May 14, 2015: Strategy Page
In late April French forces arrived in Poland to reinforce NATO troops already there. The French joined American and Canadian who together with Polish troops will be involved in a joint exercises between May 11th and 29th. It is the first time when the French “Leclerc” tanks, “VBCI” Infantry Fighting Vehicles, and the French infantry, equipped with the French “Felin” Future Soldier system have all been deployed in Poland.
The French sent about 300 soldiers and 90 vehicles. These included 15 Leclerc tanks supported by some mechanized infantry equipped with the “Felin” Future Soldier equipment and the latest VBCI wheeled infantry fighting vehicles. There was also a platoon of engineers.
“Leclerc” is French main tank used by the France and the UAE (United Arab Emirates). Leclerc entered service in 1992, a decade after their contemporaries the American M1 and German Leopard 2. Unlike the German and American tanks Leclerc uses an automatic loading system which improves rate of fire-on-the-move to 12 rounds per minute. The main weapon is a 120mm smoothbore gun. There is also a 12.7mm co-axial (to the 120mm cannon) machine gun and remote controlled 7.62mm machine gun atop the turret. Leclerc is smaller and lighter (only 56 tons) that British, German, American or Israeli tanks.
“VBCI” is an IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle) designed to accompany tanks. It represents a balance between protection, performance and payload. The 8x8 wheeled platform was intended to replace the AMX-10P. VBCI main armament is a stabilized 25mm gun and the vehicle weighs 26 tons. VBCI has been used in Afghanistan, Mali and the Central African Republic and so far none have been lost. France has rdered about 700 vehicles.
“Felin” is French variation of Future solider programs. The system goal is to provide the soldier with improved close-combat capability in terms of lethality, survivability, mobility and C4I (command, control, computers, communications and information). System was designed to weigh less than 24 kg (53 pounds) and include weapons, ammunition, ballistic protection and 24-hour energy, food and water provisions. Frelin uses a day/night camera mounted on the assault rifle and two small LED displays mounted on the helmet which allows shooting from behind corner. There is also a helmet mounted osteo-microphone which picks up speech by sensing the vibration in the wearer’s skull (eliminates background noise). France ordered 22,000 Frelin sets (for $30,000 each) and by 2014 about 10,000 were delivered to army units.