The French AMX-50 Tank

The French AMX-50 Tank: Both first AMX-50 100 Prototypes during a 1950 parade

The French AMX-50 Tank aka AMX 50 was a series of prototypes developed and built by French Company AMX (Atelier de Construction d’Issy-les-Moulineaux) and other French Bureaus to meet the requirement for a new modern tank for the French army during Post World War 2.

During its development process,  it evolved from a medium to heavy tank and eventually a Main Battle Tank after being  up-gunned and up-armoured a number of times, resulting in various shapes and sizes.

The French AMX-50 Tank Development & Models

The M 4 Prototype

The projet 141 by the AMX company was first unveiled in 1945 resulting in the M 4 prototype. It was armed with a 90mm main gun, overlapping road wheels and slopping frontal armour at just 30mm thick to reduce its weight to  around the 30 tonnes.

The AMX 50 aka AMX 50 100

The AMX-50 aka AMX-50 100

The M 4 Prototype armour was deemed to thin, so to enable it to be thickened but not increase the overall weight by doing so, weight was reduced by doing away with the conventional larger tank  turret and installing a smaller oscillating turret, designed by Compagnie des forges et aciéries de la marine et d’Homécourt (FAMH).

An oscillating turret works as two hinged parts. The first part is fixed to the hull with a limited traverse left and right. The second part is the upper half, which has the gun in a fixed position and fed by an  autoloader and drum magazines at the back of the upper half. It only requires 2 crew, the gunner and vehicle commander.

The first completed prototype of the modified M 4 was delivered for trials to the French Army in 1949 and in the following year the 90mm main gun was replaced with a 100mm main gun.

A second prototype was built but with a slightly modified turret and the same 100mm main gun. Both were used to test Maybach and Saurer diesel engines, but were unable to provided the required speed and agility of a medium tank. Trials of these 2 prototypes ended in 1952. They are aka “AMX-50 100”.

AMX-50 Spec’s

Armament: 100mm Main Gun
Dimensions: Length 10.43m inc main gun / Width 3.4m / Height 3.41m
Weight: 53.7 tonne.
Engine: 1200hp Diesel
Top Road Speed: 51 km/h

The AMX 50 120

The AMX-50 120

Another development stage of the AMX-50 was fitting it with a new 120mm main gun. Work had begun in 1951 and the first prototype was completed in 1953 for trials.

To accommodate the new larger gun, autoloader, enlarged ammunition storage and additional weight from all of this, a new much larger oscillating turret was added with thicker armour increasing the vehicles weight to 59.2 tonne. It was further developed in to:

AMX 50 Up-armoured

AMX 50 Up-armoured

The surblindé prototypes hull had a new curved glacis plate (upper section of the front of the hull) replacing the earlier sloped, giving greater armoured protection but was now taller. The turrets height was modified and the overall vehicle weight had now gone up to 64 tonne. Development ran from 1954 to 1955.

AMX 50 Lowered aka AMX 50 B

AMX 50 Lowered aka AMX-50 B

 From 1956 to 1958 a new version was developed called the surbaissé, to address the surblindé increased weight and resulting mechanical problems.

The vehicles cast hull was lowered and a lighter but again higher turret, the Tourelle D (fourth type turret) was fitted retaining the same 120mm main gun. Development ran from 1956 to 1958 and 57.8 tonne.

The French AMX-50 Tank Cancellation

Rear view and engine decks AMX-50 100

By the late 1950’s the AMX-50 development ended. It had been an ambitious project that had evolved through various classes of tanks and it had been hoped that other Western countries would buy it following trials in America of earlier prototypes.

France had almost placed production orders, but the problems with the Maybach engine that haunted development and weight issues due to trying to get the best balance of firepower and protection never yielded a final satisfactory design after 10 years of development.