In the aftermath of the Second World War the French army was equipped with a miscellany of types including surplus German Panther tanks, followed by American types such as the M47. Some interesting designs and prototypes were produced which reflected French pre-war, German wartime and French post-war ideas, but only some of these came to fruition. Like many of the wartime nations, eventually the French reacted to their wartime experience in their first post-war production tank.

Therefore, mobility and armament were placed ahead of armour in the new design that would become AMX 30. They were lighter than any comparable contemporary tank at 34.5 tons. A conventional turret was adopted as the oscillating turrets shown on the previous prototypes proved to be higher, heavier and more difficult to seal against radioactivity. However, these were later used on the AMX 13 light tank. The design entered service in 1967 and is therefore a direct contemporary of Leopard I, Chieftain, T62 and M60, with which it makes an interesting comparison.

Unlike many equivalent designs of the period which used the L7 British designed 105mm tank gun, the AMX 30 used a wholly French designed gun of the same calibre, with either a 20mm or 12.7mm gun mounted co-axially. A peculiarity of this mount was that the co-axial gun could be independently elevated to act in an anti-aircraft role.

A number of AMX 30 were supplied to the Spanish for service in North Africa. Originally the Spanish would have preferred the Leopard or M 60 but were not allowed these for political reasons. They later bought more AMX 30 and also licence produced the type. The AMX 30 is also notable for having the lowest height of its Western stable mates at 2.28m, width also being a modest 3.1m. It was one of the earlier Western designs to be diesel powered. Another peculiarity of the design lies in the main armour defeating round provided for the tank which is a HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) round dependent on chemical energy.

These types of projectiles are normally fired from a smooth bore gun but can lose accuracy over long ranges. If fired from a rifled gun, such as that on the AMX 30, they lose most of their performance because of the spin imposed by the rifling. The ingenious solution to this was round this was an outer casing lined with ball bearings containing a sub calibre HEAT round. The outer case spins rapidly, conferring accuracy, whilst the inner core rotates much more slowly, giving good performance on arrival at the target.

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