SA46 (120 mm)

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The SA46 is a 120 mm cannon made for the AMX-50 Surblinde, AMX-50 Surbaisse and the AMX-50 Foch. These tanks were all prototypes which were ultimately abandoned as the cost of producing one was one of the obstacles the French Army had to face. The other one being the development of stabilized shaped charge shells (HEAT-FS) and its devastating effects on heavy tanks.

While testing the AMX-50s, it was suggested that they performed better than the US and the USSR counterparts, the M26 Pershing and the IS-3 respectively, although both France and Germany had to accept the project for its development to continue. As France was ready to accept it, it wasn't the case for the FRG as they wanted more lighter and nimbler vehicles, which the AMX-50s failed to achieve.

Vehicles equipped with this weapon

General info

The SA46 is a 120 mm cannon exclusively made for the AMX-50-120 and its variants. It is a very devastating cannon which can destroy most of its opposition with a single shot. The high velocity, coupled with the heavy weight of the projectiles guarantees massive amounts of spalling after penetration.

Even though, most users will be more comfortable with using APBC only, one should also think about grabbing some HE rounds as they'll make short work of not only light vehicles, but some medium vehicles as well, thanks to its 4,650 g of TNT filler. If one is worried that their round might over-penetrate the target, using the HE is a good and efficient alternative.

Available ammunition

Penetration statistics
Ammunition Warhead type Penetration @ 0° Angle of Attack (mm)
10 m 100 m 500 m 1,000 m 1,500 m 2,000 m
120 mm Obus explosif HE 39 39 39 39 39 39
120 mm Obus de rupture APBC 301 298 286 272 258 245
Shell details
Ammunition Warhead Type Velocity(m/s) ProjectileMass (kg) Fuse delay(m) Fuse sensitivity(mm) Explosive Mass(TNT equivalent)


Ricochet chance
0% 50% 100%
120 mm Obus explosif HE 762 22.84 0 0.1 4,650 79° 80° 81°
120 mm Obus de rupture APBC 1,067 23.1 N/A N/A N/A 47° 60° 65°

Comparison with analogues

Comparable cannons to the SA46
Name Year of Production RPM Maximum Penetration (mm)
PaK44 (128 mm) 1944 3 272
D-25T (122 mm) 1930s 2 230

Usage in battles

The SA46 is a very destructive cannon, capable of destroying most of its opposition in a single shot. This, coupled with the fact that the cannon is mounted on tanks that have an oscillating turret and two of them are equipped with a 6 second auto-loader, makes it amazing at fulfilling multiple roles.


First way to use the SA46 is to find a good vantage point and wait for unsuspecting enemies to cross the user's cannon. The 6 second autoloader allows for rapid shots to be taken if the first one misses or does not instantly destroy the target. This is only the case with the Surbaisse and the Surblinde, as the AMX-50 Foch lacks an auto-loader and therefore, more accuracy is required. Unlike the AMX-50 Foch however, the Surbaisse and the Surblinde both have oscillating turrets which allows for very fast turret rotation, which is a trait shared with many other oscillating designs.


The second way of using the SA46 is to flank enemies and rush them. As the SA46 has very good characteristics and is used in conjunction with an oscillating, autoloading turret (with the exception of the AMX-50 Foch), makes it good for dispatching a whole squad of unsuspecting enemies. This way of using the cannon however, is not recommended if the user is using the AMX-50 Foch as the lack of a turret and an autoloader will prove to be an obstacle that one cannot scale that easily.

Pros and cons


  • Strong APBC rounds; capable of destroying most of its opposition in a single shot
  • High velocities for both of its rounds
  • HE rounds carry 4,650 g of TNT filler


  • Cannon is very long and hard to conceal


The AMX-50 is a heavy tank project which was jointly developed by France and the FRG (Federal Republic of Germany) in 1949.

In July 1945, in the aftermath of liberation, the General Staff expressed the need for heavy tanks with national design. As the tensions with the USSR were rising, and with the results of the last world conflict, the French Army started presenting precise specifications of what the future main tank of the army would be. The tank had to be comparable on several points to already existing machines, and it was requested that the power of the cannon was at least on par with the German 88 mm cannon used by the Tiger II, but it was also requested that it would have the mobility of a T-34 with the armour of a Panther.

Four prototypes were presented, but only one was accepted, which was the one that the firm AMX (Ateliers de construction d'Issy-les-MoulineauX) presented;

  • AMX 50
  • AMX 50 Surblindé (over-armored)
  • AMX 50 Surbaissé (lowered)
  • AMX Foch

During the testing of these prototypes, it was quickly noted that they were superior to its US and USSR counterpart, the M26 Pershing and the IS-3 respectively. But the Americans did not want to fund a project that would not be adopted, so it was necessary for two countries to accept the project. As France was getting ready to accept it, it wasn't the case with the FRG, which was inspired by the doctrines of the ex-general Heinz Guderian , a supporter of lighter and faster tanks. In addition, the development of new technologies and capabilities in the field of missiles and shaped charge shells would make the tank's massive armor obsolete and unsuitable for a future large-scale conflict.

In the end, the three major obstacles which were the price, weight and the continuous development of HEAT-FS, weren't easy to scale, so the project was abandoned.


See also

External links

France tank cannons
20 mm  20F2
25 mm  SA34 L/72
37 mm  SA18 L/21 · SA38 L/33
47 mm  SA34 L/30 · SA35 L/32 · SA37
75 mm  APX · SA35 L/17 · SA44 · SA49 · SA50 L/57
90 mm  CN90 F3 · CN90 F4 · DEFA F1 · SA45
100 mm  SA47 L/58
105 mm  CN-105-F1 · Modele F2 · PzK M57
120 mm  GIAT CN120-25 G1 · GIAT CN120-26 F1 · SA46
142 mm  ACRA
155 mm  L'Obusier de 155 Modèle 1950
15 mm  MG 151 (Germany)
20 mm  MG 151 (Germany)
37 mm  M6 (USA)
40 mm  QF 2-pounder (Britain)
75 mm  KwK42 (Germany) · M3 (USA) · M6 (USA)
76 mm  M7 (USA)
105 mm  M4 (USA)