Safran and Nexter are incorporating sights into the evolving Leclerc tank

In an effort to keep the Leclerc main battle tank (MBT) up to date, the French Ministry of Defense tasked domestic industrial organizations to come together to digitize the thirty-year-old platform.

France’s General Directorate of Armaments (DGA) notified Nexter – a state-owned arms manufacturer and subsidiary of the KNDS holding company – and Safran – a Paris-based aerospace equipment manufacturer – of the contract.

Specifically, the two companies will work together to develop and integrate an “observation” function on the redesigned Leclerc XLR using Safran’s PASEO sight.

Leclerc evolution

The Leclerc is a 57-ton MBT camper manufactured by Nexter (previously known as Giat Industries at the time of development). It can fire arrows, explosives, and canister ammunition in stationary or mobile modes.

The MBT is currently in service with the French Army and the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces.

A 120 millimeter (mm), 52 caliber smoothbore pistol is equipped with a thermal jacket and muzzle reference system. The fumes are exhausted with a compressed air unit.

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The weapon fires armor-piercing stabilized sabot ejection fins and high-explosive anti-tank projectiles and has a rate of fire of 12 rounds per minute.

The latest XLR variant

In April 2021, DGA awarded a medium-term upgrade contract to address platform obsolescence and upgrade MBTs under a program known as ‘XLR’.

France aims to integrate the Leclerc MBT into the Scorpion program, an initiative that seeks to replace the French Armed Forces’ combat vehicles with platforms connected to a unified battlefield management and communications system. Ultimately, this will provide a collective combat capability on the battlefield.

The Safran-Nexter team’s PASEO vision integration is the latest update in this effort.

In addition, a remote-controlled T2B turret equipped with a 7.62 mm gun supplied by Nexter’s Belgian partner and firearms company FN Herstal will be installed on the XLR to enhance its armament capabilities.

PASEO sight
The PASEO modular advanced stabilized sight during a completion phase. Credit: Safran.

PASEO vision improvement

These sights are the Leclerc tank’s two primary sighting and engagement systems, allowing the crew to detect, identify and target an object several kilometers away before engaging it.

The optical core of the Leclerc MBT weapon system will be digitized to increase data throughput and provide high-quality imagery in all conditions.

In particular, the legacy analog video system will also be replaced by a digital video system, while the gunner’s sight is expected to be modernized with the latest generation optical sensors and new electronics.

Meanwhile, the commander’s sight will be replaced by the latest generation PASEO sight, it is designed for panoramic observation and engagement in all conditions. OPT-Sys, another KNDS company, provides the digital monocular that serves as the interface between the tank commander and the PASEO gunner.

The PASEO family already provides the same functions to the Jaguar armored vehicle – of which Thales provided 60 units to DGA in 2023.

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