​Belgian Exotic Squash-Head Munitions for Leopard 1A5 Tanks Were Spotted in Ukraine

Leopard 1A5 / Open-source illustrative photo
Leopard 1A5 / Open-source illustrative photo

Ukrainian Leopards have received quite exotic HESH ammunition, anti-armor rounds filled with plastic explosive

A pile of hefty ammunition in a seemingly unremarkable photo found on social media reveals that Ukrainian forces have received 105mm tank rounds manufactured by Belgian company Mecar, subsidiary of the KNDS conglomerate.

Among them, two shells are Belgian: a traditional M1060A2/A3 APFSDS-T armor-piercing penetrator and an interesting M393A3-E HESH-T squash-head munition, the third object is the American M456A2 HEAT-T shaped charge tank round.

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The photo was noticed by an OSINT-researcher Weapons Illustrated. As noted, all the ammunition featured is intended for use by several types of main battle tanks in Ukrainian service — the German Leopard 1A5/A5DK and the M-55S, a Slovenian modernization of T-55.

The High-Explosive Squash Head (HESH) tank round is a type of projectile that utilizes plastic explosives to inflict damage to the interior of enemy armored vehicles. Upon impact with the enemy, the explosive material spreads over the surface before detonating. Although the armor is usually not penetrated this way, the explosion causes a blast of splinters and fragmentation on the other side of the armor, so-called spall. Defense Express covered the topic in more detail here.

Developed in Britain in the 1940s, this type of ammunition has not enjoyed much popularity but importantly, it can be used by the Royal Ordnance L7 gun which is installed on Leopard 1 tanks. Also, HESH rounds in the 120mm caliber were designed, which can be fired by Challenger 1 and Challenger 2 tanks, as well as the 125mm variant for the Chinese VT-4. Still, it is much less popular than other varieties of tank ammunition.

Notably, Ukrainian operators of Leopard 1A5 were very excited about the prospects of receiving HESH shells. A group interviewed in September last year, said with this kind of shells they would be able to take down the enemy much quicker and more effectively than with any classic 105mm round.

According to estimates by Defence24, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have around 200 tanks with guns of 105mm caliber. Production of 105mm ammunition for Ukraine was commissioned by the Belgian government to Mecar in November 2023.

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