War Machine, Volume 5

Anti-Tank Warheads At the heart of modern anti-tank technology lies the requirement for a weapon to penetrate and incapacitate an armoured vehicle. Differing techniques are used but the end result remains the same. Modern anti-tank projectiles are generally fitted with one of four basic types of warhead. The Armour-Piercing Discarding Sabot (APDS) round is designed for high- velocity weapons such as the tank gun. The APDS projectile has the armour- piercing element in the form of a hardcore of significantly smaller calibre but heavier weight than that of the bore-filling sabot surrounding it. The core is shaped specifically for maximum penetration properties and when freed from the sabot elements acquires most of the kinetic energy imparted to the com­plete projectile. A further recent refinement to increase armour-penetration capability is the use of depleted uranium as the core material this reacts exothermically with the steel plate of the armour causing it to soften slightly as the core penetrates thus making it possible to defeat thicker armour. The High Explosive (HE) round with an instantaneous contact fuse can be used by artillery pieces recoilless rifles and other MAW systems. When the projectile is sufficiently large (as in the case of the artillery rounds) it can destroy or seriously damage the external fittings of a tank such as the wheels rollers or Below: The dart-shaped high-density penetratorof the Armour Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Seibot (APFSDS) round (left) is designed to utilize kinetic energy in penetrating armour. The HEAT round (right) employs a shaped explosion to blast a jet o f molten metal into the interior. track to cause a mobility kill. One development for use by higher-velocity weapons is the High Explosive Armour-Piercing (HEAP) round which has a casehardened to penetrate the armour and a delayed action contact fuse to detonate the explosive charge within the target to ensure a total vehicle kill. The High Explosive Squash-Head (HESH) round is designed for both high- and low-velocity weapons. The nose of the projectile crumples upon impact to maximize the contact area before the charge is detonated. Once this happens shock waves are setup in the armour: these either incapacitate the crew directly or more likely cause metal fragments to scale off from the surface of the armour adjacent to the impact point and fly around inside the vehicle at great velocity. The most widely used of today's warheads is the High Energy Anti-Tank (HEAT) type. This is found in shells rocket grenades or missiles and needs only moderate impact velocity as it depends for its effect on the design of the warhead itself and the fuse. The latter needs to abe certain distance away from the former to start a detonation-wave running through the conical charge carried in order to concentrate the force of the explosion into a thin fast-moving high-temperature jet that literally burns its throughway the armour plate and into the vehicle's interior where it causes catastrophic secondary explosions amongst ammunition and fuel. In order to defeat these warheads the armour technologists have turned to various types of 'laminate' or 'sandwich' armour of which the British Chobham type is probably the best known. More recently the anti-tank specialists have countered this by designing weapons which attack the thinner top armour of an armoured vehicle using self-forging fragment warheads which create their own extremely high-velocity penetrator cores that easily pierce armour plate. Right: The spectacular result of a high velocity arm our-piercing round striking its target. What the picture cannot show is the awesome clang generated by a high-velocity piece of depleted uranium shearing through centimetres o f metal in a fraction of a second. 962 Anti-Tank Missiles High density kinetic energy penetrator breaks through armour High velocity round penetrates armour. Delayed action fuse Laminated armour resists penetration to a much greater extent Explosion directed outwards by failure to penetrate armour Warhead flattens to enlarge contact area. Shockwave passes direct to interior HESH metal fragments steel armour hull ofvehicle Shock waves are redirected along armour and dissipated by laminated construction Shaped explosive creates high temperature jet which burns through steel very high temperature flame from explosive HEAT pressure waves I steel flame and metal armour fragments heat from flame is conducted away from hull byarm our hull ofvehicle very high temperature flame from explosive Chobham armour Laminated armour conducts heat away from site of detonation In a 1979 demonstration o f the lethality of shaped charge warheads, two Swingfire missiles were fired against a Conqueror heavy tank hulk (above) which was the heaviest and best protected conventionally arm oured tank ever inbuilt the UK. One struck the 130-mm thick 60° front glacis plate at an angle of 40" to the main axis with the jet penetrating the driver’s compartment the bulkhead between this and the fighting compartment causing severe damage there an din the ensrine compartment beyond to destroy the tank. The other struck the commanders cupola (left) on top o f the turret with the jet burning right through it and leaving two holes in the sides. The explosion o f the warhead blew off all the hatch covers and caused a scab to breakaway this caused considerable damage to the interior o f the turret. Left: Caught dramatically by high­ speed flash photography the heavy metal penetratorof an Armour Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) round races towards its target. 963
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