Analysis : Russian Afganit active protection system is able to intercept uranium tank ammunition.
The Afganit active protection system (APS) equipping the Armata commonized heavy tacked platform’s derivatives has proved to be able to intercept depleted-uranium (DU) armor-piercing discarding-sabot (APDS) projectiles during tests, according to the Izvestia daily.
Close view of the Afganit active protection system (APS) mounted on the turret of the Russian-made T-14 Armata main battle tank (Photo copyright Vitaly Kuzmin)
The unique system from the Instrument Design Bureau (KBP) detects incoming AP projectiles with its radar and destroys them with special fragmentation projectiles.
The first test intercepts of depleted-uranium APDS projectiles have taken place this year. The cutting-edge system has tackled such hard targets successfully, even though DU projectiles were believed to be invulnerable, a Russian Defense Ministry officer close to the trials told the Izvestia. Work is in full swing on refining the system, the computer software controlling the intercept in particular.
At present, the Afganit active protection system is organic to the T-14 tank
and T-15 heavy infantry fighting vehicle.
The Afganit is a complex radio electronic system combining active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars
, a computer subsystem and dischargers firing special rounds, whose fragments destroy incoming projectiles. Pictures of T-14s and T-15s show both the peculiar tube-shaped submunition dischargers sitting at the base of the T-14’s turret and on the T-15’s sides and the radars looking like small plastic plates.
"The Russian-made Arena
APS’s and the Israeli-made Trophy
are quite capable of defeating antitank guided missiles and rockets. In particular, they say that Palestinian fighters have failed to take out a single Merkava tank protected by the Trophy since 2011," expert Vladislav Belogrud told the Izvestia. "However, ATGMs and AT rockets are far easier for the APS to deal with than APDS projectiles are. In particular, the ATGM has a velocity of a mere 300 m/s.
The missile itself is essentially a thin metal tube stuffed with electronics, the propellant and shaped charge and rather vulnerable to the frags generated by a nearby APS projectile explosion. The APDS projectile, on the other hand, is a monolithic steel structure travelling at a velocity of 1,500-2,000 km/s to boot.
The Afganit active protection system (APS) is also mounted on the new Russian-made T-15 BMP infantry fighting vehicle.
Developed as far back as the 1930s and first used en masse in the Second World War, the APDS projectile remains a most effective means against heavily armored vehicles. The weapon is based on a spear- or dart-shaped core made of a dense and strong metal and designed to punch through the armor of enemy tanks.
"The idea is simple enough: focus the projectile’s energy on a small area of the armor by using the subcaliber core made of a very dense and strong metal. Previously used tungsten carbide is a hard, albeit fragile, material," expert Valery Mukhin told the Izvestia. "Penetrating the armor, the tungsten core is strongly compressed by the armor it is passing through. Therefore, once inside, it fragments into small pieces. This is useful for dealing with homogenous armor, but this projectile is no threat to up-to-date tanks featuring multilayer armor. Hence, there has emerged a new generation of projectiles made of relatively ductile materials - a tungsten alloy and depleted uranium that behave like a stream of liquid when punching through the armor."
The front part of such projectiles is splattered on impact, with the remainder penetrating the armor layer by layer. The density of uranium is higher than that of tungsten. Hence, uranium-alloy projectiles feature a higher armor penetration capability than the ones made of tungsten. In addition, DU core fragments (uranium ignites at the drop of a hat) ignite after having gotten inside the tank, inflicting extra damage on the hardware and the crew.
Advanced APDS projectiles are rather expensive. While the venerable US-made M829A3 basic long-rod penetrator cost the US taxpayer $5,000 a pop, its successor, the M829A4, is twice as expensive, according to the Izvestia daily.
Well, shaped charges (including RPG missiles, HEAT-FS rounds) aren't much of a problem, since they can be defeated by the use of bar-slat/cage armor, while ATGMs can be blown up in mid-air by the use of electronic countermeasures (and if they come really close, by the APS itself). APDS-FS rounds are the real problem here.
But honestly, I'm not a fan of DU-tipped APDS-FS rounds, since despite the fact that they don't produce a lot of radiation, they are still very hazardous to life. I'm not talking about the round itself, but its fragments. So for example, there was an urban combat scenario, when a tank deflected a DU-tipped round fired from an enemy tank, and the richocheted round hit a house wall. Whoever will try to remove it from the wall, will be exposed to radiation.