Air Weapons: China Develops An M-1 Tank Killer

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June 23, 2011: China has developed its own version of the U.S. SADARM (Search And Destroy Armor Munitions). These small (147mm diameter, 204mm long) devices weigh 10 kg (22 pounds) and are carried two per 155mm shell or 40 per CBU-105, 455 kg (thousand pound), cluster bomb. Each of these SADARMs have their own radar and heat sensor that searches for armored vehicles below and destroys them with a special shaped charge warhead. The SADARM sensors can search and attack vehicles within an area of roughly 150 x 360 meters, as they slowly descend.

SADARM, or "sensor fused munitions" were first conceived of in the 1960s, but it wasn't until the 1980s that the technology was perfected. The self-forging metal projectile used by SADARM punches through the thinner armor on the top of the vehicle (including the American M-1). If a target is not found, SADARM self-destructs.

Development was slowed by the end of the Cold War in 1991, but by the end of the 1990s, some were produced. The first use of the CBU-105 was on April 2nd, 2003, when a B-52 dropped six of them on an Iraqi army column moving south from Baghdad. Most of the vehicles were later found destroyed. The Russians have a version of their own, SPBE-D, for sale to anyone who can pay for it. This half ton cluster bomb contains only 15 SADARM type devices, and each weighs twice as much as the American version.

The problem with selling SADARMs is that, while they are an inexpensive and quick way to destroy lots of armored vehicles, there are not many nations facing that kind of threat any more. China, however, has Russia and India as potential foes.  China has border disputes with both nations, and both of those countries have large armor forces. So far, China has only displayed the artillery shell version of SADARM. This indicates that China used American technology to develop their SADARM. The basic idea, and technologies, are well known. But the actual engineering data of American SADARM would be useful, as many minor engineering problems had to be solved before a reliable weapon could be produced.

 


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