Wednesday, November 14, 2018
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R29m more for SA rocket killer

The SA Army has invested a further R28.9 million to develop “a local active protection system” hat can intercept rocket propelled grenades (RPG), missiles and even fin-stabilised long-rod penetrators rounds fired by tanks.

The R28 946 305.66 contact was handed Denel Dynamics last Wednesday. The company, SAAB SA and, Reutech Radar Systems (RRS), Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (RDM) have been working on the technology for about a decade. Denel Dynamics CE Jan Wessels in 2008 told the Engineering News active protection was a domain that had opened up from about 2003 “in peacekeeping and asymmetrical warfare situations around the world, with Iraq and Afghanistan being prime examples.”

In these operations, it is often impossible to distinguish between civilians and irregular combatants until the latter unveil their weapons. And by then they may be very close. Wessels noted that today almost every armed faction has RPGs and many groups have access to more sophisticated and powerful anti-armour missiles. “So they can attack and disable, even destroy, the most sophisticated and expensive vehicles,” he told Keith Campbell.

“We now have a product which we have named Mongoose, which is a small missile that gets fired at the incoming RPG or missile and actually destroys it before it hits the vehicle or other asset (like a command post) being protected by Mongoose. Now you can understand that this is a radically new type of technology, a new type of product. This is an example of a technology that is very beneficial in the current situation – for example, when our forces are deployed in peacekeeping operations in the future, this will be a very valuable lifesaver and equipment saver.”

Mongoose is currently the “hardkill” or “active” component in the SAAB Avitronics Land Electronic Defence System (LEDS). Wessels told defenceWeb earlier this year RRS provide the sensor, Denel Dynamics and RDM the Mongoose missile, and SAAB the overall system.

The system consists of a brain called an active defence controller (ADC), a set of sensors, a high-speed directed launcher (HSDL) and countermeasure options ranging from fast deploying multi-spectral smoke and decoys (soft-kill) to rockets (hard-kill munitions) to destroy incoming threats. “It is a unique system,” said Wilfred Moore, Saab Avitronics' senior executive, marketing and sales in 2006. The control computer, which has a global positioning system capability, integrates with the vehicle intercom and its command and control system. It also draws data from the vehicle wind sensor.

The basic LEDS 50 warns the crew of a vehicle fitted with the system that they are in the beam of a laser. In the military environment, lasers are used to designate targets for artillery and antitank guided munitions, as well as for range finding. The system can deal with up to eight threats simultaneously, while providing analysis on the nature of the threat based on the spectral band used.

LEDS 100 adds jammers and decoys, while LEDS 150 adds the Mongoose counter-munition. LEDS 100 confuses enemy weapons operators and incoming rounds by deploying smoke in their line of sight or flight, hiding the target vehicle. The smoke and an optional infra-red jammer interfere with the acquisition and/or tracking, ranging, launching or guidance of a hostile weapon. The system provides automated warning to the vehicle’s occupants and “dynamically and intelligently screens the vehicle from attack in any direction (including above) in less than 700 milliseconds,” a SAAB official said at African Aerospace and Defence in September 2004. The screen obscures the attackers’ line of sight and gives the vehicle and its occupants to get behind cover. The screen is multispectral and cannot be penetrated by lasers or thermal imagers of the type used to guide weapons. Unlike some comparable systems abroad, one does not have to turn the vehicle or its turret to defeat the threat. “This is achieved by the use of a high-speed directed launcher. The launcher moves extremely fast and can turn to any position in the protected hemisphere in less than 100 milliseconds,” the official added.

LEDS 150 claims to destroy incoming RPG-7 rounds and antitank guided munitions with Mongoose at ranges as close as within 20 metres of the launch vehicle, allowing it to intercept rounds fired “from across the street”. Moore said this would be put to the test in late 2007 in what are called “full dynamic trials”, meaning LEDS would have to detect the rocket travelling at 300 metres per second and fire back within a bare fraction of a single second if the round is not to hit the vehicle. Moore said no other system in use has that ability, and tests prove it: On January 24, 2006, a Mongoose intercepted and destroyed a 105mm high explosive round fired from a tank at a muzzle velocity of 683 metres per second. In a previous test series, three Mongoose hit three fin-stabilised rods travelling at close to 1500 metres per second, breaking their fins and deflecting them from their flight path with concentrated blasts, forcing them to smash into the ground within 150m of the point they were to hit, Moore added. Mongoose should also be able to defeat rounds fired from anti-tank guns and even artillery shells, as well as anti-armour missiles. LEDS can also be used aboard ships and smaller vessels.

Indications are the Mongoose can also be delivered as a light precision guided missile from an unmanned aerial vehicle or light aircraft.

The SA Army has invested substantial amounts of money in the project in recent years: In March 2007 it awarded Denel Dynamics R720 205 for a local active protection system technology maturity study, and in August 2007 R17 192 301 for “active protection system technology establishment”. In October 2008 it added R526 315 for he same purpose and in March this year a further R712 716.46, amounting to R19 151 537.46. Last week's contract takes the value of “hardkill” work since 2007 to R48 097 843.12. Indications are the latest infusion of money is for R&D work on “more challenging threat scenarios” than those that fit the Mongoose I profile.

Pic: Mongoose and its launcher as seen at AAD2006.


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