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In late March 2019, Rheinmetall and its South African subsidiary Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) demonstrated the capabilities of their ammunition to around 800 customers and prospects from 53 countries at the Denel Overberg test site in the South African province of the Western Cape.

This was the third time that RDM hosted the Munition Capability Demonstration (ACD). An exhibition with products of the organisers and partners as well as a series of lectures on ammunition concepts and development lines were the background. The highlight of the ACD, a demonstration of live ammunition, supported by the South African Defence Forces (SANDF) under the leadership of Lt-Gen Lindile Yam, Chief of Staff. SANDF provided the weapon systems from which the ammunition was fired by the personnel.

At the beginning of the night and day shooting campaigns, RDF personnel technically described each type of ammunition and demonstrated it in single shots, followed by the demonstration of the ammunition during the interaction of forces under tactical operating conditions. The demonstration included SANDF fielded weapon systems with the appropriate ammunition as well as systems intended for introduction (such as the T5-52 howitzer and ammunition at the end of its development phase).

Ammunition in a Tactical Environment

The Luftwaffe launched night shooting with two GRIPEN D and HAWK Mk 120 fighter aircraft, which fought the enemy with bombs and guns, supported at a medium distance by ROOIVALK Mk I attack helicopters with 70mm rockets as well as on-board cannons and heavy machine guns.

Then the artillery took over the fire fight with pulled howitzers G5 and 6×6 self-propelled guns G6 and suppressed the enemy with 155mm shells. The artillery was supported by the navy with a 76mm cannon from Oto Melara. According to the ‘integrated fire plan’ the advancing enemy forces were fought at medium distance with ROOIKAT reconnaissance tanks and 76mm ammunition and OLIFANT tanks with 105mm ammunition.

The last combat phase began with the RATEL infantry fighting vehicle with 20mm and 90mm cannons in conjunction with 60mm and 81mm mortars before the infantry with small arms from R4 assault rifles, machine guns, and 40mm grenade launchers repelled the last enemy forces at close range. In this phase, illumination ammunition supported reconnaissance at various distances. The end was marked by fire with 107mm (type 63 MRL) and 127mm (6×6 BATELEUR) rockets.

The GRIPEN D, HAWK Mk 120 and ROOIVALK initiated daytime shooting with bombs and missiles. The ensuing firefight saw howitzers G5 and G6, with 155mm
explosive and splinter shells, as well as dismounted mortars and mortars mounted on RATEL and BADGER combat vehicles in 60mm, 81mm and 120mm calibres engage the enemy columns.

This is where the new 60mm (insensitive) mortar cartridges of the PATROL insensitive high explosive series (IHE) were demonstrated, the variant with preformed fragments (PFF) of which is on its way to qualification at RDM. The PATROL cartridges are optimised for command and special mortars and can be fired from mortars with tube lengths between 895 mm and 1,450 mm.

Insensitive ammunition will only explode if triggered by a detonator. In the case of bombardments or explosions in the immediate vicinity, the explosives can at most deflagrate (decay) without significantly affecting the surroundings. With PFF, a uniformly high effect is achieved in the target area.

INGWE and UMKHONTO armoured vehicles with anti-tank missiles cordoned off the area. Meanwhile, the PLOFADDER mine-clearing system created a minefield lane, which allowed battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles to advance. A rocket pulled 300 kg of explosives over the minefield and distributed them in such a way as to create a wide and safe lane for the combat vehicles after bursting. After artillery and combat helicopters prepared the ground, the combat troops cleared the location with RATEL, ROOIKAT and OLIFANT vehicles.

Enemy forces that had broken through had been defeated by defensive fire from infantry and Special Forces (the effect of which is described below in relation to the mission master).

This was preceded by an extensive demonstration of explosive ordnance for the infantry. The focus was on 40mm ammunition, which can be fired from various grenade launchers. Grenades with low (LV), medium (MV) and high (HV) velocity cover a range from 300 m to 1,000 m. In addition to explosive/splitter ammunition, several types of smoke and signal ammunition are also available.

As with the night shootings before, the BATELEUR and Type 63 multiple rocket launchers were the eye-catching final items in the demonstration. The firing and flying noises of the salvos of 40 (BATELEUR) and 12 rockets alone gave an impression of the effect in the target area.

World Premiere: MISSION MASTER in Hot Shot

In addition to the many weapon systems in the South African army, the unmanned ground vehicle MISSION MASTER (MM UGV) was presented for the first time as a firing weapon system. The electrically powered, air-transportable MM UGV has all-wheel drive with eight balloon tires, all of which are powered. The MM UGV can be operated for up to eight hours without requiring a battery recharge.

Mission Modules

Quickly replaceable modules provide equipment for various missions. Each module is connected to the chassis through mechanical and electrical quick connectors. Six module types have already gone beyond the concept phase, of which the variants MISSION MASTER Protection (MM P) and MISSION MASTER Rescue (MM R) were presented in Overberg.

The MM P is the armed version of the UGV. It carries a stabilised FIELDRANGER weapon station from Rheinmetall Canada, equipped with two rocket launchers and seven unguided 70mm rockets from Thales FZ. According to Rheinmetall, MM P is the first air-to-ground system on a UGV.

The MM R has two stretchers and medical equipment as well as seats for medical personnel for transport of the wounded (CaseEvac).

Control

The UGV is controlled and programmed through a portable computer, for example from the ARGUS soldier system and a bi-directional radio link. The system can be remote controlled or operated partially or fully autonomously.

Selection of 60mm, 81mm and 120mm mortar ammunition from RDM (Photos: Heiming)

While under fire protection by special units on their HORNET Rapid Reconnaissance Vehicle (RDRV) with heavy and light machine guns and grenade launchers, supported by a towed 20 mm cannon, infantry on foot positioned the MISSION MASTER convoy in ‘Follow-Me’ mode. The convoy included an armed MM P and MM R to rescue the wounded.

Near the planned firing position, the MM R was held in a covered position. The convoy leader took over the control of the MM P from the cover and led this person remotely through their laptop computer into the firing position. The target data were also entered through computers from the cover and the fire command was given. Each of the seven unguided missiles from two missile launch containers generated a surface fire in the target area in order to suppress the suspected enemy there.

The MM R then took cover near the firing position. The convoy leader now took control of the MM P and steered the vehicle remotely with a portable computer to the firing position. From the cover, target data was entered by computer and then the fire order was given. Each of the seven unguided missiles from two missile launch containers generated a surface fire in the target area to suppress the suspected enemy there.
At the end of the firefight, the two MISSION MASTERs were given the command to autonomously dodge into a hide position behind the fire line.

Start of Production

Denel received the first orders for MISSION MASTER vehicles when development reached technical maturity level TRL7 (Technology Readiness Level). In addition to orders from Italy and Middle East, the German Armed Forces also ordered MM UGV to test the properties and performance of the system against the background of military requirements.

Gerhard Heiming

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