France’s Leclerc XLR, Leclerc Evolution and EMBT-ADT 140 at Eurosatory 2024

 21. 06. 2024      Category: Defense exhibitions

According to the latest Military Planning Law, the French Army should have 160 renovated Leclerc Main Battle Tanks, upgraded to XLR standard, by 2030. The last forty are due to be modernised by 2035, bringing the total number of tanks to 200. There is a five-year delay compared to the original 2019 plan. During the show KNDS France unveiled the Leclerc Evolution.

Picture: Leclerc Evolution | DEFENSE MAGAZINE
Picture: Leclerc Evolution | DEFENSE MAGAZINE

The Military Planning Law states that work to renovate and ensure the long-term viability of the Leclerc tank will be supplemented by work on a tank demonstrator, as part of the wider framework of the future Main Ground Combat System (MGCS). As part of the SCORPION programme, the modernisation of the Leclerc tank involves equipping it with the capabilities needed for collaborative combat, which involves integrating the SCORPION Combat Information System (SICS) and the CONTACT radio. It will also be fitted with enhanced mine protection and improved fire control. Finally, it will receive a remotely operated 7.62 mm turret, new optronic sensors and a PASEO sight.

The French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) has ordered 100 Leclerc XLRs in two stages so far, with a first contract for the first 50 units awarded to KNDS France in June 2021, followed by a second, confirmed in January 2022. The first renovated tank was handed over to the French Army last November. Since then, 19 others have followed, according to the press kit issued by the Ministry of Defence for the Eurosatory 2024 defense show recently:

"The DGA has given notice of the Leclerc tank's renovation, in order to integrate it into the Scorpion bubble and adapt it to new threats. Equipped with Scorpion vetronics (on-board vehicle electronics), the SICS system and the new CONTACT radio, it is also fitted with a BARAGE jammer optimised against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and new armour, and its armament has been reinforced. The 20th renovated tank (XLR) was delivered to the French Army on 22 May 2024. In accordance with the 2024–2030 military programming law, 130 Leclerc tanks will be renovated by the end of 2030 and a further forty by the end of 2035. The first ten collections of belly protection kits against mines and improvised explosive devices and side protection kits against rockets (anti RPG) were delivered in mid-April (with a planned equipment rate of 50%)."

Leclerc Evolution unveiled at Eurosatory

During the show KNDS France unveiled the Leclerc Evolution (or EVO). This tank is equipped with a turret armed with the ASCALON (Autoloaded and SCALable Outperforming guN) gun, capable of firing 120 or 140 mm shells, an ARX30 turret, a PASEO sight coupled with a 7.62 mm machine gun, a Trophy active protection system and the ability to use remotely operated ammunition. As for its engine, it is based on the MT883 KA-500 powertrain from Germany's MTU, which powers the "tropicalised" Leclerc used by the UAE forces. A budgetary opinion published last October recommended that this powertrain be fitted to the French Army's Leclercs, so that they can be kept in service until 2040.

According to BFMTV, this new Leclerc will be operational in 2030 and KNDS France is said to be in discussions with several countries. What's more, the current Leclercs could even be upgraded to the Evolution model, which is the same strategy adopted by the KNDS Deutschland for it’s Leopard 2A-RC 3.0, except there are 19 countries which operate the Leopard 2 and might eventually be interested to upgrade even the very old Leopards 2A4 to this new standard, while the Leclerc, with technically comparable performance, is in use in France, UAE and Jordan only. 

From the German-French EMBT 2022 to Leclerc Evolution and EMBT-ADT 140

In 2018 the new Franco-German group KNDS unveiled an initial EMBT or Enhanced Main Battle Tank concept based on a Leopard 2 chassis fitted with a Leclerc turret. Four years later, at Eurosatory 2022, a second, more advanced iteration of the EMBT was presented. While the concept of a German chassis and a French turret was retained, the EMBT 2022 already featured major changes compared with existing tanks, whether in the equipment of the turret, which was fitted with an ARX30 turret and a hardkill self-protection system, or in the layout of the chassis, modified to accommodate a fourth crewman dedicated to controlling the electronic systems, drones and other sensors deployed.

Eurosatory 2024, KNDS has pushed the envelope even further by finally equipping its demonstrators with the new ASCALON cannon, which has already fired several hundred rounds since 2022, mainly 140mm shells, but recently also 120mm ammunition. KNDS now offers the ASCALON in both calibres.

The first tank presented with the new ASCALON gun was the Leclerc Evolution. At first glance, this new variant of the Leclerc appears to be based on a Leclerc chassis fitted with the turret from the 2022 EMBT. But in reality, the changes are much more profound. Although the Leclerc Evolution's turret is similar to the one presented in 2022, with its ARX30 turret, PASEO sight (coupled with a 7.62mm machine gun) and Trophy hard-kill system, it actually incorporates major innovations. It now includes a retractable casing for launching remotely-operated ammunition. The Leclerc's F1 gun has been replaced by the new ASCALON, here in a 120mm, 58-calibre long version compatible with all NATO ammunition in this format. In the event of a change of calibre, the ammunition in the automatic magazine would be reduced from 22 to 18 rounds, mainly for weight reasons.

On the chassis the Leclerc Evolution undergoes similar transformations to those seen on the EMBT 2022, except that this time they apply to the interior of a Leclerc rather than a Leopard 2. Externally, we can note the presence of reactive armour (NERA) on the front sector, complementing the passive shielding inherited from the Leclerc XLR. The integrated engine is the EuroPowerPack, which already equips the tropicalised Leclercs and the EMBT 2022. 


KNDS France explained that the Leclerc Evolution is not intended to compete with the Leopard 2 or future joint offerings. The idea is to offer it in markets where the Leopard is not considered the appropriate solution. Presented at the same time, on the same stand, the Leopard 2A-RC 3.0 complemented the Leclerc Evolution. Like the Leclerc Evolution, it will be fitted with a 120mm self-loading gun that can be upgraded to 140mm, but it has opted for a remotely-operated turret, without a 4th crew member or remotely-operated ammunition. No details have been provided on potential prospects for the Leclerc Evolution and the Leopard 2A-RC 3.0, but it will no doubt be interesting to see at which trade fairs these demonstrators will be exhibited in the years to come.

Alongside the Leclerc Evolution, KNDS presented its second tank concept equipped with the ASCALON gun, in 140 mm/48 calibre. While the Leclerc Evolution was presented as a concrete solution available in the short term, the EMBT-ADT 140 retains its role as a pure demonstrator of previous EMBTs. The idea with this machine is to have a genuine Franco-German demonstrator to prepare for the MGCS. There is no doubt that the concept will continue to evolve over the years, to incorporate the new technological advances that will make their way to the MGCS.

 Author: Peter Bass