Rheinmetall produces old DM33 tank ammunition for Ukraine

Several images circulating on the internet, notably on Rheinmetall's website, show that this German company is producing obsolete tank ammunition like the DM33. A legitimate question arises: why would such a high-level company suddenly start producing this type of ammunition? The answer is quite simple: Ukraine still finds it useful and is demanding a lot of it.
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Rheinmetall produces old DM33 for Ukraine (Picture source: Rheinmetall )

Recent online photographs have shown the German company Rheinmetall specifically producing DM33 shells for Ukraine. The DM33 is a fin-stabilized, discarding-sabot round. Essentially, it is a 25mm tungsten dart enclosed in a 120mm casing. Once fired, the casing detaches, and the dart heads towards its target at high speed. The DM33 consists of a three-part aluminum sabot and a two-part tungsten penetrator. It is capable of penetrating 470mm of armored steel at a distance of 2,000m. The real danger of this ammunition is its dart, which, thanks to its kinetic energy, causes significant damage.

Rheinmetall has developed a long series of armor-piercing, fin-stabilized, discarding-sabot (APFSDS) rounds. Originally, the Leopard 2 tank was equipped with the kinetic energy penetrator DM23, based on the 105mm Israeli M111 Hetz, which was itself a licensed copy of the American M735 round. The DM23 was eventually replaced by the DM33, also adopted by Japan, Italy, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Subsequently, Germany developed more powerful APFSDS rounds, such as the DM53 and DM63. Interestingly, the Ukrainian army has received DM53 rounds. So why does Rheinmetall continue to produce the older DM33 rounds for Ukraine?

The explanation lies in the compatibility of the ammunition with the tanks that Ukraine has received. Ukraine has acquired 74 Leopard 2 tanks from the 1980s from its European allies. These tanks, particularly the Leopard 2A4 models, require specific data on the performance of an APFSDS round to accurately calculate its trajectory. This is done by the tank's EMES-15 fire control system, which needs to be updated to accommodate new rounds. Among the Leopard 2 tanks that Ukraine has received are 14 ex-Polish Leopard 2A4s. These tanks have not been updated to handle the new DM53 and DM63 rounds. Therefore, if these tanks are to be effective against Russian armor, they require the older DM33 rounds.

Germany is manufacturing DM33 rounds for Ukraine not because they are the best available, but because they are the most compatible with some of the tanks in the Ukrainian arsenal. In this case, compatibility takes precedence over firepower.