Artillery in the 21st Century – Proven, Flexible and Tailored
Krauss-Maffei Wegmann’s state-of-the-art artillery system solutions
defence.professionals | defpro.com
Emanating from the world’s most combat proven and effective tube artillery system, the Panzerhaubitze 2000 (PzH2000 self-propelled howitzer), Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) developed an independent artillery module, fully meeting current military requirements.
Accurate fire power is and remains an important military requirement. In current conflicts such as in Afghanistan, the PzH2000 could prove that this system can be perfectly deployed in asymmetric combat theatres. During Operation Medusa and the Battle of Chora, the Dutch PzH2000 effectively supported coalition forces and eliminated targets up to a distance of 46 kilometres. Indirect fire support is and remains an important element in current, as well as in future conflict scenarios, and is an option that armed forces are less frequently prepared to abandon in operations abroad.
Current conflicts have proven that all future weapons systems will be expected to provide a high level of flexibility. In accordance with this new requirement and the profile of allied armed forces, the artillery system of the 21st century will need to have a high level of mobility, of independence for the integration onto various platforms, as well as of air-transportability with strategic transport aircraft such as the A400M. The next-generation artillery system is planned to be deployed for a variety of missions as a highly flexible fire-support component for the troops.
Further, this new requirement profile places high expectations on technology, as the desired flexibility comes along with a significant weight reduction which, however, may not affect performance or protection of the vehicle. KMW has successfully achieved this balancing act with its currently evaluated Artillery Gun Module (AGM).
Artillery Gun Module
The development of the 155 / L52 Artillery Gun Module has been closely aligned to the requirements of deployed troops and incorporates the logistical requirements of the new realities of military operations. The size and weight of the innovative artillery module allows rapid deployment and, hence, is qualified for evacuation operations, regionally limited peace-building missions or “show of force” scenarios. Dependent on the weight of the carrier vehicle, the AGM can be deployed by strategic airlift. This makes the AGM a suitable mobile mission component wherever close air support or heavy forces are not feasible, unavailable or too costly.
While being an independent 155mm/52-calibre artillery system, the AGM offers the identical performance parameters as the PzH2000 in terms of range and precision. With a range of up to 56 kilometres with full area coverage, and providing a level of precision which, by then, could not be conceived, the PzH2000 is the worldwide leading artillery system and is currently deployed with four NATO allies. So far, more than 330 systems have been produced and delivered by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. The mission spectrum of the AGM ranges from conventional artillery fire support to the use of C-RAM systems (Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar).
KMW has successfully integrated these performance parameters into a compact Artillery Gun Module. The module is designed to be fully platform independent by integrating the fully automated propellant charge magazine and loading device, including a total stock of 30 rounds, into the module. The electrically driven and digitally controlled round loading system provides the fully automated loading of the gun. Additionally, a revolutionary propellant charge magazine and loading system has been developed to accomplish a completely automated firing sequence for the AGM.
With a firing rate of six rounds per minute, the modular charges are being controlled by the on-board computer, loaded from the magazine chambers into the gun chamber by the round carrier and, subsequently, fired.
Automated Loading of Propellant Charges
The conceptual key element of the AGM is the newly developed automated propellant charge loading systems. It enables an uncrewed-operation of the weapon system and, thereby, provides platform independence. Due to the automated charge loading system, the charges do not have to be loaded manually and, therefore, only requires a driver and the gunner for the handling of the weapon system. The reduction of required personnel, compared to conventional artillery systems, increases the safety of the crew, as no crew member is exposed to the gun or loading system during combat operations.
The round magazine in the front section of the module is arranged in a circle around the round carrier and consists of several chambers in which the rounds are positioned upright. The position of each round is assigned and managed by the on-board computer. The round carrier automatically loads and extracts the rounds from the magazine chambers.
The position of the individual rounds is assigned and managed by the on-board computer. The round carrier loads and extracts these rounds from the magazine chambers. Further, the modular propellant charges are prepared according to the fire mission and loaded into the chamber after the round has been rammed in.
First Development Stages
The first prototype of the AGM was completed in 2004. The Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) platform was chosen as the carrier vehicles and was prepared for the integration of the AGM by integrating a pivot bearing on the chassis and by further minor modifications.
The first test firing in September 2004 validated the stability and ability of the chassis as well as of the module to withstand the strain. 79 rounds were successfully fired in direct succession during this live firing test. Further tests proved the system’s full stability throughout the entire operational arc of the system (Azimuth: 6400, Elevation: 0 to +1150n). Firing from a mobile position also accomplished the desired targeting precision and performance of the PzH2000.
Additional developments in the automation resulted in a second AGM demonstrator, which was equipped with the new automated propellant charge loading system. Also, the operating interface, as well as the fire control system and other control components, have been completely renewed and adjusted to meet state-of-the-art demands. The variable elevated body of the weapon system has also been newly developed in order to reduce the overall weight of the module and, thereby, create more flexibility. Furthermore, an automated sealing actuator has been installed in the weapon system.
During the live-firing tests in April/May 2006, the AGM Demonstrator 2 successfully validated the fully automated loading sequence as well as the propellant charge loading operation. Furthermore, the automation of the round and propellant charge selection, as well as the individual fuse programming, proved their worth. The required parameters have all been met: a firing rate of 3 rounds in 15 seconds and 6 rounds in 60 seconds have been achieved in the fully automated operation. In different sequences, ten shots from each of the three DM72 modules have been fired within 139 seconds. Even the fully remote-controlled procedure has been successfully demonstrated.
The DONAR Project
After these successful tests, the management of General Dynamics Santa Bárbara Sistemas (GDSBS) and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann met on 21 December 2006 and discussed the feasibility of integrating the Artillery Gun Module onto the chassis of the ASCOD armoured fighting vehicle. Following a pre-investment study, the realisation of the project began in May 2007. Under the project name “DONAR”, the first prototype was completed in a very short time. In April 2008, GDSBS delivered the modified ASCOD chassis, onto which the KMW’s AGM was to be integrated. In May, first firing tests were carried out with DONAR and in June the system went on public display, for the first time, at the EUROSATORY trade show in Paris.
The DONAR armoured artillery system is a revolutionary further development of conventional artillery systems. Its low combat weight of 35 tonnes (20 tonnes less than the PzH2000) provides DONAR with a combat mobility which, so far, has not been achieved by any artillery system. With a turning radius of two metres along with a range of 500 kilometres, DONAR offers the mobility of a state-of-the-art armoured fighting vehicle.
The protection of the crew has been maximised to a high NATO standard, reaching level 3a/3b STANAG 4569 while featuring a low silhouette as well as enhanced cabin protection. With a level 1 STANAG 4569 protection, the AGM module offers the same level of protection as the turret of the PzH2000. Thereby the crew, as well as the system, is effectively protected against small arms fire and shell splinters from artillery and mortar munitions. All dimensions of the system correspond to the European tunnel standard and further allows easy transportation of the system by air or rail.
The fully automated gun laying system and loading system enables a remote-controlled firing operation throughout the weapon system’s entire operational arc. Due to this characteristic, and the low gross weight of 12 tonnes, the AGM can be integrated as an independent module onto a variety of platforms.
Currently, the AGM is successfully integrated in the DONAR project, jointly executed with General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS), as well as onto the MLRS platform. Besides these tracked carrier vehicles, the integration onto wheeled vehicles or on naval platforms, as well as its use as an autonomous ground module, can be implemented. KMW currently carries out concept studies for the integration of the AGM onto the chassis of the BOXER armoured fighting vehicle as well as of the PUMA infantry fighting vehicle.
defence.professionals | defpro.com