Armor: Multipurpose Tank Shells Thrive


April 6, 2013: The U.S. Army is continuing its effort to replace several types of 120mm tank shells with multipurpose rounds. The latest effort in this area is the AMP (Advanced Multi-Purpose) shell. This one will replace the current multipurpose M830A1 (and its improved version M908), the HEAT (shaped charge anti-tank), and M1028 (“shotgun” shell) rounds. The AMP will have instant, delayed, and airburst detonation. 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 will be able to penetrate reinforced concrete walls and kill or wound troops more than 500 meters away.

Currently there are similar shells like the DM11 (used by the German Army and U.S. Marine Corps) that is effective against personnel and structures. The DM11 was used in Iraq and Afghanistan. The DM11 is one of several new multi-purpose tank gun shells, and these 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, in the last decade, 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. The AMP will be able to detonate behind obstacles as well, killing troops who were usually safe from tank gun fire in the past. The AMP has been tested and it works, but there will be a year or more of development needed to make it rugged and reliable enough for combat use.


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