Armor: Tank Ammunition Evolves

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April 18, 2012: Seeking to attract tank ammo sales from one of its biggest weapons customers, Israel has introduced a 125mm version of its 120mm "urban warfare" tank round. Called the M710, this shell is designed to penetrate a concrete wall and detonate inside a structure. The M710 has two other settings. One will have the shell detonate as it hits a wall, rather than just penetrating. This creates a breach in the wall that infantry can get through. The third setting is for air burst, where the shell will explode in the air at a specific distance from the tank. This is used to attack troops in trenches or behind other fortifications that a shell cannot penetrate.

The Israeli 120mm version of this round, the 120mm APAM-MP-T (M329), entered service three years ago. It is an anti-personnel and anti-materiel (vehicles or structures) round that has a programmable fuze that allows for air bursts and detonation when close to a moving target (like helicopters). The M329 acts like a high explosive round when fired at buildings or bunkers. Israel exports a version of the M329, tweaked for use by NATO standard tank guns, as the M339.

These Israeli munitions compete with similar stuff from other countries. Often Israeli forces note a new American 120mm rounds, use them, and decide to develop a better and cheaper version for their own use and export.

Over the last two decades there has been a new generation of tank gun ammunition. Some of these American rounds proved very useful in Iraq and Israel. The new shells were better at killing infantry and destroying bunkers and buildings, rather than destroying tanks. With the end of the Cold War there has not been a lot of tank-versus-tank combat and existing anti-tank shells were more than adequate.

In the 1990s, new shells were developed for these new conditions. Older shells were recycled with new features. Thus 19,000 American M830A1 multipurpose 120mm tank gun rounds were modified to become M908 shells (similar to the Israel M329). This made them more lethal against bunkers, buildings, and unarmored vehicles. In addition, there was the M1028, which is a 120mm shotgun shell (containing 1100 10mm tungsten balls that can kill or wound at up to 700 meters from the tank), that began production in 2002. This shell, and the M908, was what American M-1 tanks use nearly all the time in Iraq.

Israel pioneered both types of tank ammunition and used their versions heavily in Palestinian areas during the last seven years. These two shells make tanks much more useful in urban fighting. Hostile gunmen often take cover in buildings, or trees and crops. The M908 can knock down buildings and the M1028 can clear out anyone sniping at you from lighter structures or vegetation.

The M329 provides even more flexibility for when tanks are not fighting other tanks. India has over 4,000 tanks that use 125mm operation, and the Indians have a high opinion of Israeli military equipment.

 


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