Indian Army

Explained: Types of Tank Ammunition

Hello defence lovers! In this article we are going to discuss the different types of Tank ammunition and where and how these are used.

In modern warfare, the tanks have to deal with a wide variety of threats and targets. These include other enemy tanks, man-portable anti-tank missiles, armoured personnel carriers capable of firing anti-tank missiles, airborne threats and much more. So dealing with such a wide variety of treats and targets with a single type of ammunition is just not possible. Thus modern tanks are equipped with a wide variety of rounds that can be fired from their main guns.

HEAT rounds

High-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) is a type of tank ammunition that uses shaped charge explosives. These use the Munroe effect (The Munroe or Neumann effect is the focusing of blast energy by a hollow or void cut on a surface of an explosive) to penetrate heavy and thick armour.

The warhead functions by detonating an explosive charge that collapses a metal liner inside the warhead into a high-velocity superplastic jet which capable of penetrating armour steel to a depth of up to seven times the diameter of the charge. Note that the jet’s effect is purely kinetic in nature and the round has no explosive or incendiary effect on the target. Contrary to a common misunderstanding of the name, the working HEAT round has nothing to do with thermal effects.

As these Heat rounds rely on the chemical energy in the warhead rather than on the kinetic energy of the entire round for their penetration performance, HEAT warheads do not have to be fired with high velocity, as an armour-piercing round does. Thus a lesser recoil is generated which increases its accuracy.

However, HEAT warheads nowadays, have become less effective against tanks and other armoured vehicles such as APCs and Infantry combat vehicles due to the increased use of composite armour, explosive-reactive armour, and active-protection systems which destroy the HEAT warhead before it functions. While a single HEAT warhead may not pose any significant threat to any modern tank, but it still deadly against lighter vehicles and aircraft. Multiple hits over a single area may pose a greater threat but its highly unlikely. These rounds are very effective against older generations of tanks which lack these explosive reactive armours and composite armours.

APFSDS

Armour-Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) also known as long dart penetrator, or simply dart ammunition, is a type of kinetic energy penetrator tank ammunition used to attack modern tanks and other heavily armoured vehicles. The APFSDS succeeds the armour-piercing discarding sabot (APDS) tank ammunition. APFSDS is basically a fin-stabilized upgraded version of APDS.

Advancements in powerful automotive propulsion and suspension systems in the post World War II era allowed MBTs to incorporate progressively thicker and heavier armour protection systems without compromising the manoeuvrability and speed on the battlefield. As a result, achieving the deep armour penetration of the modern armours with gun-fired ammunition required even longer anti-armour projectiles fired at even higher muzzle velocity than could be achieved with stubbier APDS projectiles.

In general APFSDS projectiles have long-rod penetrator cores of tungsten alloy or depleted uranium which they are fired with high muzzle velocities around 1,650 metres (5,400 feet) per second or more, making them capable of perforating much thicker armour than all earlier types of tank ammunition.

HESH

High-explosive squash head (HESH) is a type of explosive tank ammunition which uses a plastic explosive (C4) that conforms to the surface of a target before detonating to improve the transfer of explosive energy to the target. Squash head projectiles are quite similar to high explosive projectiles and are well suited to many of the same targets. However, while HESH projectiles are not armour piercing they are capable of defeating armoured targets by causing shock wave which can injure or kill the occupants of the target vehicle. HESH rounds were first used by the British Army as the main explosive round of its main battle tanks during the Cold War era. HESH rounds were also used by some other military forces, particularly those that acquired the early post-World War II British 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7A1 tank gun, including Germany, India, Israel and Sweden. The Americans call HESH rounds HEP (high explosive plastic).

Canister Rounds

Canister round is another type of tank ammunition which is used by the modern tanks. It is basically a large scale shot gun round filled with hundreds of ball bearings.

Canister rounds are developed for the use against infantry. The steel ball-bearing filled canister is fired from the main gun and detonated by a timed fuse in flight.

Guided Missiles

Some of the modern MBTs like T 90 Bhishma, our indigenous MBT Arjun and many others can fire anti-tank guided missiles from their main gun. These function as any other anti-tank guided missiles, but their dimensions are carefully planned to match the caliber of the tank’s main gun. The guidance for these missiles is provided from the Tanks electro-optical sensors.

Sheershoo Deb

I am a defense aspirant Preparing to be an officer Earning the prestigious blue uniform is my dream. I am a Defense analyst and enthusiast

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