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Scientists from China claim to have developed a new high-speed kinetic energy weapon that could shake apart a tank. What’s more, the new 20 kg weapon only needs to land a glancing blow to do so.

The study, which follows an in-depth assessment of kinetic weapons through experiments and numerical simulations by the research team, states that the new solid spherical projectile can travel at Mach 4 and carries around roughly 7 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Although it may seem improbable that a tank weighing up to 60 tons and protected by thick layers of armor could be disabled by such a small amount of energy, the researchers seem to be convinced of their findings. It seems that unlike traditional anti-tank weapons that require high speed, penetrative capability, and a large number of explosives to defeat a tank, high-speed kinetic projectiles can potentially achieve lethal damage even upon light contact.

According to Interesting Engineering, the team discovered during the simulations that while the tank appeared outwardly undamaged on impact, its internal parts were irreparably harmed. More specifically, the bolts that connected important equipment to the inner cabin wall would fracture, and even if the crew survived the impact, they could not return the tank to its functioning combat state.

When it comes to assessing the damage caused by kinetic projectiles as part of the research, the team reportedly discovered that the task was much more challenging than expected. When evaluating the damage caused by conventional armor-piercing rounds the testing could be easily done on a piece of alloy armor, but testing for kinetic projectiles requires considering the structure of the entire tank. The reason for this issue is that the shock wave generated by the impact travels through the entire vehicle in a very complex manner which causes stress to concentrate in areas like bolts- leading to distortion or even fracture.