New projectiles

Perhaps the most significant area for current developments is in the field of projectile design. Conventional HE shells have probably been taken to their design limits as have conventional APDS rounds, but the solving of the technical problem associated with firing APFSDS projectiles from rifled barrels has led to a substantial improvement in armour penetration. Projectiles for AA weapons have also shown several notable developments, with the use of FAPDS in smaller calibres and shrapnel-type shells with sophisticated fuzing options in larger ones.

The current emphasis is on developing steerable projectiles. This is not a new idea - the American laser-homing Copperhead artillery round was in service decades ago - but the conventional flip-out fins occupy a lot of space and are best applied to larger calibres. An alternative which has been tried with some experimental success in calibres as small as 20mm is the use of minute charges ringing the projectile s circumference. These can be fired at a critical moment in order to correct the trajectory if the weapon system s sensors detect that the projectile is going to miss, significantly increasing the maximum effective range - i.e. the maximum engagement range at which there is a reasonable chance of connecting with the target. The potential advantages in the AA and anti-missile roles in particular are obvious.

Exotic terminal effects are also being considered. One side-effect of a nuclear explosion is the intense electromagnetic pulse which can disrupt or destroy electronic devices within its range. It is in principle possible to produce a small-scale version of this effect by using conventional explosive to compress a piezo-electrical material or to compress a magnetic field. Various organisations are currently studying this concept, including Bofors and the US Los Alamos laboratories, which if successful is more likely to be applied to larger artillery projectiles.

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