During his recent statement to the American Senate, a four-star General Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, said that the 5.56x45mm M855A1 ammunition is not capable of penetrating the newest types of bulletproof vests. As a result, a decision to replace this type of calibre of bullets with 7.62x51mm followed his statement.
We decided to discuss it with Oleksandr Kalachev, one of the founders and chief designer of European company Stiletto Systems Limited.
Do you think that this is too much of a radical reaction? Do you think that the 5.56x45mm ammunition has no more room for improvement in terms of armor penetration capacities in order to meet the modern challenges on the battlefield?
In this case, it is necessary to stress why exactly it is impossible to increase the armor penetration capacities of the 5.56x45mm calibre ammunition as it is today. The design of the bullet needs radical changes. At some point, everybody chased after the mass product. We speak here about a bullet design scheme, where a steel core propped up with a lead rod is inserted into a brass or biometal shell. And it is well known that the main element guaranteeing the armor penetration is the mass of a steel or a carbide-tipped core, for instance, the core mass, that is used for 5.45mm is around one gram.
That’s is why in order to increase an armor penetration capabilities of such a bullet we can only do it via the increase of a core mass itself, that, can actually penetrates armor. In order to do that, the core needs to be placed all along the entire length of a bullet, exactly the way our company does.
But the problem is that the manufacturing technology in other companies does not provide for the placement of such a core, because it should be placed into a lead shell “jacket” just after its manufacture, later it should be mounted into a special unit and, with some effort, to install the shell itself. However, the efforts needed to install it should be regulated depending on the desired accuracy on the battlefield. Just after these manipulations, the 5.56x45mm ammunition will have high armor-piercing capabilities.
For example, the bullet with a steel core can easily penetrate a 6 mm armor plate from 450 meters. In other words, a “level 4” bulletproof vest won’t be able to stop such a bullet from 100-150 meters. And if we follow the same scheme and install a carbide-tipped core instead of a steel one, we can say with certainty that such 5.56x45mm bullet with an estimated mass of 5 grams will be able to accelerate up to 900-950 m/s. Such characteristics would ensure the penetration of a maximum level bulletproof vest from the distance of 250 meters. Therefore, we can say that the modernization of a 5.56x45mm calibre ammunition is both possible and necessary.
Can we say that the U.S. Armed Forces are in a hurry to replace the 5.56x45mm ammunition?
Probably yes, especially if we analyze the design of the entire range of their ammunition adopted by the U.S. Army. Only in a 12.7mm bullet, the core is placed all along the bullet. In all other cases, the armor-piercing core is placed in front and it is never placed in a special “lead jacket”. It is worth noting that a rapid wear out of a gun barrel happens due to placing the core without the so-called lead jacket. It is necessary to place a core into a lead “jacket”.
This will increase the characteristics of a bullet and decrease the wear of the firearm. For instance, the design of a bullet by Stiletto Systems allows the placement of a core all along a bullet. This provides an appropriate mass that plays an important role on the battlefield. It is well known that only the mass of a core participates in the armor-piercing and the core mass is increased by several times results in improved armor-piercing capabilities.
Does a low-impulse bullet, in this case, a 5.56x45mm calibre ammunition, have an important advantage over 7.62x51mm bullets for an automatic weapons?
The Stiletto Systems company has carried out a range of tests and experiments for 7,62x39mm and 5,45x39mm (similar to 5,56x45mm) calibre ammunition including firing, both with steel and carbide-tipped core.
Stiletto Systems has conducted testing of its ammunition at accredited test facilities Department of Weapon Systems and Ballistics (ABAL)
Report for shooting tests performed on October 22, 2013 at the Laboratory of the Department of Armament and Ballistics Systems of the Royal Military Academy…
Also, Stiletto Systems has conducted testing of its ammunition at accredited test facilities at National Defense Academies and testing facilities that undertake NATO related testing.
The bullets were fired from 100 and 150 meters. The results showed no significant difference between these bullets.However, the 5,45x39mm BS penetrated a 14mm armor plate, while 7,62x39mm rifle bullet managed to penetrate only 10mm of armor. Therefore, we can clearly say, that 5,45mm, as well as 5,56mm bullets, have a bright future. However, in order to achieve that future, it is necessary to carry out significant work, to do the math, to pick and correctly place a core, and only after such operations the success is guaranteed.
So far nobody has managed to create a perfect rifle bullet. Why is this so? Do you think is it possible in future?
Again, it is worth noting, that the development of bullets and the creation of new types of bullets is still an area with a lot of gaps, a lot of parameters are still needed to be studied. The capabilities of firearms and their ammunition are not yet completely known and the reason is the absence of registering equipment. It is impossible to place a detector in the same bullet and precisely register all changes that are happening with it from the moment of firing to the moment of hitting the target. Nobody can be sure about the behaviour of a bullet in flight. However, everybody knows that when the bullet exits the barrel, it changes its geometry and when such change happens, so it also behaves differently. In general, all weapon-related issues are largely based on presumptions.
We would like to know where lies the success of your company and what could you advise to others?
The sole secret of success of Stiletto Systems company lies within the fact, that we have never worked as a part of fictions and neither do we practiced the art of wishful thinking. We do everything strictly in accordance with the laws of nature with the data collected during testing. When something new is being created or new construction is being considered, it is necessary to take into account the experience received during the field tests and to introduce any changes into the bullet’s design respecting the laws of nature and the physics of the process. Ignoring the results of field tests is the biggest mistake of the majority of designers, who are obliged to pursue a market demand and refuse to take into account the data obtained during such tests. It is really important to carry out a range of tests and to introduce changes all the time in order to improve one’s models based on real experience. It is also of high importance not to stop the progress in order to achieve rapid commercial benefits.