Armor: AMPing Up Performance

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October 16, 2018: Egypt recently ordered 60,000 120mm rounds of ammo for its 1,300 M1A1 tanks. This order includes 46,000 practice rounds and new types of shells that the Egyptian M1A1s have not used before. Egypt manufactures, under license, older (KE-W) types of 120mm shells and the new order includes newer types like 10,000 APFSDS-T armor piercing rounds. Of more immediate usefulness are 4,500 IM HE-T (Insensitive Munitions High Explosive with Tracer) tank rounds that can be used against buildings and fortifications. These will be put to use in the Sinai Peninsula where Egyptian M1A1 tanks are sometimes used against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) forces operating in urban areas. The availability of these AMP (Advanced Multi-Purpose) type shells is also a reminder to Hamas in Gaza that Egypt is equipped to handle any sort of chaos that might develop there now that Hamas is losing control of the population. IM HE-T is a 16 kg (35 pound) shell that contains a tracer visible for about 4,000 meters and 3.2 kg (7 pounds) of explosives. The gunner can select either point (explode on contact) or delay (penetrate then explode).

Over the last decade, the U.S. Army has been developing new types of multipurpose 120mm tank shells. This has largely been about AMP type shells like IM HE-T. The first AMP designs replaced the multipurpose M830A1 (and its improved version M908), the HEAT (shaped charge anti-tank), and M1028 (“shotgun” shell) rounds. The AMP often have instant, delayed, and airburst detonation options. This allows the gunner to quickly select the type of detonation that is best able to take out different targets (personnel, light armor, and structures). AMP is often able to penetrate reinforced concrete walls and kill or wound troops more than 500 meters away.

Currently, there are shells similar to the DM11 (used by the German Army and U.S. Marine Corps) that are effective against personnel and structures. The DM11 was used in Iraq and Afghanistan and is one of several new multi-purpose tank gun shells, and these AMP shells have proved very useful. These new shell designs are better at killing infantry and destroying bunkers and buildings, than tanks.

It was in the 1990s, that these new multipurpose shells began to appear. But there were still a lot of older shells that were somewhat multipurpose. Thus, since 2003, 19,000 American M830A1 multipurpose 120mm tank gun rounds were modified (to become M908 shells), to make 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 are what American M-1 tanks used frequently in Iraq.

Israel pioneered the use of multi-purpose tank gun ammunition and has been using their versions heavily in Palestinian areas for over a decade. These multipurpose shells make tanks much more useful in urban fighting. Hostile gunmen often take cover in buildings or trees and crops. The multipurpose shells can knock down buildings, and the M1028 can clear out anyone sniping at you from lighter structures or vegetation. Some AMP shells can detonate behind obstacles as well, killing troops who were usually safe from tank gunfire in the past. The AMP design works and current versions are rugged and reliable enough for combat use in any environment. That includes Egypt during the hot season, when it is very, very hot. Often hot enough to make some older types of tank shells misbehave.

 


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