The system is not a
monolith, but exists in many pieces often at odds with each other.
I suspect that one piece
finally decided that, hey, this is NOT penetrators, fellows, and our
guys haven't the foggiest notion what it really is. So that group
leaked it deliberately (the photos are unclassified, so classified
information was not compromised).
Usually on something like
this, the different parts of the system are in strong argument against
each other, with various sides taking up given "strategic" postures
Probably that's what
generated it. I think some group really and strongly decided it really
was something quite out of the ordinary, but to bolster their
unpopular position they needed any support technically that they could
uncover. They were not going to get it from the usual aerospace
contractor support, nor from MIT, Johns Hopkins, etc.
Anyway, it did give us a
chance to feed in what it really is -- and now the task is to see if
anyone in the upper echelon can be convinced to believe it.
Tom, the incident occurred in August. I
know what an incredibly tight lid the system can slap on things when
they wish. I am asking myself why the pictures and story came out
now into public view. Either it somehow slipped out
unintentionally, or the machine wanted the story to break.
If the latter, the next question is, "Why?" Where are they trying
to steer our minds?
October 27, 2003
‘Something’ felled an M1A1 Abrams tank in Iraq – but what?
Mystery behind Aug. 28 incident puzzles Army officials
By John Roos
Special to the Times
Shortly before dawn on Aug. 28, an M1A1 Abrams tank on routine patrol
in Baghdad “was hit by something” that crippled the 69-ton behemoth.
Army officials still are puzzling over what that “something” was.
According to an unclassified Army report, the mystery projectile
punched through the vehicle’s skirt and drilled a pencil-sized hole
through the hull. The hole was so small that “my little finger will not go
into it,” the report’s author noted.
The “something” continued into the crew compartment, where it passed
through the gunner’s seatback, grazed the kidney area of the gunner’s flak
jacket and finally came to rest after boring a hole 1½ to 2 inches deep in
the hull on the far side of the tank.
As it passed through the interior, it hit enough critical components
to knock the tank out of action. That made the tank one of only two Abrams
disabled by enemy fire during the Iraq war and one of only a handful of
“mobility kills” since they first rumbled onto the scene 20 years ago. The
other Abrams knocked out this year in Iraq was hit by an RPG-7, a
Experts believe whatever it is that knocked out the tank in August was
not an RPG-7 but most likely something new — and that worries tank
Mystery and anxiety
Terry Hughes is a technical representative from Rock Island Arsenal,
Ill., who examined the tank in Baghdad and wrote the report.
In the sort of excited language seldom included in official Army
documents, he said, “The unit is very anxious to have this ‘SOMETHING’
identified. It seems clear that a penetrator of a yellow molten metal is
what caused the damage, but what weapon fires such a round and precisely
what sort of round is it? The bad guys are using something unknown and the
guys facing it want very much to know what it is and how they can defend
Nevertheless, the Abrams continues its record of providing
extraordinary crew protection. The four-man crew suffered only minor
injuries in the attack. The tank commander received “minor shrapnel wounds
to the legs and arms and the gunner got some in his arm” as a result of
the attack, according to the report.
Whatever penetrated the tank created enough heat inside the hull to
activate the vehicle’s Halon firefighting gear, which probably prevented
more serious injuries to the crew.
The soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor Regiment, 1st Armor Division
who were targets of the attack weren’t the only ones wondering what
damaged their 69-ton tank.
Hughes also was puzzled. “Can someone tell us?” he wrote. “If not, can
we get an expert on foreign munitions over here to examine this vehicle
before repairs are begun? Please respond quickly.”
His report went to the office of the combat systems program manager at
the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, Mich. A
command spokesman said he could provide no information about the incident.
“The information is sensitive,” he said. “It looks like [members of
the program manager’s office] are not going to release any information
While it’s impossible to determine what caused the damage without
actually examining the tank, some conclusions can be drawn from photos
that accompanied the incident report. Those photos show a pencil-size
penetration hole through the tank body, but very little sign of the
distinctive damage — called spalling — that typically occurs on the inside
surface after a hollow- or shaped-charge warhead from an anti-tank weapon
burns its way through armor.
Spalling results when an armor penetrator pushes a stream of molten
metal ahead of it as it bores through an armored vehicle’s protective
“It’s a real strange impact,” said a source who has worked both as a
tank designer and as an anti-tank weapons engineer. “This is a new one. …
It almost definitely is a hollow-charge warhead of some sort, but probably
not an RPG-7” anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade.
The well-known RPG-7 has been the scourge of lightly armored vehicles
since its introduction more than 40 years ago. Its hollow-charge warhead
easily could punch through an M1’s skirt and the relatively thin armor of
its armpit joint, the area above the tracks and beneath the deck on which
the turret sits, just where the mystery round hit the tank.
An RPG-7 can penetrate about 12 inches of steel — a thickness far
greater than the armor that was penetrated on the tank in Baghdad. But the
limited spalling evident in the photos accompanying the incident report
all but rules out the RPG-7 as the culprit, experts say.
Limited spalling is a telltale characteristic of Western-manufactured
weapons designed to defeat armor with a cohesive jet stream of molten
metal. In contrast, RPG-7s typically produce a fragmented jet spray.
The incident is so sensitive that most experts in the field would talk
only on the condition that they not be identified.
One armor expert at Fort Knox, Ky., suggested the tank may have been
hit by an updated RPG. About 15 years ago, Russian scientists created
tandem-warhead anti-tank-grenades designed to defeat reactive armor. The
new round, a PG-7VR, can be fired from an RPG-7V launcher and might have
left the unusual signature on the tank.
In addition, the Russians have developed an improved weapon, the
RPG-22. These and perhaps even newer variants have been used against
American forces in Afghanistan. It is believed U.S. troops seized some
that have been returned to the United States for testing, but scant
details about their effects and “fingerprints” are available.
Still another possibility is a retrofitted warhead for the RPG system
being developed by a Swiss manufacturer.
At this time, it appears most likely that an RPG-22 or some other
improved variant of the Russian-designed weapon damaged the M1 tank,
sources concluded. The damage certainly was caused by some sort of
shaped-charge or hollow-charge warhead, and the cohesive nature of the
destructive jet suggests a more effective weapon than a fragmented-jet
A spokesman for General Dynamics Land Systems, which manufactures the
Abrams, said company engineers agree some type of RPG probably caused the
damage. After checking with them, the spokesman delivered the
manufacturer’s verdict: The tank was hit by “a ‘golden’ RPG” — an
extremely lucky shot.
In the end, a civilian weapons expert said, “I hope it was a lucky
shot and we are not part of someone’s test program. Being a live target is
John Roos is editor of Armed Forces Journal, which is owned by Army
Times Publishing Co.