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SMAW--punch through a ship's hull?

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  • SMAW--punch through a ship's hull?

    Well I went to see the movie "The A-Team" last night, which I thoroughly enjoyed, in part due to the action scenes, one of which involves an enemy mercenary blowing a hole in a cargo freighter's hull with a shoulder-fired missile launcher, which I believe was supposed to be a SMAW (Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon).

    While I realize it's a Hollywood action movie and thus terribly unrealistic (some of the main characters would've died simply as a result of traumatic facial damage caused by the punches they took), it set me to wondering: is a SMAW capable of punching through the hull of your typical cargo ship, and, if so, would it have enough power to blow a hole big enough to cause the ship to sink?

    From a little online research it seems that the SMAW can penetrate about 8 inches of armor/steel and has a maximum range of 500 meters against a tank-sized target...obviously a cargo ship is far larger than "tank-sized," and I'm guessing the hulls on your average freighter aren't thicker than 8 inches....

    Any thoughts on this? Does it sound feasible that a SMAW or LAW or AT-4 could blow a big enough hole in the hull of a large-sized ship to cause it to sink?

    Hope I don't sound like a retard for asking that.

    Alex

  • #2
    Originally posted by CatholicCrusade View Post
    Well I went to see the movie "The A-Team" last night, which I thoroughly enjoyed, in part due to the action scenes, one of which involves an enemy mercenary blowing a hole in a cargo freighter's hull with a shoulder-fired missile launcher, which I believe was supposed to be a SMAW (Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon).

    While I realize it's a Hollywood action movie and thus terribly unrealistic (some of the main characters would've died simply as a result of traumatic facial damage caused by the punches they took), it set me to wondering: is a SMAW capable of punching through the hull of your typical cargo ship, and, if so, would it have enough power to blow a hole big enough to cause the ship to sink?

    From a little online research it seems that the SMAW can penetrate about 8 inches of armor/steel and has a maximum range of 500 meters against a tank-sized target...obviously a cargo ship is far larger than "tank-sized," and I'm guessing the hulls on your average freighter aren't thicker than 8 inches....

    Any thoughts on this? Does it sound feasible that a SMAW or LAW or AT-4 could blow a big enough hole in the hull of a large-sized ship to cause it to sink?

    Hope I don't sound like a retard for asking that.

    Alex
    Eight inches is ww2 cruiser grade armour. However, I'm not sure, but it's quite likely that the SMAW uses HEAT charge to do its work, therefore, unless the target is very thin skinned the hole created will be very small, usually an inch or less in diameter.

    To create a large hole you need a high explosive charge, such as on a torpedo.

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    • #3
      String is pretty much right on the money. An AT4 / LAW / RPG, would have no trouble cutting through the hull, but the premise behind these is that they focus the force of the energy they create into a very small area. The hole would indeed be pretty small. Now, perhaps they might start a fire inside the ship, and that could spread causing the ship to be destroyed if damage control was poor. I've heard that onboard fires are major threat to any ship but I'm certainly no sailor.

      An interesting question would be if the ship were an oil tanker rather than a cargo freighter. I wonder if any of the above weapons could get through the type of hulls they have and cause a problem with the oil?

      Or how about an LNG tanker. Now there's a target which I think could be seriously threatened by such a thing from a resultant secondary explosion set off by the warhead detonating.

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      • #4
        Thanks for the informative and enlightening responses guys--answered my question. I wondered if shoulder-fired weapons such as the SMAW and AT-4 couldn't punch a very large hole in something, and now I know.

        In answer to whether or not the ship was a tanker or was carrying oil, gas, ammo, or any other sort of flammable material, I'm not really sure--in the movie they just say it's a freighter full of black market goods. Based on the outlandish size of the secondary explosions set off by the missile's initial blast, however, I'd say it was part oil or gas in some of the shipping containers, and part Hollywood theatrics and special effects. But I'm assuming a SMAW or similar weapon could wreak a lot more havoc than an inch-sized hole in the hull if the target is a tanker or freighter chock full of flammable material. And IIRC, the ship really started to sink in the movie once a few secondary explosions went off in the hull area...Again, it's just a movie, but I was just trying to figure out how accurate or plausible sinking a ship with a SMAW would be.

        Thanks again guys.

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        • #5
          Hmmm, interesting thoughts...

          "n interesting question would be if the ship were an oil tanker rather than a cargo freighter. I wonder if any of the above weapons could get through the type of hulls they have and cause a problem with the oil?

          Or how about an LNG tanker. Now there's a target which I think could be seriously threatened by such a thing from a resultant secondary explosion set off by the warhead detonating."


          I doubt one would do it. But what about a few at the same spot. The LNG filled ones would seem to be particularly vulnerable.
          Save America!! Impeach Obama!!

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          • #6
            FYI, in a possibly similar incident, a Carl Gustaf was used against a corvette in the Falklands War.

            Studying that may lead to more answers.

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            • #7
              I think most tankers are double hulled, so I would think that the shaped charge would blow through the outer with less damage to the inner. Kind of like the stand off add on armor to the panzer Mk 4 Ausf. H but nowhere near as thick (or similar set up). As stated before I'm neither a sailor or a ship designer but I think a large ship could deal with an AT rocket or two.
              45B10 1986-91

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              • #8
                AT rocket, as explained, make small holes.
                But, even more important - they will hit ship's hull above sea level. So, tiny hole, above sea level, not much of a threat of sinking.
                But, risk of fire could be great, as there is potential that moten jet could punch through several compartments.

                Regarding attack on tanker, here is one insane video from Iran, during attacks on tankers in the '80s.
                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ePbD...has_verified=1

                RPG can be seen, but biggest danger was from chinese 107mm multiple rocket launcher - 12 tubes and very small size.
                Despite taking lot of punches, tanker(s) was not set ablaze - he was either empty, or crude oil is difficult to ignite.
                Last edited by vathra; 12 Jun 10, 14:11.

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                • #9
                  Oil in itself is a bit hard to ignite. The Soviets used diesel fuel as protection from HEAT. On the other hand, light distillates of petroleum (gasoline) ignite easily. Fuel vapor by itself ignites easily. It all has to do with the flash point of the material. An empty Oil Tanker could have the bunkers injected with Carbon Dioxide or other gas to reduce risks.

                  Never confuse Hollywood with real life. The more Fantasy the movie, the less logic. What makes me giggle from the promos is the thought of a main battle tank being parachuted.

                  Pruitt
                  Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                  Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                  by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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                  • #10
                    ..yes, well, probably alright to parachute one, just that its velocity would INCRESE as it came closer to Terra Firma not decrease..!!

                    ..and probably lose its parachutes on the way down too

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                    • #11
                      considering most of the excocets and other missles used during the Iran Iraq war failed to sink the ships I am gonna guess not much would happen.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
                        Never confuse Hollywood with real life. The more Fantasy the movie, the less logic. What makes me giggle from the promos is the thought of a main battle tank being parachuted.

                        Pruitt
                        True, and I wasn't, just wanted to know if there was any possibility that could really happen. The answer, as I suspected and have now had confirmed, is no.

                        And yeah, the scene of the Buford tank parachuting out of the downed C-130 and being piloted by the A-Team into a lake in Germany was by far the most outlandish and hilariously implausible part of the movie.

                        Alex

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                        • #13
                          Also as I was just thinking are not the newer tankers tripple hulled. Just for some reason that is sticking in my head thought i saw some discussion about tanker safety or such and it was mentioned.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by vathra View Post
                            AT rocket, as explained, make small holes.
                            But, even more important - they will hit ship's hull above sea level. So, tiny hole, above sea level, not much of a threat of sinking.
                            But, risk of fire could be great, as there is potential that moten jet could punch through several compartments.

                            Regarding attack on tanker, here is one insane video from Iran, during attacks on tankers in the '80s.
                            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ePbD...has_verified=1

                            RPG can be seen, but biggest danger was from chinese 107mm multiple rocket launcher - 12 tubes and very small size.
                            Despite taking lot of punches, tanker(s) was not set ablaze - he was either empty, or crude oil is difficult to ignite.
                            While this is true-remember-
                            The SMAW is not your typical AT rocket, it has dual functions- AT and I'm not sure what the American term is but against fortifications (we nicknamed it the "Nutcracker").

                            While we refer to the AT function as "hollow charge" which creates a very small hole and uses the armor of the vehicle against it's crew, the "against buildings/fortifications" is called "Iron Dome" (here anyway) and that's because it punches a relatively large hole, large enough for people to go through.

                            The same function can be found in the LAW M72A6, which unlike the M72A4 is "Against buildings/fortifications" and not AT.

                            Is it powerful enough to punch through a ship and will the hole be big enough to drown it, well, that's a question for the experts...

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                            • #15
                              If I remember correctly, I am pretty sure the freighter was full of fireworks among other things.

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