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France plans to increase deployment in Romania with 37 Leclerc tanks.

| Defense News Army 2024

In response to escalating tensions following the onset of the war in Ukraine, France, in accordance with decisions made within NATO, has taken command of a multinational battalion deployed in Cincu, Romania, as part of the "Eagle" mission launched on February 28, 2022. In this context, France is considering a significant deployment of Leclerc tanks within the battalion.
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Arrival of Leclerc tanks to the French contingent on December 16, 2022, in Romania (Picture source: French MoD)

As the lead nation, France contributed the largest contingent, approximately 700 soldiers, equipped with state-of-the-art capabilities including Caesar artillery systems, unitary rocket launchers, Infantry Fighting Vehicles (VBCI), 120mm mortars, Engineering Armored Vehicles (VAB), and a squadron of Leclerc tanks, further enhanced by a Mamba air defense system operated by the Air and Space Force (AAE).

In the event of further regional deterioration, France is preparing to significantly strengthen the capabilities of the multinational battalion. A planned exercise for spring 2025 aims to elevate the battalion's numbers to brigade level, involving the temporary reinforcement of 3,000 NATO soldiers and the deployment of additional equipment, notably 37 additional Leclerc tanks, supplementing the 13 already in place. In November 2022, a squadron of Leclerc tanks was sent to Romania as part of the capability enhancement of the EAGLE mission, specifically the Battlegroup.

The Deputy Commander of NATO's Southeast Multinational Division and the senior military representative of France in Romania emphasized that the exercise is designed to test the rapid deployment of a full brigade to Europe's borders. This effort represents the most significant deployment of Leclerc tanks outside of France since an exercise in 2002 in Ukraine.

France is also working on upgrading its remaining 200 Leclerc tanks to the XLR standard, aiming to improve their availability, which is expected to reach 62% this year, up from 33% last year. This availability rate proved critical, especially in Kosovo, where the Leclerc tanks achieved a 95% availability rate.

The adaptation of Romanian legislation, currently restrictive regarding the training of armed forces in "open terrain," could facilitate these maneuvers. NATO sources have expressed concerns about this, confirmed by the Romanian Chief of Defense Staff. This ambitious deployment underscores France and NATO's commitment to strengthening European security in the face of current challenges.

The Leclerc main battle tank, produced by the French company Nexter Systems (formerly GIAT), entered production in 1991 and officially entered service with the French Army in 1992. Designed for modern armored ground warfare, the Leclerc is renowned for its firepower, protection, and mobility. It features a 120mm smoothbore gun capable of firing a variety of munitions, an autoloader for increased firing rate, advanced composite armor, and a nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) protection system. With a top speed of over 70 km/h, it is powered by a V8X-1500 1,500 hp diesel engine, making it one of the fastest main battle tanks in the world.

Defense News March 2024

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