NATO Is Building a 'Silver Bullet' to Destroy Russia's New Tanks
With all these benefits to ETC technology, why hasn’t it been implemented it yet? Primarily, the demise of the Soviet Union meant that many advanced tank projects were put on hold. As part of the “peace dividend,” many advanced anti-tank research projects fell to the wayside. Plans for 140mm tank guns and railguns, alternative solutions to the same problem ETC guns were designed to tackle were also shelved. Even more conventional projects such as the STAFF round were canceled to save money. ETC gun technology did make it into some prototypes before the cancellations. The XM291 120mm cannon had an ETC variant planned, but it suffered the demise described above. A German test 120mm ETC cannon achieved fourteen Megajoules (MJ) during test firings, but these were expected to increase to fifteen MJ later on. This is a significant increase compared to the around twelve MJ put out by the M256 cannon on the M1A2 Abrams, the U.S. Army’s current premier main battle tank.
However, the end of these projects did not spell the demise for ETC guns. In 2004, a report put out by the Research and Technology Organization for NATO laid out a framework for a future Electric Combat Vehicle (AECV). ETC guns were considered as possible armaments for this future vehicle. In the report, ETC guns were shown to be far more power efficient than railguns, requiring an estimated forty megawatts per shot compared to the 550 megawatts per shot of the railgun in the application of being the armament for a seventeen-ton scout vehicle. The aforementioned DARPA contract also shows future potential for ETC guns in the naval role. ETC guns have the advantage of achieving similar barrel lifespan and rate of fire to existing gun systems while extending range and accuracy. It is also listed as the most mature technology compared to combustible gas-gun and railgun systems. ETC technology could bridge the range gap between standard munitions, extended range precision munitions, and railgun munitions.
ETC gun technology is the edge NATO might need in a future confrontation. Making guns hit harder, more accurately, out to a further range could prove a decisive advantage in any battle.
Charlie Gao studied Political and Computer Science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues.