For a change I thought I would feature an interesting military munition for todays POTD. A reader sent us this photo asking if we could identify it and if it was a real cartridge. It is indeed real, but it is not a firearm cartridge. This round is a 30mm AHEAD Air Burst Munition (ABM) manufactured by Rheinmetall Air Defence AG.
It is designed to be fired from integrated/automated air defense systems. Radar first identifies and tracks the heading and velocity of an incoming target. This targeting data is fed into an anti-air auto-cannon’s targeting computer. The cannon then programs the AHEAD projectile’s fuse electronically just prior to firing. The time from first identifying a target to firing the first round is less than 5 seconds (in an ideal situation).
The fuse it set so that it explodes in the air just ahead of the target. Those cylinders you see in the photo are actually stacks of tungsten discs. Each projectile contains 150 discs, each weighing 51 grain. The total weight is equivalent to 11 .50 BMG projectiles. The direction of the discs is controlled and they are stabilized in flight by their shape. If all goes well the target will fly at full speed through multiple clouds of fast moving tungsten discs, ripping it to shreds.
But, like all air defense, the actual munitions are only as good as the radar systems. You cannot hit what you cannot see (or track reliability).