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Single tank round designed to blow up varying targets

Apr. 15, 2013 - 08:43AM   |  
Marines with 4th Tank Battalion roll down a dirt road on their M1A1 Abrams Tank during Exercise African Lion in April 2012. The Marine Corps is acquiring a new 120mm round that increases accuracy 1.677 percent at extended ranges.
Marines with 4th Tank Battalion roll down a dirt road on their M1A1 Abrams Tank during Exercise African Lion in April 2012. The Marine Corps is acquiring a new 120mm round that increases accuracy 1.677 percent at extended ranges. (Tyler Main via DVIDS)
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Do-it-all munition

The Marine Corps intends to procure up to 100,000 120mm Multi-Purpose High Explosive tank rounds with programmable fuses. The rounds are capable of destroying virtually any target that an M1A1 Abrams tank might encounter. The Corps deployed 3,000 Rheinmetall rounds to Afghanistan in 2011. Now it is working to identify other potential manufacturers.
The specs:
1. Tungsten balls for fragmentation.
2. Insensitive high explosive.
3. Programmable fuse for detonation in flight, on impact or after impact.
4. Contact (on base of cartridge) for programming fuse through gun breech.
5. Tracer.
6. Stabilization fins.

The Marine Corps is looking to buy a large volume of multipurpose tank rounds that can shred armored personnel carriers, decimate dismounted troops, demolish bunkers and destroy nearly any target that tank crews might engage.

The 120mm Multi-Purpose High Explosive munition provides M1A1 Abrams tank crews with a single round for any mission. It has seen limited use with Marine tank units in Afghanistan since 2011, when it was procured through Germany-based Rheinmetall Defense to fill an Urgent Universal Needs Statement from commanders downrange who were seeking a more versatile, harder-hitting round.

“After-action reports from these units indicate the MP-HE is the round of choice for infantry support operations,” said Barb Hamby, a Marine Corps Systems Command spokeswoman at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

The key to the round’s versatility: a programmable fuse that is set through an electronic interface in the breech.

“This round’s fuse will function in three modes: point detonation, delay and airburst,” according to a request for information from industry posted March 19 to

Once the round is loaded into the breech, a tank crew chief programs one of those three capabilities, depending on the specific type of target, and sends it downrange.

“The point detonating fuse will allow for the destruction of light armored vehicles and bunkers at extended ranges due to fin stabilization of the round,” according to an Office of Naval Research fact sheet. “The delay mode will provide enhanced breaching capabilities for dynamic entry by dismounted infantry, and provide greater internal blast fragmentation within a building to destroy concealed enemy targets. Finally, the potential air burst capability of this round duplicates the effects of the canister round, but increases the maximum effective range from 300 meters to 5,000 meters to adequately engage [anti-tank guided missile] teams.”

The round not only extends the tank’s effective range against some targets by about 16 times but greatly increases accuracy, according to ONR.

While the round is available to tank units in combat, the Marine Corps purchased 3,000 rounds to satisfy the UUNS.

“The purpose of this request for information is to conduct market research on commercially available ammunition that meets the existing technical requirements for the 120mm Multi-Purpose High Explosive round,” Hamby said.

The Corps could purchase 10,000 to 20,000 rounds over the next five to 10 years, according to the RFI.

In addition to the added lethality, officials hope MP-HE munitions will help ease the service’s logistics burden, saving money and lives by keeping vulnerable resupply convoys off the road. Marine Corps M1A1 tank crews now carry four different types of rounds to accomplish their mission, according to ONR.

“Crews must substitute a different round for each threat they encounter, increasing the logistical burden across the board,” according to the MP-HE fact sheet. “The proposed 120mm MPHE round will have the ability to perform all of these capabilities within a single round.”

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