Saturday, April 18, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 12 pix: Leclerc MBT and tank factory visit

Special demo of the Leclerc MBT for visitors from Singapore. Yours truly holding the SG flag.

In the late 1990s, French weapons maker GIAT Industries tried to sell the Leclerc main battle tank to Singapore.

In May 1998, I flew to France to see the GIAT Industries tank factory in Roanne, in central France. The Roanne factory, which made the Leclerc MBT, was the first tank manufacturing facility that I ever visited. The factory had added significance for me because the Singapore Army's first light tank, the AMX-13, was made at the same factory in the 1950s. 

The French were excellent hosts. There was a briefing on the history of Roanne and a site walk that showed how they made the Leclerc, starting from steel plates all the way to the paint shop for newly-built tanks. The visit ended with a mobility demo by a Leclerc MBT plus a chance to speak to the three-man tank crew (driver, gunner and vehicle commander). Knowing my interest in the AMX-13, GIAT staff pointed out the buildings where the AMX-series was made. Many of these buildings had stayed virtually unchanged over the decades, with only internal machinery and jigs changed for different armoured vehicles.

The second stop in the itinerary was a visit to GIAT's artillery factory 220km away near the city of Bourges. The Bourges arsenal was special as this factory made the LG1 105mm light guns that GIAT supplied to the Singapore Artillery in the early 1990s. GIAT also showed their GCT 155mm self-propelled gun and brought me to an amazing museum dedicated to the study and documentation of artillery shells, rockets and fuzes. It was claimed that the museum had one example of virtually all Western-made shells dating back to the First World War. Looking at their extensive exhibits, there was no reason to doubt that claim. 

GIAT Industries Roanne tank factory

The GIAT Industries tank factory in Roanne was the place that made the AMX-13 light tanks used by the Singapore Army. Factory buildings stayed virtually unchanged since the AMX-series was made there.

GIAT Industries, Bourges

The GIAT artillery shell museum in the Bourges arsenal. Note the mine-clearing line charge between the two green pillars on the right. The museum has a heavy emphasis on artillery as the Bourges arsenal has traditionally been the place that makes tube artillery for the French Army.


AARONQFW said...

Second picture seems to be blocked off with a little "Stop" sign! Right after the phrase "Yours truly holding the SG flag,"

David Boey said...

Many thanks. Have reposted the image.


Tech Watcher said...

Thanks for all your Circuit Breaker posts thus far, David! Very informative. Any chance you can share why the Army didn't pursue the Leclerc tank? Was it cost or performance-related?