'Wing Test' .50 cal (12.7x99mm)

Does anyone have any information about ‘wing test’ .50 cal ammunition? This one is in a WCC 85 case.
Some things I would like to know are;
Are the rounds fired singularly or repetatively?
From a normal firearm (MG?) or a test rig?
At what range are they fired?
Are the projectile cubes normally loose in the sabot?
Are there different velocity loadings?
Are there different projectile size/weights loaded for .50 cal?
Is there a manual description/illustration that someone could scan?

I haven’t seen this particular round, but it is a fragment simulator. The ones I have seen were almost all in 20mm and 30mm and were used to simulate the fragments from the warhead of Soviet antiaircraft missles. During the early 1980, I spent some time on the joint USAF/USN development team (System Program Office) at Eglin AFB for the AIM-120 missle, and had some small involvement with both the later versions of the AIM-7 and AIM-9 missles. During this time I also had an opportunity to get to know the guys in the USAF vulnerability Lab at Wright Patterson AFB. Many of the warheads of the period were prefragmented with steel cubes of various sizes, some in a mix of sizes and these were held toether in some kind of epoxy like matrix. These were intended to replace, among other things, the continious rod warhead of the earlier AIM-9 Sidewinder missles which exlpoded laterally from the missle and expanded cutting the target in half. Of course, at somepoint in the expansion, gaps began appearing in this circular rod and the warhead effectiveness became a hit or miss affair. My memory is that both the USAF and the USN at China Lake were doing a lot of work on these prefragmented warheads. I think the Soviet SA-2 and SA-6 (most effective threats at the time) also had prefragmented warheads. Maybe some of our Forum members can tell us a lot more about that.

Anyway, the Vulnerability Lab, and others were working with both the old fragsims (which were short, cylinderical steel projectiles in .22, .30 and .50. There was even a project to fire these at 10,000 ft/sec-never reached that velocity. I can picture one of the .50 reloadable chambers if there is interest, and passed on examples of all three calibers to the Woodin Laboratory.

Most of the Fragsim projectiles from the 80s I have seen/had were made of white, black, clear or cream color plastic sabots filled with steel cubes about the size of the one shown down to roughly a third of that size. Each cube is typically wrapped in thin tissue paper and they are designed to recreate the damage pattern of one or the other of the Soviet anti-aircraft missles.

All the guns I have seen were purpose built, single shot weapons that mounted on a fixed frame. Most were mounted in purpose built test chambers. The AF Vulnerability Lab did have at least one mobile gun and I’ll cover that more later.

There were roughly three uses for these fragsims.

  1. To test existing aircraft sturcture (both generic structure models representing operational aircraft) and actual pieces of aircraft structure, like pieces of B-52 wing or fuselage from retired aircraft to the effects, as we knew them of Soviet missles

  2. To test the designs of aircraft under development. US DoD policy in the 80s, and I think it is still true today, requires specific vulnerability testing of new aircraft. These are very specific tests to validate that the design requirements of the system specification. These could be for example, that a wing main spar can sustain all flight loads 98% of the time even after being damaged by three fragments of some set size and velocity (this is just a representative statement I made up-not an actual specification requirement). My guess is that your .50 “Wing Test” round was probably made up by a contractor to demonstrate exactly this type of requirement. Similar tests would be run on other bits of aircraft sturcture and a 2 inch (or more) thick report written and delivered to government engineers (with lots of calculations included) that either showed how the existing structure met or exceeded the design requirements for vulnerability, or where the shortfalls were and how the design was being satisfied (or in some cases, why the design failed but it didn’t matter-this seldom convinces the Government engineers who have ot accept the design).

  3. To train the USAF Battle Damage repair teams. All USAF and USN aircraft, as far as I know have Battle Damage Repair & Recovery Manuals. There is currently discussion on this subject on the F-35. These manuals describe what sort of damage can be repaired at unit level, and how the repairs can be done. It also defines what sort of repairs can be done by Battle Damage repair teams (they use to be known as Combat Logistics Support Squadrons or CLSS) that are sent out to repair more heavily damaged aircraft. In most of these cases, the field repairs are only to make the aircraft fit for a one-time-flight to a depot where the damaged area will be completely rebuilt. Frequently these repairs are proven by repairing the damaged samples from 1 & 2 above, but there is also a requirement for recurring training of the CLSS teams. To meet this requirement, particularly for the A-10 which in the close air support role was expected to take significant battle damage (hence the armored bathtub) the Vulnerability Lab built a mobile, single shot weapon that could shoot Soviet 23mm anti-aircraft projectiles (mostly API as I recall), and the 30mm GAU-8 fragsim cartridges. This gun fit in two long metal cases and there was a case of ammunition, all of which went as checked baggage on commercial airline flights. This was before the days of TSA, and the guys had all kinds of special authority documents from the FAA and the USAF and the FBI and the Airlines, but they had some great stories about the reaction of the airline personnel when they checked in and declared that they had a cannon and loaded ammunition to put on the aircraft. The airline people at Dayton airport quickly learned it was OK, but the people at other airports often couldn’t believe anybody could have authorized somebody to carry a cannon and live cannon ammo on an commercial airline flight. These guys told some good stories over a few beers.

Long strory, but that is how old men answer questions—sorry!


Lew, thank you very much for your comprehensive answer, it’s much appreciated.

We used a very similar set up as a fragment test against “Shrapnel Resistant Tentage” back in the mid 1980’s.
We used both 30-06 and 50 BMG for the testing.
There is a very detailed testing protocol for such testing; involving the fragment simulator shape and weight, muzzle velocity and distance from muzzle to test article.

This is a really broad subject. In the late 70s (or roughly in that time frame) the Army has someone produce Soviet style 14.5mm AP projectiles, with silver tips, that were used to test vehicle armor. I don’t think I have any more of these but I’m sure some of the other collectors do.


but you have a 9 mm para ctge loaded like that, haven’t you?

I believe this to be some type of test fire “block(s)” in a 30 mm

same neighborhood ???

30 mm PIE-T for scale

here is a picture of some 30-06 fragmentation test cartridges in my collection


Very interesting info, probably because I know absolutely nothing about it. But I have a question. These sabotted rounds are pretty elaborate to produce. Lew mentions prefragmented warheads, sort of like a huge version of those experimental Israeli 9mm with plastic transparent bullets with multiple BB inbedded into plastic. Would not it be cheaper to produce large shotshells filled with these metallic cubes, just poured into the shell instead of BB’s? Kind of like during American Civil War when the cannons were loaded with anything at hand, like nails or stones?

Vlad, I’d hate to think of the cost of most of these. The 20mm & 30mm are used in such small numbers that they are all put together by hand, using a number of different sabot configurations. The different projectiles I have seen/had sometimes had the same sabot with quite different loadings or configuration of cubic fragments. The loaded rounds themselves are handloaded. Each different load is intended to simulate a different missile at a different range from the warhead.

The fragments are also fired at very high velocities and a shot shell just couldn’t get to these velocities that you can with a light bullet in a GAU8 case.


Extremely interesting ammunition type. I have seen a few types of 30MM sabot rounds similar to those that, Pepper posted above, but until now had no idea of their function.

Lew, after reading your explanation, I feel a need to thank you again for all you have done serving the US. Same goes to all the others here.I really enjoyed reading your first hand explanation and experiences.


Very cool stuff. I wish like heck I’d been further along in my collections and study of ammo while a relative was still working for an aircraft maker. He spent a lot of time at Wright-Pat, White Sands and other labs doing vulnerability analysis (AA/airframe).

My ‘turtle-vest’ has a frag rating from NIJ in addition to the IIIA soft armor bullet-resistance rating. If memory serves, it gives a velocity V50 for 4 and 16gr frags.

If anyone knows for sure exactly how NIJ does these tests (rounds used, etc.), I’d love to hear it. If not, I’ll start buggin NIJ, HP White, etc. and the manufacturer for photos, etc.