European Security and Defence (No 1/2022) included an article “More Punch for Medium Armoured Vehicles” which covered mainly actual medium calibre weapons. The land defence sector has seen a significant number of mergers and acquisitions in recent years including the ammunition sector.
Nexter (France) took over Luchaire (France) some years ago and more recently MECAR (Belgium) and Simmel Difesa (Italy) were taken over by Nexter. Late in 2021 it was announced that these would be grouped under a new company called Nexter Arrowtech which can supply customers with a complete range of ammunition from 20 mm up to 155mm.
Rheinmetall (Germany) has taken over ammunition contractors in South Africa (Denel) and Switzerland (Oerlikon) which has enabled them to supply a complete range of ammunition with the exception of small arms ammunition. In the UK, Royal Ordnance is now BAE Systems Land with major facilities at Radway Green (small arms ammunition) and Washington (projectile bodies).
The downsizing of ammunition facilities has occurred for a number of reasons including the reduction in ammunition requirements in Europe due to the reduced number of platforms and weapons deployed and a number of overseas countries are now manufacturing their own ammunition rather than importing ammunition.
Recent 30 mm medium calibre and above developments include the fielding of Armour Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) and Air Bursting Munitions (ABM) natures as well as using insensitive munition (IM) propellant and high-explo- sive (HE) and for APFSDS penetrators with increased armour penetrator capabilities. When compared to older munitions, these APFSDS and ABM rounds are more expen- sive to manufacture and are often kept just for combat use with cheaper rounds being used for training.
The larger calibre medium calibre rounds have longer ranges which means that existing firing ranges cannot always be used and this has led to the development of more specialised training rounds with a shorter range but with a ballistic match for combat ranges.
While the end user is demanding larger calibre weapons for its Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) this comes at increased cost and means less ammunition can be carried. On the other hand, larger calibre cannon can mean “more stowed kills.” Many contractors for medium calibre weapons can also supply a complete suite of ammunition as part of a total weapon package while other end users have a separate competition for the ammunition to reduce costs. The end user however must make certain that if the ammunition is not obtained from the original and qualified supplier, there are risks.
End users can encounter problems in ammunition supply when an Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) is phased out of service with its first and usually major customer. A good example is the British Alvis SCORPION Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) fitted with a two person turret armed with a 76 mm L23A1 gun manufactured by the then Royal Ordnance Factories (ROF) who also supplied a suite of ammunition. SCORPION was phased out of British Army service many years ago because of toxic problems in the turret when the weapon was fired.
The UK no longer manufactures 76 mm ammunition although MECAR (subsequently taken over by Nexter) has manufactured this ammunition as well as a wide range of ammunition from 20 mm upwards, including 105 mm and 115 mm (for Russian T-62 tank) ammunition.
Countries can also encounter ammunition supply problems owing to changes in political relationships. For example, some members of the former Warsaw Pact (WP) are now members of NATO and have had to source ammunition for their Russian weapons that are still deployed.
30 mm Ammunition
30 x 173 mm ammunition is used in a number of 30 mm cannon including the South African Denel Land Systems 30 GI-30, US Northrop Grumman 30 mm MK44 and the German Rheinmetall (Mauser) MK 30-2. There are many contractors supplying this 30 x 173 mm ammunition with a good example being NAMMO of Norway who have also invested in developing new rounds. NAMMO are currently marketing:
- High-Explosive – incendiary (HEI)
- HEI – Tracer (HEI-T)
- HEI and HEI-T self-destruct (SD)
- semi-armour piercing HEI/SD (SAPHEI/SD)
- SAPHEI-T/SD and Multi-Purpose-T/SD, designated the NM222 (MK264)
They have also developed a 30 mm APF- SDS-T designated the NM225 (MK258 Mod 0) which is claimed with penetrate 100 mm of Rolled Homogenous Armour (RHA) at a range of 1,000 m which would enable most light and medium AFV to be neutralised.
Training rounds have not been neglected by NAMMO with a typical round being the 30 x 173 mm target practice – tracer (TP-T) designated the NM219 which is a ballistic match to the 30 mm NM222 (MK270) MP- T/SD and according to NAMMO “precision tests show superb accuracy out to distances of 3,000.” More recent TPDS-T rounds are the NM245 (MK320).
Major investments have taken place in 30 mm Air Bursting Munitions (ABM) development with the round being programmed to burst over target for maximum effect. The German PSM PUMA IFV is fitted with a two person remote controlled turret armed with a 30 mm MK 30-2 ABM dual feed cannon which can fire an APFSDS-T or an ABM round which is programmed as it leaves the barrel for maximum target effect against dug in and dismounted infantry.
While the US Army BRADLEY is armed with a Northrop Grumman 25 mm M242 dual feed cannon, many foreign customers have opted for the Northrop Grumman 30 mm MK 44 dual feed cannon which can be upgraded to 40 mm.
The 30 mm MK44 can also be supplied to fire ABM which uses an integrated fuze setter in the ammunition feed system, an ABM fuze setter in the gun control unit and a ballistic algorithm integrated into the fire control system. This allows it to fire the 30 mm MK310 Mod 0 programmable ABM-T (PABM-T) and uses an aluminium cartridge case with a muzzle velocity of 980 m/s. The gunner can select airburst, Point Detonating (PD) and PD-delay which depends on the target set to be engaged.
Northrop Grumman also confirmed to ESD that they had developed a 40 x 180 mm ABM round using internal research and development funding.
Russian 30 mm Ammunition
While NATO and many other countries use 30 x 173 mm ammunition, the Russian 2A42 and 2A72 cannon fire 30 x 280 mm ammunition which is also manufactured by a number of other countries with China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) making this on the export market.
MECAR developed a new 30 mm APFS- DS-T round for the Russian 30 mm 2A42 and 2A72 cannon which features a tung- sten alloy cobalt free penetrator which is claimed to be able to penetrate 45 mm of RHA at an angle of 45 degrees at a range of 1,000 m with an m/v of 1,275 m/s.
This 35 x 228 mm ammunition was originally developed for use by the now Rheinmetall Air Defence Oerlikon twin 35 mm air defence weapons with the latest round being the 35 mm Advanced Hit Efficiency and Destruction (AHEAD) which is highly effective against small targets. It can also be used in the Northrop Grumman 35 mm Bushmaster III dual feed cannon which is installed in the BAE Systems Hagglunds CV9035 IFV deployed by Den- mark, Estonia and the Netherlands. Other countries also market this 35 x 228 mm ammunition including NORINCO as China deploys a number of towed and self-propelled twin 35 mm air defence weapons, many of which are offered on the export market.
40 mm L/70
The only country to use BAE Systems Bofors 40 x 365 mm L/70 ammunition in an AFV application is the Swedish Army with its CV90 IFV, air defence, forward observer and command post versions with the weapon designated the 40 mm L/70B. Ammunition for this is supplied by BAE Systems Bofors and is fed to the weapon from below with the empty cartridge cases being ejected out of the turret roof forwards.
Types of 40 mm include pre-fragmented HE (PFHE) which is optimised for use against aerial targets, HE-T, MP-T and a Pre-fragmented Programmable Proximity fuzed round (3P). The latter has a muzzle velocity of 1,012 m/s and contains 0.975 kg of PBX HE. For engaging other AFVs, the 40 mm L/70B fires an IM compliant APFSDS-T round with a tungsten penetrator with a m/v of 1,495 m/s which is claimed with penetrate over 150 mm of RHA.
The latest 40 mm P3 round is the Mk 2 which is also IM compliant with a digital rather than electronics. The 3P Mk 2 has the capability of customising programming modes beyond the basic six modes, for example mode optimised for use against smaller UAVs.
Operational experience has shown that the 40 mm 3P arms too far away when fighting in an urban environment so BAE Systems Bofors has developed a new round called 2P Minimum Collateral Damage (MCD). This is armed at a range of around 30 m so can engage targets much closer than before and this is now in service with Swedish Army.
The Republic of Korean (ROK) deploys the Hanwha K21 IFV which is fitted with a two-person turret also armed with a 40 mm L/70 gun which is also used by Korea for naval applications and natures of 40 mm ammunition fired included APFSDS-T and HE-T. More recently, Hanwha of the ROK has developed the REDBACK IFV for the export marked and this is armed with a Northrop Grumman 40 mm MK44S dual feed cannon for which ammunition is available from a wide range of contrac- tors.
40 mm CTAS
CTAI is a joint venture company between Nexter and BAE Systems to develop the 40 mm Cased Telescoped Weapon System (CTAS) with the first two customers being France and the UK. The former has installed the 40 mm CTAS in its JAGUAR (6×6) reconnaissance vehicle which entered service with the French Army late in 2021 and will also be deployed by Belgium for its JAGUAR vehicles.
40 mm CTAS is also mandated for the General Dynamics Land Systems UK AJAX reconnaissance vehicle whose entry has been delayed and the Lockheed Martin UK WAR- RIOR Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) which was cancelled in 2021. While production of the 40 mm CTAS weapon is undertaken in Bourges France, there are two load and pack production lines, one in La Chapelle (France) and the other in Glascoed (UK).
BAE Systems Global Combat Systems Munitions in statement said “ we still have the capability to make 20 mm KAA, 30 mm RARDEN and 30 mm KCB ammunition.”
The US Army BRADLEY and US Marine Corps LAV-25 (8×8) are armed with a Northrop Grumman 25 mm M242 dual feed cannon and some of the STRYKER (8×8) have been fitted with a new remote controlled turret armed with a 30 mm cannon.
In the longer term, the US Army is expected to field a Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) fitted with the Advanced Lethality and Accuracy System for Medium Caliber (ALAS-MC) which is armed with a 50 mm XM913 dual feed cannon which will fire two main rounds, XM1204 HE Airburst Tracer and XM1203 APFSDS-T.
90 mm Ammunition
These were typically installed in the former Panhard (now Arquus) AML 90 (4×4) and more powerful 90 mm weapon installed in the Panhard SAGAIE (6×6) armoured which has just started to be phased out of service with the French Army. Ammunition for these can be supplied by Nexter Arrowtech as well as some other contractors. There are a number of 90 mm guns produced by the now John Cockerill Defense for installation in their two person turrets and ammunition for these is normally supplied by MECAR.
105 mm Ammunition
While most countries in NATO have fielded MBT armed with 120 mm smooth bore guns, there are still many users that still deploy MBTs armed with the British 105 mm L7 series rifled tank gun or its US equivalent, the M68 which has a different breech. The US phased out its 105 mm (M48A5/M60/M60A1/M60A3 and M1) armed tanks many years ago but the General Dynamics Land Systems STRYKER 105 mm Mobile Gun System (MGS) remained in service until very recently.
In the future, the US Army is expected to field the Mobile Protected Firepower Plat- form (MPFP) armed with a 105 mm gun. Against this background, Northrop Grum- man is also evaluating a 105 mm Advanced Multi-Purpose (AMP) concept with internal research and development funding with the potential fielding by the US Army of a MPFP. A 105 mm AMP round would enable the MPFP to defeat:
- enemy prepared positions
- anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) teams
- enemy armoured vehicles
- close with the enemy though fire and manoeuvre
- ensure freedom of manoeuvre and action for in infantry in close contact with the enemy
According to Northrop Grumman, the 105 mm AMP cartridge will combine the capability of thee currently inventories round which are the M456 high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT), M393 high-explosive plastic (HEP) and M1040 canister, into one round to greatly enhance the capability and effectiveness of MPFP by allowing a single round to expand lethality in the limited vehicle ammunition stowage. John Cockerill Defense is supplying its latest C3105 two person turrets armed with a 105 mm rifled gun for installation on General Dynamics Land Systems Canada LAV (8×8) being supplied to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. More recently, John Cockerill Defense has supplied this turret for installation on the FNSS Savunma Sistemleri Kaplan medium tank being manufactured in Indonesia as the HARIMAU.
MECAR have developed a US Army qualified M393A3 HE-Plastic T round which in UK terms is a HESH-T. This features a dual safety base fuse, forged steel body with a stronger front end and can be filled with IM pressable explosive. This 105 mm round can breech the outer armour and then detonate inside the vehicle. In addition, it can still create spalls when fired against RHA.
Mission Next-Level Weapon Stabilisation – Tailor-Made Meets ModularIn the development and production of military vehicles, time is not only money, but also relative. Years pass from the idea to the first deployment. In turn, vehicles are in service for decades before they need repairs and upgrades.