Diehl Defence and OTO Melara have successfully tested their Vulcano precision guided artillery munition family during a live firing campaign at the Alkantpan test range in the Northern Cape province.
The two companies signed an agreement on large calibre conventional guided ammunition for navies and armies at the Eurosatory 2012 defence exhibition and announced the most recent successful test firings at this year’s Eurosatory show currently being held in Paris.
The firings took place last month, using a German self-propelled 155 mm PzH2000 howitzer, which fired unguided and both GPS and semi-active laser (SAL) guided rounds. The maximum range reached was limited to 50 km due to the firing range safety limitation at Alkantpan – the Vulcan ammunition can hit targets 80 km away.
The Vulcano guided ammunition family consists of 127 mm and 155 mm ammunition with dual mode capability of GPS/IR (infrared) or GPS/SAL (semi-active laser) Terminal Homing. Mid-course guidance is provided by GPS/IMU (inertial measurement unit).
As part of the firing campaign with the PzH2000, tests were conducted with infrared guidance, demonstrating the capability of target discrimination and tracking, Diehl and OTO Melara said. However, IR terminal guidance will only apply to the Vulcano 127 mm naval version.
The firing tests were witnessed by Italian and German defence representatives who expressed satisfaction with the results of the trial, according to Diehl and OTO Melara, who said the Vulcano programme is proceeding fast towards completion allowing low rate initial production in the near future.
Diehl test fired its Vulcano ammunition at Alkantpan in July last year as well, scoring a direct hit on a 2×2 metre target at a range of 33 km, also using a PzH2000 howitzer.
The Italian Ministry of Defence is main sponsor of the Vulcano programme. The German Ministry of Defence’s programme contribution includes the SAL Terminal Homing System, fire command and ammunition programming issues as well as test and firing equipment such as the PzH2000.
First firings of the 155 mm Vulcano rounds were conducted two years ago at Meppen in Germany.
Diehl claims a target deviation of no more than one metre for the Vulcano range.
The 65 km long Alkantpan test range, operated by Armscor, features five firing sites that can mount guns on the ground or on concrete slabs while crews are protected by concrete bunkers. There are also workshops, ammunition storage facilities and a 1 500 metre airstrip at the range. The airspace above Alkantpan is a no fly zone and there is only one public road across the range, well outside the normal firing distances. This, together with a low rainfall, average 200 mm per year, gives Alkantpan an all-year round test capability.