At a time when soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan face an increasing peril at the hands of an enemy which fights by means of ambushes and – what has become a fashionable expression – asymmetric measures, the offspring of a German company with a long tradition, Dynamit Nobel Defence (DND), recently invited members of the press to present its solutions for vehicle protection as well as enhanced defence and breaching capabilities.
The threat scenario which modern troops encounter today, whether in remote areas of the rough Afghan theatre, in urban skirmishes in Iraq, or by roadside bombs and ambushes, is very much different from more traditional military scenarios. However, today’s scenarios not only require adjusted defensive measures. Also offensive options have to be employed differently or configured in new ways.
Dynamit Nobel Defence, a subsidiary of Israel’s RAFAEL since 2004, is well-positioned to meet the troop’s requirements with both defensive, as well as offensive solutions. However, the press briefing first addressed the company’s reactive armour solution, called CLARA (Composite Lightweight Adaptable Reactive Armour). Further products that have been displayed include the famous family of “Panzerfaust” shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons as well as new developments in the range of recoilless grenade weapons (RGW) and remote controlled weapon stations (RCWS).
During the past year, Dynamit Nobel Defence has generated a turnover of approximately ˆ50 million (US$70.51 million) with overall orders valued at over ˆ200 million. According to Dr. Wolfgang Böttger, CEO of Dynamit Nobel Defence, the company seeks to double the company’s turnover by entering new markets and expanding sales in Germany. So far, only 12 % of the turnover comes from orders in the domestic market, outlining DND’s strong export position.
CLARA low fragment reactive armour
Passive armour has reached its physical limits due to weight and the continuously advancing armour-piercing weapon technology (RPG-7 can penetrate steel plates thicker than 40 cm, which would be far too heavy for any vehicle type). Active armour can also counter only a limited range of threats, leaving a gap that has been closed by reactive armour. DND has joined the ranks of reactive amour producing companies with a special solution called CLARA, which has now received a less inspired designation by German authorities, which by denomination limits its capabilities to counter hollow explosive charges. However, the company emphasises that the light and insensitive appliqué armour protects armoured vehicles and its crews from various shaped charges and projectile forming explosive devices. According to company officials, it may also be further developed to use sensor technology in order to expand the range of threats it can counter, including tandem warheads. It also integrates a certain level of passive protection and can counter blast and EFP-type IEDs and ammunition up to a 12.7 calibre which hits the vehicle where the reactive armour has been applied.
One of the adverse effects of any active or reactive armour is fragmentation when the explosive device is countered. Over many years, DND has been developing a low fragment counter measure which is primarily based on the use of composite material (boxes and screws) as well as on a special insensitive low burning rate (LBR6) explosive agent (1.5D certified). The armour segments which protect the side and front of an armoured vehicle increase the vehicles width by some 35 cm on each side. The segments consist of two boxes placed on top of each other. The lower and heavier box (F1 element) weighs some 40 kg while the smaller box on top (F2 element) weighs approximately 20 kg. The average added weight of the system is 260 kg per square metre. The parts of the vehicle which cannot be equipped with CLARA may be protected by slat armour. The CLARA armour can be mounted by a single person. Yet, a team of persons can up-armour a vehicle within only 15 minutes.
Company officials say there is no alternative to reactive armour when it comes to shaped charges. Also, CLARA provides the advantage of low fragmentation. In Germany, among the countries to first seriously develop reactive armour solutions, the problem of fragmentation almost lead to a stalemate in development activities. As Dr. Wolfgang Böttger states, CLARA takes into account this particular “primal fear of the Bundeswehr” and has proven in various tests to provide a dramatic reduction of fragmentation.
Certified for FENNEC, fit for other vehicles
In cooperation with the German system provider of armoured wheeled and tracked vehicles, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), DND has demonstrated the system’s efficiency on the FENNEK light-armoured reconnaissance vehicle. Each side of the FENNEK has been equipped with some 720 kg of reactive armour plus an additional slat armour protection and the vehicle’s own passive armour.
Tests showed that not only the fragmentation could be reduced, but also the protection of the vehicle crew had been substantially increased. Reportedly, the blast effect during the counter measure produces a slight shock, not more than a vehicle hitting a pothole. Even though the respective reactive armour box will be entirely destroyed when triggered, the adjacent segments will not be affected. If attacked by a common RPG-7 shaped charge, the reactive armour disintegrates the penetrating charge, which subsequently leaves only slight dents on the vehicle’s passive armour.
CLARA has already been officially certified for use on the FENNEK. The company now hopes to be awarded contracts for the equipment of future German Armed Forces’ vehicles such as the PUMA infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) as well as for up-armouring vehicles of the existing Bundeswehr fleet as, for instance, DINGO, BOXER, FOX or LEOPARD II. According to Dr. Böttger, the greatest advantage of the system is that it is already available and certified. The PUMA IFV, which is scheduled to enter service in 2010, will quickly require an adequate protection which other German companies can reportedly not provide within this short time frame. Alternatively, the Bundeswehr would either have to purchase reactive armour abroad or wait (IBD Deisenroth is expected to complete a reactive armour solution around 2012/13). Furthermore, according to company officials, Singapore appears to be as keen as the German Armed Forces to be provided with a low fragment armour solution, which would allow a further push in DND’s already strong export position.
A new concept of recoilless grenade weapons
Dynamit Novel Defence also presented a new development in recoilless grenade weapons (RGW), called “Wirkmittel 90”, which further increases the company’s spectrum of shoulder-fired weapons. The system is based on the RGW 90 family, however, introduces an entirely new concept. The Wirkmittel 90 solution, which currently is being researched in cooperation with the Bundeswehr, will surpass the usually effective range of unguided shoulder-fired weapons of some 500 to 600 metres, by using the DND Dynarange firing mechanism to precisely target, for instance, light armoured vehicles, dismounted enemy soldiers or light structures at ranges up to 1,000 metres. The system is scheduled to be operational by 2014.
The grenade integrates a new programmable fuse that can be set to different modes, depending on the target. Hence, the warhead may detonate either straight on the target, above the target in mid-air or delayed for wall-breaching use. This has been accomplished by integrating a new weapons sight and a new fire-control computer in the reusable firing device. The barrel will be exchanged after the grenade has been launched. The already fielded RGW 90 has already proven its value in various tests due to its dual-mode warhead, providing a High Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT) round against armoured vehicles or a High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) round to penetrate walls, bunkers or other fortified emplacements.
Why not use guided anti-tank weapons for such high ranges? Even though it enters the spectrum of this technologically higher weapon class, the Wirkmittel 90 is lighter (at 10 kg it can be carried by one person, including a paratrooper), is less expensive (why use a costly guided missile on an un-armoured Jeep?), and offers various modes of application.
Thomas Meuter, Head of Public Relations, stresses that the company’s approach with the RGW-family and the Wirkmittel 90 is to provide different capabilities in one weapon. The company wants to increase the soldiers’ capabilities beyond the traditional anti-tank mode of application. DND’s shoulder-fired weapons family allows attacking lightly protected targets (e.g. enemy emplacements, light-armoured vehicles), armoured vehicles and bunkers. Its wall-breaching capability perfectly meets troop requirements in military operations in urban territory (MOUT), especially because RGW’s may be fired from within a rather small room as the blast to the rear is widely deflected to the sides. This allows soldiers to observe a target from a well-sheltered emplacement and quickly aim and fire without leaving cover for an extended time.
As Meuter explains, Dynamit Nobel Defence has identified a trend in the military which requires a precision strike capability with a light and flexible weapon against a variety of targets – lightly or heavily armoured – at distances exceeding 500 metres. The existing weapons of the RGW 90 family have already proven to be in demand: DND has sold the system to the Slovenian and the Singapore Armed Forces. Furthermore, the United Kingdom will soon be provided with the RGW 90 after an important tender was won, with the assistance of the Israeli parent company.
“With the help of an interface, it is technologically possible to adapt both, the Panzerfaust as well as the RGW 90, to any weapon station currently available in Germany. It may be added as a single-shot solution or as a multi-grenade launcher, for instance, with four or six integrated barrels. This provides the weapons station with an additional valuable capability,” stated Meuter. As the system can still be used in a dismounted shoulder-launched mode, it furthermore saves transport capacity within the vehicle.
It remains to be seen if the military will identify the same requirement for a weapon which closes the gap between light weapons and 20 mm calibre munitions and will, to a certain extent, be a worthwhile alternative to guided anti-tank weapons. In a next step, according to company officials, it may be worth considering an air-to-ground configuration carried by unmanned aerial systems.