacle on the way became insurmountable.
Louis Renault Tank
After it became clear that tank building was a promising direction, Etienne again turned to Renault. This time, the officer was already able to clearly formulate the task for the manufacturer - to create a light tank with a small silhouette and minimal vulnerability, the main function of which would be to escort infantry during the battle. As a result, French light tanks were created - "Renault FT".
New generation technology
The Renault FT-17 tank is considered the first tank model to have a classic layout (the engine compartment was located at the rear, the fighting compartment was in the very center, and the control compartment was in front), and there was also a turret capable of rotating 360 degrees.
The crew of the car consisted of two - a driver-mechanic and a commander who was engaged in the maintenance of a machine gun or cannon.
A tank could have been armed with a gun or a machine gun. The "cannon" version provided for the installation of a semi-automatic gun "Hotchkiss SA18" with a diameter of 37 mm. The gun was aimed using a special shoulder rest, which allows vertical aiming in the range from -20 to +35 degrees.
The undercarriage of the tank was represented by track and support rollers, guide wheels, a screw track tensioning mechanism, which, in turn, were large-linked and had a pinionengagement.
In the stern of the tank there was a bracket, thanks to which the machine was able to fell trees with a diameter of 0.25 meters, overcome trenches and ditches up to 1.8 meters wide and could withstand a roll at an angle of up to 28 degrees. The minimum turning radius of the tank was 1.41 meters.
End of World War I
During this period, General Etienne made an attempt to create independent tank troops, in which there should have been a division into light, medium and heavy vehicles. However, the general corps had its own opinion, and, starting from 1920, all tank squads were subordinated to the infantry. In this regard, a division into cavalry and infantry tanks appeared.
But still, Etienne's enthusiasm and activity were not in vain - until 1923, FCM created ten multi-turreted 2C heavy tanks. In turn, thanks to the FAMN company, the French branch of the M tanks appeared. The models of these vehicles were interesting in that they used both tracks and wheels at the same time. Engine type may have been changed depending on surrounding circumstances.
Army Motorization Program
In 1931, France began to pay special attention to wheeled and reconnaissance vehicles. In this regard, Renault introduced the latest AMR light tank at that time. In this machine, the turret and hull were connected to each other using a corner frame and rivets. Armored sheets were installed at a rational angle of inclination. The turret was shifted to the left side, and the engine to the right. As part ofThe crew was two people. Standard weapons were two machine guns - Reibel caliber 7.5 mm and large-caliber Hotchkiss (13.2 mm).
Extraordinary armored car
The maximum development of French tanks fell on the period 1936-1940. This was due to the growing military threat, which the French military was well aware of.
One of the tanks that entered service in 1934 was the B1. Its operation showed that it had significant drawbacks: irrational installation of weapons in the hull, a high degree of vulnerability of the undercarriage, irrational distribution of functional responsibilities between crew members. Practice has shown that in reality the driver had to quit driving and carry out the supply of ammunition. This led to the fact that in the end the tank became a stationary target.
Besides, the car's armor caused special criticism. French heavy tanks, like their counterparts in other countries of the world, have special requirements for their protection. B1 did not match them.
And finally, most importantly, B1 was too expensive to build, operate and maintain. Of the positive qualities of the car, it is worth noting its high speed and good handling.
When considering French heavy tanks, you should definitely pay attention to the B-1 bis. The weight of this tank was 32 tons, and the armor layer was 60 mm. This allowed the crew to feel protected from German guns, with the exception of the 88 mm Flak 36 anti-aircraft gun. It was alsoincreased tank armament.
The armored vehicle itself was assembled from cast parts. The turret was also produced by casting, and the hull was assembled from several armored sections, bolted together.
The presence of a hydraulic booster in the tank can be considered an exclusive novelty, which made it possible to control a multi-ton colossus without any difficulties.
The armament used was a 75 mm SA-35 cannon, which was located to the right of the driver. Its elevation angle was 25 degrees, and its declination was 15 degrees. In the horizontal plane, the gun had a rigid fixation.
Also, there was a 7.5 mm Chatellerault machine gun. It was fixed just below the gun. Both the driver and the tank commander could fire from it. In this case, an electric trigger was used.
You could enter the tank through an armored door on the right side, hatches located in the turret and above the driver's seat, as well as through two emergency entrances - one was located at the bottom and the other at the top of the engine compartment.
Also, this French tank was equipped with self-sealing fuel tanks and a directional gyroscope. The vehicle was driven by a crew of four. A distinctive feature of the car can be considered the presence of a radio station in it, which was rare at that time.
World War II period
French tanks of World War II were represented by the following vehicles:
- Hotchkiss H35 is a machine designed by Hotchkiss.In its undercarriage, six road wheels were used on each side. Almost all parts of the tank were cast. Armament was represented by a 37 mm cannon. The armor had a thickness of 34 mm to 45 mm, depending on its location.
- Renault R35 is a tank with a classic layout. The whole machine had bolted and studded connections. The body was cast. Firepower was represented by a cannon and a machine gun. The power plant is a four-cylinder carburetor engine with a power of 83 horsepower. Unfortunately, the tank was slow. With its own weight of 10 tons, it could reach speeds of only 19 km / h, which was extremely small to support infantry units.
- The medium infantry tank "Renault D-2" is a vehicle with decent armor thickness and low movement speed. The tank gun had a diameter of 47 mm, the machine gun had a diameter of 7.5 mm. The rotation of the turret and gun was carried out using a manual drive. 14 road wheels were used on each side.
- Somua S35 is a rear-mounted tank. Engine - carbureted, eight-cylinder liquid-cooled. The chassis was equipped with a mechanical transmission. A double differential was used to control the machine. The suspension of the road wheels was mixed. The peculiarity of the hull was the presence of six armored parts, fastened with bolts. The hexagonal tower was solid. A cannon and a machine gun were installed in it. The thickness of the frontal armor was 36 mm, side - 41 mm, frontal armor of the tower - 56 mm. The disadvantages can only be attributed to the low speed of the tank, especially over rough terrain.
Adopted in 1946, the tank building program led to the fact that the best French tanks began to be produced.
In 1951, the AMX-13 light tank rolled off the assembly line. Its oscillating tower was its distinguishing feature.
The AMX-30 battle tank began to be produced in the 1980s. Its layout has a classic scheme. The driver is placed on the left side. The gunner and tank commander are located in the fighting compartment on the right side of the gun, while the loader sits on the right. The volume of fuel tanks is 960 liters. Ammunition is 47 rounds.
The AMX-32 tank has a mass of 40 tons. The armament is a 120 mm cannon, a 20 mm M693 cannon and a 7.62 mm machine gun. Ammunition - 38 shots. On the highway, the tank is capable of speeds up to 65 km/h. There is no weapon stabilization system. In the presence of a digital ballistic computer, a laser rangefinder. For work at night, a Thomson-S5R camera paired with a gun is used. All-round visibility can be performed using eight periscopes. The tank is also equipped with a fire extinguishing and air conditioning system, a smoke screen installation.
If the above models of French tanks were in service with France, then the AMX-40 tank was produced exclusively for export abroad. Guidance and fire control systems give a 90% chance of hitting a target, which can be at a distance of 2000 meters. At the same time, from the moment of detection to the destruction of the target, onlyonly 8 seconds. The engine of the car is diesel, 12-cylinder, turbocharged. It is connected to a 7P automatic transmission, which allows you to develop 1300 horsepower. with., however, a little later the German transmission was replaced by a French counterpart. On the highway, the tank develops a speed of 70 km/h.
To date, the newest French tank is the AMX-56 Leclerc. Its serial production began in 1991.
The tank is characterized by a high degree of saturation of electronics, the total cost of which is equal to half the price of the entire machine. The layout of the tank is classic. The main armament is placed in the tower.
The car's armor is multi-layered and equipped with gaskets made of ceramic materials. The front of the case has a modular design, making it easy to change damaged parts.
The tank is also equipped with a system that protects the crew from weapons of mass destruction and a laser irradiation alarm system.
In the combat and engine compartments there are high-speed fire extinguishing systems. A smoke screen can also be placed at a distance of up to 55 meters without any problems.
The main gun of the tank is the SM-120-26 120 mm cannon. In addition, there are two machine guns of different calibers. The combat weight of the vehicle is 54.5 tons.