The Ukrainian Army’s Ex-French Recon Vehicles Are Fast And Reliable—And Just The Thing For A Southern Counteroffensive

March 15, 2023

Back in January, France pledged to Ukraine an unspecified number—perhaps 50—of the French army’s soon-to-be-surplus AMX-10RC wheeled reconnaissance vehicles.

Two months later, the first videos have appeared on social media depicting Ukrainian soldiers training to use the 15-ton, six-wheel vehicles with their turret-mounted 105-millimeter guns.

The expansive, treeless terrain of the Camp de Canjuers training range in southern France underscores the unique strengths of the four-crew AMX-10RCs, which French firm GIAT began building in the 1970s.

The AMX-10RC is thinly armored but heavily armed and fast. It’s highly mobile firepower. The kind a rational commander would deploy on a big open battlefield where speed matters more than protection does.

That pretty much describes the fields and farms of occupied southern Ukraine, where Russian troops are thin on the ground. And where, it’s worth noting, the Ukrainians are widely expected to launch a major counteroffensive in the coming weeks.

If the Ukrainians do attack in the south, perhaps executing a left hook from their base in Zaporizhzhia Oblast toward Russian-held Crimea, there’s a chance the AMX-10RCs will be at the vanguard.

The AMX-10RC’s speed isn’t just a factor of its lightness, robust suspension and 280-horsepower diesel engine. Yes, an AMX-10RC can speed along a road at 53 miles per hour.

But it’s the vehicle’s simplicity, reliability and fuel efficiency—500 miles on a single tank of diesel—that allow a unit organized around AMX-10RCs to move long distances, fast.

Consider that, when the U.S. Army’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division organized a road march between two training ranges in Germany in 2018, it took the 700-vehicle convoy three days to cover 50 miles.

To be fair to the 2nd ABCT, it was traveling along German highways and respecting everyday Germans motoring along the same roads.

Still, the brigade had to contend with all the complications you’d expect while coordinating hundreds of 70-ton tanks and 40-ton fighting vehicles in mixed formations. Tanks and IFVs are heavy, complex machines. They break down.

Compare the 2nd ABCT’s road march to the epic road march the French navy’s AMX-10RC-equipped 1st Marine Infantry Regiment executed in Mali in 2013. Rushing to intervene as Islamists threatened the impoverished Central African country, the regiment covered 250 miles in six days.

That’s a pace nearly twice what the heavier American brigade managed five years later. If a Ukrainian brigade with AMX-10RCs can match the French marines’ swiftness in Mali, it could cover 150 miles—the distance from free Zaporizhzhia to occupied northern Kherson Oblast—in three days.

Of course, the Ukrainian brigade first would need to break through Russian defenses south of Zaporizhzhia. That might force commanders to send in tanks for the initial fighting, before loosing the AMX-10RCs to sprint toward Kherson and Crimea.

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