Rheinmetall resets the range goal posts


At its long-range artillery capability demonstration on 6 November at the Armscor Alkantpan Test Range in the Northern Cape, Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) and its sister companies showcased record-breaking improvements in 155 mm artillery range.

During the demonstration, RDM set what is believed to be a new world record of 53 917 metres for its Assegai M2005 HE (High Explosive) V-LAP (Velocity-enhanced Long-range Artillery Projectile) using a 39-calibre barrel and 39 calibre top charge. It also recorded a 76 km shot with a 155 mm M9703 V-LAP round. The company said these distances indicate a complete shift of the goal posts for the global defence industry.

Rheinmetall Denel Munition hosted the event to show international guests Rheinmetall Defence’s capability to achieve extended ranges for indirect fire. Sister companies Nitrochemie, Rheinmetall Waffe Munition (RWM) and Rheinmetall Norway were also present.

At the demonstration last week, RDM CEO Jan-Patrick Helmsen welcomed invited international guests and highlighted that as a former officer, he understands the importance of capable, safe and accurate artillery. Helmsen said: “RDM’s goal is to be a partner of the soldiers, therefor we work hard to establish a transparent and trusted relationship with them. Artillery is both a defensive and offensive support weapon. It is cheaper and faster than missiles or air support, can be deployed 24/7, and has the ability to place highly indirect fire on any target of choice within its effective range. However, in recent years, range became a limitation and the demand for longer ranges is strong.”

Artillery systems that took part in the firing demonstration included a 39-18-calibre Joint Ballistic Memorandum of Understanding (JBMoU) barrel, mounted on a Denel G5 towed howitzer; a 52-23-calibre PanzerHaubitze 2000 (PzH 2000) gun from Rheinmetall Waffe Munition (RWM) in Germany, mounted in a firing stand; a 52-25-calibre G6 self-propelled howitzer from Denel; and a MWS120 120 mm turntable mounted mortar system from Rheinmetall Norway.

These fired newly developed top charges for the 39-18 and 52-23-calibre from Nitrochemie together with a selection of in-service projectiles, primers and fuses from RDM and RWM.

The first demonstration showcased the MWS 120 Ragnarok, a fully electrically motorised 120 mm mortar system, with the capability to mount a variety of 120 mm barrels (smooth or rifled). The mortar system has advanced automated gun laying systems and correction systems and can be deployed in a mounted position, or the barrel can be removed and deployed unmounted. RDM supplied 120 mm Practise Inert mortar bombs for the demonstration. The system is capable of reaching distances of eight kilometres. Its quick manoeuvrability, with motorised traverse and elevation systems, allow the mortar to align and engage different target positions in under a minute.

The Alkantpan test range is equipped with observation points, which, in conjunction with tracking radars, allow for accurate measurements to be taken of the distances reached by projectiles. The 39-calibre barrel fired the RWM produced DM121 BT (Boat Tail) projectile with a Nitrochemie 39-calibre top charge and achieved an average range of 29 171 metres.

The demonstration proceeded with the RWM PzH 2000 gun, loaded with DM121 BT projectiles with Nitrochemie 52-23-calibre top charges and achieved a range of between 35 882 metres. The most important shot, using the same artillery system and top charge, achieved a distance range of 47 374 metres with the Assegai M0121 IHE BB (Base Bleed) projectile produced by RDM.

Utilising the same G5 with the 39-calibre barrel and 39-calibre top charge, the RDM Assegai M2005 HE V-LAP impacted at a range of 53 917 metres.

From this point on, the demonstration proceeded beyond the borders of the Alkantpan test range and into neighbouring farms, after relevant permissions had been obtained. (Shots that may land outside the test range are limited to inert ammunition.) The PzH 2000 gun and the Nitrochemie 52-23 top charge mentioned earlier fired the Assegai M2005-V-LAP to an impact position of 66 943 metres.

The final demonstration used a G6 52-25 calibre howitzer that fired RDM’s M9703 V-LAP with a M64 Zone 6 charge, reaching 76 280 metres. All the 155mm artillery mentioned above is in accordance with NATO’s Joint Ballistic Memorandum of Understanding specifications, however RDM sought to show what distances they are capable of as well as safety and accuracy outside the borders of the JBMoU, as the M9703 V-LAP reached a range of 76 280 metres. A 52-25 top charge is being produced at Nitrochemie and will be tested in 2020.

Rod Keyser, the head of product development at RDM, expressed great satisfaction at the distances achieved on the day and believes that if the head winds at various levels were not so high on the day then the M9703 V-LAP could have achieved distances in the 80 kilometre zone.

Helmsen said that aiming for longer ranges in artillery is not new to RDM. “After all, we are renowned as the home of the Assegai Family and the V-LAP, the longest ranging conventional artillery projectile. The South African technology paired with German capability generally increased range, effects and precision. Rheinmetall Defence, together with Rheinmetall Waffe Munition and Nitrochemie, take a full system approach towards artillery.”

“The event showcased that Rheinmetall Denel Munition’s projectile variants, paired with the technologies of RWM and Nitrochemie, have the capability to out-range any conventional 155 mm artillery system fielded today,” RDM said.

“Our game-changing innovations move beyond mere ideas to being convincing products that conquer markets and set benchmarks. Our focus is on future artillery solutions becoming the system house for indirect fire, leveraging Rheinmetall and its partners capabilities to the max for the soldier,” Helmsen said.