Plastic Guidance Fins for Long Rod Projectiles .

Mark L. Bundy


Projectile tail fins on long rod kinetic energy (KE) penetrators serve the same purpose as fletchings (feathers) on an arrow, namely, they help align the projectile axis with its velocity vector. This reduces the projectile's yaw and hence reduces its aerodynamic drag. In addition, a low yaw angle at target impact helps to maximise the projectile's target penetration. It is typical for projectiles to exit the gun muzzle and enter free flight at some ndn-zero yaw angle. Aerodynamic forces acting on yawed tail fins create a stabilising torque about the projectile's centre of gravity (CG). This torque can be increased by making the fin material lighter. Most conventional long rod penetrators fired from high performance guns have tail fins made from aluminium. However, aluminium can undergo catastrophic oxidation (rapid burning) in-bore. Coating aluminium with Al/sub 2/O/sub 3/ {hardcoat) prevents ignition of the substrate, provided solid propellant grain impacts do not chip the brittle hardcoat off the surface. Plastic is lighter than aluminium and less exothermic when oxidized. Therefore, other factors aside, it is conceivable that plastic fins could increase projectile stability while incurring less thermal erosion than aluminium. However, thermal loads are not the only concern when considering plastic as an alternative tail fin material. The mechanical strength of plastic is also a critical factor. This paper discusses some of the successes and failures of plastic fins, at least relatively thin fins, for use as KE stabilisers.


Solid propellant ;Projectiles;Target penetration;Aerodynamic drag;Kinetic energy (KE) penetrators

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Defence Science Journal (DSJ)