Good to know

If you ever are in a situation where you are in proximity to a tank when it is firing its main gun (emphasis added):

The primary role of the tank cannon during urban combat is to provide heavy direct-fire against buildings and strongpoints that are identified as targets by the infantry. Only large earth berms and heavy mass construction buildings can provide protection against tank fire. The preferred main gun rounds in the urban environment are MPAT (ground mode) and MPAT-OR, which perform much better than sabot rounds against bunkers and buildings.

When the M256 fires, it creates a large fireball and smoke cloud. In the confines of a built-up area, dirt and masonry dust are also picked up and added to the cloud and the target is further obscured by the smoke and dust of the explosion. Depending on the conditions, this obscuration could last as long as 2 or 3 minutes.

The overpressure from the 120mm cannon can kill a dismounted infantryman within a 90° arc extending from the muzzle of the gun tube out to 200 meters. The overpressure can also cause glass in surrounding buildings to shatter.

Sabot petals, including those on APFSDS, MPAT, and MPAT-OR rounds, endanger accompanying infantry elements. From 200 to 1,000 meters along the line of fire, on a frontage of about 400 meters, dismounted infantry must be aware of the danger from discarding sabot petals, which can kill or seriously injure personnel.



10 thoughts on “Good to know

  1. joe:
    i don’t expect that it would do to be fired at with one of those guns. in anything, or on foot.
    on the other hand, a tank without infantry support in an urban setting is kind of a glorified rolling coffin. rpg’s, sapper charges, i.e.d.’s and just plain old gasoline and fertilizer mixed w/ diesel can be employed against a tank in close quarters, assuming it has no accompanying infantry or other fire support.
    tanks are weapons of the open plains. they are not designed for use in cities, and are not very good in such environments.
    ask the rooskies about chechnya.
    by the way, as late as the great wwii tank battle (2nd) at smolensk, one of the chief strategies/tactics of destroying enemy tanks was the “infantry swarm,” where soldiers simply piled onto the tank, and stuffed explosives and gasoline any way they could onto the tank to destroy, damage or immobilize it. not something i’d relish doing, but, a tank is just like the maginot line …. it can be destroyed.

    john jay

    p.s. i once stood behind a .50 browning machine gun rifle (barrett auto) being discharged. i learned in one shot, do not stand in the path of gases discharged from a muzzle brake. about 30 feet behind the gun w/ inserts and muffs for ear protection was o.k., but being “in the way” of a muzzle brake hurts.

  2. p.s. better make that the great tank battle of kursk. more of a pure tank vs. tank battle than a general region wide offensive.

  3. One night at Graf…

    We were doing a live-fire combined arms event at the ranges.

    There was nothing for the main gun to shoot at, so we’d been just using the coax and fifty on what there was.

    Suddenly! A tank target pops up and we get to lob a sabot round at it.

    Then a few seconds later, our supporting infantry are trying to rescue us from our tank blowing up. They’d never seen a main gun fire at night or so close before and didn’t realize that what had happened was NORMAL.

  4. It occurs to me that if one was looking for a urban warfare close range use for a tank’s main gun, a big blank charge might work.

    Or a canister round. Thanks one way to absolutely clear an alley.

    It also occurs to me that in WW2, the US Army found a lot of ways to retrofit a M-4 tank for different purposes. Probably an result of a lot of farm boys who could fix a tractor being given access to a tank, some welding gear, and a load of scrap metal. The unfortunate result of the convoluted acquisition process and too-damned-expensive gear is that nobody will allow some tankers to go retrofit a M-1A Abrams with the kind of gear and armament that would make sense in an urban warfare environment. Just a wild hunch, but a pair of M-61 Vulcan 20mm rotary cannons in an armored enclosure with a 120mm mortar tube between them for explosive purposes on a fast traversing turret with mount that could go from -10 degrees through 200 vertical degrees to -10 on the other side, and CROWS mounts on both sides, that’d make a heck of a urban close combat armor vehicle. Considering how much MOUT we’re looking at these days, it would be a pretty good idea to have an economically feasible platform for overwhelming firepower in that arena. M-1As are not a great idea inside of cities.

  5. The Navy’s five inch guns.
    I watched the 5″/54 gun firing directly to starboard on the USS Bowen (FF-1079) from the signal bridge. So figure maybe 50′ or so away and a few decks up. I didn’t feel any muzzle blast and the sound was filtered through ear protection and was more of a thud.
    Also I watched both the 5’/38 mounts on the USS William R. Rush (DD-714) firing at night and I was sitting next to the engineering logroom so that put me about halfway between both mounts and they were firing to port. Again no feeling of muzzle blast as I was further away and the sound was a thud.
    I got a chance to fire one of the Bowen’s 50 cals (rare for a snipe!) and no muzzle blast when you were firing, (or I didn’t feel it) but when you stepped to the side of the muzzle and got out of the lee of the splinter shields you could feel the blast slapping your chest.

    • the muzzle blast on artillery (sans muzzle brakes, at least; naval pieces tend not to have such) is highly directional. i’ve personally stood right next to the breechblock of a firing 152mm piece — WW2 era Russian make — and felt nothing much, just quite loud even through the earmuffs. one of my buddies in the battery stood a little too far to the side and forward when a 100mm piece fired, and was lucky to get his hearing back after medical treatment.

  6. I vaguely recall reading a story of a soldier who encountered a German Tiger tank at close quarters in an urban location. He thought that they targeted him with that 88mm cannon, and swore that he saw the projectile exit the muzzle.
    The Tigers carried two MG’s facing forward, one of them coaxial to the main gun, so that would tend to be a stretch as far as wasting a cannon round on a single soldier. Still, besides engendering a deep fear of tanks, he survived without major damage, although I think he had hearing difficulty for a few days or more.

    • The muzzle velocity of the 88mm L56 was 2000 to 2600 ft / sec depending on shell type. So unlikely but not impossible given the nearly 4 inch diameter shell.

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