German troops serving in Afghanistan will soon be equipped with a highly effective new form of protection against rocket, artillery, and mortar attacks. The German government has contracted with the Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall Group to supply the Bundeswehr with newly developed air defence systems worth around Euro110.8 million.
The current contract encompasses two systems as well as an option for additional services such as documentation and training at a later date, worth approximately Euro20 million. Under a follow-on contract, worth around Euro13.4 million, Rheinmetall will also supply the corresponding ammunition.
Dubbed the Nächstbereichs-Schutzsystem, or "very short-range protection system", the state-of-the-art NBS is a major milestone in the Bundeswehr's SysFla programme, which is progressively upgrading Germany's air defence capabilities; it also represents an important strategic success for Rheinmetall.
Until now, the Bundeswehr – like the armed forces of other nations – lacked a weapon system capable of intercepting small incoming projectiles; in recent months, Bundeswehr bases in Kunduz and Masar-I-Sharif have come under repeated attack by insurgents employing typical hit-and-run tactics.
The NBS C-RAM is specifically designed to defeat the threat which rocket, artillery and mortar attacks pose to Bundeswehr units deployed in hazardous areas of operation. The Bundeswehr will be the world's first army to possess an effective defence against this kind of asymmetric threat, which is particularly prevalent in Afghanistan.
Building on decades of expertise and experience in the field of air defence, Rheinmetall's "Skyshield" technology will make it possible to detect, track and shoot down incoming projectiles before they can reach their target, with virtually no advance warning.
Moreover, since the sensor data enable determination of the impact zone as well as attacker's location, base personnel are able to take cover and/or appropriate countermeasures. The system remains in a high state of readiness around the clock.
An NBS C-RAM system consists of an operations/fire control centre, two sensor units and six 35mm automatic guns. These are capable of firing 1,000 rounds per minute and, like the fire control unit, are largely automated. The automatic guns fire programmable "Ahead" ammunition, developed by Rheinmetall specifically for C-RAM applications.
One of the company's principal divisions, Rheinmetall Air Defence is a global leader in short- and very short-range air defence systems. Besides stationary cannon-based systems like the NBS C-RAM, Rheinmetall supplies mobile guided missile-supported systems, sensor technology and advanced networking and command and control systems. Under the Oerlikon brand name, Rheinmetall air defence products have enjoyed a global reputation for high performance and precision dating back nine decades.