RDM demos refurbished ammo at Exercise Vuk’uhlome

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At the South African Army’s largest annual exercise this year, Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) demonstrated its ammunition upgrade capabilities by firing 30-year-old refurbished mortar rounds.

The November exercise at the Lohatlha Combat Training Centre in the Northern Cape gave RDM a chance to demonstrate to the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) the company’s ability to restore ammunition to condition A status. RDM took ammunition over thirty years old that had degraded to Condition C1 and Condition C2 and refurbished it for use as part of an SANDF feasibility study.

Given SANDF budget cuts, refurbishing old ammunition offers a significant cost-saving for the military.

RDM said its ammunition expertise goes beyond just development and manufacturing, as the company offers life-surveillance programmes for ammunition in storage magazines; testing; and refurbishment of unserviceable ammunition that has degraded below condition “A” status and reached its shelf-life limit. As a last resort, the company also provides demilitarisation services, an environmentally friendly way of disposing of unserviceable ammunition.

In a statement released after Exercise Vuk’uhlome 2023, RDM said the firing feasibility analysis on the M26 High Explosives (HE) Hand Grenade, 60 mm M61 HE Mortar Bomb, and 81 mm M61 HE Mortar Bomb obtained “impressive results”. The M26 HE Defensive Hand Grenade, used in close combat, was restored to its initially designed performance parameters, achieving a casualty radius of 15 meters by only replacing the fuze head of the new generation M15 Grenade variant. The feasibility study proved that the original explosives filling of 160 g of High Explosives was still intact.

The 60 mm M61 High Explosive Infantry Mortar Bomb was restored to its initially designed performance parameters, achieving a 201 square meter radius lethality at a maximum effective range of 2 230 m through only replacing the bomb’s propulsion system. The feasibility study proved that the original explosives filling is still intact, and the actual mechanical fuzes are still intact, RDM said.

The 81 mm M61 High Explosives Infantry Mortar Bomb achieved 90% of its designed initial performance parameters, with degradation in range of 100 meters from its designed maximum effective range of 4 866 m, with lethality of 346 square meter radius maintained, through only replacing the propulsion system and the obturator ring, according to RDM. The feasibility study proved that the original explosives filling of 4.43 kg is still intact, and the actual mechanical fuzes are still intact.

Some of the 81 mm mortars were fired at Lohatlha by a Scorpion automated mortar fitted to SVI’s Max 9 4×6 armoured personnel carrier.

“This ammunition refurbishment solution presents more options to the SANDF, as the refurbished ammunition can be used for training purposes and also provides an alternative to the disposal of unserviceable ammunition,” RDM said.

RDM CEO, Dr Frank Dirksen, said the SANDF has been instrumental in the establishment of RDM’s capabilities with all the support rendered over the years, and the company intends to work on more innovative ideas, such as the establishment of Framework Contracts to support the SANDF, especially during current harsh economic times.