Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) is working on refining its existing ammunition products and introducing new ones to the market, with improvements ranging from 40 mm grenades to 155 mm artillery rounds.
Jointly owned by Rheinmetall Waffe Munition GmbH (51%) of Germany and Denel (Pty) Ltd, RDM has a product portfolio encompassing eight key competencies with artillery ammunition at the core.
In November last year, RDM set three new maximum effective range records for 155 mm indirect artillery fire using G5, G6 and PzH-2000 guns. Following the success of achieving three world record distances at their latest long-range capability demonstration, RDM stated new markets from several NATO countries have been opened.
RDM is also investing in a feasibility study to extend their 155 mm Assegai range to between 60 and 100 km and state that they have already started looking into the technical options. The company is continuously looking at ways to improve its 155 mm Assegai products. “This includes improving the current range but also to add new variants such as the M0603 PFF [Pre-Formed Fragmentation] version as well as extending the range of our VLAP [Velocity-enhanced Long-range Artillery Projectile] version”, stated Rod Keyser, the head of product development at RDM.
RDM previously examined extending the range of 155 mm projectiles with ramjet technology, having a programme that lasted up until 2005. “We were, as far as we know, the first and the only company to demonstrate ramjet propulsion from a spinning 155 mm artillery projectile in 2005. We thus understand the advantages and the limitation of the technology very well and we have an extensive history on the topic,” the company said.
RDM said it has a lot of demand at the moment for artillery ammunition, but is not allowed to mention customer names and volumes. However, the company did say that Australia is one of its key customers and partners of the future, having placed large orders for 155 mm ammunition for its M777 howitzers – once the product is qualified in this weapon, it will open up markets to other users of this gun.
RDM is also enhancing its 120 mm mortar bomb series and 81 mm extended long-range mortar bomb series as it looks to expand the 120 mm portfolio with new variants such as PFF HE (High Explosive Pre-Formed Fragmentation) and insensitive explosive fillings. An extended long range 81 mm mortar bomb is in the early stages of development. The High Explosive, Illuminating and Multi-spectral Screening Smoke 120 mm rounds were qualified several years ago and have been in production for international customers.
Several years ago, RDM began developing a new range of hand grenades that were designed to be safer and more reliable than previous generations. The new hand grenade range was qualified months ago and is in production.
RDM’s 40 mm grenade range is going through considerable development as 40 mm self-destruct grenades are now qualified and in production for international customers. An airburst 40 mm grenade is still under development with the goal to introduce the airburst version into the market as soon as possible. RDM state they are undergoing qualification for a new range of less-lethal 40 mm rounds for crowd control purposes. These rounds are on offer to the local and international market and most recently, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has taken RDM’s new medium velocity 40 mm rounds into service.
RDM brands the SANDF as its home market. RDM CEO Jan-Patrick Helmsen said that a declining budget does affect them but the SANDF has a huge demand for RDM ammunition. The last orders received from the SANDF were for pyrotechnical products (flares, thunder flashes, smoke grenades and mortars).
RDM parent Rheinmetall is meanwhile offering its trucks for the SANDF’s Project Palama. In December 2018 Armscor issued a request for information (RFI) for the replacement of all SAMIL 50/100 4×4/6×6 trucks under this project. Rheinmetall Vehicle Systems Division, a sister company of RDM, offered a package for Project Palama that is tailored to South African requirements. “This included a far-reaching localisation concept for the realisation of an ‘African Truck’”, RDM said.
Companies such as Tatra and Tata Defence amongst others have also offered packages while Denel Vehicle Systems offered an upgrade package for the SAMIL trucks to extend their service lives. Armscor began evaluating responses in mid-2019 and have yet to announce a decision.