Thursday, February 2, 2023

Are Russian tanks in Ukraine wearing out their cannon?


Strategy Page suggests their barrels may be wearing out.

Russians ... changed their tank tactics in the face of the numerous Western top-attack ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles) that quickly destroy Russian tanks because of the way these tanks use their autoloaders, which puts many exposed shells and their propellant charges in the turret. If the turret is hit by a top attack ATGM, all those propellant charges explode, killing the three-man crew and often blowing the turret off the tank.

Russia responded to this by using their remaining tanks only for direct-fire artillery support for Russian troops. This meant using HE (high-explosive) shells that explode when they hit something, usually the ground, and create many high-speed metal fragments that will wound or kill troops and damage structures and unarmored vehicles ... Using 125mm HE shells fired by tanks seemed to be a practical solution. It was, but there were unwanted side-effects.

. . .

Russian tanks in Ukraine appear to have used about 100,000 of these shells and in doing so discovered another problem. These shells caused barrel wear on the 125mm tank gun liners. These liners are common in tank guns and tube artillery. It’s cheaper to replace a worn-out liner than to replace the entire barrel and attached loading mechanism. Tube artillery barrel liners are good for 5,000 to 6,000 shells fired. On Russian tanks the liner wears out after about a thousand shells are fired. Most of the Russian tanks in Ukraine used for firing HE shells found that their barrels already had a lot of wear on them and heavy use of HE increased liner wear to the point where all shells (anti-tank or HE) were much less accurate.

Russian tanks can have their liners replaced but it happens so infrequently that the process is not simple. It involves removing the turret from the tank to replace the liner. This can only be done in one special facility and that means putting the entire tank on a train flat car and shipping it to the facility and then shipping it back. This meant that most of the Russian tanks with worn barrel liners were useless except as machine gun-armed vehicles. That’s hardly worth the fuel and other spare parts (like the tracks) required. This is apparently why Ukrainian troops have seen few or no Russian tanks in the last few months. This means less shell fire at Ukrainian troops and Ukrainian artillery can concentrate on other targets, like Russian infantry and supply stockpiles.

There's more at the link.

Barrel wear has been a problem in artillery warfare for a very long time.  British artillery in World War I suffered particularly from it, to the point that long-range batteries could not guarantee to land a shell within a quarter-mile of their targets.  Massive barrages were needed to make sure that at least some of the shells landed where needed and destroyed or disabled the targets.  The problem has recurred in every war since then.  With modern high-pressure guns, it's become even worse, because overstressed barrels don't just wear out - they frequently explode, posing a grave danger to their crews and any other persons nearby at the time.

(I recall inspecting a captured Soviet M1938 122mm howitzer in Angola.  It had been so inaccurate, for so long, that our troops had taken to instructing our own artillery and mortar crews to "Leave it alone.  It's on our side!"  Sure enough, the rifling in the barrel was so badly worn that it was almost a smoothbore.  Its Angolan crew had never bothered to send it back for repair.)

This is, perhaps, another reason why Russia pioneered anti-tank guided missiles that could be fired through the smoothbore barrels of their tanks.  Such missiles imposed no barrel wear, and were far more accurate than unguided shells - albeit much more expensive.  The first of them appeared in the 1970's.  Many other nations have adopted the concept.

It'll be interesting to see how Russia uses its tanks in the offensive that's widely reported to be in preparation.  Have they solved this problem?  I daresay we'll find out soon enough.



Blue said...

Certainly speaks to the likelihood of tank on tank battles everyone seems to have been creaming themselves over lately. Sounds a lot more likely the Russians have been doing combined arms, and working closely with their infantry.

Michael said...

Maybe, maybe not.

Something I see is the constant the Russians are running out of Missiles (Opps, maybe not as months later still flying) running out of Artillery shells, see they're buying them from NK, DARN still firing at about the same rate as the last years monthly average, (Opps the USA has emptied their forward reserves stocks in Europe and Middle east (Barrons article) and has rush orders for 155mm from South Korea) and so on.

We've had "Noted Military Experts" reports that the Ukrainians have captured SO MUCH Russian Armor, Artillery and so on a few months ago that they have MORE TANKS than ever.

Gee they sure are yelling a LOT for tanks, artillery, shells, SAM's and oh yes billions of dollars a day to run their new Victorious War.

Guess like some video game the Ukrainians never run out of troops... maybe they have?

Curious SO much WINNING, yet they are screaming for MOAR of everything (including Polish sheep dipped troops).

One thing COVID 19 taught me. The US Government doesn't like folks that are NO Men. They get ran off and harassed about their medical license and such. Their YES, Men get paid and are newsworthy.

Or as that Meme goes 100% of Researchers agree with the results their PAYCHECK comes from.

I just hope all this WINNING comes to a stop. From a recent article from Forbes the most recent estimate (gotta trust numbers RIGHT..) every man, woman and child in America has had some 400 dollars spent in the Ukraine war so far. This includes some of the replacement equipment and ammo-missiles and such.

As children don't pay taxes, as a fair number of American households really don't pay taxes, WHAT does THAT mean for the American Middle Class who pay the VAST Majority of taxes in America?

AND everything seems ah, moar expensive lately...

Are you getting your Tax dollars worth out of this little Proxy War?

Anonymous said...

What I've heard the primary reason for the use of tube fired ATGMs is the extra range - the Russian 125 shells, when the gun is new and optimal, has an effective range of less than 2,000 meters; with an ATGM it has a range of over 4,000 meters.
The Abrahms 120 gun has an effective range of 3,000 meters and work is underway to increase that.

NobobyExpects said...

Saw this in "Tank Net" forums:

On one hand, tank barrels could be replaced in the field, Russians manufacture the things, and there are plenty of mothballed tanks to cannibalize, were they to arrive to that.

On the other hand, the tank rounds that erode barrels the most are the anti-tank rounds, like APDSFS, but most tank fire in Ukraine is to support infantry, thus mainly HE. One APDSFS round could erode a barrel as much as 7 or 9 HE rounds.

Seems one should bring a salt shaker every time he reads some news on the Ukrainian mess.

MNW said...

I don't know about Russian guns, but typicaly a built up gun has to be dismounted to service the liner. You have to remove the locking rungs and then heat the barrel while cooling the liner to remove and then replace.

It being a depot, or even an arsenal job is unsurpising. I inagine they would replace the gun at the depot and send the worn ones back for service.

Burin said...

This is adjacent to the story about the tank guns - I found this ( amazingly informative and visually stimulating as it shows how US based factories make the tens of thousands of artillery shells needed for Ukraine.

It really helps inform about the plants and people and industry needed to wage a war and makes conversations about artillery and ammunitions and logistics real in a way words alone simply do not.

Dan said...

All tanks have this issue. Using something for a purpose that it wasn't designed for will always cause problems of some sort. The question being is are they achieving a useful goal while burning out these barrels. Only the Russians can decide if the cost is worth it.

Anonymous said...

I remember working with an older gentleman when I was just a teenager. He was part of an artillery unit in WWII, and told me a few stories about it. One was when he had shed his coat during the winter, because he was dripping in sweat from the work involved in keeping the cannon active while they targetted the Germans. It turns out that the building they were operating next to had the wall collapse from the constant concussion of the cannon, and it buried his coat in the rubble. He had to endure the winter cold for a few more days, until the crew got some down time while they had the cannon re-tubed, at which point he made his way back to the village they had been at, and dug his coat out of the rubble.

Anonymous said...

If someone came to me and said "for $2,000 you can keep a significant geopolitical competitor to the US from expanding abd possibly give pause to all the others" and he provided me with proof that it could be arranged, I'd pay it.

I will also point out that Russia controls rather less of Ukraine than they did back in March. Reports of their debility, as per usual in war, are likely exaggerated, but are much closer to the truth than the notion that all the reports are made up out of whole cloth.

Francis Turner said...

Obviously you need to take claims on both sides with several shakers worth of salt. But the Russians have switched tactics to ones that require less artillery for the same failures/minimal gains so there's that. See likewise the missile raids on UKR infrastructure which started off with close to a hundred a night for a few days and are now a few drones here and there with a few missiles. And the use of S-300 anti-air missiles for ground attacks, the appearance on the front lines of T-62s and so on.

Russia had a simply enormous stock of hardware and ammo from soviet times and a relatively smaller amount of modern munitions. It's burned through most of the new stuff and a huge amount of the older stuff. No it hasn't run out, yet, but it probably can't do the kind of mass destruction it did at say Mariupol at the start of the war.

Aesop said...

Sorry, I couldn't stop laughing after Michael opined that U.S. tax dollars are being spent in Ukraine.

Somebody should probably explain to him how funding works when DotGov Printer go "Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!"

We don't even have enough income tax revenue dollars each year to last us 4 months a year. (It was only $2.6B out of a $6.2B budget just last year, FTR.)

As to the OP, tank barrels, probably not so much. The Russians aren't likely shooting any one tank's barrel enough to wear it appreciably, before the barrel, turret, and what's left of the TC and gunner go sailing up in the air after the ready ammo detonates the tank. In 1-2k cases, just so far.

"Russian tank barrels: Seldom fired, only lollipopped off the hull once."

The wear on their artillery barrels, OTOH, is probably a large reason why it takes them 100 rounds (that's about 2 hours' sustained firing, and a two whole days' ammo) to hit a single point target.

So most of that is probably pretty close to smoothbore artillery now.

Russian offensive?
Sh'yeah, Any Day Now™.
The last one got them where they are now: advancing on Moscow, not Kiev.
Maybe while they're out shopping, they could go get some new generals and colonels. Of the last batch, a couple of dozen got killed in combat, and another few dozen got killed in the Kremlin.
It's tough working for a boss like Vlad.

PeterW. said...

Grandfather was one of those WW1 artillerymen, operating heavy (9.2”) Howitzers. Got them new from the factory when they arrived in England, and fired fire more shells through them than the barrels were designed to take.

One suggested reason that the Russians are using tanks for indirect fire - apart from the rate at which they were being killed by infantry with ATGMs if they got within range - is that the Russians are running low on 152mm artillery rounds, but not of 125mm HE Tank rounds.

As for loose guestimates regarding the costs of supporting Ukraine.
1. A great deal of what is being sent over there is old stock, approaching its use-by date. Anyone thinking that we should be sending troops into battle in -for example - 1980s ATGMS and even older M113 APCs doesn’t care much for the troops. Military and political ACCOUNTING on the other hand, costs them at REPLACEMENT VALUE. Blame the politicians for playing with rubbery figures to score brownie-points if you like, but don’t kid yourself that the Ukrainians are getting what the Pollies claim that they are spending.
2. The biggest threats to peace are Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. Those nations are all closely linked in terms of shared military technology and doctrine. The most effective way of convincing them that they will NOT come out profitably from any military adventures, is to ensure that Russia loses in Ukraine, and loses badly. You can do it now, at no loss of life to US Servicemen, or you can do it at far greater cost (100,000 plus lives according to recent strategic analysis) assisting in the defence of Taiwan…… not to mention the public statements from Russians close to Putin, that Poland, Finland and various Baltic states are all on his shopping-list.
Putting such ambitions back in their box is well worth the relatively small (5% of the annual US Defence budget, in real terms) investment.
3. Ukraine started the war at a massive disadvantage in tanks and artillery. They have been losing tanks the whole time, and some of those captured were non-repairable. Quoting whole-numbers captured is a great talking-point in the media, but the reality is that Russia can still field many more tanks than Ukraine. Ukraine currently has a manpower advantage because they mobilised early. Putin has been reluctant to call up his reserves and conscripts, because that busts his fiction that what is happening in Ukraine is not actually a war……
4… I see some Americans talking about “proxy wars” as though this is a bad thing. I notice thatAmerica did not reject French help in the War of Independence (which is what Ukraine is fighting now) or in 1812. It seems that proxy-wars are only bad when it isn’t helping you. 🙄

By all means take a sceptical view of your own politicians, but use some common sense.

Michael said...

Aesop, your smarter than that, I hope.

Every dollar "Printed into Existence" has a real-world price tag. We are CURRENTLY "Enjoying" a little of that as prices keep rising for Americans.

Maybe you should read "The Downfall of Money". It's a historical book of Weimar Germanys excess money printing.

Coming soon to a country near you.

So far from the folks I've gotten responses from, the Raconteur is source quoted for the Russian artillery "Problems".

Care to share some links to show your "work". That should be easy for a man of your talents. Peter has links for this article. Your article in the Raconteur has none when I checked.

It IS hard to work for Vlad, while we Promote useless folks under diversity and such PC stuff, in Russia cowards and failures are shot as a reminder to the rest to perform for Mother Russia. Several Business Oligarchs was also defenestrated as a warning against corruption.

But then again, it's NOT a Gay friendly, Vibrant culture like the current American DOD.

PeterW. said...

Our friend Micheal thinks that Putin can be trusted.🙄 Maskirovka for the win!

PeterW. said...

Those who are interested in military supply and acquisition, may find this channel of interest.

The link is to a presentation on the subject of ammunition supply as it relates to Russia, Ukraine and those supplying both sides.

Michael said...

Sorry Peter W, I don't think I said anything of the sort.

I welcome you to use cut and paste to point out where you got that idea.

Just pointing out to our resident Marine Aesop that in Russia failure isn't rewarded. He is often pointing out that Vlad is hard to work with.

Facts are slippery in a hybrid war where propaganda is but one facet of the battle zone. I read then research data I find interesting.

It helps when my neighbors in my MAG who we have coffee with and chat about things has between them several fluent French, German, one Italian and Russian speakers. So, we look things up overseas also.

History often shows when an empire overreaches itself in pointless wars they collapse as their "money" becomes less valued.

The Saudi's announcement at Davos last week or so that most of the world's currencies is welcome to buy OPEC oil, has given the US Petrodollar a knife in the spine.

That's going to be hard on the US ability to finance their activities with other nations selling their T-bills.

How did you go broke "slowly, then all at once" Hemmingway the Sun also rises.

Anonymous said...

Controlling territory is far down Russia's list of priorities. EVERY senior official has consistently said their aim is to destroy the Ukie military.
If Ukraine wishes to oblige them by sending fresh troops to face massed artillery with drilled in coordinates then all the better, I suppose.
When this war is over we are going to see how lopsided the casualties have been...
Zelensky and his corrupt henchmen have slaughtered at least a generation and a half of Ukrainian Christians in order to enrich themselves and their puppet masters in the West.

Anonymous said...

It finally took a WSJ article describing the loss of Soledar a week earlier(?) for the Ukies to finally do an overnight 180° turn. Until the day prior they continued to claim control of Soledar.

Just FYI...Ukie field commanders have now been in video admitting Bakmuht is encircled except for a single lane country cow path out of town. US had been telling them to withdraw...but Zelensky insisted on staying. Ukies will now lose thousands of men soon to be trapped.
Tell us about the chain of coincidences involving "crash" of Interior Ministers chopper, firing of several city /provincial leaders, the the anti corruption raid on Zelensky's promotor, the oligarch Kolomoisky and the rumored soon-to-be firing of Ukie defense Minister.

Anonymous said...

As opposed to old Vladdykins, who has gotten at least that many Russian Christians killed in a war he started for no reason other than expanding his opportunities for graft.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that, as a general rule, when one side is shooting generals who don't achieve their objectives it's usually not a sign that they're winning...

PeterW. said...

I got that idea when you started holding up Russian morals as somehow superior, because they have laws against gays in the military. You might care to reflect on the fact that they also have laws against PMCs (Private Military Contractors) yet there are multiple such groups operating on behalf of the Russian Government, funded by that Government, and recruiting openly in institutions run by the Russian Government.

In other words, what Putin says about Russian law, has nothing to do with what Russians do with Putin’s approval. You have to be completely naive to think otherwise.

The same goes for any assertions about Putin’s morality. The number of documented rapes and murders - including the rape and murder of children - by Russian personnel in Ukraine is large and growing. Yet Putin’s government has passed legislation excusing all such breaches of Russian Law, on the grounds that they provide a benefit to the Russian cause. Try telling me how that is moral?

You also make assertions regarding the reasoning behind the “convenient” deaths of certain Russian officers, officials and oligarchs which are similarly naive. If Russian officers were committing involuntary suicide for incompetence , then one of the first to go would be Defence Minister Shoigu . No-one apart from Putin is more responsible for the poor performance of the Russian military. Shoigu deliberately rolled back or abandoned critical reforms initiated by his predecessor, while amassing personal wealth far beyond anything that can be explained by his personal earnings.
But he is a friend of Putin…..

The list of reasons to distrust anything that Putin says that is not consistent with his actions, is a long one. If you wish to defend any of his claims, then you’d better bring evidence. Relying on “because he said so” is very, very naive indeed.

NobobyExpects said...

Video of a Russian tank having its gun exchanged on the field without taking out turret:

Rocketguy said...

Also note that the new Sig rifles and MGs the US is adopting run at pressures well above typical cartridges necessitating hybrid cases. This will result in accelerated wear - especially in rapid fire situations. All in the name of “overmatch” and defeating body armor.

Peter said...

Folks, this article was NOT about who's right or who's wrong in Ukraine, nor was it about Putin, the USA or any other geopolitical entity. I had to delete half a dozen comments this morning (that had accumulated overnight), because they were veering into personal attacks on other commenters and/or were drifting waaaaay off topic.

Please, friends, let's keep to the point and not, repeat, NOT get into personal attacks. I don't like having to wield the banhammer.

Anonymous said...

To me the most impressive part of the US effort in WWII was the mobilization of US industry for the war effort. The scale of the operations is almost impossible to imagine.

I've worked in three different facilities in my career that were built or expanded for WWII. Each of them is a large facility with lots of people, and then you find out the employment in WWII was an order of magnitude or two more than what it is now.

While I don't think we'll ever need to do that again (things would go nuclear before they got to that point), I don't think we could if we needed to. Virtually everything in the country was focused 100% on the war effort. I don't think we could ever pull together like that again.

Kristophr said...

If the Russian Federation just needs infantry support tanks firing HE, they have thousands of T-62s still in inventory.

tiredWeasel said...

The same is true for the Ukraine. Last I heard they had trouble with the German Panzerhaubitze 2000 because they fired them for too long without giving the barrels a chance to cool down and thus they only have a few PzH remaining functional while the others are used for spare parts.

Misuse or overuse equipment and it will fail.

PeterW. said...

When your people are dying you do not simply cease supporting them because you reach an arbitrary number of rounds. Not if you have no other options.
Do not ascribe to incompetence or lack of care, that which is really driven by desperation. A desperation which could be lessened if our military support to Ukraine was not typically “a day late and a dollar short”.

The PH2000 systems in question are almost certainly being repaired in Poland, The Czech Republic, or Germany itself.

PeterW. said...

Parking a machine in the open, without maintenance, is not a recipe for reliability …. and that is before we take into account reports of the kind of corruption that allows stripping of the more valuable parts for sale on the black market , or payment for maintenance that was never carried out. (Another example of which were the much-photographed air-defence systems which were immobilised when their old, rotten, should-have-been-replaced tyres, gave way on the road to Kyiv)

I think we should remember that corruption is endemic around the world, in the absence of motivations and systems to suppress it. Many of us are lucky enough to live in countries that have built in such ethics -to some extent - over the centuries. In the absence of Commandments such as “Thou shalt not steal” and a commitment to the larger society or nation, the normal standard is “What’s in it for me and mine”.
Corruption was endemic in the Tsarist regime, throughout the Russian Empire, and the Soviet Empire that followed it. The Russian Federation is famous for it and every ex-Soviet nation has struggled with it to some extent. Ukraine has had just 30 years to get rid of something that has existed for a millennia. It is just possible that the one positive thing that the invasion has done for them, is give them a sense that the Nation is more important than individual benefits. Foreigners running civil relief programs in Ukraine are consistently reporting that “If it’s for the fight, it’s hands-off”
Somewhere around 50% of the Ukrainian GDP is going to their war effort. Don’t anyone kid themselves that the war is not supported, or that Ukrainians are not -in general - contributing everything they can. .

As for Zelensky… The man was elected in 2019. He has had just 3 years to reform his country, as against Putin’s 20.
He has a record of trying to limit the control of oligarchs over both the Ukrainian economy and media. Prior to the invasion, his efforts to deal the separatist movement were based on negotiation and increased autonomy for the regions involved. Blaming him for either corruption or the war is simply unjust.
What is more, if he attempted to end the war at the current point, he would very quickly lose his position. Public support for his government’s management of the war so far is in the 90%s.
When Ukraine mobilised, civilians were lining up to be issued Kalashnikovs. When Russia mobilised, Russians were lining up to purchase medical exemptions from corrupt doctors. (US$150 was the going rate)
Ukrainians were using the internet to look up Molotov Cocktails. Russians were using it to book travel out of Russia.

Anyone who thinks that Zelensky could unilaterally stop this war, has not been paying attention. The man who COULD stop it, lives in a gold-encrusted Tsar’s Palace and has personal assets in excess of US$100 Billion. Putin could stop the war tomorrow, simply by order Russian troops to withdraw to the borders that Russia recognised and guaranteed under several treaties. That’s not “personal opinion”. It’s not “Western Media” . It’s the hard facts.