Senior Ukrainian officers have lamented the limited capabilities of French supplied armour on the frontlines in the country’s ongoing war with Russia, with the AMX-10RC wheeled tank’s protection deemed insufficient for frontline operations and leading to unnecessary crew deaths. An unnamed Ukrainian officer cited by AFP, identified only by his call sign ‘Spartanets,’ stated regarding the capabilities of the vehicles: “Unfortunately, there was one case when the crew died in the vehicle. There was artillery shelling, and a shell exploded near the vehicle. The fragments pierced the armour, and the ammunition set detonated.” His statement indicates that the vehicles could be penetrated without suffering direct hits, which would be particularly constraining for operations in a high intensity conflict zone. “The guns are good, the observation devices are good, but unfortunately, there is thin armour, and it is impractical to use them in the front line,” the officer added, warning against “just sending out the vehicles so they get destroyed, I consider it is impractical and unnecessary because it’s primarily a risk for the crew.” Beyond poor armour protection, the French vehicles have been plagued by frequent breakdowns.
France is one of multiple European countries to have had the capabilities of their equipment harshly criticised after they arrived in Ukraine, with German and particularly Italian weapons seen as sub par. The Italian Mod63 120mm mortar, for example, were described in Ukrainian reports in late 2022 as follows: “They are much worse than their Soviet equivalents from WWII… Today we are barely able to fire two rounds per minute that do not fly beyond 3-4 km, less than half of what we expected.” In April 2023 the Ukrainian Defence Ministry found that not a single one of 20 recently delivered Italian produced M109 self propelled howitzers were usable. German weapons have also come under criticism, with Der Spiegel reporting in late July that Panzerhaubitze 2000 self propelled guns, considered by several Western sources to be the most capable in the world, showed significant signs of “wear and tear” after just a month in service.
The quality of armaments from multiple European states has left much to be desired particularly when compared to the generally satisfactory equipment being provided by the United States, with Ukrainian sources having commented highly positively on assets such as M777 Howitzers. A notable exception have been the American M2 Bradley fighting vehicles, which much like the French AMX-10RC has proven to have very limited survivability due to its limited armour – although primary role as a personnel carrier rather than a wheeled tank makes this a less critical issue. European defence industries have seen their standings decline significantly since the end of the Cold War, allowing more competitive NATO compatible products from abroad such as South Korean K9 artillery and K2 tanks, Israeli David’s Sling air defence systems and American F-35 fighters to quickly expand their market shares on the continent.