Dimensions and weight Weight16 t Length (gun forward)6.83 m Hull length5.6 mWidth2.98 m Height2.6 m
Armament Main gun90-mmMachine guns1 x 7.62-mmElevation range?Traverse range360 degrees
Ammunition load Main gun30 roundsMachine guns3 600 rounds
Mobility Engine Baudouin GF12SRY diesel Engine power420 hp
Maximum road speed75 km/h
ManeuverabilityGradient60%Side slope30%Vertical step0.8 m
In the early 1980s development of new family of tracked armored vehicles commenced in France. Full-scale development started in 1988. The VBM (Vehicule Blindee Modulaire) family was developed by Creusot-Loire Industrie as a private venture. French designers were developing a whole family of tracked armored vehicles, based on a common chassis. These were mainly aimed at export customers as a successors to the AMX-13 light tank and family of light armored vehicles. At some point this project was renamed to Mars 15.
Common armored tracked chassis of the Mars 15 has a front-mounted engine. Rear area can be fitted with various various modules. In concept it is similar to theBritish FV101 Scorpion. A number of vehicles were proposed, such as light tanks with 90-mm and 105-mm guns, infantry fighting vehicle, 155-self-propelled howitzer, air defense gun and missile carriers, command vehicle, anti-tank missile carrier, 120-mm mortar carrier, armored ambulance, artillery observation vehicle, surveillance radar carrier, recovery vehicle and some other. These vehicles have a weight of 15-18 t, depending on the version. However development of most variants has not progressed beyond the drawing board.
The Mars 15 family of vehicles had a number of advantages over the AMX-13 family, which was developed soon after the World War II. It was easier to operate and maintain, had improved protection, greater cross-country mobility, lower life-cycle costs and other advantages.
First two prototypes of light tank with 90-mm gun and infantry fighting vehicle were revealed in 1990. The third prototype, armed with a 105-mm gun was revealed in 1991. These should have been followed by a number of other vehicles whose development was decided by the needs of the market. However there were no production orders on any of Mars 15 vehicles. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War market was flooded with cheap main battle tanks from storage.
The first light tank was fitted with a GIAT TS90 two-man turret, armed with a 90-mm gun. The second light tank fitted with GIAT TGG three-man turret, armed with a 105-mm gun. This gun was compatible with all standard NATO 105-mm tank ammunition. Both tanks were fitted with coaxial 7.62-mm machine gun.
Chassis of the Mars 15 is of all-welded steel armor. Armor of these combat vehicles was rather thin for a light tank due to weight limitation. Front arc provided protection against 14.5-mm armor-piercing rounds. All-round protection was against 7.62-mm armor-piercing rounds and artillery shell splinters. Add-on armor could be fitted if required. Automatic fire suppression system was fitted as standard. NBC protection system was proposed as an option. Also these armored vehicles had reduced infrared and radar signatures.
Vehicles were powered by French Baudouin GF12SRY supercharged diesel engines, developing 420 hp. Engine was mated to a German Renk HSWL 106 automatic transmission with 6 forward and 3 reverse speeds. The whole powerpack can be replaced in field conditions within an hout. Vehicle is fast and has good mobility due to its light weight and compact dimensions. It has an average power to weight ratio of 25 hp/t. This family of armored vehicles is not amphibious. However all versions of the Mars 15, including light tanks, are air transportable. Vehicles could be airlifted by Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules, TRANSALL C-160 and other military cargo aircraft.
It is worth noting that the infantry fighting vehicle, based on the same platform was armed with American M242 25-mm chain gun. It could accommodate crew and 8 fully-equipped soldiers.
WITH 105 GIAT GUN
The second light tank fitted with GIAT TGG three-man turret, armed with a 105-mm gun. This gun was compatible with all standard NATO 105-mm tank ammunition.