Nexter Reveals Concept for Next-Generation Tank Armament

French defense firm Nexter has revealed its next generation tank gun concept: a 140mm gun firing telescoped ammunition. Nexter calls the system ASCALON, which nominally stands for “Autoloaded and SCALable Outperforming guN”, but it’s more likely that the gun derives it’s namesake from the mythical sword or lance Ascalon, which was used by St. George to slay the dragon.

ASCALON is not a near future concept. Nexter doesn’t expect technology used in ASCALON to be fully mature until 2025. The gun aims to counter armored threats that might exist in 2040 or beyond. But, the benefits of the new caliber are said to be numerous. The telescoped ammunition used looks to increase the length of the penetrator that can be packed inside while minimizing overall cartridge length. As armor-piercing tank ammunition nowadays is dominated by long-rod penetrators, maximizing the length of the penetrator is imperative. Per Nexter’s own words, the rods in ASCALON will be of “unparalleled length”. Oddly, Nexter only rates the energy of the gun at being 10 megajoules (MJ), with capacity to scale up to 13 MJ. Current 120mm tank guns firing modern ammunition land comfortably within the 9-12 MJ band, making the energetic improvement over current technology questionable.

Interestingly, the obturator/driving band on the concept ammunition is pushed to the very front. While this is common with most modern tank ammunition, telescoped ammunition has been known in the past to have issues with with rounds having to advance in the munition before engaging with the barrel. However the ASCALON concept demonstration round avoids this pitfall in its round design.

A Leclerc at SETC 2018. Note the lack of bore evacuator. (Photo: US Army)

Moving away from the round itself, the ASCALON gun is said to offer reduced recoil impulse and blast effect relative to conventional tank guns. In conceptual diagrams, the ASCALON has a bore evacuator, a feature that’s prominently absent from Nexter’s gun fitted to the Leclerc. It also features a perforated omnidirectional muzzle brake, which is uncommon on modern tanks. These features are said to allow the ASCALON to be fired in closer proximity to infantry and be mounted on lighter vehicles (sub 50 tons).

While the ASCALON concept is interesting, it looks to remain a paper weapon in the foreseeable future. However it does show an important commitment to develop a next generation European tank.