Tank Ammunition Talk kinda related to World of Tanks

I don’t even know why I try to connect this to something videogame-related, since I just wanna talk about shit I learned in the army. It might still have some practical application for World of Tanks players, as they might better understand why the different ammunition types work as they do. Because I believe Wargaming.net have mostly gotten it right.

Example image of tank ammunition.

This image makes this article seem like it’s going to be larger than it truly it is. I just mainly aim to talk about the three main types: APFSDS, HEAT and HEP/HESH.

Armour-Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding Sabot (APFSDS)

How they make arrows now.

All this faff around what is essentially a heavy metal arrow. It used to be simply APDS, but modern iterations have the back fins. The sabot is there to keep it straight as it goes out the barrel of the tank, and is discarded upon exit. So this shit flies very straight. Some tank barrels, like the one on the Leopard 2, have started going smooth-bore, though I don’t remember what the advantage was over traditional ridged barrels (I know that’s not the official term, but I never learned the English terms). It might be something with how the fins work better if the round is not spinning.

No explosives involved here (apart from the propellant), this is based on pure kinetic energy. The higher the speed, the more damage it does. This is the premier armour-piercing technology. It’s what you use against other tanks and other heavily armoured targets. I’ve seen videos of these things hitting a tank so hard that the turret just flew off. And a tank turrets weighs about… I’d say 10 metric tons. It goes so fast it literally melts the armour it impacts, and showering the inside of a tank with molten metal is not healthy for the crew.

Though as I said, speed is key. These fly a lot faster than HEAT or HEP rounds, but the further away something is, the more speed drop-off you get, and the less damage you do. This also applies to World of Tanks. AP rounds to more damage the closer you are. And they don’t have that much impact against un-armoured targets, because they just go straight through.

I just find it rather fascinating that a tank is basically just an advanced ballista. The main ammunition is giant arrows, fired at ludicrous speed.

High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT)

Not an arrow, but something more peculiar.

This is the result of an effort to make a high-explosive projectile that would work against armour. And it’s pretty effective. It basically carries two charges. The first is a focused blast that burns into armour. And once the burning is complete, the second charge detonates into the hole left by the first charge. If that penetrated, the second charge will basically shred anything that was on the inside.

This is hardly a slow round either, but it travels at less speed than the APFSDS. That doesn’t really matter though, because speed is not a factor of how much damage it does.

The flat cap at the end is made so that the round is supposed to turn flat onto the surface it hits before it starts burning, to give the best penetration.

The downside is that it does not have as high a penetration degree as the metal arrows. It functions best against light and medium armour, and not so much against heavy. Will probably still work well against un-armoured, so long as there’s enough to trigger the impact sensor.

Sadly all the HEAT ammo in World of Tanks is premium, so I’ve not bothered wasting money on it.

High-Explosive, Plastic / High-Explosive Squash-Head (HEP/HESH)

It goes boom.

Apparently, according to Wikipedia at least, HEP is the American acronym, while HESH is the European. I do remember we actually called them HEP rounds in the Norwegian army.

This is basically just a big bomb. It’s the slowest shell you fire, and while it can have an impact on armour, we were taught that’s not what they’re for. They’re for un-armoured targets and stationary targets. It goes boom on impact.

And of course a huge explosion will have a certain impact, even on heavily armoured targets, so in World of Tanks using high-explosive rounds is a way of making sure you at least cause some damage.

Though should the explosion actually manage to get through the armour of a target, its chances of survival are remote. People don’t react well to coming in contact with an explosion, science has taught us that much.

And that’s about it, as far as I can think of. I hope you liked it, but I mostly wrote it for my own benefit. :3

~Wulf

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Posted on October 12, 2013, in Miscellaneous and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Well. I found this interesting. So, thanks.

  2. English word you were kind of looking for: rifled. As for why smoothbore, it’s all about the fins and the length-to-diameter ratio of the projectile. Basically, if you’re going to be mostly shooting sabot rounds, you want a smooth bore because you can’t make rifling that would spin them fast enough to keep them stable. I think the British still use rifled guns, and their sabot rounds are more complicated. They have bits that are supposed to spin freely, so the rifling doesn’t make the arrow spin. For other rounds, the rifling makes them fly more predictably, because the spin makes them stable.

  3. I think you are confusing two slightly different shells HESH and HE. HE is as you said basically a large shell filled with explosives. As such it’s penetration values are of secondary nature since it’s intended to be used against non armored targets (most of the things tanks will be engaging) like IFVs, infantry, bunkers, buildings and other such things.Also these things mostly explode on impact. That is not to say tanks are invunerable to HE rounds. While HE is unlikely to penetrate a tank, the amount of kinetic and explosive energy it releases upon impact is often enough to introduce spalling (when pieces of armor start peeling off on the other side of impact at high speeds) which is higly dangerous to crew. Also one of the Red Army infantry’s preferred ways to destroy German “monsters” was ISU/SU-152 “Zverboi” (Beast killer) Self Propelled Gun/Tank Destroyer whose 152mm round could rip off turret clean of Tiger tank.

    HESH on the other hand is supposed to be a more refined application of HE round. It’s not supposed to explode on impact, but to squash against the armor so that the explosive is gripping it tight, and THEN detonate. Because the explosive is tight against the armor it produces a shockvave that travels through armor from point of impact till it exits on the other side in crew compartment where it causes large chunks of armor to go spraying around the fighting compartment.

    Also I think the normal AP rounds in WoT are not sabot rounds but more simple dumb kinetic rounds. That is they are not arrow shaped, and usually have no charge in them.

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