Tank ammunition

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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.

Contents

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.

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.

Armour-Piercing (AP)

Icon rnd ap.png
Armour-Piercing is a basic solid steel shot which is entirely reliant on kinetic energy to penetrate and deal damage. Providing the round possesses enough energy to penetrate any given armour, it will deal internal damage from steel fragments and spalling of the internal surfaces which can damage vehicle components, stored ammunition and crew members.

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)

Icon rnd apc.png
APC rounds have a nose cone (or cap) of softer metal which is fixed to the front of the solid shot. When this strikes the target armour the shock of the impact is transferred away from the tip of the round to the neck, helping prevent shattering. Additionally, the cap will collapse on contact with armour and the deformation will cause the round to angle towards the armour, more efficiently directing energy into the armour and improving the angled performance of the round. A downside of the cap is a decrease in long-range accuracy due to the cap interfering with the shell's aerodynamics.
Display of shell normalization as an effect of a capped (APC) shell (clickable gif)

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)

Icon rnd apbc.png
APBC rounds utilise a ballistic cap, designed to improve aerodynamic performance and hence round performance at longer ranges. The cap usually utilises a soft or brittle metal which collapses on impact and does not aid penetration or angled performance.

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)

Icon rnd apcbc.png
APCBC rounds combine the standard cap and the ballistic cap, improving the round's aerodynamic and penetration performance. As such, APCBC rounds tend to exhibit the best 'all-round' characteristics of any conventional kinetic rounds.

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)

Icon rnd aphe.png
APHE rounds utilise a similar form to AP rounds, but incorporate a small chamber of high-explosive filler within the round. This often slightly reduces the round's mass and construction strength and as such APHE rounds tend to exhibit slightly worse penetration performance than their solid shot counterparts. However, upon successful penetration, APHE rounds often cause significantly more damage within a vehicle. APHE rounds have a fuse which will only activate on sufficiently thick armour.

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)

Icon rnd aphebc.png
APHEBC rounds, similarly to APHE, utilise APBC concepts with the addition of high-explosive filler. Again, the rounds tend to exhibit slightly worse penetrative performance than their solid shot brethren, but significantly more post-penetration damage. APHEBC rounds have a fuse which will only activate on sufficiently thick armour.

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)

Icon rnd aphecbc.png
APHECBC rounds utilise standard APCBC designs with added explosive filler. APHECBC is often referred to as 'APCBC' in-game, and can be identified instead by the graphic or the explosive filler content on the round's stat card. As with other APHE rounds, APHECBC significantly improves the post-penetration lethality over that of a standard APCBC round. APHECBC rounds have a fuse which will only activate on sufficiently thick armour.

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)

Icon rnd apcr.png
APCR rounds often use tungsten carbide or other extremely hard metals as a sub-calibre penetrator, wrapped within a softer full-calibre sabot - the APCR concept is essentially a predecessor to the APDS design. Upon impact, the soft shell will deform, allowing the hard metal penetrator contained within to penetrate the target's armour with force spread over a smaller surface area, resulting in significantly better penetration ability. APCR rounds often suffer due to their more concentrated post-penetration damage, as well as faster penetration drop-off over range than a standard AP round of the same calibre. Due to their design, APCR perform extremely poorly when fired upon angled armour, and will ricochet on much smaller angles than AP or APDS.

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)

Icon rnd apds.png
APDS rounds utilise a hard core as a sub-calibre penetrator, with a full calibre sabot. Unlike APCR rounds, APDS rounds discard their sabot after exiting the cannon barrel. The result is an extremely high-velocity round with particularly high penetration values and good ranged accuracy. Unlike APCR, APDS does not suffer when used against angled armour. APDS produces a minimal amount of post-penetration damage - this can be attributed to the shell degradation the thicker the armour it has to penetrate. The thicker the armour, the more it deteriorates and the less spalling it will cause. Once the round deteriorates far enough, it will shatter. This is especially apparent for small-calibre APDS, or when used against some extremely heavy vehicles. Due to this, careful aim is required when utilising APDS rounds to maximise their post-penetration effect.

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)

Icon rnd apfsds.png
APFSDS is the pinnacle of the kinetic anti-armour rounds. As with APDS, APFSDS utilises an extremely hard penetrator and a discarding sabot, however the penetrator is usually significantly longer than that of APDS and incorporates fins for improved long-range ballistics. The additional penetrator length improves the post-penetration damage effects. APFSDS rounds are the most powerful kinetic rounds available in-game. APFSDS rounds are the only type in-game that are capable of penetrating multiple vehicles along their vector.

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

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.

High-Explosive (HE)

Icon rnd he.png
High-Explosive rounds are primarily intended for use as an anti-infantry/anti-emplacement round. As such, HE rounds tend to have minimal armour-piercing capability and are better used against particularly lightly armoured vehicles, although on occasion it can prove effective against the sides of a vehicle. Particularly high-calibre HE rounds may cause enough area damage to destroy a tank regardless of the round placement.

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)

Icon rnd hevt.png
HE-DF rounds use the simple concept of a timed fuse, resulting in an explosion at a pre-set range. While HE-DF rounds are no more effective than HE rounds against most heavy armour, they can be particularly effective against light vehicles with a known range or against aircraft (one of their original design uses).

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*)

Icon rnd he prx.png
HE-VT rounds are an advanced round fitted with a specialised proximity fuse, designed to detonate the round upon reaching close proximity with a target. These are usually designed for anti-air applications, and are generally ineffective against most ground targets.

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.

High-Explosive Grenade

Icon grn he.png
HE Grenades are specialised HE rounds designed to be fired from cannons which may not be otherwise capable of firing high-calibre rounds. They usually operate in a different manner to conventional cannon rounds, utilising a propellant rather than a charge, resulting in a relatively low round velocity and sub-par ballistics. However, this design has proven useful, as the low velocity can be used to 'sling' rounds over small terrain deformations, onto weak roof armour, or into trenches or bunkers.

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.

Rocket

Icon spr rocket.png
Rockets are unguided high-explosive self-propelled rounds which are often significantly higher calibre than standard tank cannons. They can be mounted as ancillary weaponry on some vehicles, or in some cases mounted on specialised rocket-carrier vehicles.

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

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

Icon rnd shrapnel.png
Shrapnel rounds are a chemical round utilising a thin shell and a chamber of metal fillings or ball bearings with a small explosive charge. Upon successful penetration, shrapnel rounds cause a significant amount of damage. However, due to the thin outer shell, shrapnel rounds only perform well against particularly light armour and are completely ineffective when used against even moderately armoured targets.

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)

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HESH rounds are designed as an anti-emplacement round. The 'squash head', usually comprised of some form of plastic explosive, is designed to squash onto a surface and detonate, causing the opposite side of the surface to rupture. If the given surface happens to be metal, this will often result in metal shards flying off the surface at high velocity. Due to this design, HESH rounds perform better the further they can spread, and as such they're more effective when applied to angled armour, within reason.

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)

Icon rnd heat.png
HEAT rounds are designed specifically as an anti-tank round. They operate with a shaped charge that uses an explosive to force superplastic metal through a vehicle's armour, causing internal damage to crew and modules.

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)

Icon rnd heatfs.png
HEAT-FS rounds are an improvement over the HEAT concept, using improved penetrative chemicals and utilising fins for improved ballistic performance. HEAT-FS rounds maintain their penetration values at all ranges, and are well-suited to long-range engagements. HEAT-FS rounds are particularly sensitive, and may detonate on light obstacles such as shrubs or fences.

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*)

Icon rnd heatfs.png
HEAT-FS VT rounds are specialised HEAT-FS rounds which utilise a proximity fuse to detonate when in close proximity to a target. They can be used to destroy low-flying aircraft or helicopters, while maintaining their effectiveness against ground vehicles utilising normal HEAT-FS technology.

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

Icon grn heat.png
HEAT Grenades are specialised HEAT rounds, designed for use where normal tank rounds may not be possible to utilise. They often use a propellant rather than a standard charge, and as such suffer from low velocity and sub-par round ballistics. Despite this, they can prove effective against tanks due to their HEAT technology.

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

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)

Icon spr atgm.png
ATGMs largely utilise the same concept as HEAT, however they integrate some form of propulsion and are usually guideable, either manually (MCLOS) or semi-automatically (SACLOS). ATGMs usually pack a large amount of explosive and often have particularly powerful shaped charges. However, they require specialised equipment to fire and tend to be heavy, often resulting in long reload times, especially for hybrid vehicles.

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*)

Icon spr atgm prx.png
Proximity ATGMs utilise proximity fuses to detonate when in close proximity to aircraft. This, combined with their guidance systems (SACLOS) allows them to be used effectively against low-flying aircraft or helicopters.

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)

Icon spr atgm tandem.png
Tandem ATGMs utilise a twin-stage warhead to overcome ERA - the first stage causes the ERA to detonate, while the second stage penetrates the armour below as normal. This concept does not work against NERA or composite armour.

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)

Icon spr atgm he.png
HE ATGMs are a simplification of a standard ATGM; rather than a shaped HEAT charge, HE missiles simply utilise a large quantity of explosive to damage or destroy emplacements or light vehicles or other ATGM tanks.

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)

Icon spr sam.png
SAMs are high-velocity anti-air missiles, designed specifically to combat aircraft using a variety of technologies; often including proximity fuses and radar or heat-seeking guidance.

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

Utility rounds are ineffective for use against other vehicles, but provide value in some sort of utility.

Smoke

Main article: Smoke
Icon rnd smoke.png
Smoke shells are not designed as a damaging shell, and largely consist of chemicals designed to create a smoke screen. The produced smoke has a limited lifetime.

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.

Media

Tank Shells Guide - War Thunder ammo types explained - HowToPlay1337

See also

  • Ammo racks - How all tank ammunition is stored within the tank