As reported in Army Times: The incident is so sensitive that most experts in the field would talk only on the condition that they not be identified. According to an unclassified Army report, the mystery projectile punched through the vehicle’s skirt and drilled a pencil-sized hole through the hull. The hole was so small that “my little finger will not go into it,” the report’s author noted.
The “something” continued into the crew compartment, where it passed through the gunner’s seatback, grazed the kidney area of the gunner’s flak jacket and finally came to rest after boring a hole 1 to 2 inches deep in the hull on the far side of the tank.
As it passed through the interior, it hit enough critical components to knock the tank out of action. That made the tank one of only two Abrams disabled by enemy fire during the Iraq war and one of only a handful of “mobility kills” since they first rumbled onto the scene 20 years ago. The other Abrams knocked out this year in Iraq was hit by an RPG-7, a rocket-propelled grenade.
Experts believe whatever it is that knocked out the tank in August was not an RPG-7 but most likely something new — and that worries tank drivers.
“The unit is very anxious to have this `SOMETHING’ identified. It seems clear that a penetrator of a yellow molten metal is what caused the damage, but what weapon fires such a round and precisely what sort of round is it? The bad guys are using something unknown and the guys facing it want very much to know what it is and how they can defend themselves.”
“It’s a real strange impact,” said a source who has worked both as a tank designer and as an anti-tank weapons engineer. “This is a new one. … It almost definitely is a hollow-charge warhead of some sort, but probably not an RPG-7” anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade.
In the end, a civilian weapons expert said, “I hope it was a lucky shot and we are not part of someone’s test program. Being a live target is no fun.”