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At the International Armoured Vehicles Conference in London, the newly formed Rheinmetall Protection Systems GmbH (RPS) presented an optimized combination solution for protection against various threats on today’s battlefield. RPS brings together the competencies and capabilities across the entire spectrum of passive and active protection that have been developed in various Group companies. RPS operates as an independent systems house for protection in the market and supplies not only the internal sister companies Rheinmetall Landsysteme (RLS) and Rheinmetall Military Vehicles (RMV) but also numerous external system manufacturers (OEM) worldwide.

Photo: Rheinmetall

Under the name Strikeshield, the hybrid protection solution combines passive protection against kinetic projectiles and fragments in accordance with AEP 55 and active protection against hand-held anti-tank weapons in accordance with AEP 62 in a single module, with their effects being better coordinated. In particular, the residual effects of defeating handheld anti-tank weapons have been systematically recorded and are taken into account in the design of passive protection. This exceeds well the currently valid verification procedures of AEP 55 and thus breaks down the distinction between passive and active/reactive protection still existing in the AEP and TL.

“It’s great to experience how we create something new,” says Stefan Kruselburger, CSO of RPS. “Over the years, the separate standards have been optimized in the committees. In our view, the necessary interaction between active protection and passive protection in real scenarios was not sufficiently taken into account. This is where we come in with our complete know-how and now, under the umbrella of RPS, we are taking a relevant new step in protection technology – true to our motto: we will protect life better”.

In the field of heavy battle tank protection, the large-calibre penetrator of a kinetic projectile can be actively defeated by deflecting – and thus reducing the penetration depth – and breaking. The residual energy and debris must be absorbed by the passive base armour. This concept will provide effective and reliable protection against the latest 125 mm KE penetrators in the classic duel situation of tank against tank, especially in the frontal area. Even in the case of shaped-charge weapons, the passive armour must also absorb the remains of the projectile. These can be remnants of a hollow-charge spike, but also the kinetic energy of the approaching rocket motor or high pressure peaks when the explosive deflagrates or the fuel of a guided missile explodes. RPS systematically uses these different effects to improve the design of hybrid protection, thereby breaking new ground.

As a defensive measure, elements of RPS’s familiar ADS range-active protection system are used, if required with a different effector that is also effective against KE projectiles. The prerequisite for timely activation is a fast and reliable sensor fusion between radar and an E/O sensor. The radar constantly monitors the surroundings and, if a threat is detected, activates the E/O sensor, which verifies the position of the projectile and precisely directs the effect of the countermeasure. Response times of less than one millisecond for the sensor/evaluation combination enable reliable detection of the threat at short range (less than ten metres) and its destruction without endangering the crew or vehicle.

In the hybrid protection module (as shown in the picture), active protection against shaped charge weapons is integrated into the passive additional protection and coordinated with the passive (basic) protection that may be available. This makes the overall system more powerful as well as lighter and smaller. In particular, integration is made considerably easier, since the modules can be attached to the vehicle or removed again in the same way as passive protection modules.

The hybrid protection element combines active protection against large-calibre kinetic ammunition and against shaped-charge weapons, and its effects are better coordinated with each other and with the passive (basic) protection built around them. This makes the system overall more powerful as well as lighter and smaller.

If the passive protection system is already taken into account in the design phase of the vehicle, further weight advantages can be achieved. Exploiting and assessing these effects requires a comprehensive knowledge of protection technologies under one roof, such as Rheinmetall Protection Systems, in order to unlock the synergies – ultimately to the benefit of the protected soldiers.

As a supplement to hardkill protection, the softkill system ROSY (Rapid Obscuring System) can be used. ROSY interrupts the line of sight between enemy and own vehicle with a rapidly fired IR-covering smoke screen. The hardkill system triggers ROSY and allows the vehicle in risk to safely avoid the enemy.

Gerhard Heiming