TechNew Ukrainian drones. Russian Tanks' cages won't protect them

New Ukrainian drones. Russian Tanks' cages won't protect them

New warhead used on Ukrainian improvised "kamikaze drones".
New warhead used on Ukrainian improvised "kamikaze drones".
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4:44 AM EST, November 22, 2023, updated: 3:33 AM EST, November 23, 2023

Ukrainians have started employing a new type of warhead in their FPV drones, which effectively overcomes rod armor or the famous cages on turrets, in contrast to anti-tank bomblets or PG-7VL grenades. This article explains how the EFP warhead works.

Ukrainians and Russians have begun utilizing commercial drones extensively as improvised ammunition, circling areas where the opposition lacks electronic warfare systems. Contingent upon the resources and abilities available, the drones mostly employ anti-tank bomblets from cluster munitions or slimmed-down PG-7VL grenades from RPG-7 grenade launchers as warheads.

While the latter exhibits impressive penetration power, piercing up to 19.7 inches of armored steel, it has significant shortcomings. Reactive and rod armor, situated, for instance, 19.7 inches from the primary armor, can effectively neutralize them. Hence, in these scenarios, the renowned cages on tanks can function efficiently.

A workaround to this issue is employing standard grenades with a tandem warhead, encompassing two cumulative warheads. The smaller warhead pierces the obstacle, allowing the larger one to hit the armor. However, due to their heavier weight, using PG-7VR-type grenades is infrequent in FPV drones.

The majority of these grenades remain in the hands of soldiers equipped with RPG-7 grenade launchers, as ordinary PG-7VL grenades have become practically redundant today. Currently, there are instances of drones fitted with EFP warheads, having an additional cumulative warhead and fragmentation effect. Russian soldiers from the 810th Marine Infantry Brigade extracted one such warhead from a damaged drone.

EFP Warheads — Numerous Advantages Despite Certain Limitations

Instead of generating a cumulative short-range jet to burn through armor, EFP warheads or explosively formed penetrators utilize explosive charges to create a kinetic penetrator moving at speeds exceeding 4,473.8 mph. This speed surpasses what tank APFSDS-T missiles can typically achieve.

This type of penetrator has unlimited activity and can effortlessly pierce cage or rod armor and then strike the armor with full force. In addition, the penetrator is far less sensitive to reactive armor activity than a cumulative jet.

However, the limitation of EFP warheads lies in their significantly lower armor penetration relative to their warhead caliber. Unlike the 19.7 inches achieved by a grenade from an RPG-7, it will probably penetrate less than 7.9 inches, meaning that an effective attack on a tank entails striking the upper part of the armor at a steep angle.

Nonetheless, it appears that Ukrainians hope to mitigate this issue by employing a cumulative warhead, which, with an optimal hit, would weaken the armor just before the kinetic penetrator strikes it. Besides, the fragments visible on the warhead aim to harm nearby infantry in case of a hit, such as on an armored personnel carrier.

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