tank reload mechanism

John Arthur

Active member
Are there any MBT tanks that have an automated reloading mechanism, and if so can anyone please describe a little about how it works?

For instance, does the barrel have to return to level position first?

Also, I'm looking for at least a vague idea of how large or complicated the assembly would be, and whether it would be mounted to the floor or suspended from the aft end where the ordnance/ammo is stored?

Or; if there is no such invention, how do you think it would work if it did exist? What would be your idea of an optimum design?

Thank you and God bless.
Are there any MBT tanks that have an automated reloading mechanism, and if so can anyone please describe a little about how it works?

Alot of the older Soviet Models, in particular the T-72, although I don't know if they still come standred on the newer stuff. Ill check some sources to see what I can find out.
Most modern MBTs don't use autoloaders as they are heavy, complex adn prone to jamming when you really need them to work (plus the odd one or two that mistakes the gunner's arm for a projectile :( ).

Current examples that do use an autoloader (aside from old Soviet ones) include the French Leclerc, the Japanese Type 90, Pakistani MBT 2000 (joint project with NORINCO and therefore Soviet based), Polish PT-91 (T-80/72 based), Chinese Type 85-II (T-72 based), Russian T-90 (T-80 based) and Ukranian T-84 (again, T-80 based).

For most countries, a fourth crewmember adds so much to crew endurance, flexiblity and utility that an autoloader simply isn't worth the complications and supposed higher rate of fire.
The Swedish Stridsvagn 103 had an autoloader as well, with quite an impressive rate of fire, 15 rounds a minute, fed by a 50 round magazine.
Okay, so as mentioned at;
"Another innovation is a new automated ammo storage/loader, located in a turret bustle. It is separated from crew compartment by an armored bulkhead which greatly increases crew survivability."

A 'bustle' is "a framework worn at the back below the waist for giving fullness to a woman's skirt." So that would be the extra section add-on at the back end of the turret.

I suppose then that perhaps the armored bulkhead has maybe a sideways roller with insets for the rounds to fall into, and hull integrity is maintained even during a fast rate of rotation as they drop into the slots in the bustle and are somehow loaded through into the turret and into the gun breech after the roller rotates 180 degrees. How it does this without the old way of having the barrel "...lock at +3 degrees..." for loading, must be quite a trick, especially given the "Rate of fire: 10-12? rounds/min".

Or maybe it uses a reciprocating piston that pops through the bustle 'baffle armor' into the turret, rather like a giant-size version of a gas-powered self-loading machinegun.

Maybe the bustle has a separate internal bulkhead that separates the ram from the magazine, through which a slotted roller rotates so that as it brings the round around and through, it maintains airtight integrity in the bustle, as it drops the round into the ram receiver and then drives it forward through into the turret.

Could be when the gun fires the recoil slams it back and as it reaches the end of the throwback, it drops out the old shell firing pin or whatever and drops in a new shell, then as it recoils forward on springs, it self-rams and relocks automatically, doing this somehow regardless of firing angle.

That is not a lot of time for cycling out of exhaust gasses from the barrel before breaking open the breech into the interior of the turret chamber, unless the turret chamber has positive ventilation. But it would take an uncomfortable level of interior positive pressure to do that, so maybe the entire internal recoil-reload mechanism is enclosed in a thin metal pressure clamshell casing, not a bad idea anyways to keep crew from getting tangled up in it. With a taller clamshell casing, the barrel could be at any angle inside the clamshell and still do all that.

Thus if the bustle is hit, the internal bustle roller prevents penetration into the ram, keeping the turret safe. This is speculation of course.

With all that, there might not be much room for climbing back and forth from side to side inside the turret.

Jamming. Hmm. Increased crew endurance, flexiblity and utility and so on. Yes, there is that. You can't just give it a kick or a whack with a handy weskett wrench, can you?

And now, I will check out the Swedish Stridsvagn 103.

Thank you gentlemen and God bless.
Autoloader =

1. Notoriously Unreliable.
2. More tech, more stuff to break, more parts to order, more administrative tail.
3. Dangerous. (T72 used to load the gunner's arm into the breech).
4. If it breaks, tank can't shoot, making it combat ineffective.

Manual Loader=

1. Extra set of eyes to help pull 360 degree security.
2. Extra set of ears for radio watch.
3. Extra body for deatils.
4. Extra set of hands to help perform maintainance.
5. If loader gets killed or injured, gunner can move to loaders position and load, and tank commander can still engage and fight the tank.
6. On M1 series tank, loader can troubleshoot radios and get you back on the net when your equipment breaks.

At 15 rounds a minute, S Tank (Swedish Stridsvagn 103) loads a round every 4 seconds. American loaders that can't load at 4 seconds usually get fired. Also, when was the last time the Swedish S Tank saw combat? I don't put any faith in non-battle proven weapons systems. (see LeClerc, Leo 2A4/A5/A6, etc, etc...)

Manual Loader wins.
manual reloading

I get the impression from reading an explanation somewhere, that when the gun fires it recoils backwards and at the end of the stroke, it locks the breech open ready for the next round. The loader stands right behind it, ready to heave in the next round, which slides into the breech under its own momentum and makes the breech close and lock itself shut automatically, at which point the gun returns to a forward position, ready to fire the next round. Did I get it right?

Or does the loader stand to one side of the breech? Is there a grab bar for him to hang onto to stay out of the way of the breech?

I'm also interested in what color the interior and the shells are, and how big the compartment is; like, six feet high by six feet diameter?

This is really getting interesting, and I can see you're right about manual reloading being superior, so long as the loader has a good lower back, seeing the shells weigh about 45 pounds each.

Common, as we all know, all of these autoloaders are unrelaible. Otherwise they would be on the M1A2, the Challenger II, the Leopard 2A6 or at least the Merkava Mk IV(i mean, if anybody needs to save on personnel....its us....). The autoloader is nothing but trouble.
I agree. The Autoloader concept will be debated until the cows come home, But I am pretty sure the US/NATO will never adopt one. It's too much trouble and too unreliable for any prolonged us.
CHECK! Auto loaders do not make sense in a tank. However, the developed for the Crusader SP Howitzer is darn impressive (I've seen the video). Inside an indirect fire systems is one of the places where the improved rate of fire makes sense!

Before you all tell me that the Crusader is dead, no it isn't! A good deal of the equipment and systems developed for it will be used on the Future Combat Systems Indirect Fire Vehicle. 8)
Yeah, but the actual Crusader vehicle as we know it has gone the way of the Dodo. We will never see it, same as the Commanche. As far as the FCS, I don't think we'll see an actual production vehicle in the next ten years.
The current plans call for the first FCS unit long before that and like all things in R&D/Budget Land, we will have to wait and see.

Crusader lives on in the heart of the FCS Indirect Fire Vehcile - sometimes concepts are more durable than project names :) :rambo:
dragon_master_gunner said:
I agree. The Autoloader concept will be debated until the cows come home, But I am pretty sure the US/NATO will never adopt one. It's too much trouble and too unreliable for any prolonged us.

Wow, i would defenetly want to see that video, if you are able to find it? :)
there is another problem you guys never ever addressed, when an Abrams or Merkava fires, with the manual loader, your guns stays on target, so you know he is dead, or can be shot at again quickly, with the autoloaders, the gun moves the whole thing, off target *hey, let's shoot him, he's reloading* and up to the tank version of "attention" and last tiem i checked, it might take a few seconds to move a heavy turret, even with a good turret traverse motor, you can't just sup them up like car engines, so in takin' the gun off target, opening up a world of hurt for your tank, possibly added time that was supposed to be taken off of the reloading sequence, as well as all those other thigns, the mechanics, the gunenrs arm being used for ammo, all that , and with the russian tanks being speed and firepower over armor, you need that manual loader, not something that would be good for artilery mass bombardments
The Leopard 2 with a manual loader has their gun swing up for the gunner to ram in a new round. In reality, the gunner sight stays still while the gun swings up. When it comes to turret depression, it's rather quick, due to being gravity assisted.
For me the Stridsvagan 103 (S-Tank) is the best example. Being a fan of it I can give some good detail on it. As mentioned it holds 50 rounds and can fire 15 rounds a minute. At the back is a auto-ejector which ejects all cases automatically once fired. The area must be re-stocked before use so as to have enough rounds. As to your question about the movement of the turret ect. I'm not sure about other models but the S-Tank has come up with a simple solution. The fact is the gun is fixed. You move it side to side by moving the vehicle itself. The tilt and angle produced is created by hydraulics on the tank. Another feature that the auto-loader creates is that the tank can only fire while stationary. This means it is primarily a defensive vehicle and why many people classify it as a tank destroyer rather than a tank.

As onto the benefits and disadvantages of it there are a few.

The main advantage can be seen in the S-Tank. The S-Tank has a crew of three but can also be manned by one person, the driver. He resumes the role of commander, driver and gunner. This is a major advantage because it means you can have more vehicles on the battlefield at one time providing more fire-power. You also don't have to worry about human error slowing down reloading time and reloading time is always consistent. I'm not sure about other vehicles but 50 rounds is quite alot and I'm guessing an auto-loader provides more rounds.

While the advantage of having a one man crew does provide more vehicles on the battlefield it also has many disadvantages. Firstly, the reason why there are so many roles is because they have specialist jobs. A driver is in charge of making sure the vehicle get's where it needs to go. A gunner makes sure the gun hit's it's target. The commander makes sure everyone does their job properly. To do all of this on your own is incredibly difficult. This was also evident in the First World War when tanks were manned by 2 people and the commander not only controlled the tank but he also drove it and fired it. This was so complicated that tanks became incredibly inefficient and lost their purpose. However, with something like the S-Tank, which is a tank destroyer, this may not be so much of an issue but it still poses as one. Another issue of a one man crew is the morale. I don't know about you but if I was in an armoured vehicle on my own facing 20 MBT's I would probably poo myself. I would be very inclined to run off. The crew provides the important morale to get the job done. While human reloading error is sorted with an auto-loader many would argue this is only half as bad as if the computer on the auto-loader failed. While human error would slow down reloading time, the failure of the computer on an auto-loader would render the vehicle useless and therefore it would have to be taken our of battle which could be to a severe disadvantage to the plan of operation. Another disadvantage, though I am not sure if this has been overcome, is that while you may be able to fit in more rounds you may not be able to fit in a wide majority as the computer may not load different types of shells properly and could cause the vehicle itself to blow up.

While an auto-loader is a great idea I believe on a MBT it doesn't serve a purpose. In an MBT you the morale of your crew and you really don't want your computer to cut out on you while assaulting. Although this can happen on your driving electronics, at least you can still man the gun to protect yourself while help comes. However I wouldn't rule out it's use altogether. It's use on one man vehicles could be handy. Especially on armoured cars and tank destroyers. Especially tank destroyer's where you could have more tank destroyers protecting an area than you would if you had tank destroyers with a 4 man crew. But that's my personal opinion.
Perhaps with the Japanese Type-10 they will finally crack it - hell, if anyone can do, I'd guess the Japanese can - if you look at the newer Honda robots, they've come pretty close to cracking accurate humanlike movement - and an autoloader is just an arm.
The real innovation will be when they get it to work no matter the position of the gun - if they get it that good, I can see them going onto more and more tanks.
But we'll have to see.