Electrothermal-chemical technology

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Electrothermal-chemical (ETC) technology is an attempt to increase accuracy and muzzle energy of future tank, artillery, and close-in weapon system[1] guns by improving the predictability and rate of expansion of propellants inside the barrel. Results have proven to be promising and it's very possible that electrothermal-chemical gun propulsion will be an integral part of any technologically advanced US Army's future combat system, as well as the future combat systems of several other countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom. The technology has been under development since the mid-1980s and at present is actively being researched in the United States by the Army Research Laboratory, as well as various private organizations. Electrothermal-chemical technology is part of a broad research and development program that encompasses all electric gun technology, such as rail guns and coil guns. It is considered the most mature of the three.

Contents

Background

The constant battle between armour and round has caused a near constant development of the main battle tank and this certainly had a major influence on tank design during the Cold War. In fact, current American future combat system technologies can be traced back to lethality requirements to successfully combat future Soviet tanks. It was thought in the late eighties that the protection level of the Future Soviet Tank (FST) could exceed 700 mm of rolled homogeneous armour equivalence at its maximum thickness, which was effectively immune against the contemporary M-829 armour piercing fin stabilized discarding sabot.[2] Today it is estimated that a tank gun will have to achieve muzzle energies on the level of 18 MJ—which is double the muzzle energy of current solid propellant tank propulsion systems — to be able to successfully perforate future enemy armour plating.[citation needed] In the eighties the most immediate method available to NATO to counter Soviet advances in armour technology was the adoption of a 140 mm main gun. This, however, required a redesigned turret that could incorporate the inherently larger breech and ammunition, and it also required some sort of automatic loader.[3] Although the 140 mm gun was considered a real interim solution it was decided after the fall of the Soviet Union that the increase in muzzle energy was not worth the increase in weight, and therefore more money was poured into research programs that could augment the muzzle energy of existing guns to match the 140 mm gun without the incrementing weight disadvantages. Furthermore, the 140 mm did not offer the dramatic increase in muzzle velocity also required.[4] One of the most successful alternative technologies remains electrothermal-chemical ignition.

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