Throughout the past century of tank development, a large range of ammunition types have been produced and seen combat. As time progressed, technology improved and rounds also improved in terms of lethality, accuracy and ballistic performance. Despite this, most rounds can be categorised under one of two primary categories: kinetic rounds and chemical rounds; and further under a variety of subcategories.
- 1 Kinetic energy shells
- 1.1 Solid Armour-Piercing Rounds
- 1.2 HE-Filled Armour-Piercing Rounds
- 1.3 Sub-Calibre Armour-Piercing Rounds
- 2 Chemical energy shells
- 2.1 High-Explosive Rounds
- 2.2 Anti-Emplacement Rounds
- 2.3 High-Explosive Anti-Tank Rounds
- 2.4 Guided Missiles
- 2.5 Utility Rounds
- 3 Media
- 4 See also
Kinetic energy shells
Kinetic rounds penetrate and deal damage based on a number of factors; shell type, projectile mass, round velocity and material hardness. Mass, shell type and hardness are constants, but velocity reduces with distance travelled and as such at longer ranges kinetic rounds will lose penetration ability and in some cases post-penetration efficacy. Most kinetic rounds can hit targets through lighter obstacles - trees, walls and some buildings. Under the right circumstances, solid kinetic rounds can penetrate multiple vehicles along their trajectory.
Solid Armour-Piercing Rounds
Solid AP rounds are a kinetic munition that utilise a hardened metal (often steel) shell with full-calibre diameter. The result is a simple, yet effective anti-tank round that will punch through armour with high equivalent thickness values, while retaining reasonable post-penetration effects which, when well-placed, can deal significant internal damage to components and crew directly within the shrapnelling path. The amount of spalling generated by a successful AP penetration depends on the shell mass and thickness of the penetrated armour and modules. Generally, solid AP does not stop until it has exhausted all of its force and is capable of passing through an entire vehicle if this energy is not fully expended.
AP is a standard early World War II ammunition for many nations. In War Thunder, AP rounds should be used as a general use anti-armour round, with careful round placement to maximise post-penetration damage. Some nations, such as the British, have modified versions of AP, usually denoted by a "HV" in the name, which is launched at a higher velocity than standard AP rounds, resulting in higher penetration potential.
Armour-Piercing, Capped (APC)
APC is commonly found as a mid-tier shell for both the British and French on their mid-to-late WW2 vehicles. In War Thunder, APC is best used as a short-to-mid range round for combatting angled armour that regular AP rounds may not easily penetrate.
Armour-Piercing, Ballistic Capped (APBC)
APBC is found on some early Russian vehicles, but is relatively uncommon otherwise compared to APCBC. In War Thunder, APBC is best used as a longer-range alternative to APC or APHE rounds which often exhibit less favourable ranged performance.
Armour-Piercing, Capped, Ballistic Capped (APCBC)
APCBC is found as a high-tier shell for British, French and American mid-to-late WW2 vehicles. In-game, APCBC should be the preferred option given a selection of full-calibre solid shot rounds, when available, and should be situationally switched for APHE rounds if they're available.
HE-Filled Armour-Piercing Rounds
HE-Filled Armour-Piercing Rounds take the concept of armour-piercing rounds and add a deadly twist - a quantity of HE filler on a timed fuse, designed to explode after a successful penetration. While the concept sacrifices some structural integrity and thus penetrating power, the destructive ability of an APHE round is nearly unrivalled. The fuse only activates if the shell collides with a surface of reasonable thickness, mostly dictated by shell caliber - though there are exceptions with a slower or faster fuse. After the fuse activates, the contained explosive will be ignited after passing a specified distance, resulting in significantly increased internal damage to a target. Vehicles with rolled homogenous armour side skirts of reasonable thickness can detonate fast fuse APHE early, sometime avoiding internal damage entirely. Tanks with large or numerous modules directly behind weak spots (for example, front-mounted transmissions) can block the entire round from further penetration, or simply block the post-penetration effect from passing. Keep this in mind, and try to aim for locations that will allow detonation as centrally within the target as possible.
Armour-Piercing, High-Explosive (APHE)
APHE is primarily found on Russian, German and Japanese vehicles earlier in the tech tree, and on a selection of earlier American vehicles. It should be prioritised for use when penetration is highly likely, or switched for AP or APCR if improved penetration is required.
Armour-Piercing, High-Explosive, Ballistic Capped (APHEBC)
APHEBC is primarily found on Russian and Italian vehicles earlier in the tech tree as a mid-tier round, and on some American and German vehicles. It's ideally used against targets where angled performance is required and HE filler is preferable.
Armour-Piercing, High-Explosive, Capped, Ballistic Capped (APHECBC)
APHECBC is found throughout the Russian tech tree as a high-tier round, and on some Japanese, American and German vehicles. APHECBC should be used preferentially and interchangeably with a high-penetration round where available.
Sub-Calibre Armour-Piercing Rounds
Sub-Calibre AP rounds are, essentially, what they say on the label - the penetrator itself is of a smaller calibre than the gun barrel, using a 'sabot' to make up the calibre difference. How the sabot is handled is dependent on the type of round - it may be either discarding or non-discarding. Sub-calibre rounds sacrifice post-penetration effectiveness for high round velocities and high penetration values.
Armour-Piercing, Composite, Rigid (APCR)
APCR is found throughout most tech trees, most commonly available to vehicles from mid-WW2 through to early cold war vehicles. APCR rounds are best used against minimally angled armour, where other rounds will be unable to penetrate.
Armour-Piercing, Discarding Sabot (APDS)
APDS is first made available on post-WW2 British vehicles, and is available to most vehicles in possession of an L7-derived cannon. In War Thunder, APDS is best used as a long-range round, with multiple shots often being a necessity due to the lack of post-penetration damage. APDS can be quite ineffective against lightly-armoured vehicles and the frontal armour of super heavy tanks.
Armour-Piercing, Fin-Stabilised, Discarding Sabot (APFSDS)
APFSDS is first made available to some late Rank V vehicles, and is often the primary round for most Rank VI or VII vehicles. Due to the extremely high velocity most APFSDS rounds are fired at, they are easy to aim and maintain their effective performance at even extreme ranges. APFSDS is quite ineffective against lightly-armoured vehicles and should be aimed at critical components to maximise their damage potential.
Chemical energy shells
Chemical energy shells deal damage based on a chemical reaction, and unlike kinetic shells, their ability to penetrate and deal damage are unaffected by the shell's velocity. This means that target distance often doesn't affect the round's effectiveness. However, this also means that enemy tanks spaced and composite armour can be much more effective at preventing the damage, depending on the shell type used. Many chemical shells utilise extremely sensitive fuses and will detonate upon touching anything, while almost none of them can be fired through solid obstacles. Many chemical rounds have a very low muzzle velocity, reducing their effective range but allowing the user to launch them over terrain.
High-Explosive rounds are a simple shell packed full of a high-explosive material, primarily designed for anti-infantry and anti-emplacement applications. However, this translates surprisingly well when applied to light vehicles - significantly more so than armour-piercing rounds or in some cases even APHE rounds. Unfortunately, most HE-based rounds are relatively useless against well-armoured vehicles and force their user to target flaws in an enemy tank design.
HE rounds are available to almost every vehicle in-game. However, low-calibre HE rounds are ineffective against all but the most lightly armoured targets, so this type of round should only be utilised by vehicles with large-calibre guns, such as the KV-2 or Sturmpanzer II.
High-Explosive Time Fuse (HE-DF)
HE-DF rounds are available to a number of vehicles originally designed for anti-air purposes, such as the YaG-10 (29-K) and the 8,8 cm Flak 37 Sfl.. They're best used against aircraft by rangefinding the aircraft in question, setting the fuse range to a reasonable assumption based on the result and leading sensibly. They can be extremely effective against aircraft if used correctly, but are mostly ineffective against armoured vehicles.
High-Explosive Variable Time Fuse [Self-Destroying] (HE-VT*)
HE-VT rounds are available to some later anti-air vehicles, such as the OTOMATIC, or some light tanks, like the Begleitpanzer 57, and are capable of destroying aircraft or helicopters if the round passes within close proximity of the target. They are extremely effective against mid-ranged aircraft but cannot be relied upon for use against armour.
HE Grenades are available to vehicles with 'recoilless' cannon designs or other non-standard cannon designs. They are generally as effective as an equivalent HE round, however have significantly lower muzzle velocity and as such are extremely inaccurate at long ranges. HE Grenades are found on various vehicles, such as the BMP-1.
Rockets can be unreliable and inaccurate, but due to their often large calibre, large amounts of HE filler, and ability to continuously launch them until the ammo rack is empty, they can prove effective against some armoured vehicles. Rockets are either mounted ancillary, as on the Calliope or the M26 T99, or on rocket carriers such as the BM-13N.
Anti-Emplacement rounds are designed specifically for combatting emplacements, however have proven to have some anti-tank value. They rely on different mechanics to normal rounds, but can prove particularly ineffective against heavy armour.
Shrapnel rounds are available exclusively to early Russian vehicles. Shrapnel is exclusively useful against lightly armoured targets, and shouldn't be used against front-facing armour of any other tank.
High-Explosive Squash Head (HESH)
HESH rounds are available to most British vehicles from Rank V, and other vehicles in possession of an L7-derived gun. HESH should be primarily used against lighter armour or side armour, while specifically avoiding side skirts and any other forms of spaced armour, although occasionally the HE splash effect can cause unexpected results. HESH is completely ineffective against heavy armour or composite armour designs.
High-Explosive Anti-Tank Rounds
High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) rounds make use of shaped charges to penetrate armour, forcing superplastic metal through into the crew compartment, damaging crew and modules. HEAT rounds prove particularly effective at long ranges, as their method of action does not lose effectiveness with range. Unfortunately though, the fuse on a HEAT round must be extremely sensitive, causing the rounds to detonate even on bushes and wooden fences that other chemical rounds of high calibre have a chance to pass through. All HEAT-derived rounds have concentrated post-penetration damage, similar to APDS, which travels in a tight cone from the impact point. This often works in favor of the shell when a direct hit is achieved, in some cases allowing it to burn through modules such as frontally-mounted transmissions, dealing further damage to the vehicle's internals. This same effect can prove troublesome when a round collides on a sub-par angle or after penetration there's simply nothing within its cone of effect.
High-Explosive, Anti-tank (HEAT)
HEAT rounds are available to a variety of WW2 German and Japanese vehicles, as well as higher-performance HEAT becoming available to some late French and American vehicles, as HEAT-FS rounds cannot be fired from rifled cannons. HEAT is limited in effectiveness and its usage should be carefully considered as many vehicles have armour it cannot penetrate. Due to its low velocity, HEAT often requires a high angle of attack and will arrive at a target on an angle - as such the often impressive 0° penetration statistics will often prove irrelevant, with angled penetration values being more accurate.
High-Explosive, Anti-Tank, Fin-Stabilized (HEAT-FS)
HEAT-FS rounds become available to many nations from Rank V, although notably the British do not receive HEAT-FS at any stage due to its incompatibility with rifled cannons. At late Rank VI and Rank VII, HEAT-FS may prove ineffective in many cases due to the prevalence of ERA and composite armour. Despite this, it can still be used for ranged engagements against light tanks and medium tanks with insufficient ERA or composite protection, as particularly late HEAT-FS rounds have extremely high penetration power. High-calibre HEAT-FS rounds will reliably hull break light tanks, a mechanic that can be applied against vehicles APFSDS is ineffective against.
High-Explosive, Anti-Tank, Fin-Stabilised, Proximity Fuse [Self-Destroying] (HEAT-FS VT*)
HEAT-FS VT rounds are extremely specialised. As of Update 1.93, they are available to only the M1A2 Abrams and have an identical icon to the standard HEAT-FS. They combine the anti-armour power of a standard HEAT-FS round with the anti-aircraft effectiveness of a HE-VT round. Their proximity fuse will detonate only above a specified altitude, so they can be used normally against other armoured vehicles.
High-Explosive, Anti-Tank Grenade
HEAT Grenades are available to vehicles with 'recoilless' cannons or other non-standard cannon designs. Their effectiveness is similar to that of an equivalent HEAT round, however due to their low muzzle velocity they can be inaccurate at long ranges. HEAT Grenades are found on various light vehicles, such as the BMP-1, FIAT 6614 and Type 60 SPRG (C).
Guided missiles utilise a guidance system (of various types, such as MCLOS, SACLOS, Radar, Heat-Seeking) to accomplish their intended role. They sacrifice round velocity for long-range precision. Different missile types are effective in different applications - some have anti-tank properties, while others are effective against air targets.
Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM)
ATGMs become available through Rank V, and are primarily carried by specialised ATGM carriers, although some tanks have ATGM-capable main cannons and some exceptional designs such as the Strv 81 (Rb.52) or the AMX-13 (HOT) mount ATGMs on ancillary pylons. ATGMs are powerful and SACLOS guided missiles are easily aimed, however they travel slowly and well-aware targets may be able to move into cover prior to the ATGM reaching them.
Anti-Tank Guided Missile, Proximity Fuse [Self-Destroying] (ATGM-VT*)
Proximity Fuse ATGMs can prove extremely effective against low-flying aircraft or helicopters, and utilise a similar proximity fuse concept to SAM missiles - although often ATGMs pack significantly more HE filler than SAMs do. ATGM-VT missiles are available to specialised ATGM carriers such as the Shturm-S.
Anti-Tank Guided Missile, Tandem Charge (ATGM Tandem)
Tandem ATGMs are effective against ERA-protected vehicles, and often have very high penetration values. Tandem charge ATGMs are available to specialised ATGM carriers such as the Shturm-S.
Anti-Tank Guided Missile, HE (ATGM-HE)
HE ATGMs are only effective against light vehicles and missile carriers in most cases, despite packing large quantities of HE filler. They are available to specialised ATGM carriers such as the Shturm-S.
Surface to Air Missile (SAM)
SAMs are very effective at long distances against aircraft, particularly helicopters. They are often extremely high velocity and pack a large amount of HE filler for a powerful airburst effect. SAMs are available to specialised anti-air vehicles such as the 2S6 Tunguska or the ADATS, which, notably, has multi-purpose missiles that are also effective against armoured vehicles. Most SAMs pack less HE filler than an HE ATGM and are only reliably effective against lightly armoured ground vehicles.
Utility rounds are ineffective for use against other vehicles, but provide value in some sort of utility.
Smoke shells are available to various vehicles throughout most tech trees, however their effectiveness is somewhat limited compared to dedicated smoke launchers. The main advantage of smoke shells is that unlike ESS or hull mounted smoke canisters, they can be launched anywhere the equipped vehicle can aim, allowing for strategic placement for pushes or flanking maneuvers, or simply firing at an enemy vehicle to force them to move from their position.
- Ammo racks - How all tank ammunition is stored within the tank