Unfortunately, in stories the domestic “defense industry”, and indeed the industry as a whole, there are many examples of very dubious achievements. Moreover, all of them, as a rule, are a subject of our special pride. This fully applies to the most controversial element in the construction of Soviet / Russian tanks - automatic loading. Thanks to this interesting mechanism, the crew of domestic tanks has long corresponded to the song from the movie "Tractors".
Indeed, we are accustomed to emphasize with a touch of superiority: we are equipping our tanks with such machine guns, but foreign manufacturers in the absolute majority are not. But why? Could it be that the development of this unit turned out to be too tough for American, German, English, Japanese (hereafter, almost to infinity) engineers, and only Russian technical thought could cope with such a complex problem? Let's try to figure it out.
The indicator is important, but not the main
The idea of using an automatic loader was born in Kharkov during the design of the T-64 tank, was included in the TTZ for this car, and then inherited by the T-72 and T-80 tanks. For reasons unknown to the author, this device is referred to as a loading mechanism (MV) on the T-64 and T-80, and an automatic device (AZ) on the T-72. Probably to completely confuse the likely enemy. In addition, it should be noted that the MOH on T-64 and T-80 are identical, and the AZ on T-72 (and on T-90) has a fundamentally different design. However, the theme of unification, or rather, its almost complete absence, from the three Soviet main tanks, simultaneously mass-produced for almost 15 years, requires a separate detailed discussion. Now it's not about that.
We will try to answer the question: why did T-64 need a loading mechanism? The official version is this: due to the refusal of the loader, it was possible to reduce the reserved volume, reduce the size of the vehicle, and turn the saved mass into reinforcement of armor protection. In addition, increasing the rate of fire and facilitating the work of crew members are commonly mentioned. Which of the following is important? It is clear that the first three factors. Indeed, in Kharkov they tried to solve an unsolvable task: to create a tank with the smallest dimensions and weight, but with the most powerful weapons and armor protection. So it was for this reason that the automatic, forgive, loading mechanism was introduced.
Pros and cons of automatic loader
Pros due to the rejection of the loader:
- it was possible to reduce the reserved volume;
- reduce the size of the machine;
- and to save the mass to increase the armor protection;
- increase the rate of fire;
- facilitates the preparation for the shot.
- The machine has a final capacity, and almost always it is less than the total number of shots that can be loaded into the tank;
- relatively small ammunition;
- the inability to use ammunition of greater length;
- the difficulty of replenishing the automatic loader ammunition when using all shots in the AZ;
- when the AZ fails, the tank's rate of fire decreases to 1-2 shots per minute, or the tank generally loses the ability to shoot;
- low security AZ or other shots.
- all shots are in an armored fighting set, separated from the crew;
- no restrictions on the use of elongated shots;
- the presence of an extra crew member facilitates and reduces the time for loading ammunition and technical equipment maintenance.
- low compared to AZ rate of fire, reducing along the loader fatigue;
- large size of the tower and the resulting weight of the tank;
- injury when loading in movement over rough terrain.
Is it really so?
According to experts, confirmed by relevant tests, the rate of fire with manual loading of the first 10-12 unitary ammunition is almost the same as that carried out with the help of AZ, even slightly higher. It is eight to ten shots per minute, fluctuating depending on the agility and fitness of the loader. Then the indicator begins to gradually decrease: the loader fatigues.
The standard rate of fire tanks for manual loading - 6-7 rounds per minute. Automatic loader provides a rate of approximately 4-8 shots per minute. As you can see, the difference is not very large and, as can be seen from the commercials, depends on the preparation of the loader.
Work loader tank "Abrams"
Work loader tank "Leopard-2"
Work charging tank "Challenger-2»
Work loader tank "Merkava Mk4"
Main minus - loader prone to physical fatigue, which negatively affects the rate of fire of the gun. If at the beginning of the battle the pace of work of the loader exceeds the pace of work of the automatic loader, then at the end of the battle the situation changes to the opposite, especially in the process of moving the tank with an increased speed over rough terrain.
But, as we can see from this video, the loader has enough time to recuperate, and he is not so much wary of him in the fighting compartment.
Work loader tank "Abrams" in combat conditions
And this is how automatic loaders work on various tanks.
Work autoloader T-72 / 90
Work autoloader T-64 / 80
The work of the automatic loading of the tank "Leclerc" (France), K-2 (South Korea) and Tip-90 (Japan)
My opinion. Foreign designers, faced with difficulties in creating and operating loading mechanisms, decided to leave the loader as a member of the crew.
1. From the above, such a system is naturally more reliable. In case of problems with the power supply network and hydraulics of the machines, in contrast to them in such conditions, it provides greater reliability and rate of fire.
2. There is no load on the tank commander and gunner - they are engaged only in direct duties, without being distracted, that is, they are engaged in combat.
3. Greater ammunition.
4. Charger has other responsibilities, primarily in maintenance.
And then, now the emphasis is on using managed weaponsand not to increase the rate of fire.
Hard and dangerous ammunition
It is probably worth asking another question: what happens if the T-72 uses up all the ammunition from the autoloader? Despite the fact that modern combat is dynamic and transient, it can be assumed. In the 1973 year, for example, in Sinai and Golan, tank duels lasted quite a long time. We won’t guess how long a shot can be spent on the 22 (the amount of ammunition in AZ “seventy-second”), we will try to imagine what will happen next. Just look at the layout of the ammunition in the T-72 tank to see:
T-72 tank ammunition makes 45 shots separate loading. 22 shots are in the automatic loader, and 23 projectiles and charges are spliced throughout the combat compartment, which makes it extremely difficult to use them.
The layout of the ammunition in the T-72
But the main thing - who will charge? Charging because there is no! But there is an instruction manual, which instructs the commander and gunner to do this alternately. There is even a special table for placing projectiles and charges, as well as the sequence of loading the gun manually, for example, with the first three shots.
Table loading the first three shots in the T-72
And so for 23 ammunition. With the only difference that, starting from the fifth, in the column “Position of the tower,” the angle is given on the scale of the azimuth pointer, to which it must be turned to reach the projectile and charge. So I want to ask: tankers (gunner and commander) should remember all this?
For the sake of fairness, it must be said that in this respect they do not differ for the better from the "seventy-second" and T-64 with T-80. For example:
T-64 tank ammunition makes 37 shots separate loading. 28 shots are in the automatic loader, and 9 projectiles and charges are spliced throughout the combat compartment, which makes it extremely difficult to use them.
Stacking shots in the office of control
Seven more are stationed in the control compartment, and two shells and a charge are on the cabin floor. In combat, the crew can only rely on ammunition in the cockpit, since neither the gunner nor the commander can get into the control department. Although the relevant operating instructions state that only shots with high-explosive and cumulative shells can be outside the loading mechanism. From this, however, it does not get any easier.
The layout of the ammunition in the T-64
It is obvious that after the shooting of ammunition from the loader or its failure for any reason, the T-72 practically loses its combat capability. It is curious to note that the T-64А instruction manual on loading the gun with the hands of the commander and gunner is completely absent (although manual loading in the T-64 is a bit faster and simpler than in T-72), that is, the crew, as it were, are prepared in advance for that he will have to rely only on 28 shots in the MOH. Both in that and in the other tank, it is true that the delivery of shots to the dismounting line by hand is provided, but this is subject to the failure of only the actuator. In the case of a rotating conveyor jamming, shells and charges in it simply cannot be reached.
And what is going on in a possible opponent?
It should be noted that for the first time a French light tank AMX13 was equipped with an automatic loader in the 1951 year. So this is not our invention. Later in the West, several AZ designs of various types, including carousel, were developed. But none of them were used on serial tanks: no one was engaged in reducing the reserved volume there.
Ammunition of the Abrams tank is 40 unitary shots, with 34 projectile located in the niche of the tower. The loader sits sideways to the gun (facing the breech) to his left and sends out shots with his right hand, and not his left, as in Soviet tanks with manual loading.
The layout of the ammunition tank "Abrams"
The main part of the ammunition to the cannon is located in the isolated compartment of the turret, equipped with expelling panels. The remaining shells are stored in an isolated compartment in the tank hull.
The ammunition of the Leopard-2 tank is 42 unitary shots, but the tower contains only 15 unitars, and this indicator is inferior to Abrams and T-72.
The layout of the ammunition of the tank "Leopard-2"
15 shots are located on the left in the aft niche of the tower.
Additional ammunition (27 shots) is located in the housing to the left of the driver
Ammunition of the tank "Challenger II" makes 52 shot with separate loading, and the shells are located in the aft niche of the tower, and the charges are located below the shoulder strap of the tower in armored containers. The above-mentioned armored containers have “shirts” with a special liquid.
The layout of the ammunition tank "Challenger II"
Shots placed in the tower
Only French specialists went the Soviet way, setting the AZ on the Leclerc. The reason for this decision is easy to understand: they, too, sought to reduce the booked volume, only within the limits of other dimensions and mass. However, the design of the Leclerc automaton is fundamentally different, and in terms of layout and usability it is much better than ours.
The layout of the ammunition tank "Leclerc"
Ammunition of the Leclerc tank It is 40 unitary shots, of which 22 are in the automatic loader, the shells are placed in the cells of the horizontal conveyor, located across the cannon, opposite the breech of which the feed window is arranged. On command from the console, the gun is mounted on the loading angle - 1,8 °, the conveyor delivers a cell to the window with an appropriate shot. Automation is able to provide a technical rate of fire (excluding aiming and aiming) up to 15 shots per minute. The effective rate of fire - 10-12 rounds per minute (for T-72 - eight), both from a standstill and in motion, and also 18 are in the drummed pack in the control section, and can be moved by the gunner to the automatic loader as the ammunition is spent in it
Equipment of the conveyor cells is conducted from the outside through the loading hatch in the stern wall of the tower or from the inside, from the gunner's seat, which can replenish the machine gun from the ammunition - rotating drum on 18 shots mounted in the case to the right of the driver. There is no need to distribute ammunition by type, because the machine is equipped with a reading device that is connected to a processor that can recognize at least five types of ammunition.
Compartment guns and AZ separated from the jobs of the commander and the gunner sealed walls, which increases safety and survivability. In addition to the convenience of replenishing the machine both outside and inside, the French unit has another advantage over the Soviet counterpart - it is adapted for any type of ammunition, while the domestic MOH and AZ do not allow placing modern shots with elongated sabers in them.
The exact opposite of the Soviet and French solution is the Israeli tank Merkava Mk4.
Ammunition of the tank "Merkava Mk4" It is 46 unitary shots, of which 10 are in the drum mechanism, feeds the projectile loader, and the remaining 36 projectiles are placed in refractory containers in the stern of the hull.
However, in the crew of the car there was a loader, which, based on the situation, determines how to load the gun: manually or with the help of a machine gun.
The layout of the tank ammunition "Merkava Mk4"
Fireproof containers in the aft hull
What can I say? There is a completely different approach: AZ together with the loader, and not in its place. It really solved the problem of facilitating the work of crew members and increasing the rate of fire.
Thus, neither American, nor German, nor Israeli tanks lose their combat capability, until the complete execution of ammunition, which takes much less time to load into these vehicles compared to T-72.
The question naturally suggests itself: is non-mechanized styling necessary at all? In addition to its uselessness for shooting, it carries a clear threat to the life of the crew. The whole world went around the photos of T-72 with towers, ripped off by an explosion of ammunition, from Iraq, Yugoslavia, Chechnya, Syria. For some experts, this fact was puzzling: after all, the shots in the automatic loading of this tank are below the level of the road wheels. In the machine - yes, but in non-mechanized packing - no. Apparently, the latter and are the catalyst for the process of detonation of ammunition.
So need or not modern tank automatic loading? As we see, the development trends of world tank building do not give a definitive answer to this question. One thing is clear: in the form in which it exists in domestic tanks, AZ (MH) is definitely not needed.