AC-12 Hovertank

By D Hebditch and Laurent Esmiol


The AC-12 is France's front-line Hover Battle Tank. Derived from the classic AC-8, the AC-12 is a highly reliable, combat proven design. Alongside its German rival the LkPz-IX it is regarded as the leading HBT design. The basic AC-12 design has proved versatile enough to take repeated upgrades and modifications in its relatively short time in service. It has also proven a popular export item and is in service with several other nations including Brazil, Poland and Texas.


This article is based on the AC-12 as described in GDW's Ground Vehicles Guide. All images are by Laurent Esmiol. The AC-12T and ACC-20 are by James Boschma.


Commandant Balan had been in near continuous combat for almost 24 hours now and his mind was fogged with fatigue. The Capus had launched their final push to encircle Fromme and cut off the troops fighting hard within it who had stymied the Capus for several days. Now the human forces' few remaining mobile armoured forces were desperately fighting to keep the route into the city open. Balan knew they were doomed. There were too many Capu, too few humans and worst of all no room to manoeuvre. In a battle of attrition the Kafers were bound to win.

Balan's command, the 3e Escadron of the 12e Régiment d' Aero-Cuirassiers was down to a mere five AC-12s. As it was it was one of the stronger French sub-units left in the fight. The 12e RAC was the only unit on-planet equipped with the now standard AC-12bis, the Coloniale armour had the old AC-10, the US Marines their outmoded M9s whilst few Azanians had escaped the fall of their colony and made it to Fromme. He waited for the next Capu strike which could come at any minute. Virtually all of their drones had been lost and they lacked information on the enemy's dispositions and intentions. The battle had degenerated into a dog fight and so far only human tenacity had prevented a complete collapse.

The AC-12bis had lived entirely up to its reputation forged by the early mark in the war against the Germany. The enhanced fire control and missile loads had proved vital in the series of combats against Capu battlegroups. In the hands of his 'Gros frères' with years of training and deployments to Central Asia behind them, they were definitely superior to the CAC-1 although the 1e Escadron had suffered a nasty surprise encounter with a Capu heavy tank now dubbed the CCC-1.

But now the stocks of Manta ATGW were very low and the AC-12s suffering from lack of maintenance and battle-damage. The unrelenting tempo of the Capu attacks was wearing down his surviving crews. The demi-brigade reconnaissance screen reported another attack group forming up for another push. He ordered the escadron forward to their fighting positions as some of their last artillery missiles lashed overhead. They'd just started engaging the lead CACs when the 'sauve-qui-peut' came across the net. The battle was lost and a division of troops and thousands of civilians were to be left to the mercy of the Capus inside the city. Balan feared his own chances were not much better.

Excerpt from 'The Fall of Kimanjano' by J.C. Dunleavy, Tirania Press, 2301


Colour Plates

Design Notes

Aéro-Char 12 Tonne Bis (AC-12bis)

The AC-12bis is the current standard mark of the AC-12 in service with the French Army. It is an evolution of the original AC-12 with modifications as a result of experience in combat against Germany in 2293. Most of these modifications are relatively minor, but have enhanced the AC-12s combat power.

The AC-12 was developed from the then revolutionary AC-8 which began development in 2257, entered service in 2269 and can still be found in some reserve and colonial units. The Central Asian War of the mid 2280s showed up some of the limitations of the AC-8, which could however still hold up against more modern designs. One of the main problems was the limited capability of the hull-mounted MDC when involved in fast moving close combat.

However this was far from being news to most in the French armour community. Indeed Schneider had begun serious work on a successor to the AC-8 a decade earlier. Key to this design, known as ACNG (Aéro-Char Nouvelle Génération), was commonality with the AC-8, improved armour, an anti-air capability and a turret mounted MDC. The main difficulty came in finding an MDC of sufficient performance to fit in the small remote turret. At the time the leading French design of this type was a 50mm model that lacked the required performance. The British 65mm L70 was tried but would have required a complete re-design of the remote turret. Largely thanks to this problem and the excellence of the AC-8 the ACNG went no further than the prototype stage.

As the limitations of the AC-8s became obvious the French government commissioned Schneider to restart the ACNG program with the aim of producing a hovertank to supplement the AC-8. Much of the work on the ACNG could be used for the updated vehicle whilst more modern technologies could be used including the very new Manta-1 ATGW and new armour composites. Most importantly a new short barrelled 65mm MDC had been developed which could fit the proposed remote turret design. Prototypes of the AC-10, as the ACNG was now known, were under test by 2284 after a very short gestation period.

Schneider were reasonably pleased with the AC-10 but were very aware of the limited power available to the hovertank using, as they were, the same engine as the AC-8s. However the increased weight of the AC-10 meant the vehicle was comparatively slow. Similarly several teething troubles plagued the vectronics, nevertheless the French government procured the first tranche of AC-10 which entered service with the Arme Blindée Cavalerie late in 2286 and was deployed in Central Asian the following year.

As foreseen by the manufacturers the AC-10 was not well received by the soldiers who had to fight it. The weapon systems were relatively new and whilst powerful, some problems were encountered with reliability of both the 65mm MDC and the Manta missiles. However the greatest problem was the lack of power, enabling it to be fairly easily outmanoeuvred by its Manchurian opponents, who actually had great respect for the AC-10. The AC-10 had been rushed into service prematurely and it showed, while it was the most advanced hovertank in service anywhere at the time its reputation never recovered from its early poor showing.

Whilst Schneider and the Arme Blindée Cavalerie worked to iron out the AC-10's teething troubles the manufacturers continued their work. The obvious solution was to mount a larger engine in the AC-10, however this required a complete re-design of the rear end of the vehicle, increasing its length. This work was soon successful and prototypes with the new 2.4MW MHD powerplant demonstrated greatly improved performance, albeit still somewhat short of that of the AC-8. By 2288 the new AC-12 was complete in its pre-production specification with a number of initial production prototypes in testing. The experience of the AC-10 had been integrated into its systems and the vehicle was highly regarded as being everything the AC-10 should have been.

However the French government had continued to order large numbers of AC-8s and smaller numbers of AC-10s up until the end of the war. Following the armistice all orders were cut to the bare minimum and Schneider verged on the brink of bankruptcy lacking a customer for the AC-12 despite intense lobbying from the French Army. The company looked around for possible export opportunities and had opened negotiations with Brazil. In 2289 the army launched a coup that overthrew the 12th Republic and installed a military junta. One of the first actions of the junta was to place a massive order of AC-12s with Schneider to replace first the obsolete AC-8s and then the interim AC-10s.

Production, already primed by Brazilian orders, was soon in full swing. Aided by commonality with its predecessors the AC-12 had an easy introduction into service with it soon beginning to equip French forces still in the Central Asian Republic on 'peacekeeping' duties. In fact by 2292 a whole Corps based in Central Asia had been re-equipped with AC-12 and the first division based in European France had begun conversion.

The war with the new Germany came as something as a shock to the rather complacent French. So used to the acquiescence of other states to French diplomacy they had failed to bring their best combat units back from Central Asia. Consequently the French fought the war mainly with a mixture of AC-8s and AC-10s, and even worse the nearly immobile ABR-76. However perhaps luckily the Germans were in a similar situation with only limited numbers of LkPz-IXs available and most of their units still using LkPz-VIIIs.

The AC-12 however proved itself a fine fighting vehicle, especially during the Battle of Picardie, helping to contain the German breakthrough. It proved itself more than a match for the LkPz-VIII and saw the start of a long running rivalry with the LkPz-IX. The vehicle revealed few flaws, but was overmatched by its opponent only due to its limited ATGW missile magazine.

Production of the AC-12 continued after the war to replace losses and continue the re-equipment programme. However Schneider had begun some work to integrate combat experience of the war into the design. Two options were developed; one an upgrade of the existing model introducing the next generation of vectronics and the other a completely new design finally moving away from the evolution of the old AC-8 chassis. The first of these, the AC-12bis, was adopted in 2298 with a mixture of new-build vehicles and conversion kits, although the latter lacks the armour upgrade.

The second, dubbed AC-14, is still under development and will probably incorporate experience from the Kafer War. However for the time being the AC-12 will equip most of the French Army for the foreseeable future.

The AC-12 has had notable export success with the Brazilians license producing it in large numbers as the ACC-20. Similarly several smaller nations including Texas and Poland have procured the design. The willingness of Schneider to tailor the design for potential buyers has contributed much to their success. The relative ease in obtaining export licenses for this advanced equipment is partly due to French efforts to rehabilitate themselves since the days of the junta, as well as to entice nations away from buying German equipment.

The AC-12 has also seen severe action against the Kafers in France's colonies on the French Arm. Although it has an increasing number of challengers the AC-12 has maintained its reputation as the finest hover battle tank in service.

Type: Modern French Hovertank
Crew: 3 (Commander, Gunner, Driver)
Weight: 12 000kg
Armour: Plenum: 20 Front and Overhead: 120 Other Faces: 40
Armament: 1 6.5cm Mass Driver Cannon in remote overhead mount (Aimed Fire Range: 2000m, Rangefinder: +4, ROF: 6, Rounds Carried: 130, DP: 100) 25mm autocannon on telescoping sensor pod; 1 Manta-1 missile launcher with 12 missiles carried internally; 1 Martel missile launcher on either side of the remote turret, 6 manual reloads carried.
Signature: 3
Evasion: 6
Sensor Range: 12km (+2)
Cargo: 100kg
Max Speed: 200kph
Cruise Speed: 180kph
Combat Movement: 413m
Off Road Mobility: Full
Power Plant: 2.4 MW MHD turbine
Fuel Capacity: 485kg
Fuel Consumption: 55kg/hour
Endurance: 8 3/4 hours
Price: 650 000Lv




The classic AC-12 is the vehicle which first saw action in the War of German Reunification. It is substantially roomier inside than the later AC-12bis which has much of the spare room taken up with ammunition. The AC-12 has slightly lighter armour, fewer missile reloads and earlier generation vectronics than its successor, however it is still a fine combat vehicle. Deliveries of the AC-12bis have been concentrated in the Armée de Manúuvre and Armée de Libération, so the baseline AC-12 is still commonplace in much of the French Army. It should be noted that there are no visible external differences between the AC-12 and the AC-12bis.

AV = 100 Front and Overhead
Rangefinder = +3
Armament = Only 4 Manta-1 reloads. No Martel reloads.

Ar-Carro de Combate Modelo 20 (ACC-20)

The ACC-20 is the licence produced Brazilian version of the AC-12. In a deal signed in 2289 the Brazilians received a hundred AC-12s from Schneider and then commenced their own production run at the Arsenal Nacional plant in Fortaleza. The ACC-20 is very similar to the baseline AC-12 except for minor changes in the armament. The 25mm autocannon and 7.5mm machinegun have been replaced by more up to date Brazilian versions and the two Martel tubes have been replaced by a twin launch tube for the Escorpião-A light SAM. The ACC-20 equips the Brazilian 3rd Army on the Argentine border and is also in service with the Portuguese Army.

For more details click here.


AC-12T is the designation for the AC-12 in service with the Republic of Texas Army since 2297. The AC-12T differs in the deletion of the Manta and Martel launchers and the attachment of twin MEWS pods to the turret, capable of carrying a range of weapons including Striker missiles. It also uses a different close defence system. So far Texas only has two battalions of AC-12Ts due to French production being switched to support the war effort on the Kafer Arm. Instead the Texans have opted to purchase ACC-20s from Brazil to provide the next tranche of vehicles. A company of AC-12s are active with Task Force Alamo on Aurore.

For more details click here.

Other variants

The AC-12 has been modified extensively since its introduction to service. These include a version equipped with a 120mm MRL system to provide close artillery support and command tanks. Short ranged air defence versions with multi-barrelled plasma guns are also in operation as is a close support version with a short-barrelled petard. As already noted the French have proved willing to modify the AC-12 to meet the buyers needs and so many different modifications can be found, partly as the AC-12 is such a versatile system.



A - 65mm Mass Driver Cannon
B - 25mm autocannon
C - 7.5mm coaxial machinegun
D - Manta-1 anti-tank missile launcher
E - Martel anti-aircraft missile launcher
F - Radio wave antenna
G - Tight beam antenna
H - Anti-personnel charges
I - Crew compartment
J - Cargo bins
K - Masked exhaust
L - Plenum skirt armour
M - Plenum



The AC-12 has an impressive armament load based on that carried by the AC-8 which proceeded it, but in a different configuration. The AC-12 has capability to engage virtually any target found on the modern battlefield. The under-armour Guiscard Manta-1 missile system can destroy enemy vehicles up to 8km away. The Manta is a fire and forget system that can be cued from a variety of sources allowing the AC-12 to stand off and fire from turret down positions. The AC-12 also carries two Martel SAMs on either side of the remote turret. These give the hovertank a rudimentary self-defence capability against fast moving aircraft and gunships.

The main weapon system is the Darlan 65mm MDC which is responsible for most of the anti-vehicle killing capacity of the AC-12. In the war against Germany the Darlan proved capable of killing any AFV in the German inventory, however it is believed the LkPz-IX Aufs B has enhanced armour and this may not be the case any more. Similarly problems with penetration against Kafer CAC-1s ('Deathsleds') have been encountered on the French Arm. A higher calibre MDC is in development for the AC-14 and may yet be retrofitted to the AC-12s.

The AC-12 has a number of secondary weapon systems mainly for use against infantry. A 25mm autocannon is located with some remote sensors on a telescoping platform normally stowed flush against the rear of the turret which allows the vehicle to maintain situational awareness from the turret-down position. The 25mm can be used to engage infantry but also has a point defence role. The AC-12 also has a coaxial 7.5mm machine gun and a number of anti-personnel charges mounted on the front-hull which can be used to explosively clear close-in ambush positions.

Darlan C-16 65mm Mass Driver Cannon

The 65mm MDC produced by Darlan is one of the best performing weapons of its kind in service anywhere, and was simply revolutionary on its introduction. Thanks to advanced pulse control the MDC combines impressive muzzle velocity, rapid fire and accuracy in a very small package. It outperforms the previous generation of larger weapon used on the AC-8 and is a better anti-armour weapon than the 70mm long-barrelled MDC used on the LkPz-IX. However it's weakness is in the low performance of its HEAT rounds, which is compensated for by the inclusion of the 25mm autocannon in the weapons suite.

Type: 65mm Mass Driver Cannon
Country: France
Action: SA
Ammunition: 65mm long rod penetrator
ROF: 6
Aimed Fire Range: 2000m
DP Value: 100


Colour Plates

AC-12, 4e Escadron, 4e Régiment de Cuirassiers, 21e Division de Marche
Continent Français, Beta Canum Venaticorum-IV, 19th February 2302

This AC-12 'Douaumont' belongs to the 4e Cuirassiers who were part of the regular French force deployed on Beta Canum. The 21e DM was rotated to Beta Canum to counter regular Bundeswehr forces sent to the German Continent following the war. The division was the high intensity warfare reserve force for 9e Corps.

The vehicle is part of the 4e Escadron and carries a 'D' series name like the other AC-12s in that sub-unit. It carries only a small tactical insignia identifying sub-unit, unit and formation on the front left hull. On the rear of the hull there is a small sub-unit tactical insignia indicating regiment (Yellow), squadron (round) and troop (4). The camouflage scheme is the typical warm temperate scheme and is also in use with the Armée de l'Asie Centrale.

The 4e Cuirassiers were engaged in the desperate actions of 'Black February' 2302 and were part of 21e DM's vain attempt to halt the Kafer invasion of Beta Canum. Eventually surrounded and isolated the regiment was destroyed completely. It has since been reformed from a cadre of survivors and new recruits on Earth.

AC-12bis, EMT 1, 12e Régiment d'Aero-Cuirassiers, 2e Demi-Brigade, 1e Division de Marche
Fromme, Kimanjano, 12th December 2301

This AC-12bis 'Verdun' belongs to the regimental HQ of the 12e Cuirassiers. This regiment was part of a demi-brigade of the 1e DM dispatched to Kimanjano in response to the Kafer invasion, the remainder of the division went to Nous Voila. The role of the demi-brigade was to give mobile support to the infantry forces defending Kimanjano should the Kafers penetrate that far. After the Kafers bypassed Nous Voila further armoured forces were sent to Kimanjano from Nouvelle Europe on Beowulf.

The vehicle carries the usual tactical insignia on the front of the hull. The sub-unit insignia on the rear of the hull seems to incorrect, suggesting the vehicle was moved to the Regimental HQ from one of the squadrons. The vehicle is painted with a colour scheme that blends in with the terrain in the non-terraformed areas of Kimanjano.

The 12e Cuirassiers and the Régiment de Carabiniers 'Prins Boudewijn' were heavily involved in the six week campaign to defend Fromme. However after serious attrition and the fall of the city the regiment fought in the rearguard as the French forces fell back into the mountains. The remaining AC-12s were destroyed and abandoned as part of the final evacuation of troops from the planet. The 12e Cuirassiers reformed on Beowulf and fought with the Armée de Libération before being repatriated to Earth.

AC-12T, A Company, 1-112th Texas Armored Regiment, 49th Texas Armored Brigade
Fort Hood, Texas, 1st December 2297

This AC-12T is shown during the ceremony accepting the type into service with the Republic of Texas Army at Fort Hood. The AFV belongs to A Company, 1-112th Texas Armored Regiment of the independent 49th Texas Brigade. Equipped with the most modern equipment in the Texan inventory the brigade is a rapid reaction formation tasked with spearheading counter-attacks against any Mexican incursion.

Texan vehicles are commonly decked out with both formal and informal insignia. This particular vehicle carries the nation flash, historic 49th Texan Armored Brigade and 112th TAR insignia. Key recognition features are the MEWS pods on the side of the turret, the plated over Manta launcher and the Whisperdrone UAV. The vehicle carries the standard Texan mottled desert camouflage pattern.

A company of Texan AC-12Ts from the 2-112th TAR are currently deployed to Aurore as part of the Texan Task Force Alamo contingent. The remainder of the 49th Texan Armored Brigade is about to hand on its AC-12Ts to the 56th Texas Armoured Brigade and receive the first Brazilian built ACC-20s into service.


Design Notes

In this article I have tried to follow canon closely, however in terms of development timelines the canon description of the AC-12 has some problems. The Ground Vehicle Guide states that development of the AC-12 began 'shortly after the Central Asian War', that the interim AC-10 was fielded, and then the AC-12 was introduced with enough produced to equip 1/3rd of the French Army by 2292. This means that in the space of five years two designs have been developed, produced and entered into service. It also means that the AC-8 would have been in service for more than 15 years without any significant work having been done on a successor.

Even given 2300 technology I find this timeline unlikely. Instead I have lengthened the development process significantly and even introduced the AC-10 in small numbers during the Central Asian War. I have the AC-12 entering service with the French Army in 2289, which, in my opinion, is in just enough time for substantial numbers to be available in 2292. For those who like to adhere to the letter of canon please ignore my take on the development process and have both vehicles developed immediately after the Central Asian War.