TechChina's ingenious 44-pound kinetic missile: a new threat to American M1A1 Abrams tanks

China's ingenious 44‑pound kinetic missile: a new threat to American M1A1 Abrams tanks

M1A1 Abrams Tank
M1A1 Abrams Tank
Images source: © Licensor | PH1 Ted Banks

4:03 PM EST, January 2, 2024

Rather than using powerful anti-tank missiles, the scientists have utilized a comparatively light kinetic missile that weighs approximately 44 pounds. Such a missile, accelerated to high speeds, is aimed not at demolishing the tank's armor and eliminating the crew, but rather at causing significant internal damage to the vehicle's mechanism, rendering it inoperable. Such a consequence is expected for even the advanced M1A1 Abrams upon encountering this new Chinese weapon.

China's innovative kinetic weapon

The secret behind this new weapon developed in China resides in the well-established mechanism of a kinetic missile propelled to high speeds. Instead of destroying the tank's armor, the missile aims to disrupt its internal structure, resulting in damage to the electronics, breakage of screws, and displacement of key secured mechanisms. The service reports indicate that simulations have demonstrated that even the modern American M1A1 Abrams would be unable to withstand the weapon, despite its components and mechanisms having the utmost security.

A publication by Chinese researchers reveals that the missile used in the weapon is a uniform sphere weighing about 44 pounds, which is accelerated to Mach 4, corresponding to roughly 3051 miles/hour. The impact energy of such a sphere on the target is estimated to be about 25 megajoules. Though this is unlikely to be sufficient to pierce the armor of a modern tank, it is expected to be enough to immobilize the vehicle and leave the crew - who are likely to survive the shock - trapped inside an inoperable steel can.

China's 'more humane' approach to tanks?

Certainly, a precisely-targeted artillery shell is also capable of taking a tank out of action, and in many cases it can result in casualties among the skilled crew. As brutal as it may sound, this poses an additional challenge for the enemy, who will need to train new personnel, assuming that the survivors from the impacted tank do not become prisoners.

The production of this type of ammunition could also be much simpler than that of complex modern anti-tank shells. In this context, the greatest challenge for China would likely be creating launching mechanisms or electromagnetic guns capable of propelling the missiles to sufficiently high speeds. Particularly, the notion of an electromagnetic gun is intriguing, considering China's existing advancements in this weapon category.

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