The U.S. Army fired the first of a new fifth-generation tank cartridge, the M829E4, from an Abrams tank at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., April 18, as part of a series of critical trials preceding the cartridge’s entry into the Army’s inventory.
“Abrams lethality starts here,” said Maj. Juan R. Santiago, assistant product manager for large caliber ammunition from Project Manager Maneuver Ammunition Systems, which operates from Picatinny Arsenal.
Santiago explained that the M829E4 and the Advanced Multi-Purpose cartridge are what will maintain the Abrams lethality overmatch in future armed conflicts.
While the cartridge and its earlier iterations had previously been fired from something akin to test benches, the event April 18, marked the first occasion for the new cartridge to loudly report for duty from an Abrams tank, which it was designed to be used with, Santiago said.
“It was truly outstanding to see this new round being fired from a tank,” said Col. Robert “Rocky” Kmiecik, director, Mounted Requirements Division, Maneuver Center of Excellence.
“There’s been a lot of hard work done to date on this, everything from the engineering to the testing to the program management, [it was] a great team effort by all,” Kmiecik said. “This round, along with the Advanced Multi-Purpose and 3GEN I-FLIR, will continue to ensure our soldiers maintain lethality overmatch for years to come.”
“The M829E4 is the premier fifth generation armor-piercing, fin-stabilized, discarding sabot, with tracer cartridge,” Santiago wrote in describing the round. “It consists of a depleted uranium long rod penetrator with a three-petal composite sabot.”
The flight projectile includes a low-drag fin with a tracer and a windshield and tip assembly. The propulsion system of the M829E4 cartridge is comprised of a combustible cartridge case similar to that used in the currently fielded suite of 120mm tank cartridges.
The M829E4 utilizes an updated blend of propellant to maintain consistent muzzle velocities across operational temperatures from extreme cold (-25 F) through extreme hot (145 F).
The M829E4 also has a new Advanced Combustible Cartridge Case with a relocated skive joint placement to improve tank crew member safety while handling the unpackaged cartridge.
With continued success in its trials, Santiago hopes the cartridge will be fielded to troops in the 2016 time frame. The first cartridge was one of 84 that are expected to be fired as part of a “Stationary-Stationary Ammunition Accuracy Test,”all of which will take place from the Army’s most advanced main battle tank, the Abrams M1A2 SEPv2.
The tests characterize the cartridge’s fight profile, which is necessary for a tank’s fire control systems to aim and deliver on target accurately, explained Santiago. Next up for the round, an upcoming user excursion will seek to demonstrate that the cartridge will perform as originally intended.
“The M829E4 adds capability to the Abrams system without adding responsibility,” said Lt. Col. Brian Gruchacz, product manager for Large Caliber Ammunition.
Soldiers from 1st Battalion 30th Infantry Regiment will participate in the user excursion, in which live M829E4 cartridges will be fired in combat-like scenarios, May 19-23, at Aberdeen Proving Ground. April 3, at Fort Stewart, Ga., Steve Peralta, Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Davis, Kent Evans and Gruchacz briefed 1-30 leaders and soldiers on all the relevant execution details for the upcoming excursion.
“I emphasized the importance of this event and the crew’s role in making sure this capability is ready to proceed to procurement,” Gruchacz said.
The soldiers who were briefed “expressed excitement” to see the capabilities of both the M829E4 and Advanced Multi-Purpose rounds and asked whether the new round increases the wear and tear on the tank’s gun tube compared to current rounds.
The tank is designed to have “roughly the same characteristics as their predecessors,” Santiago said. The flight profile characterization tests and the excursions are two of many thresholds that a new weapons program such as the M829E4 must cross to pass from the developmental phase of its life cycle into the production and sustainment phase, where it becomes available for war fighters.
The M8249E has been in development for four years, and is now taking the final step before it attempts to cross the all-important threshold known in military and systems engineering parlance as “Milestone C,” which starts with the authorization for a low-rate production of the product.
Also, the Advanced Multi-Purpose cartridge will consolidate the capabilities of four stockpiled cartridges and provide the war fighter with new capabilities to defeat anti-tank guided missile teams and breach reinforced concrete walls.
The technological underpinning for the M829E4 was the MCS & Abrams Ammunition System Technologies Advanced Technologies Demonstration, said Mark W. Young, associate director for Science & Technology at the Armament Research Development and Engineering Center Munition Systems & Technology Directorate.
During the ATO, “the technology was developed to defeat the most advanced heavy armor threats at increased range over the currently fielded KE munitions.”