Press commentary: Reconnaissance, command and control, engagement, training
Rheinmetall is the perfect partner of the artillery in the 21st century
Right from the start of its 125-year-plus history, Rheinmetall has always been a trusted partner of the artillery corps. To this day, the pressing and drawing technique for seamless barrels developed by Rheinmetall founder Heinrich Ehrhardt is still used in modern guns. Given its longstanding experience and innovative competence in armoured vehicle technology, weapons, ammunition, reconnaissance sensors and networking as well as training and simulation solutions, this leading European defence contractor offers a wide array of systems and products for 21st century artillery units.
Artillery remains indispensable in modern military operations – even in asymmetric conflicts. Its precision and firepower enable maximum scalability, ranging from a show of force using carefully placed warning shots to screening the movements of friendly units with smoke/obscurant rounds, to denying the enemy access to critical terrain, breaking up enemy formations and destroying high-value assets. Moreover, today’s “Disciples of St Barbara” also play a central role in joint tactical fire support operations.
Rheinmetall supplies advanced, high-performance components covering every link in the operational chain: reconnaissance, command and control, and engagement. Another core competency of the Düsseldorf-based Group is its unsurpassed ability to network individual components into highly effective “systems of systems”. Finally, Rheinmetall’s outstanding simulation technology makes a major contribution to preparing troops for battle.
Reconnaissance and fire control
The Group’s Vingtaqs II long-range reconnaissance, observation and surveillance system is a top product in the field of reconnaissance and fire control. Equipped with an electro-optical daytime/night time-capable visual sensor and a laser rangefinder, the Vingtaqs II can determine the exact coordinates of a target at long distances from the position of the forward observer. A standalone system, it can be deployed in static or dismounted mode, or mounted on a wide variety of different vehicles. The system also features instruments for laser-enabled target detection, making it suitable for forward air controller operations. The accuracy of target acquisition for indirect fire support attains Category 1 level. And owing to its outstanding modularity, it can be readily adapted to meet individual customer requirements, e.g. by adding surveillance radar. Vingtaqs II meets the full gamut of requirements for joint tactical fire support.
In addition, Rheinmetall offers a whole host of other devices for surveillance and fire control operations, including the FOI 2000 forward observation system. This compact, lightweight, advanced instrument was developed to enable precise target acquisition day and night.
For artillery and mortar systems, Rheinmetall offers the Vingpos fire control system. It is suitable for self-propelled and towed artillery pieces as well as mortars. Vingpos serves as an aid to navigation, surveying the firing position, and aiming. This substantially reduces the time until the system can open fire: between manoeuvring and firing, no more than a minute or two should elapse. Furthermore, the Vingpos improves flexibility in positioning as well as overall accuracy.
Target engagement: 155mm weapon systems and ammunition
Armed with a Rheinmetall 155mm L52 gun, the PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzer is widely considered to be the world’s most advanced and effective artillery system. The weapon itself is characterized by extreme precision. Moreover, chrome plating and laser hardening assure a long service life. Thanks to its automatic loader, this accurate and reliable weapon system achieves a high rate of fire, while attaining ranges of up to 30km with standard NATO shells, and up to 40kmm with extended range projectiles. The modularly designed gun can also be built into other self-propelled howitzers and field artillery systems.
In order to address a broad spectrum of targets, modern artillery systems require a balanced mix of highly effective ammunition designed for different scenarios. Rheinmetall’s family of 155mm Assegai artillery ammunition meets this need. It comprises insensitive ammunition and conventional HE rounds as well as smoke/obscurant, illumination, infrared/illumination and other projectiles. In ballistic terms, all members of the Assegai family are identical. This assures that they are all able to attain their full range of around 40km.
Standard Assegai rounds feature a conventional boat tail assembly. To boost their range, the customer can replace this assembly with a base bleed module, even under field conditions. With a barrel length of 39 calibres, an Assegai BB projectile attains a range of over 30 kilometres. Fired from a 52-calibre barrel, the range can exceed 40 kilometres. The Assegai ammunition family complies fully with the NATO Joint Ballistics Memorandum of Understanding (JBMOU) and is qualified in accordance with STANAG norms. Rheinmetall intends to qualify the entire Assegai family for NATO customers.
Rheinmetall’s modular propelling charge system, the MTLS, was introduced in the German Bundeswehr in 1996, codenamed the DM72 and DM82. Owing to heightened operational requirements, the DM 72 was upgraded to the DM92, now safe for use in extreme climate zones at +63°C. The MTLS was developed and qualified for use in NATO standard 155mm L39 and L52 guns, and is the only system anywhere that meets the requirements set out in the JBMOU.
Target engagement: 120mm mortar systems
Two recent additions to the Bundeswehr inventory are the 120mm mortar and Rheinmetall’s mobile Mortar Combat System, which uses the Wiesel fighting vehicle as a platform. The Wiesel 2 lePzMrs mortar track serves as the effector of this lightweight, air-portable, networkable system of systems, which combines command, reconnaissance and engagement capabilities. Equipped with a recoiling 120mm muzzle-loader mortar designed for conventional ammunition with a range of 8,000m as well as for terminal-phase guided munitions, the weapon is operated and reloaded from the safety of the fighting compartment, which shields the crew from ballistic and NBC threats. Thanks to automatic laying, elevation and position determination, plus fully automatic correction of the weapon position round after round, rapid readiness to fire and high precision are assured. Able to move at high speed from one firing position to another, the Wiesel 2 lePzMrs is extremely well suited to hide-hit-run-hide tactics.
Besides high explosive, smoke/obscurant and illumination rounds, Rheinmetall’s innovative family of 120mm ammunition includes a newly developed propellant system. Long maximum range (up to eight kilometres) and high precision typify these state-of-the-art projectiles.
The IHE round is optimized for semi-hard targets. Apart from substantially improved fragmentation, with the right fuse it is capable of penetrating reinforced concrete in accordance with STANAG 4536, while the HE version has all the insensitive characteristics required by STANAG 4170.
The smoke/obscurant projectile contains four smoke/obscurant pods, whose design is based on the DM1560 in the already-fielded 155mm smoke/obscurant round, the DM125. The smoke/obscurant compound used is the same, and is thus non-toxic. Moreover, it produces the same excellent concealment in the visual and infrared spectrums.
Finally, the infrared/illumination round enables excellent battlefield illumination in the IR spectrum from 0.7 to 1.2μm, with a minimal signature in the visual spectrum for approximately 45 seconds and a rate of descent of <6m/s.
Common to all of these 120mm mortar rounds is a propellant system based on El propellant powder, which displays excellent characteristics with regard to temperature stability, energy content, storage and system compatibility.
Rheinmetall also offers complete ammunition families for 81mm and 60mm mortars.
On behalf of the Norwegian armed forces, Rheinmetall has also developed the Vingpos mortar weapon system. It consists of a carriage with integrated hydraulic recoil shock absorbers, a customer-specific fire control computer, operator interface and base plate. The carriage weighs around 618 kilos; with the base plate, the entire system comes to 998 kilos. Specifically designed for integration in the CV90 infantry fighting vehicle, the system can also be deployed in dismounted mode. Target data is acquired via various sensors and command and information systems, or entered manually. At the push of a button, the mortar orients itself in the direction of the target, with a laying accuracy of under 5 mils. The carriage for the Norwegian programme is designed for the British L16A2 81mm mortar, but it can also be adapted to receive 120mm mortars.
While simulation-supported training will never fully replace the live-fire variety, it nevertheless offers valuable opportunities for low-cost initial, continuing and advanced training. Here, too, Rheinmetall has long years of experience.
In cooperation with eurosimtec, Rheinmetall’s Training & Simulation division has developed the Joint Fires Training System, of JFTS. Among other things, it is used for training forward artillery and forward air observers, enabling trainees to practise a full range of tactical air support procedures at all skill levels as well as calling in direct and indirect fire support. The system can be used for individual training of forward observers, joint terminal attack controllers and laser operators. Team-level training for joint fire support teams is also possible. Finally, the JFTS is suitable for higher-echelon training as well, and can also be used in a mission rehearsal context.
Modular and scalable, the JFTS is based on Rheinmetall’s TacSi simulation technology, augmented by Virtual Battlespace (VBS), a well-known product from the serious gaming domain. As a result, the JFTS combines Rheinmetall’s unsurpassed simulation expertise with tried-and-tested serious gaming technology. This enhances customer acceptance, as VBS is used in simulation-supported training worldwide.
JFTS meets the full range of military requirements, from lecture hall instruction to high-fidelity FAC simulations, and is qualified for NATO standard operating procedures. Customer-specific sensors, weapons and C4I assets can be incorporated into the system, contributing to a comprehensive, highly realistic training experience. Rheinmetall and eurosimtec are currently drawing on their JFTS experience and expertise to complete a recently won order for regenerating the BT33 gunnery training simulator.
Throughout much of its 125-year-plus history, Rheinmetall has maintained close ties to the world of artillery. The Group continues to build on the tremendous know-how it has accumulated over the decades, ensuring it will go on serving artillery users for many years to come, steadily perfecting their reconnaissance, networking, command, fire control, engagement, logistics and training capabilities.
Source: DWT-Info annual review magazine 2015