Saturday, November 23, 2013

Indian Tank Ammunition Scenario -KE Penetrators


Tanks employ two main types of ammunition to defeat armor of opposing tanks. One type is called HEAT (Hi-Explosive Anti-Tank) while the other is called APFSDS (Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot). Russian have introduced anti-tank missiles being fired from the main gun of T-90 tanks and the same concept is also being introduced in Mk-2 version of Arjun MBT. However, this capability is yet to see widespread usage; one school of thought says this capability has been introduced to cover for relatively lower performance level of Russian anti-tank rounds. But we digress.

While HEAT rounds rely on molten jet traveling at very high speed to defeat armor, APFSDS ammunition uses only Kinetic Energy to defeat armor.

Wikimapia provides a pretty detailed overview of these types of rounds. Please see the link here:

India recently placed an order for 66,000 of these rounds from Russia and if news report(s) are to be believed, we’re being charged 3x-4x times the original price of these rounds. This acute short-fall in the ammunition of this type was brought to fore in the letter written by previous Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General V. K. Singh.

Such rounds are basic requirement of armor warfare and if a country which maintains one of the largest tank fleets in the world still imports such ammunition, then it points towards something really wrong somewhere.

With the aim to understand the scenario with respect to APFSDS ammunition in India, I did some research on the topic. The findings of this research form the content of this post. All the information has been takes from internet; main source of information are reports by Comptroller and Audit General from 1994 onward. 

Primer on APFSDS

It is not the objective of this post to undertake review of technical literature on the subject of KE Penetrator. However, to get some overview of the subject we use the help of pictures and graphics available on the internet.

Components of APFSDS

This excellent picture below shows the complete APFSDS Round and its components. From left to right:
  • Sabot with Penetrator encased within. You can make out the grooves through which Sabot is connected with Penetrator.
  • Penetrator with fins at bottom. The black colored front section is the ballistic cap of the penetrator.
  • Cross section showing placement of Sabot Shot within the APFSDS Round.
  • Complete Round.


The picture below is that of a Sabot Shot – one can see the Sabot surrounding the Penetrator. The cut-away in lower picture clearly shows the grooves trough which it is connected with the penetrator. This Sabot shot is encased in the Combustible Cartridge Case (CCC).