AMX-30C1 Shahine (1975)

Saudi Arabia (1975) 36 built
The third missile system derived from the AMX-30, called the AMX-30SA, was developed in 1975 for Saudi Arabia, to fire the SA-10 Shahine, a version of the Crotale surface-to-air missile, developed and manufactured by Thomson-CSF. The launch vehicle is heavily inspired by the AMX-30 Roland. The Shahine system was developed locally as an improved Crotale with faster acquisition and a new firing assembly of six canisters mounted on the AMX 30 chassis.

The Saudi AMX-30s

The “Palm Tree contract” also sepcified variants and support vehicles, namely 59 AMX-30D delivered between 1975 and 1979, 12 AMX-30H delivered between 1977 and 1979, 51 AuF1, delivered between 1979 and 1980, 52 AMX-30SA delivered between 1979 and 1981 and 50 AMX-30C1 Shahine-2 delivered in two batches, between 1980 and 1989. To provide training for these, an armored school was opened in Saudi Arabia, which was ran approximately by 2,000 French military advisors and trainers in the 1980s.

At the beginning of the 2000s, the AMX-30 no longer had capabilities to face the Iraqi T-72 or Israeli Merkava so half the AMX-30 park were placed in long-term storage and replaced by 315 M1 M1A2s Abrams and 450 M60A3s ordered and delivered from 1989. In 2002, Saudi Arabia had a fleet of 1,055 combat tanks total, with all 290 AMX-30 vehicles (with varoants) being grouped in the Khamis Mushait region, with 160 to 170 operational. An estimate by Global Security stated 145 were operational as of 2005, and by 2015, they were seen as deployed by the Saudi Border Guard Corps.

The Saudi Arabian SPAAML

A complete Shahine unit: Two Fire unit and one Acquisition unit in parade. src: Jeremy Binnie via X

Two organic batallion AA defence vehicles were part of the contratc: The AMX-30SA (1979) derived from the earlier AMX-DCA and a domestic variant of the French Roland SPAAML. The Shahine system was developed locally as an improved Crotale, with faster acquisition, and a new firing assembly, now of six canisters mounted on the AMX 30 chassis. The Roland is a separate missile, longer range than the Crotale, and the vehicle only had a twin launcher arm plus 10 reloads inside the hull. French Crotale launching systems comprised four canisters and an acquisition/targeting radar.

Clearly the AMX-30SA developped from 1975 for Saudi Arabia was tailored to fire the SA-10 Shahine, a version of the Crotale SAM developed and built by Thomson-CSF. The vehicles camein two batches as part of the "palm tree contract", the first 50 called AMX-30C1 Shahine-1. By 1991-1993 the vehicles were modernized as the Shahine-2.

About the Shahine Missile

The Crotale missile is one of the most successful SAM (Surface to Air Missile) second generation of the cold war, and used to this day by numerous countries, including many derivatives. The "Rattlesnake" went back to a demand from South Africa to have its own mobile anti-aircraft system in 1964, but this was refuse by the British government due to the Apartheid policy. Thus, the SA Government turned to France, and Thomson-CSF to develop it, Pretoria covering 85% of development costs. Designed by Jean Galipon from the Electronic Systems Division in Bagneux, the prototype was tested at the Landes center, the very first being delivered to the South African army in 1971 called the "Cactus contract". The French Air Force became interested, ordered more and made, then order 20 batteries for the defence of its airfields. The first could shoot down a target 8,500 meters away, reached in 20sec. The Crotale was exported to Chile, Egypt, the UAE, Portugal, Finland, Greece, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, South Korea (leading to the Doosan Chungma), Ukraine from 2022, and China, where it was reverse-engineered and became the HQ-7, later adopted by Iran.

The Shahine was a later version, with 16 acquisition units (radar only vehicles) 32 firing units, for 36 Shahine systems. The idea is a battery of two missile vehicles teams up with an acquisition radar vehicle. It operated the R460 missile developed from the earlier R440 missile (Crotale 2000). Its fuze and control vanes are placed on the front, then the warhead and battery. Solid propellant rocket motor, cruciform wings, radar receiver at the rear. Mach 2.8, maximum range 11.8 km, 6 km cailing. Kill probability 0.9 on a Mach 0.75 target, 0.99 for a two missile salvo. Lethal range (HE-frag warhead) is 8 meter. In the 1990s a more advanced Shahine 2 missile was developed (Crotale 4000).

Data normally comes from the Acquisition vehicle, but also from the TSQ-73 command center through the Shahine data link. The missile usese itself a radar command guidance and two missiles can be launched at the same time against a single target. Theu can also be guided optically for terminal course in case of heavy ECM jamming.

About the launcher vehicle, AMX-30C1 or S-FU

The AMX-30 chassis was adapted to a large number of variants, accounting for more than 3,000 vehicles in addition to the basic Main Battle Tank. The launcher vehicle for the Shahine system is no different from the base chassis: Hull lenght of 6.59 m, 3.10 m wide, 5m+ height, loaded mass of 45 tons. Powered by an Hispano-Suiza HS-110 at 2000 rpm, rated for 720 hp, 40-65 kph speed, 650 km autonomy or 18h run. Fuel consimprion 200-230 liter/100 km. It can ford 1 m of water without preparations, cross a trench 2.90 m and climb a vertical obstacle of 0.93 m or 60% slope. The drivetrain comprises five roadwheels on torsions bars with fore and aft shock absorbers, three return rollers, front idlers, rear drive sprockets.

Above the hull is mated over the former turret ring the main support for a twin arm, three canister each configuration. The canisters are the same as the standard Crotale. To provide power to the unit when the engine is cold, an APU is fitted. In between them is placed the fire control radar. There is also separate acquisition radar also placed on the same AMX-30 chassis. The upper part of the chassis, lightly protected against small arms fire, 12.7 mm rounds and shrapnel, is boxy and similar to the Roland. The vehicle is NBC protected, has an air conditioning system, but for active defence seemingly no smoke dischargers.

About the radar acquisition vehicle, AMX-30S-AU

The Shahine acquisition unit used the same modified Roland/AMX-30 chassis the the turret ring is fitted with a single large parabolic antenna, using Doppler E/F-band search and acquisition, and it can can be stowed when not in use in a hull recess.

Operational History

Saudi Arabia deployed it during the liberation of the Kuwaiti capital in February 1991. It seems it did not took part in the Battle of Khafji though. The tracked Shahine was seconded by the Shahine ATTS from 1981: This truck-towed trailer called the "Shahine Air Transportable Towed Shelter" (ATTS) is also either a firing or acquisition unit, with the same system; Two FU (Firing Unit) trucks The actual launcher and radar turret are similar to the ones mounted on the AMX-30 chassis. The shelter can be split up in two parts for easier air transport, the launcher or radar being located at its rear. The tractor trucks seems to be the US-built M35 or a more recent derivative. Saudi Arabia built 19 ATTS firing units and 10 ATTS acquisition units, which are faster to deploy and less maintenance-intensive compared to the tracked platform. Some sources claimes a total of 109 vehicles, but they probably mix the 36 AMX-30C1 and 29 ATTs vehicles, with P6R 6×6 Shahine 4 canister mounted vehicles.

Shahine AMX-30C1 Shahine SAM specifications

Dimensions (H,W,L)6.6 x 3.1 x 5.5m ( x 10.17 ft x 18.04 ft )
Total weight, battle ready43 tons (38,800 kg; 85,539 lb)
PropulsionHispano-Suiza 110 12-cylinder diesel engine, 690 hp.+ APU
SuspensionTorsion bar suspension, hydraulic shock dampers
Speed (road)/(off-road)65/40 kph
Range (road) /(off-road)373 miles (600 km)
Armament6x Shahine SAM
ArmourAs AMX-30 SA
Total production36 systems (FU+AU)

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Illustration of the Shahine FU (Fire Unit)

Fire Unit

Acquisition Unit. Both: Thomson CSF

Shahine 2 (src unknown)

P4R Shahine (X)

src: Jeremy Binnie via X

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