Saturday, December 16, 2017

Up-armored Leclerc operational with UAE Army

The United Arab Emirates is operating a variant of the Leclerc main battle tank (MBT) fitted with applique armor. This armor is understood to be explosive reactive armor (ERA) made by Dynamit Nobel Defence (DND) of Germany. In 2016 the company was contracted by the military of the UAE to provide reactive armor kits for more than 200 Leclerc MBTs. According to the official report on arms export from Germany, the contract has a total value of €125.84 million, suggesting that each ERA kit costs about €500,000.

Extract of the arms export report
Footage showing an up-armored Leclerc MBT was released by the Emirati News Agency on the 9th December 2017. According to the corresponding news article, the video shows forces of the United Arab Emirates together with allies advancing on the western coast of Yemen, where the vehicles are used to combat Houthi rebels.
Dynamit Nobel Defence used to market its explosive reactive armor under the acronym CLARA, which stands for "composite lightweight adaptable reactive armour", but in the recent years the name HL-Schutz Rad/Kette ("shaped charge protection for wheeled and tracked vehicles" abbreviated in German) has been used on the domestic market at least. The key difference between other ERA solutions and DND's CLARA/HL-Schutz Rad/Kette lies in the construction. While conventional reactive armor utilizes metal (usually steel) for the flyer plates, which is rather heavy and endangers nearby infantry, the armor from DND is free of metals. Tests have shown that fragments from the flyer plates of ERA can reach several metres distance from the impact point, forming dangerous projectiles for dismounted soldiers and civilians in close proximity of the vehicle.
To deal with this issue, DND's ERA solution is totally free of metal (except for the screws to hold the tiles). According to patent descriptions, the armor might make use of glas fibres, carbon fibres, aramid fibres, ceramic fibres and/or PBO (Polybenzbisoxazolediylpenhylene) fibres. The fibres can also be combined with each other or with particles made of the previous mentioned materials. A secondary plate made from a ballistic textile (such as kevlar) can also be incorporated into the armor. It has been suggested to wrap the explosives in aluminium foil for easier handling.
For optimal performance, the ERA can consist of multiple spaced plates; the empty space can be filled with rubber, ceramics or plastics to maximize protection.

CLARA/HL-Schutz Rad/Kette has been claimed to provide more than ten times as much protection as "conventional armor" against shaped charge warheads as found on rocked-propelled grenades (RPGs) and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). It is not mentiond wether this means simple steel armor or some type of passive composite armor. When including an anti-KE plate, DND's ERA can also provide sufficient protection against kinetic energy penetrators (KEPs) to stop medium calibre ammunition and explosively formed penetrators (EFPs).
CLARA has been trialed on the Marder infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) and on the Boxer armored personnel carrier (APC), while it was proposed as armor upgrade for the Fennek scout car. HL-Schutz Rad/Kette has been adopted on the Puma IFV, where it is used to protect the upper section of the hull flanks; the lower sections are fitted with composite armor modules instead.

Leclerc fitted with ERA from Dynamit Nobel Defence
In case of the UAE's Leclerc Tropicalisé, the armor kit makes use of very large ERA modules. On the right side of the vehicle are 17 modules covering the hull side and the turret side, but leaving the the engine compartment exposed. Presuambly the same amount of armor modules is used to protect the left side of the tank. The turret rear of the is protected by six smaller tiles.
The large size of the ERA modules suggests that inside each module, multiple smaller ERA plates are located; otherwise it would be a rather bad design, given that ERA has a low multi-hit capability and thus a single hit would leave an unnecessarily large gap in the armor array. At the moment it is not known if the ERA also covers the Leclerc's front.

Leclerc with AZUR kit operated by the UAE's military
The basic Leclerc Tropicalisé operated by the United Arab Emirates Army already features upgraded armor protection over the French model, at least in terms of side armor: while the French MBTs have only three heavy ballistic skirt elements made out of composite armor on each side of the hull, the tropicalized variant of the tank features a total of eight composite armor skits per side instead - a configuration also offered to Greece during the early 2000s. The UAE also purchased the AZUR (Action en Zone Urbaine) urban combat package, which is comparable to the American TUSK (Tank Urban Survival Kit) for the M1 Abrams and the PSO (Peace Support Operation) package for the Leopard 2. The AZUR upgrade was ordered by the UAE for 15 MBTs in 2011. A version of the AZUR kit is part of the upgraded Leclerc Rénové as part of the French SCORPION program. 

On some of the AZUR-equipped tanks operated by the United Arab Emirates a further slat armor section was added to protect the lower front hull. Supposedly the combat performance of the Leclerc (and the UAE Army in general) has been rather good, but a few months ago it was reported that a single tank was penetrated by a RPG-29 at the lower front plate.


  1. I wonder the new ERA is capable to deal with tandem threat such as PG29 & PG7VR or not?

    1. Hello Nelson,

      as far as I know ERA tiles by itself have only 2 options to resist a Tandem HEAT warhead:

      1. Put a 2nd ERA behind the first one, used for example on the Ukrainian OPLOT tank.
      2. Put a additional armour plate in front of the ERA that is strong enough to stop the precursor charge, keeping so the ERA intact and ready for the main charge.

      Of course both options are explained in a very basic way, so keep in mind that there are different types of ERA and also different types of Tandem HEAT warheads and they react to each other differently.

      For example Russian real fire trials showed that the early Tandem HEAT Kornet ATGM were quite ineffective against the Kontakt-5 ERA, on the other hand the warhead of the RPG-29 is on paper not very strong but somehow it is very effective in penetrating armour, in the same russian trials it was even more effective as the Kornet ATGM despite having on paper the much weaker warhead.

      Hope it helps a bit...

      Kinds Regards

    2. Appreciate for the reply.

      I am very interesting about Reactive Armor(Both the High-Energetic & Non-Energetic) design. and how does it work. I actually had read some trail reports about using different Energetic material with different layout and how effective does these design affect the jet penetration.

      There are youtube videos from the manufactures demonstrating their ERA (Duplet on OPLOT & Kaktus on BMP3) against PG29/PG7VR warhead & both trial had show their product successfully defeat those threat.

      About the first option theory, even the first generation ERA(such as Kontak-1) contains 2 reactive element in each box units (The two units are arranged in different angle for get the best performance against strike from different angle). And if you take a closer looks of those earlier T-72 model with ERA, you would like to notice that the each ERA block is combine 2 Kontak-1 units together which mean there are at least 4 reactive units in each block. Despite of this, I seriously doubt its efficiency withstand more advanced design such as PG29/PG7VR.

      It is surprise to know that shoulder fired 105mm rocket is more powerful than static/vehicle platform 152mm ATGM since theoretically the penetration power of shaped charge are greatly affect by its diameter. Can you provide the source of this russian trial? Thank you.

    3. Sorry for my hastily reply, apparently I ignored an important factor of reactive element: *Burning Rate*. Kontact-1 using LBR(low burning rate) energetic material 4S22 compare with later design Kaktus which using less amount but higher burning rate energetic material 4S24. According to NII Stali (Scientific Research Institute of Steel), Kaktus is especially design for light AFV that its thin hull is not capable to resist the residual jet penetration mitigated by heavy tank ERA.

    4. Nelson Yang,

      well the issue with ERA is that one has to have very exact information about the particular details in order to evaluate it correctly but even then they react differently according to the threat. For example like you already said the Kontakt-1 as two ERA elements inside them but it is not capable of dealing with tandem warheads, why? Because ERA is generally ineffective against a HEAT that hits them in a perpendicular angle, but the more oblique the hit angle is the more effective the ERA becomes. That is the main reason why the Kontakt-1 has 2 reactive units inside one of the at a oblique angle, that way this ERA can ensure a effectiveness of at least 55% against a HEAT at any impact angle, it wasn´t meant to stop a tandem warhead because back then those kinds of warheads didn´t exist yet.

      I personally find those specific understanding of armour and ERA quite difficult for a lot of reasons, so I personally prefer to keep track of weapons that have knocked tanks under the exact known circumstances.

      According to those Russian trials the main reason why those early Kornet ATGM was less effective was because of the configuration of the missile, somehow the reacting ERA managed to affect the main charge as well.

      I let you here a few links:
      Russian real fire trials:

      And here a link about very detailed info on Russian armour configurations and ERA-types, it is by the way a excellent blog so feel free to check out the other sites on it as well!

      Have fun! Kinds regards!

    5. Don Juan II de Austria:
      Thank you for the source links. I had learned many detail information from *sovietarmourblog*, it is quite enlightening.

      The first link to Fofanov's blog has been spread by many forums. If I remember correctly, it even translated by a Chinese editor without referring the source on his article. It published on **(popular Chinese website and forum) around 2000. I also found few people from military forum (Tanknet, DefenseTalk) claim that the trail is a smoke bomb to confuse NATO about Russian armor’s real survivability. Furthermore there is no single real photos took from trail field.

      You are absolutely right, I forgot to mention that hit angle plays a critical factor of the performance.(Both High energetic & Non energetic type). I read MM's another article introducing the ERA (, he said that the layout design of Kontakt-1 is for providing higher resistance chance from different hit angle. Interesting thing is according to the article, there is another layout design would offer good protection from even wider angle. DYNA from Czech using thin-walled hollow rhombus shape steel which is coated with a layer of explosives, further covered by another thin steel layer. I have no idea how this layout supposed to disrupt the jet since such there is no front/back flyer plate in this design (the thin steel layer work as a box container rather than a flyer plate).

    6. Nelson,

      yes of course could it be a smoke bomb, but I have my doubts because based an all I have seen and what I know about tanks the results of those trials look quite plausible to me.

      Well, I don´t know much about DYNA but the rhombus shape makes sense to me do to the different angles. When it is about stopping a HEAT jet you don´t need thick plates the thinner ones are enough, you need the thick plates if you want to stop a APFSDS.

      As far as I know the Czech T-72 and their upgrades still have the same armour, with this in mind a armour upgrade with DYNA will not improve the protection against modern APFSDS and will leave the tank vulnerable against that type of ammo.

    7. Marry Christmas Don Juan II!
      I guess the advantage of rhombus compare to common plate shape ERA is that the former wouldn't required to be arranged into large oblique angle to reach the best efficiency. Thus the armor block will be less bucky when it used to protect perpendicular part of the vehicle.

    8. Nelson,

      yes I agree.
      Tank you very much, Merry Christmas to you too!

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  2. Is the ERA the only (known) upgrade to the Leclerc tank used by the United Arab Emirates?
    Given that the Leclerc is more than 20 years old, do you think that additional upgrades are necessary?

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