The amphibious AMX-10RC armored car was developed and built by GIAT Industries, a French government owned weapons manufacturer. French infantry were in need of a fast armored medium support vehicle that could hold its own alongside current armored vehicles and light-to-medium tanks and provide mobile reconnaissance and support. The French Army requirement looked to replace the aged Panhard EBR 8x8 armor car series.
Development of the AMX-10RC began in 1970 and the first prototype was made available in 1971.Production began sometime in 1976 with the first systems completed by 1978. This culminated in over 540 examples being produced for the French Army and Foreign Legion as well as overseas customers. Deliveries to the French military began in 1981. The French military were involved in worldwide conflicts such as those in Chad during Operation Manta (1983) the Ivory Coast, Morocco, the Gulf War during Operation Desert Storm (1991) and in support of UN operations in Kosovo and the then-new AMX-10RC was readily deployed to these hotspots.
The vehicle is operated by a standard crew of four personnel made up of the commander, driver, gunner and loader. With the exception of the driver the crew is housed in the turret which itself is covered over in reinforced aluminum and fits the primary weapon - a GIAT 105mm main gun. The commander is seated with the gunner to the right while the loader is to their left. The driver is conventionally situated at the front left of the forward hull under the glacis plate and is afforded good vision to the front quarters of the vehicle.
Six large, equal sized rubber tires characterize the AMX-10RC design and give the AMX-10RC the off-road performance comparable to that of a tracked vehicle. When traversing cross-country, the soil consistency undoubtedly changes so the AMX-10RC's wheels are designed to be adjustable "on-the-fly" by way of variable air pressure system afforded to each individual tire system and controlled by the driver. Additionally, if two of the tires are destroyed in subsequent actions, the vehicle can continue to function on the remaining four - albeit at less than the listed 53 mile per hour maximum speed. The vehicle's range (under optimum conditions) is a reported 559 miles on two internal fuel tanks carrying up to 520 gallons. The AMX-10RC sports an excellent turning radius for a vehicle of this class thanks to the anti-skid steering system and individual tire turning control. An automatic transmission helps the driver switch gears quickly in rough terrain as well as during combat situations. The engine is mounted in the rear of the hull with the transmission system.
On the modern battlefield, the AMX-10RC can cross over a 1.7 meter ditch and traverse vertical obstacles up to 0.8 meters tall. With an upgraded hydropneumatic suspension, a 50% vertical slope can be overcome as can a 30% side slope. When approaching a river she can switch to two integrated waterjets to help with traction and propulsion when fording rivers and streams - this constitutes her adequate amphibious capabilities.
Primary armament is centered on the GIAT 105mm main gun. This large caliber weapon is of note for many armored cars seldom feature such an offensive punch. In comparison, the first production versions of the American M1 Abrams main battle tank was fitted with a similar 105mm main gun before updating to the more potent 120mm system. The fact that the AMX-10RC makes due with a 105mm main gun is trouble for other armored cars, armored vehicles and even main battle tanks she might cross in action. The muzzle is capped by a double-baffle muzzle brake.
In the AMX-10RC, the 105mm "light" gun is mated to the TK 105 series turret, itself providing storage for up to 38 shells. The main gun is cleared to fire the standard Nexter APFSDS (Armor-Piercing, Fin-Stabilized, Discarding Sabot) projectile along with available HEAT (High-Explosive, Anti-Tank) and HE (High-Explosive) rounds in the French inventory (the main gun is not compatible with NATO standard munitions). The sabot shell can destroy an tank at 2,200 yards. For anti- infantry suppression, the crew can call upon the 7.62mm NF1 machine gun, co-axially mounted in the turret alongside the main gun, with up to 4,000 rounds of available ammunition. A Browning M2HB air-cooled 12.7mm heavy machine gun is made optional on the commander's cupola and suitable against low-flying enemy aircraft and light-armored vehicles as well as an effective anti-infantry defensive measure.
In 2000, the French Government contracted a French company to design and upgrade 250 of the existing AMX-10RC's then in inventory. The French Army was specifically looking for increased armor protection for the crew and engine compartment alike, providing additional protection against shell splinters and some medium caliber weapons. A new, electrically-powered hydraulic suspension system, improved communications and a PR4G were purchased from the Thales company as well. A laser warning system for incoming threats was installed as was an IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) system that could recognize and ID "friend" from "foe" in an effort to reduce "friendly-fire" incidents and allow for better "shoot first" capability.
Coupled to the firing system was a thermal imaging system for night vision work. Instant communications with other French vehicles was handled by implementing the Nexter Company SIT V1 Battlefield Management Information System already in operational service with the French LeClerc main battle tanks. This type of management system is now in use with many country's armored forces and allows warfighters to be connected directly to command vehicles as well as the chain of command itself. Battlefield commanders can now move AMX-10RC assets wherever the threats are suspected or located and receive updated information via a background map display. The upgraded AMX-10RC is further protected by the new Galix system, a system utilizing anti-personnel grenade decoys and smoke grenades for self-defense of the vehicle itself. The AMX-10 RC is fitted with a NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) crew compartment protection, standard among any armored vehicle developed during and since the Cold War. This allows for the AMX-10RC to be used in a reconnaissance role through potentially radioactive areas after a nuclear war, allowing for the crew to obtain soil, air and water samples in for further review.
A new upgraded TK 105 turret was also instituted. The new turret sported an elevation of -18 degrees to + 20 degrees and was fitted with a Cotac fire control system from Safran, allowing the internal fire control system to locate fixed and mobile targets within seconds, in day or night hours. During daylight, the commander is given access to a wide-field, 360-dgree panoramic view from his protected cupola and a M504 sight and rangefinder with magnification from 2x to 10x. By night, the gunner has a DIVT 16 Castor thermal low-light level television camera built by Thales with an effective range up to 4,000m.
Interestingly, the amphibious capability of the AMX-10RC was removed with the instituting of the upgrade program.
As of 2004, the French Army had some 300+ AMX 10RC examples currently deployed in the field. Morocco has purchased 228 vehicles of their own with 120 of these being upgraded models though original AMX-10RCs were known to have the waterjet propulsion facilities installed. Qatar has purchased 12 systems.
The AMX-10RC, as a whole, has proven itself in many combat actions and is respected as a good design of French origin. Its success is such that the system is intended to be of some service to the French Government and Army for the near future, though GIAT no longer produces the type in any form.
There was an AMX-10RC driver trainer variant of the base AMX-10RC combat model made.