USA Inability or Unwillingness to Produce a Main Tank Gun

Bruno Anthony

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For some reason the US has not produced an indigenous Main Tank Gun for service use since the 90mm gun of the 1940s. Yes there were test versions in 105 and 120mm but it was decided to go with licensed built foreign guns in those calibers.
Yes there is/was the XM291, the XM360, the M256E1 but nothing makes it to service.
Lots of experimenting, then just buy the foreign gun.

What gives?
 

Pioneer

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For some reason the US has not produced an indigenous Main Tank Gun for service use since the 90mm gun of the 1940s. Yes there were test versions in 105 and 120mm but it was decided to go with licensed built foreign guns in those calibers.
Yes there is/was the XM291, the XM360, the M256E1 but nothing makes it to service.
Lots of experimenting, then just buy the foreign gun.

What gives?

Yes, it does seem odd, if not ironic that the U.S. can't develope a comparable, let alone a superior tank gun. One would think it would be one of the fundimental requirements of the US Army of its industrial complex, which it has invested so much. In doing so, has US industry given up such innovation?
But saying this, I can help but view American industry in a type of self-impossed decline....in the past decade(s), it appears that US Industry can't produce and deliver a new assault rifle, a GPMG, a wheeled/tracked IFV, or a Guided Missile Frigate (FFG)....


Regards
Pioneer
 

Moose

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US: buys domestic design rather than a well-regarded one already on the market internationally
People: "There goes the US, ignoring the best because its 'not invented here'"
US: buys a well-regarded design from a foreign source rather than developing a purely domestic design of comparable performance
People: "Why can't the US develop this on its own?"

Anyway, the L7won a competitive procurement and NATO standardization was considered desirable. Rh-120 benefitted from a slow US turn toward the 120mm caliber, as well as great performance that made it hard for a scratch design to compete. US-produced "foreign design "guns are quite good and have a lot of locally-sourced design work to suit US needs/wants. XM360 is a great gun which is not being held up due to any failure of its performance.
 

Bruno Anthony

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There was also the 120mm gun on the M103. Apparently around 50 yrs ago, the US suddenly lost the ability to produce a tank gun.
 

Bruno Anthony

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US: buys domestic design rather than a well-regarded one already on the market internationally
People: "There goes the US, ignoring the best because its 'not invented here'"
US: buys a well-regarded design from a foreign source rather than developing a purely domestic design of comparable performance
People: "Why can't the US develop this on its own?"

Anyway, the L7won a competitive procurement and NATO standardization was considered desirable. Rh-120 benefitted from a slow US turn toward the 120mm caliber, as well as great performance that made it hard for a scratch design to compete. US-produced "foreign design "guns are quite good and have a lot of locally-sourced design work to suit US needs/wants. XM360 is a great gun which is not being held up due to any failure of its performance.

Why would a cash strapped, small country with no resources like the US want to develop it’s own tank guns?
There was a comparable foreign MBT on the market as well, the Leopard 2, might as well just bought that too.
Is your post an argument for closing down US based ballistics research? I mean why bother.
 

Bruno Anthony

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I also forgot the XM35 low recoil 105mm. Apparently the Army forgot too because they put an M68 on the Stryker MGS.

Some pics below from R.P. Hunnicut’s Abrams book.
 

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TomS

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In at least some cases, the decision to adopt a foreign gun was made as a trade for allied governments adopting some other US-made components or systems. (In theory, for example, the deal on 7.62 NATO is that NATO countries would adopt the US preferred round and the US would adopt the FN FAL rifle. Of course, we promptly broke that deal.)
 

Moose

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US: buys domestic design rather than a well-regarded one already on the market internationally
People: "There goes the US, ignoring the best because its 'not invented here'"
US: buys a well-regarded design from a foreign source rather than developing a purely domestic design of comparable performance
People: "Why can't the US develop this on its own?"

Anyway, the L7won a competitive procurement and NATO standardization was considered desirable. Rh-120 benefitted from a slow US turn toward the 120mm caliber, as well as great performance that made it hard for a scratch design to compete. US-produced "foreign design "guns are quite good and have a lot of locally-sourced design work to suit US needs/wants. XM360 is a great gun which is not being held up due to any failure of its performance.

Why would a cash strapped, small country with no resources like the US want to develop it’s own tank guns?
There was a comparable foreign MBT on the market as well, the Leopard 2, might as well just bought that too.
Is your post an argument for closing down US based ballistics research? I mean why bother.
Leopard II's development is not unrelated to that of the M1, and there was a chance we would have bought the 2AV if the XM-1 program ran into large enough problems. But the point is that there was an existing, excellent 120mm to be had when the US Army (finally) desired to upgrade, and it was being offered for licensed production by the very country with whom the US was seeking greater MBT synergies. It has nothing to do with a failure or lack of ability by the US manufacturing base, and everything to do with getting a good deal on multiple fronts for an excellent weapon.
 

marauder2048

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Has there been any real innovation in tank gun design in the last 50 years?
I'm still waiting for ETC or Fire-out-of-battery guns to show up on MBTs.

Instead, I think all we've seen is ammunition data links and some improvements
in materials for durability. The two levers for improving tank gun performance
remain the same: chamber volume and barrel length.

The tradeoff of the former is reduced ammo carriage; the tradeoff of the latter is dispersion.
 

Bruno Anthony

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US: buys domestic design rather than a well-regarded one already on the market internationally
People: "There goes the US, ignoring the best because its 'not invented here'"
US: buys a well-regarded design from a foreign source rather than developing a purely domestic design of comparable performance
People: "Why can't the US develop this on its own?"

Anyway, the L7won a competitive procurement and NATO standardization was considered desirable. Rh-120 benefitted from a slow US turn toward the 120mm caliber, as well as great performance that made it hard for a scratch design to compete. US-produced "foreign design "guns are quite good and have a lot of locally-sourced design work to suit US needs/wants. XM360 is a great gun which is not being held up due to any failure of its performance.

Why would a cash strapped, small country with no resources like the US want to develop it’s own tank guns?
There was a comparable foreign MBT on the market as well, the Leopard 2, might as well just bought that too.
Is your post an argument for closing down US based ballistics research? I mean why bother.
Leopard II's development is not unrelated to that of the M1, and there was a chance we would have bought the 2AV if the XM-1 program ran into large enough problems. But the point is that there was an existing, excellent 120mm to be had when the US Army (finally) desired to upgrade, and it was being offered for licensed production by the very country with whom the US was seeking greater MBT synergies. It has nothing to do with a failure or lack of ability by the US manufacturing base, and everything to do with getting a good deal on multiple fronts for an excellent weapon.

Although the US purchasing the 2AV was a possibility, it was one that I think was quickly thought again. I really have a hard time believing that Congress and Industry would’ve been Ok with that at a time in the mid 70s when Buy America was gaining steam.

The Rheinmetall 120 is/was an excellent gun. The new Rheinmetall 130 will also be an excellent gun. I’m sure their 140 would be an excellent gun. The US gun will be a...oh there really isn’t/hasn’t been or existed ready for production except the XM35 and we strangled that in the crib.
Get the pattern here?
 

Bruno Anthony

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Has there been any real innovation in tank gun design in the last 50 years?
I'm still waiting for ETC or Fire-out-of-battery guns to show up on MBTs.

Instead, I think all we've seen is ammunition data links and some improvements
in materials for durability. The two levers for improving tank gun performance
remain the same: chamber volume and barrel length.

The tradeoff of the former is reduced ammo carriage; the tradeoff of the latter is dispersion.

Yeah tank gun tech has definitely not progressed much. Should be in one of those Hunnicutt pics, specs for rigid mount guns. US doesn’t produce new tech or old tech guns.
Maybe we need an American Rheinmetall, not just Watervliet Arsenal.
 

marauder2048

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RAVEN showed that with large charge masses (basically the same mass as the projectile) you could
trade a 15% reduction in muzzle velocity for a 50% reduction in recoil. There's utility there for light armor.

How would you combine that with ETC?
 

jsport

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RAVEN showed that with large charge masses (basically the same mass as the projectile) you could
trade a 15% reduction in muzzle velocity for a 50% reduction in recoil. There's utility there for light armor.

How would you combine that with ETC?
Ares and the Arny dont broadcast all,and notice the if/df . There is no issue w higher velocity and etc.
 

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They make perfectly good SPG weapons so tank guns should be easy enough. The question is, why would you if it can be acquired more cheaply?
 

Bruno Anthony

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They make perfectly good SPG weapons so tank guns should be easy enough. The question is, why would you if it can be acquired more cheaply?
To preserve domestic R&D/production capabilities. If the USA is a research and production powerhouse, it should be able to do these things. I’m sure Germany could outsource their gun R&D. Chances they will:0.
Your reply is essentially:
1. Save money, buy from China
2. Save money, disband the BRL, ARDEC, etc since the research can be done more cheaply overseas.

If you have to import all your ground arms and more importantly if you have to import the research capacity for those arms, are you really (in this particular case) a world leader in that field?
 

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BRL ..does not and never did need competition to survive and that is a good thing. "Never depend on foreign princes." some founding father.
 

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They make perfectly good SPG weapons so tank guns should be easy enough. The question is, why would you if it can be acquired more cheaply?
Well, as complex current US artillery is awfully poor. So dunno if cannons themselves are anywhere remarkably good.
 

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Well, as complex current US artillery is awfully poor. So dunno if cannons themselves are anywhere remarkably good.


Can you clarify and specify which US artillery systems are "awfully poor" and why?
 

marauder2048

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They make perfectly good SPG weapons so tank guns should be easy enough. The question is, why would you if it can be acquired more cheaply?
To preserve domestic R&D/production capabilities. If the USA is a research and production powerhouse, it should be able to do these things. I’m sure Germany could outsource their gun R&D. Chances they will:0.
Your reply is essentially:
1. Save money, buy from China
2. Save money, disband the BRL, ARDEC, etc since the research can be done more cheaply overseas.

If you have to import all your ground arms and more importantly if you have to import the research capacity for those arms, are you really (in this particular case) a world leader in that field?

Isn't domestic (mass) production capability orthogonal to R&D capability?
None of the MBT tank gun R&D concepts the US has come up with, despite their merits, has materialized on anyone else's tanks either.

At the end of the day, these are just tubes.
 

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The artillery units are fairly old so it's possible they can improve on them.
 

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Guided artillery shells (affordable) are the only significant advance I can think of. The repeated attempts to get really long range with boosted shells might be another if they had made it into deployment. Then again, these are the shells and not the tubes.

I would think a hypervelocity cannon that can let tube diameter shrink 50% and weight by more than 50% and yet pack the same punch could solve a lot of air mobility problems. Whether that's done by railguns or something else doesn't matter.
 

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I think it comes down to the US deciding to focus on areas where it believes it holds a comparative advantage. In tank guns, we have made the decision that improvements in tank main gun ordnance are going to be fairly minor, but improvements in tank main gun ammunition are more achievable and impactful. Thus, many iterations of improved APFSDS and many tries at smart main gun rounds like STAFF, TERM, and X-ROD rather than adopting the L55 barrel.

For indirect fire, that includes miniaturization and precision guidance technology. So we accept that our artillery tubes may not be quite as fancy as some other competitors but compensate with smarter ammunition.
 

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What makes a tube fancy? You can specify tube straightness, chamber pressure, and whatever parameters affect dispersion (minus anything not connected with the gun itself). You can wrap the gun itself in a new chassis with better computers for faster aiming but that is something else. At this point, some architecture change is needed for any notable improvement.
 

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Both tank and tube artillery are complicated by alliance considerations/standardization.

Even something like the Abrams Ammunition Data Link (ADL) for "smart" MBT rounds took a long while
to mature and I can think of at least two other Rh-120mm ADL approaches from two other countries
out there that have fallen by the wayside or been subsumed.
 

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Isn't domestic (mass) production capability orthogonal to R&D capability?
None of the MBT tank gun R&D concepts the US has come up with, despite their merits, has materialized on anyone else's tanks either.

At the end of the day, these are just tubes.
[/QUOTE]

Well, here’s the thing if it’s just a metal tube:
1. Why have an R&D architecture if it’s simple, uncomplicated?
2. If it’s simple and uncomplicated, why does the US have such a hard time bringing one to service?
3. Are tax dollars being wasted on unnecessary R&D?
 

marauder2048

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Well, here’s the thing if it’s just a metal tube:
1. Why have an R&D architecture if it’s simple, uncomplicated?
2. If it’s simple and uncomplicated, why does the US have such a hard time bringing one to service?
3. Are tax dollars being wasted on unnecessary R&D?

1. None of the R&D proposals have been simple and uncomplicated.
2. None of the R&D proposals have been brought into service
3. In some case, probably.

A good chunk of R&D, in general, is a dead end.
 

Bruno Anthony

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I think it comes down to the US deciding to focus on areas where it believes it holds a comparative advantage. In tank guns, we have made the decision that improvements in tank main gun ordnance are going to be fairly minor, but improvements in tank main gun ammunition are more achievable and impactful. Thus, many iterations of improved APFSDS and many tries at smart main gun rounds like STAFF, TERM, and X-ROD rather than adopting the L55 barrel.

For indirect fire, that includes miniaturization and precision guidance technology. So we accept that our artillery tubes may not be quite as fancy as some other competitors but compensate with smarter ammunition.

I have to assume our conventional APFSDS rounds are superior to or at least equal to rounds fired from foreign 120/55 guns. The 55 cal gun is quite popular.
As for X-Rod, STAFF, TERM. Sigh yeah, more R&D nowheres. All that work and the BS answer is current programs match the threat. Of course the next questions should’ve been:
What prompted this research into RAKE/guided munitions?
Why not keep the research alive in order to get ahead or match an unforeseen threat?
 

Bruno Anthony

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Well, here’s the thing if it’s just a metal tube:
1. Why have an R&D architecture if it’s simple, uncomplicated?
2. If it’s simple and uncomplicated, why does the US have such a hard time bringing one to service?
3. Are tax dollars being wasted on unnecessary R&D?

1. None of the R&D proposals have been simple and uncomplicated.
2. None of the R&D proposals have been brought into service
3. In some case, probably.

A good chunk of R&D, in general, is a dead end.

Wow! US tank gun projects are so much more complicated than foreign ones? Doubt that. We can’t even pull off gun calibers that’s have been standard for decades.
Yes, I know none of the proposals have gone into service. WHY?
No such thing as time wasted on R&D. (Unless US research is inherently incompetent.) The waste is when there is no implementation of the R&D.
 

marauder2048

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Fire-out-of-battery
ETC
Liquid propellant guns
Electrically-actuated firing cycle to permit the use of low-velocity boosted shells
Combined MMW illuminators or NLOS concepts

I think you are just talking about longer barrels and maybe bigger chambers; that's not an R&D
effort. That's a manufacturing scaling effort; what I call and have heard called "knob turning."

I'm not belittling the material science that goes in to making longer tubes or the tech
that goes into stabilizing them.

R&D can be useful as a negative result; the other side would presumably run into the same problems
and you have a better appreciation for the inherent limitations/advantages.
 

marauder2048

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I have to assume our conventional APFSDS rounds are superior to or at least equal to rounds fired from foreign 120/55 guns. The 55 cal gun is quite popular.

And the L55 gun is worth like a 4-6% increase in velocity. I could sneeze on the M829A4 and probably get that. l44-vs-l55-kewa2.png
 

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Can you clarify and specify which US artillery systems are "awfully poor" and why?
M109 specifically. Why "awfully poor" - they got first noticeable "upgrades" in fire automation in ~2013 with A7, and is still miles behind of even 2S3, which entered soviet service in 1970. As a result - poor firerate and fire sustainability. Cannon part is quite obsolete too, which only partially negated by some nice ammunition choice (you won't negate short L39 cannon by using Excalibur for every shot). So there is no proper comparison to things like K9, and PzH 2000 or 2S19M(2) are just of different league.
 

marauder2048

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I would actually think ERCA would be a pretty good counter-example of the US and tubes.
I suppose you can't totally rule out that all that OTA stuff could be all cancelled and the project totally abandoned.

But it's also undergirded by parallel (and orthogonal) upgrades to ammunition for range/guidance/lethality.
 

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The 120mm L55, well the 55 bit is not the calibre rather, the length of barrel. Gerald Bull when researching the use of guns to launch satellites into low earth orbit concluded making the a barrel 55 X the calibre is the sweet spot for heavy guns making the suggested 75mm L100 of the latter day Wehrmacht seem pointless but they were after ever increasing muzzle velocity. However, there is no reason the USA cannot physically design and build a decent tank and artillery tube weapon.
 

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I have to assume our conventional APFSDS rounds are superior to or at least equal to rounds fired from foreign 120/55 guns. The 55 cal gun is quite popular.

And the L55 gun is worth like a 4-6% increase in velocity. I could sneeze on the M829A4 and probably get that. View attachment 640152

Why not do both? ;) The fact that they haven't bothered with the L55 suggests that the fact that there isn't a better US gun is more from lack of interest than anything else.
 

marauder2048

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I have to assume our conventional APFSDS rounds are superior to or at least equal to rounds fired from foreign 120/55 guns. The 55 cal gun is quite popular.

And the L55 gun is worth like a 4-6% increase in velocity. I could sneeze on the M829A4 and probably get that. View attachment 640152

Why not do both? ;)

Dispersion?

l44-vs-l55-dispersion.png


I'm still trying to figure out why the M829A4 needs the ammunition data link...
 

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the 55 bit is not the calibre rather, the length of barrel.

Specifically, it is the length of the barrel in calibers (multiples of the bore diameter). Referring to this as a 55-caliber barrel is quite common.
 

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