The South African Army is moving closer to closure with Project Klooster, the acquisition of an artillery target engagement system (ATES) for the field artillery. It has placed a R64 290 859 order on Thales Defence Systems (TDS) for the “procurement and production of final spares for artillery target engagement system, Build A”.
A separate R3 752 224 contract was awarded to Spektrum Logistics Support Services CC of Atlasville under contract EAES/2010/111 for the maintenance and repair of artillery optical equipment.
The ATES, type classified the AS2000 in SA Army Service, is the successor to the AS80 under Project Dibula by TDS’ predecessor, Teklogic. A production action plan was approved in October 2004 with deliveries for a first regiment set to commence in September 2007 and deliveries for a second in April 2008. AS2000 allows gunners to manage their guns and rocket launchers, analyse muzzle velocity, compute and track meteorological data and effect technical and terminal fire control. It also allow artillery commanders to command and control their guns and fire units as well as to communicate and transfer data.
ATES consists of three integrated parts, namely an observation and terminal fire control subsystem; an artillery command and tactical fire control subsystem; and, a deployment management and technical fire control subsystem. Its elements are fitted to individual guns, mortars and rocket launchers as well as issued to battery, regimental and other headquarters and forward observers.
The cost of the total system is unknown, but suggestions are the total value is around R700 million.
Yesterday’s order follows a R3 691 545 order (EBEB/S2009/2337) in January and a R25 984 990.56 deal in June 2007 for the production and supply of Build A (EBEB/S2007/2111). Both were extensions of the base contract, EBEB/2000/336. A further R8 758 850 order was placed in June 2009 for support and maintenance of the ATES.
Observation and terminal fire control subsystem
A TDS brochure reminds ATES terminal fire control relies on the the basic artillery observation system (BAOS) with thermal imaging; the enhanced artillery observation system (EAOS) with thermal imaging; and, the uninhabited artillery observation system (UAOS) with day zoom camera.
The artillery fire process begins with the forward observer, often in or even ahead of the forward line of own troops (FLOT), who is either observing the enemy or key terrain and choke points own forces are keen to deny to the enemy. When spotted, the target’s position is determined accurately with observation sensors such as the BOAS: a 1.7kg LH40C hand held laser rangefinder.
The LH40C BAOS features an eye-safe laser, built-in digital compass and a range performance of up to 20km. It provides range, bearing and elevation to the target and when linked to a compatible GPS (global positioning system) can determine the exact coordinates of the target. The LH40C BAOS copes with heat, cold, humidity, rain, electromagnetic interference, immersion in water and corrosion. This position, the target’s size and protection as well as the effect of fire required are sent as a “request for fire” to the Fire Support Coordination Centre (FSCC). Other than the portable LH40C, equipment associated with this subsystem includes the vehicle mounted long-range EAOS and the Vulture UAOS (see below for more). At some future stage vehicle- or ground based artillery surveillance and counter battery radars will also be acquired.
Artillery command and tactical fire control subsystem (FSCC)
The FSCC is used at the battery, regimental and divisional level for the organisational management of fire, which includes selecting the optimal combination of launchers and ammunition to engage a target. “Through data links with the rest of the AS2000 system, artillery commanders have sufficient real-time information and means to exercise effective command, control and coordination over artillery resources,” the undated brochure adds.
Deployment management and technical fire control subsystem
The regimental command post/fire direction centre (RCP/FDC) is the unit link to the meteorological system and distributes weather information to the batteries. “Every battery is allocated two battery command post/fire direction centres (BCP/FDCs). These are responsible for technical fire control consisting of the execution of ballistic calculations and the controlling of the guns during firing. This is the point where information on gun status is kept as fire support resources are maintained and distributed from. A BCP/FDC is capable of controlling eight guns. Two are deployed per battery to provide redundancy in the case of equipment failure or combat losses. The BCP/FDC’s main function is controlling gun fire through appropriate orders and the maintenance of fire discipline. Where necessary, the BCP/FDC also provides weapons with the necessary ballistic data for the shoot. For this reason, the BCP/FDC’s computers are regularly updated with data from each gun in the battery.”
When the FSCC gives the battery an “engagement tasking”, ballistic calculations are done using data received from the guns as well weather data received from the RCP/FDC. Aiming and firing data are then sent to the guns. (This is not the case with some late models and modifications of the G5 and G6 that are capable of making their own ballistic calculations. Where this capability exists, the BCP/FDC will only send target and firing information.) On firing, the weapon’s electronics sends a shot report to the BCP/FDC that relays it to the observer automatically and sends an engagement report to the FSCC in order to update the battery’s activity status for the purpose of tactical fire control. Should the observers send a correction, new aiming data are sent to the guns and the fire is brought on target before the order to “fire for effect” is given to destroy or neutralise it. At the end of the fire mission, the BCP/FDC sends an “end of mission” report to the FSCC and updates its ammunition status. Again, this ensures proper tactical fire control.
A launcher management system fitted to the individual gun, rocket launcher or, in more portable form, kept near the mortar base plate, assists the gun captain in managing his weapon’s activities, assists the BCP/FDC in managing the battery’s movement and deployment. This optimises reaction time and system effectiveness while cutting down on error. Each weapon is equipped with a display unit system consisting of a launcher display computer and ammunition and/or layer’s display unit. The provide command data and obtain status information, the computer is linked to subsystems, sensors and a radio on the gun. Depending on the type of weapon, these can autolay the launcher or assist with navigation, laying, ammunition identification, ammunition handling, fuse setting, thermal or run-up warning and muzzle velocity measurement.
ATES uses wireless data links to ensure the speedy and faultless transmission of firing and other data. Voice links are available as back up and for normal command-and-control. The computer hardware used throughout the system is compact and sufficiently militarised to ensure reliability in harsh conditions. Sufficient reserve processing power was included to ensure software upgrades are possible without replacing hardware.
Pic: Part of the BAOS on display at Africa Aerospace & Defence 2006.