The Abrams files
Volume 11, No. 45, June 15, 2006
By Lt-Col Duncan Hayward
and Capt Paul Henry
Cap in hand: Cpl Marcus Freeman, WO2 Justin Dyer, Sgt Ashley Edwards, Cpl Scott Healy with the metal base cap.
AUSTRALIAN soldiers have made history in the US by live-firing the first 120mm main armament round from an Australian M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank.
The soldiers, from the School of Armour and 1 Armd Regt, are participating in New Equipment Training at Fort Hood in Texas.The first round fired was an M865 TPCSDS-T, a 120mm kinetic energy training round. It was fired at 0913h on June 2, with the metal base-cap secured for posterity. The tank crew consisted of Sgt Ashley Edwards (commander), Cpl Marcus Freeman (gunner), WO2 Justin Dyer (loader) and Cpl Scott Healy (driver).
Abrams’ main gun ammunition differs greatly from Leopard ammunition. Instead of ejecting a brass case after firing, the 120mm single piece ammunition comprises a warhead, a combustible cartridge case and a metal base-cap that seals the round in the breach. The combustible cartridge case is completely consumed during firing. The case minimises round weight and greatly reduces propellant gas within the turret, as the small metal base is the only element ejected inside the tank.
Australia will field three types of 120mm operational ammunition for the Abrams. Each nature represents the latest in 120mm ammunition technology. Forty main gun rounds are carried with the selection of ammunition types dependent on the nature of the operation.
Typically, 25 per cent of a bomb-load will be dedicated to the KEW-A2 Armour-Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding Sabot-Tracer (APFDSD-T) round, whose primary purpose is to defeat armoured targets.
The remaining 75 per cent has been selected to support dismounted infantry operations and the combined arms team. It consists of Canister and Multi-Purpose/Anti-Tank (MPAT) ammunition.
Canister is a non-explosive, muzzle action (no fuse) short-range anti-personnel munition designed to engage dismounted troop concentrations, light vehicles, and strong points.
In its secondary role, canister creates entry points in buildings for infantry, reduces wire obstacles and clears heavy foliage and vegetation. Canister is, in effect, a shotgun shell for a tank, releasing 1100 tungsten balls out to 700m. It is used by tank crew to engage targets in open and complex terrain.
Multi-Purpose/Anti-Tank or MPAT is a High Explosive Anti Tank-based round with improved effectiveness against bunkers, hardpoints and light armoured vehicles.
It is faster and more accurate than its predecessor. MPAT also has a unique anti-helicopter capability. In this mode, a radar proximity sensor provides air-burst fragmentation to destroy targeted aircraft.
MPAT and Canister have both been combat proven. The Abrams’ main armament ammunition and three machine guns enable it to provide excellent support to the combined arms team.
Australian tank crewmen have been greatly impressed with Abrams’ advanced gunnery systems. Crews have consistently achieved first-round hits on moving targets during battle runs on the Fort Hood training areas.