RDM, a joint-venture between German industrial group Rheinmetall and South Africa’s state arms firm Denel , has been a stand-out performer in a struggling industry since it was established in 2008.
Its roughly 200 million euros ($223 million) in annual sales of large-calibre ammunition, propellants and missile components make up nearly 7% of Rheinmetall Defence’s total turnover. Some 90% of that is exported outside of South Africa.
Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) is exploring several new enhancements for its mortar and artillery ammunition, including improvements to the range and lethality of its family of 81 mm and 120 mm mortars, as well as its 155 mm howitzer ammunition.
The company is in the qualification stage for two new mortar rounds, one extended long-range (EL/R) 81 mm and an enhanced lethality 120 mm round.
The latter is a new 120 mm Insensitive High Explosive Pre-Formed Fragmentation (IHE PFF) round that incorporates 3 mm tungsten balls, generating approximately 15,000 fragments in addition to the natural fragmentation created from the mortar’s cast iron body.
Company officials said the PFF achieves approximately double the impact on target when compared with traditional rounds.
The IHE PFF provides a mean area of effect (MEA) of 2,103 sq m with a burst height of 2 m, compared with 1,369 sq m for the natural fragmentation version, said Frans Landsberg, mortar product manager at RDM.
Meanwhile, RDM said its new EL/R 81 mm IHE round exceeds 7,100 m using the Denel Land Systems M8 LR mortar system with a high pressure 1,455 mm-long barrel. Both the new 81 mm and 120 mm mortar rounds are expected to achieve qualification in the next 12 months.
RDM is also working to build on its 155 mm howitzer ammunition, including the Joint Ballistics Memorandum of Understanding (JBMoU)-compliant Assegai family, to meet customer requirements concerning range extension, increasing accuracy and decreasing dispersion, additional multi-purpose capabilities, and reducing unit and logistics cost.
The Assegai Velocity-Enhanced Long-Range Artillery Projectile (VLAP), fired from a 155 mm/52 calibre gun, can reach about 54 km. The company has conducted studies and trials that look to potentially increase ranges to 100 km or more. Accordingly, RDM has explored charge system improvements, including extended-range top charges for both 39 calibre and 52 calibre guns, which could improve the VLAP’s range to over 60 km using the latter calibre.
In a recent firing series held in South Africa, the German-South African joint-venture Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (RDM) demonstrated a dramatic increase in the range of its artillery firepower.
The demonstration employed three 155 mm cannons with 52 and 39 caliber lengths, which scored three world records – firing at ranges of 76, 67 and 54 km.
The South African G6 built by Denel scored the longest shot in those tests, firing to a range of 76 km, the longest shot ever scored by a 155mm cannon.
To achieve this shot RDM used a Zone-6 charge to propel an inert M9703 Velocity Enhanced Long-Range Artillery Projectile (V-LAP). The G6 is not restricted by the NATO accepted Joint Ballistics Memorandum of Understanding (JBMoU) and has a larger chamber, packing more propellant charge accelerating the Assegai to the longest range possible.
The propellant manufacturer Nitrochemie is preparing a new top-charge for this non-standard 25-liter chamber that could exploit the system’s dimensions to maximize performance. The new top-charge will be tested next year. The G6 is used by the South African Army, as well as the UAE and Oman.
Other shots used the NATO standard L52-23l cannon that was mounted on a firing rig. This is the same gun used by seven NATO countries on the PzH2000 self-propelled howitzer. This gun lobbed 67 km range firing Rheinmetall Dennel’s Assegai M2005-V-LAP ammunition with a special top-charge produced by Nitrochemie.
This top-charge complies with the gun’s JBMoU-compliant 23-liter gun chamber. PzH 2000 is one of the most common artillery systems in NATO, used by Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Greece, Lithuania, Croatia and Hungary. In 2015 Qatar became the first non-NATO as a PzH 2000 user.
Even the 155/39 mm scored an impressive shot reaching a range of 54 km firing the Assegai high explosive M2005-V-LAP, an unprecedented record for the system, that fires rocket-assisted rounds at much shorter ranges.
The German-South African joint venture Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) hosted the event, welcoming participants from several NATO nations. “Our goal is to be a true partner to the military.
That’s why transparent cooperation and trust are so important to us.” RDM Managing Director Jan-Patrick Helmsen said, “Tube artillery can provide defensive and offensive fire support. It’s cheaper and faster than rockets or air support, can operate around the clock, and engage targets with great precision using indirect fire anywhere within its range. Of course, range has proved to be a limiting factor in recent years, giving rise to the need for increased operational reach.” Helmsen added.
“We’re known for the Assegai family and our V- LAP round, the longest-range conventional artillery projectile.
The combination of South African technology and German expertise has already resulted in enhanced range, effectiveness, and precision. When it comes to artillery, Rheinmetall takes a totally holistic approach”, Helmsen noted.