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#1
Old 11-17-2013, 08:50 AM
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When a tank is hit does the crew burn alive?

When a tank is hit does the crew burn alive?

There is a youtube video of a t 72 tank is syria getting hit with a rpg 29 anti tank rocket http://youtube.com/watch?v=x2TLS1sqMl8 after it gets hit a crew member comes running out from a escape hatch with his clothes burned off him. I can only imagine that the other crew members who didn't have a escape hatch got burned alive, is this correct?
#2
Old 11-17-2013, 09:34 AM
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Depends on the tank and it's armor, what it's hit with and the interior layout of the tank.
#3
Old 11-17-2013, 09:47 AM
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Remember that in some (all?) tanks the various crew members aren't actually in the same compartment at all.
#4
Old 11-17-2013, 09:52 AM
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Nobody could live through that.
#5
Old 11-17-2013, 09:53 AM
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Some may get killed immediately by the initial hit or the resultant explosion/pressure.

Burning alive is more common in older tank designs and Russian designs. Older designs would sometimes not provide much isolation between the fuel tank and the crew compartment. Russian designs often lack much separation between the ammo and the crew compartment. NATO designs (and perhaps recent Russian ones) store the ammo in an armored box with a blow off panel which directs the ammo explosion's blast away from the crew.
#6
Old 11-17-2013, 09:56 AM
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I spent some time on a M41 tank. Yeah, it was a long time ago. Biggest fear was an armor piercing round entering the tank and touching off the 90mm rounds inside. The tank commander on top, may escape, if the top was open. But, a fast escape was not possible for the rest of the crew.
#7
Old 11-17-2013, 10:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tci707 View Post
When a tank is hit does the crew burn alive?

There is a youtube video of a t 72 tank is syria getting hit with a rpg 29 anti tank rocket http://youtube.com/watch?v=x2TLS1sqMl8 after it gets hit a crew member comes running out from a escape hatch with his clothes burned off him. I can only imagine that the other crew members who didn't have a escape hatch got burned alive, is this correct?
Pretty much, yeah. Military service drastically increases your chance of dying horribly.
#8
Old 11-17-2013, 10:15 AM
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If they were lucky there was spalling that killed them first. Tank warfare is thoroughly unpleasant.
#9
Old 11-17-2013, 10:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelEmouse View Post
Some may get killed immediately by the initial hit or the resultant explosion/pressure.

Burning alive is more common in older tank designs and Russian designs. Older designs would sometimes not provide much isolation between the fuel tank and the crew compartment. Russian designs often lack much separation between the ammo and the crew compartment. NATO designs (and perhaps recent Russian ones) store the ammo in an armored box with a blow off panel which directs the ammo explosion's blast away from the crew.
The tank in the video was a russian made T-72
#10
Old 11-17-2013, 11:13 AM
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Sherman tanks during the war were notorious for 'brewing up' (catching fire) when hit, so much so that they were nicknamed 'Ronsons' or 'Tommy Cookers'.
#11
Old 11-17-2013, 11:26 AM
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As stated it depends on the tank. An M1 has an active fire suppression system, it's ammo is behind an armored door except for the brief time it takes the loader to extract a round and the top of the turret has blow off panels that are designed to channel the blast if it's a hit to the ammo compartment. It also has a hell of a lot better armor than a T72.

Last edited by Loach; 11-17-2013 at 11:27 AM.
#12
Old 11-17-2013, 12:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tci707 View Post
The tank in the video was a russian made T-72
It's pretty much certain that a T-72 wouldn't put much emphasis on crew survival after a hit that was strong enough to take out the tank. Especially the variants the Soviets exported which tended to be one notch below the variants of the same model they used i.e.: the export T-72 wasn't as good as the T-72 used by the Red Army.

So, yeah, get knocked out quick by the hit/explosion or burn alive (or be really lucky like that guy. I wonder what crew position he had).
#13
Old 11-17-2013, 01:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Airman Doors, USAF View Post
If they were lucky there was spalling that killed them first. Tank warfare is thoroughly unpleasant.
I think some weapons are specifically designed for this.
I remember seeing a show on the military channel that described an anti-tank weapon that had an explosive flatten against the tank before detonating, the idea being that the explosion would not penetrate the tank but would cause a "scab" to peel off the interior and send shrapnel throughout the interior.
At least it gets it over with quickly.
#14
Old 11-17-2013, 01:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zoid View Post
I think some weapons are specifically designed for this.
I remember seeing a show on the military channel that described an anti-tank weapon that had an explosive flatten against the tank before detonating, the idea being that the explosion would not penetrate the tank but would cause a "scab" to peel off the interior and send shrapnel throughout the interior.
At least it gets it over with quickly.
High explosive squash head. The counter to this is anti-spalling liner which T-72 might very well have.

In any case, RPGs don't use squash heads*. Against tanks, they pretty much only use HEAT rounds.


*That I know of. It seems like a squash head would require a large explosive charge which a shoulder weapon couldn't deliver.
#15
Old 11-17-2013, 01:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelEmouse View Post
High explosive squash head. The counter to this is anti-spalling liner which T-72 might very well have.

In any case, RPGs don't use squash heads*. Against tanks, they pretty much only use HEAT rounds.


*That I know of. It seems like a squash head would require a large explosive charge which a shoulder weapon couldn't deliver.
A HEAT round would send a jet of plasma inside the tank, hence the likelihood of burning. A kinetic round would be more likely to send shrapnel or ricochet inside the tank, shredding crew members.
#16
Old 11-17-2013, 02:05 PM
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If the kinetic penetrator is made of depleted uranium you also get a fire/exposion:

Quote:
Depleted uranium is favored for the penetrator because it is self-sharpening and pyrophoric.[30] On impact with a hard target, such as an armored vehicle, the nose of the rod fractures in such a way that it remains sharp. The impact and subsequent release of heat energy causes it to disintegrate to dust and burn when it reaches air because of its pyrophoric properties.[30] When a DU penetrator reaches the interior of an armored vehicle it catches fire, often igniting ammunition and fuel, killing the crew and possibly causing the vehicle to explode.
#17
Old 11-17-2013, 02:19 PM
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If the first part of the video is linked to the second part (and what's the point of putting them together if they aren't?) then it isn't a kinetic energy round. RPGs don't get sufficient velocity to have effective KE rounds.
#18
Old 11-17-2013, 02:32 PM
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Those other two tank commanders are horrible - how long did they just sit there in the open after the hit, they should have been moving almost immediately. Lucky for them the "rebels" didn't have a couple more RPGs.
#19
Old 11-17-2013, 03:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Kobayashi View Post
Sherman tanks during the war were notorious for 'brewing up' (catching fire) when hit, so much so that they were nicknamed 'Ronsons' or 'Tommy Cookers'.
To add, the advertising slogan of the Ronson lighter was "always lights first time".

And as a general rule, yes. If you survived the initial hit but didn't make it out of the tank in x number of seconds, you weren't going to make it out and would burn to death.

Last edited by Dissonance; 11-17-2013 at 03:08 PM.
#20
Old 11-17-2013, 03:29 PM
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When an RPG detonates, there is a shaped charge that projects a hypersonic jet of liquid superheated copper straight through the armor. I imagine anything this touches will be lit on fire with a quickness.
#21
Old 11-17-2013, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Werekoala View Post
Those other two tank commanders are horrible - how long did they just sit there in the open after the hit, they should have been moving almost immediately. Lucky for them the "rebels" didn't have a couple more RPGs.
Yeah they were pretty awful. The one to the right looked pretty damn close with the TC hanging out of the hatch with all that ammo cooking off.

The rebels failed to follow one of the first things I learned as a young soldier. Always go after the vehicle with the biggest antenna.
#22
Old 11-17-2013, 05:42 PM
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Unfortunately I can't locate my copy of John Ellis' excellent book On the Front Lines: The Experience of War through the Eyes of the Allied Soldiers in World War II and some of the relevant pages aren't available on-line, but among the descriptions he gives:

Quote:
The next moment or so was a terrifying moment for the crew, for those at least who had not been mangled, decapitated or sliced in two by the shell or flying fragments. Even if a tank was only immobilised by a hit, everyone knew that they only had a very short respite before another shell would come ripping through the hull. Peter Elstob’s crew soon learnt an important lesson of tank warfare, that ‘when a tank was hit by an armour-piercing shell those who were still alive and able to move got out fast before the next one hit; the whole thing was as unlike a boxing match as it could be, because in tank battle the first hit was the winning one’. The first or second hit was almost certain to set the tank on fire and it was then that any watching infantry were truly thankful that they had never been assigned to an armoured unit. An American officer who saw many ‘brew ups’ wrote:

A tank that is mortally hit belches forth long searing tongues of orange flame from every hatch. As ammunition explodes in the interior, the hull is racked by violent convulsions and sparks erupt from the spout of the barrel like fireballs of a Roman candle. Silver rivulets of molten aluminium pour forth from the engine like tears… When the inferno subsides, gallons of lubricating oil in the power train and hundreds of pounds of rubber on the tracks and bogey wheels continue to burn, spewing dense clouds of black smoke over the funeral pyre.



Norman Lewis (Field Security Police) saw destroyed tanks at Salerno beachhead: ‘In one case the trapped crew had been broiled in such a way that a puddle of fat had spread from under the tank and this was quilted with brilliant flies
#23
Old 11-17-2013, 07:50 PM
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I don't understand how the guy escaped from the tank, when it got hit and the ammunition exploded shouldn't he have been killed instantly? But yet he was able to run out of the tank.
#24
Old 11-17-2013, 07:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tci707 View Post
I don't understand how the guy escaped from the tank, when it got hit and the ammunition exploded shouldn't he have been killed instantly? But yet he was able to run out of the tank.
I counted 7-8 seconds in-between the moment the rocket hits and the moment the large flames come out. During that delay, there is a lot of smoke which hides what's going on on top of the tank. I guess he climbed out/got ejected during that delay.

Last edited by MichaelEmouse; 11-17-2013 at 07:58 PM.
#25
Old 11-17-2013, 08:19 PM
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What likely happened in that video is that the main gun rounds (propellant and maybe explosives) caught fire, since there wasn't an large explosion (they tend to fling the turrets off).

Plus, it looks a lot like this M1 Abrams test of the separate ammo stowage.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Ay7bOG2nD6k

What happens when the ammo actually explodes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack-in-the-box_effect

Last edited by bump; 11-17-2013 at 08:20 PM.
#26
Old 11-18-2013, 06:52 AM
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Wouldn't the concussion of the exploding shell kill everybody instantly? That is far better than being grilled alive!
#27
Old 11-18-2013, 06:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelEmouse View Post
It's pretty much certain that a T-72 wouldn't put much emphasis on crew survival after a hit that was strong enough to take out the tank. Especially the variants the Soviets exported which tended to be one notch below the variants of the same model they used i.e.: the export T-72 wasn't as good as the T-72 used by the Red Army.

So, yeah, get knocked out quick by the hit/explosion or burn alive (or be really lucky like that guy. I wonder what crew position he had).
IIRC, the Sovs used a hi-lo combination,with the T72 being the lo and the T64 the high end.
#28
Old 11-18-2013, 07:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tci707 View Post
I don't understand how the guy escaped from the tank, when it got hit and the ammunition exploded shouldn't he have been killed instantly? But yet he was able to run out of the tank.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Slant View Post
Remember that in some (all?) tanks the various crew members aren't actually in the same compartment at all.
The guy who got out probably wasn't in the compartment with the ammo.
#29
Old 11-18-2013, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by AK84 View Post
IIRC, the Sovs used a hi-lo combination,with the T72 being the lo and the T64 the high end.
Quite right, although the mix depended on exactly when you're looking at it, since the T-80 was the follow-on to the T-64, and the T-90 would have been the follow-on to the T-72.

Even with the hi-lo combination, the Russian T-72s were better equipped than the export versions- they had better rangefinders, etc...
#30
Old 11-18-2013, 08:24 AM
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Although I'm sure it's not the norm, people did and do escape from tanks often enough that one hears about it. In a Military Channel show, they interviewed a former German tanker who asserted that it was considered bad in the German Army to leave a tank that was not actively on fire, and he described sitting in his disabled Panther as it took several hits. When it finally began to burn, the crew escaped, possibly because they were VERY ready to leave at that point.

The Israeli Merkava tanks are designed to protect the crew (the engine is even in front of the crewmen so it will be destroyed first but save lives), and they have a special rear escape hatch intended to facilitate quick exit.

As mentioned above, the American M-1 has both a special compartment designed to direct the force of exploding ammo away from the crew, and a fire suppression system. I read of one M-1 being hit and the crew bailed out, except for the driver, who could not be reached. He remained in the burning tank, assumed to be dead, until tank recovery forces arrived and finally reached his compartment -- to discover that the fire suppression had kept him cool and the onboard oxygen had kept him alive (for some prolonged period of time that I forget.)

I'm not saying I'd want to be in a tank that was hit, of course.
#31
Old 11-18-2013, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Sailboat View Post

The Israeli Merkava tanks are designed to protect the crew (the engine is even in front of the crewmen so it will be destroyed first but save lives), and they have a special rear escape hatch intended to facilitate quick exit.
I have read that the engine in front idea was based upon the threat from the 1967 and 1973 wars, whereby the engine could reduce impact from HEAT and Sagger/RPG-7 shots. Apparently, the engine in front is a bad idea if you are facing KE penetrators, especially DU ones, since they have been known to knock the engine block right out, and this is for rear engined tanks, in front engined tanks,the engine will be travelling, through the crew compartment.


Waiting for someone with more knowledge to come and tell me that I completely misunderstood what the guy was saying,or its not as much of a risk ete etc,
#32
Old 11-18-2013, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Sailboat View Post
Although I'm sure it's not the norm, people did and do escape from tanks often enough that one hears about it. In a Military Channel show, they interviewed a former German tanker who asserted that it was considered bad in the German Army to leave a tank that was not actively on fire, and he described sitting in his disabled Panther as it took several hits. When it finally began to burn, the crew escaped, possibly because they were VERY ready to leave at that point.
With how heavily armored the Panther was (frontally it was better armored than the Tiger I) it made much more sense to not immediately bail out after the first hit; the Sherman not only had much thinner armor and a reputation for easily catching fire, German anti-tank guns were on average more powerful than Allied ones so bailing out of a Sherman before waiting for the second hit was a much wiser thing to do. On the other hand, the crew of a Panther didn't have to wait to be hit for their tank to catch on fire; one of the teething problems with early models was that the engine could spontaneously catch fire.
#33
Old 11-18-2013, 11:09 AM
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The T64's autoloader would try to load the gunner's leg into the breech. Tanks are complicated bitches,
#34
Old 11-18-2013, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by AK84 View Post
I have read that the engine in front idea was based upon the threat from the 1967 and 1973 wars, whereby the engine could reduce impact from HEAT and Sagger/RPG-7 shots. Apparently, the engine in front is a bad idea if you are facing KE penetrators, especially DU ones, since they have been known to knock the engine block right out, and this is for rear engined tanks, in front engined tanks,the engine will be travelling, through the crew compartment.


Waiting for someone with more knowledge to come and tell me that I completely misunderstood what the guy was saying,or its not as much of a risk ete etc,
That doesn't sound right. A KE penetrator that went through the main armor would still have to try and go through the engine itself, which would be much harder, because the main armor would tend to break up and reduce the KE of the penetrator significantly.

However, the idea may have been that a shaped-charge that penetrated the main armor would almost certainly not have the penetration distance to get to the crew compartment via the engine compartment, while a KE penetrator might, due to the differing mechanisms of penetration. One of the most effective defenses against HEAT rounds is to prematurely detonate them so that the liner jet would spend it's energy against air, which is what the main armor would basically do in this case. KE penetrators OTOH, basically concentrate enough kinetic energy on a small point to just put a hole in the armor- if the penetrator was still going fast enough after penetrating the main armor, it might miss the engine entirely and go into the crew compartment.
#35
Old 11-18-2013, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by bump View Post
Quite impressive is this video (the jack-in-the-box effect is really brought home starting at the 50 second mark although it's also very clearly seen earlier in the film, too).
#36
Old 11-19-2013, 12:44 AM
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Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
Military service drastically increases your chance of dying horribly.
What strange new doctrine be this?
#37
Old 11-19-2013, 08:22 AM
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A thread on a more military oriented forum about the same video (starts about mid-way on pg 102)
#38
Old 11-19-2013, 01:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KarlGauss View Post
Quite impressive is this video (the jack-in-the-box effect is really brought home starting at the 50 second mark although it's also very clearly seen earlier in the film, too).
Quote:
Originally Posted by bump View Post
A thread on a more military oriented forum about the same video (starts about mid-way on pg 102)
Couldn't read the other forum at work but background on the video:

Shot at Redstone Arsenal test range post Desert Storm I. That's Dodd road along side the tank - I used to bicycle commute along there until the closed off the road entirely. It's a TOW 2B top attack missile. The missile flies over the tank (this test had the tank fully operational with ammo, batteries, fuel, etc...), sensors on the missle detect the tank - large metal mass/other. Two shaped plate charges fire downwards. The plates penetrate the tank and set off the munitions inside along with all the rest of the flammable stuff. There should also be a video out there of an uploaded T-72 being destroyed by a Javelin missile which has a "standard" HEAT warhead (precursor and main charges). We had lots tanks and ammo from the war to use for warhead evaluation against real targets.
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