Cannister Rounds

Leading on, yet again, from comments on Monty’s post on the main battle tank one of the subject areas was the benefit of non fin cannister rounds, a round we no longer have.

The last time we had cannister available on a land vehicle was on CVR(T) Scorpion and Saladin, the round for the L23A1 76mm rifled medium velocity gun (the one on a Scorpion) finally going out of service in in the early nineties. Trials were carried out on the 120mm rifled gun in the early eighties but no round was ever bought into general service due to concerns about damage to the rifle, potential for misfeeds and alternatives being available, GPMG, HESH and being able to deliver fragmentation from other sources such as mortars.

Read more on the 76mm gun and ammunition at Repaircraft

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Chemring still provide 76mm ammunition for nations still using the L23A1, click here to read the brochure.

Outside of the UK, the enduring appeal of cannister continues.

General Dynamics make the M1028 Cannister Round for 120mm smoothbore, ATK also provide the same round.

And a video

For a slightly different application, I think this is an interesting round from IMI

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John Hartley
John Hartley
April 14, 2013 4:56 pm

Yes, but you need a smoothbore gun. Either the super dooper ideas from the other post, or an off the shelf tank. Either licence built Leclercs, or if we want a “British” tank, copy the Vickers MK 7 prototype from the 1980s, that had a Leopard 2 hull with a British turret. Now it would be a licence built 2A7+ hull with a Vickers turret, armed with the licence built French autoloader smoothbore 120mm gun.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 14, 2013 5:23 pm


to be honest, I don’t think the ROE would ever get cleared today, even for general war.

Slightly odd to think that I was in the last generation to ever fire canister and in my case, not in anger, only ever at Lulworth. I am now feeling tremendously old Nelsonian. But that Quadrant Fire Control bubble levelling thingy for 76 indirect fire from Scorpion was a right bastard to “programme”. I’m pretty sure that had it ever been used in anger, canister would have been fired by roughly lining up the barrel with the area you wished to kill, and not bubble levelling. But that was the Lulworth way, back in the mid 80s.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 14, 2013 5:30 pm

…incidentally, the 76 was – I was told – a derivative of the WW2 25 pounder, and had precisely the same operating instructions for the loader / commander, except rotated through 90 degrees. The Breech Mechanism Lever (BML) was a vicious piece of steel that whipped back with the recoil, and certainly in Scorpion was a serious danger to the commander’s right leg. Elf ‘n Safety should have banned it.

Is there any truth in the WW2 25 pounder and the L23A1 being brothers?

April 14, 2013 5:36 pm

John Hartley,

You do not need a smoothbore gun for canister. The L23 was rifled. Other rifled guns have had canister.

Airbursting shells, especially the Shrapnel type, have the effect of canister at extended range (which was the whole point of shrapnel). Of course, a similar effect can be had with a multipurpose round by time-fusing with a short delay.

John Hartley
John Hartley
April 14, 2013 6:28 pm

I tought the Scorpion gun was related to the Sherman/Churchill tank 76mm?
Still leaves the question, does Britain upgrade existing Challenger 2 & buy new ammo, or buy a new tank with smoothbore gun?

John Hartley
John Hartley
April 14, 2013 6:29 pm

Sorry, missing an h on thought.

April 14, 2013 7:15 pm


I think we need to adopt a 120 mm smoothbore simply to have commonality with the USA, Germany and France. In terms of ammunition variants, the APFSDS round is a given, canister is a nice to have, but we definitely need a serious HE round for taking out bunkers, buildings and area targets. I guess HESH can partly perform this role, but it was conceived primarily as anti-tank round not an anti-structure round. Perhaps this is a politically incorrect request in an age of collateral damage avoidance.

Sooner or later, we will need to start thinking about what replaces Challenger 2. In my mind a Leopard 2A7+ hull with a Vickers turret, armed with the licence built French autoloader and a German 120 mm smoothbore gun would be a very good start. If Leclerc is anything to go by, we might be able to field a tank weighing less than 60 tonnes.

April 14, 2013 7:57 pm

TD – I think your reply is in the wrong thread !

And unlike you, I am not all that interested in light air portable armour, not sure what the extra 5 to 8 tonnes brings you over a Panther CLV, RG32M or similar 4 x 4 light protected vehicles which can mount the RWS / ATGM.

John Hartley
John Hartley
April 14, 2013 8:13 pm

I think I am with TD, as a 16 ton or just under, light tank that can be lugged in an emergency by a CH-53K appeals to the bad Hollywood scenarios that bizarrely occur in real life from time to time.

April 14, 2013 8:39 pm

I can see scout tanks being deployed as airmobile armour from C-130s, but think heli-deployable armour is a bit too much.

Don’t really see anything wrong with 15-18 ton light tanks lugging overcharged engines and reinforced frames which can take add on slab armour and ERA plates, if used right, they can work very well too. Problem is with their armament. Light tanks usually can only go up to 90mm cannons, more often you get 75mm +/-. Asking them to be effective in war or a delaying action, they need to be really nimble to avoid MBTs while hitting weaker targets. And retain enough AA to get pesky aircraft to leave them alone.

2-3 man tank, 30-40mm, ATGMs? or 75-90mm cannon? Love the idea of a 2 man tankette, but with that many weapon systems, 2 men may get overloaded with work.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 14, 2013 10:30 pm

I am deeply sad. Mrs RT is away visiting a sick (quite sick, really) sister, and the little darlings have been in bed for 3 hours.

I have, on one sheet of paper, and with reference to my 1977 vintage Faber Castell slide rule, replicated the fore control calculations for canister and indeed Scorpion indirect fire generally, with the Quadrant Fire Control bubble levelling thingy, that were beaten into my head by Cpl “Ticking” Tom Foley in 1984/5 (a star of a man, and later a pleasure to have in my Squadron as a Sergeant).

I really have. It’s not complex. Perhaps I should send the algorithm to Apple and make a “app” of it.

Basically, it’s complex, but also simple. For canister, point the barrel in the direction of those you wish to die, and fire. For indirect (smoke, HE, etc), call for the Gunners.

April 14, 2013 10:55 pm

“replicated the fore control calculations……that were beaten into my head by Cpl “Ticking” Tom Foley in 1984/5”

“For canister, point the barrel in the direction of those you wish to die, and fire.”

He obviously didn’t hit hard enough….


As an aside to the Thunderbolt 120mm system trialed for the M8,

Under Bionix MBT prototype. Rumour has it that the gun had a tendency to try ripping off turret rings and throw tracks. To be safe, I’d cap 90mm as the biggest you can probably safely use. The Sheridin’s gun isn’t really a gun, it’s more a rocket launcher.

April 15, 2013 10:47 am

Certainly don’t need smoothbores for canister rounds; they were used to deadly effect by Centurions at the Imjin river to sweep Chinese infantry off other tanks. Aussie Centurions also used them in Vietnam. I am amazed that they are no longer in the inventory.

April 15, 2013 11:13 am

Actually I think canister are better fired from a rifled barrel, the centrifugal spin spreads them out better, while a smoothbore, as shown in the video, keeps the mass rather close to the center. Better for range I suppose, but spread suffers.

April 15, 2013 9:21 pm

I would love to see the RMK-30 recoilless cannon made available as a remote weapon system. I would ideally want to see a family of light wheeled recce vehicles, much like the Fennek, but based on something like the Duro based Eagle IV. We could of course call it a “Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Wheeled)”…

We could have versions like:
– Cannon armed recce, with the RMK-30, giving similar firepower to the Scimitar or Warrior
– Anti-tank, with Javelin, or possibly even Spike NLOS
– Air defence, with Starstreak II
– Recce, with a lightweight mast mounted sight, and small UAVs

As for the need for suitable rounds for a new smoothbore 120mm gun:

IMI APAM (XM-329) Anti-Personnel/Anti-Materiel
DM63 penetrator
M1028 cannister round
LAHAT guided anti-tank missile

This mix, and any others, would provide for most eventualities, and all are ready for service, so no need to wait for development. We could go down the fast route, and just copy the Vickers option, i.e. Leopard 2A7 hull, and a British turret.

What I do wonder is whether we might be better modifying the Challenger’s hull, to become a Challenger 3, and basically just sticking a Leopard 2A7 type turret on it. In effect, this would be the reverse of the Vickers idea, but it would actually preserve commonality with the fleet of Challenger based vehicles we’ve just received, e.g. Titan, Trojan etc… Basically, the Challenger hull might need a bit of a stretch, but probably nothing too major, and it would make for a very viable Challenger 3 project.

April 16, 2013 12:44 am

Ed, nice lineup. Who do we send the bill to? :)

April 16, 2013 3:47 pm

The price tag would obviously be an issue, but if we were to go down any route it will be expensive. In terms of the Challenger 3 idea, it shouldn’t actually be too bad, since it would essentially be the existing Challenger hull, scooped out to allow a Leopard 2 turret to be put in. This would effectively replicate the original proposal to regun the existing fleet. The difference would be taking the shortcut of using a well proven turret instead of a bodge-job trying to heavily modify the existing turret to accommodate a gun it wasn’t designed for.

As for the idea of the family of wheeled recce vehicles, this needn’t be too horrifically expensive, since it would just use a fairly basic and cheap base vehicle, e.g. Eagle or Panther, and slap some extra kit on it. The RMK-30 gun is already designed and tested, in pretty much the form we would need (the Wiesel mount is essentially an RWS anyway). The recce masts etc are already planned for fitting to the Jackals, and the ATGM version would just be a bog-standard Javelin launcher. The air defence version could just use the existing Thales MPCV type launcher (again, fully developed already).

Remember, the wheeled recce vehicle would just be in place of the exposed Jackal/Coyote, and thus needn’t be a huge added cost. Not to mention that the specialist variants don’t need to be funded right now, though I would dare to say that the RMK-30 version would be high on my list, since it would allow the lighter units to replace their Scimitar/Sabre capability, when the FRES Scout comes into service…

John Hartley
John Hartley
April 16, 2013 5:44 pm

I think the first use of the 76mm was for the AEC Mk III armoured car of WW2. It was a British developed version of the American M3 75 mm tank gun. Although that was related to the French WW1 gun.