14 Jun 2010

MBT Revolution: Rheinmetall's mission-oriented, modular upgrade package for main battle tanks

The altered mission spectrum of today's armed forces has drastically changed the requirements imposed on modern main battle tanks. It is clear that they will continue to play an important role in current and future conflicts. But in the vast majority of cases, that role will have far less to do with winning tank battles than with securing positive outcomes in asymmetric scenarios. By producing a massive show of force, tanks deliver an uncompromizing message to friends and foes alike, acting as a game-changer in conflict situations worldwide. New missions and new threats, coupled with availability of new technologies, are driving the need for modernization. What armies need now are efficient and cost-effective solutions.

Recent advances in survivability, lethality, command and control capabilities as well as reconnaissance and vision systems mean that there are now many new ways of significantly improving overall MBT performance. Moreover, new solutions for optimizing crew performance in warmer climatic zones are available, too.

Given the projected remaining service life of today's main battle tanks – the Leopard for example, is likely to be in military inventories for least another twenty years – a made-to-order expansion of capabilities is clearly a worthwhile investment.

As Europe's foremost supplier of systems and equipment for ground forces, Rheinmetall offers not only a full range of tactical vehicles, but also a unique array of C4I, fire control and sensor technologies, lethal systems and force protection solutions. Comprehensive service and maintenance support also form an integral part of the Group's expertise base, as do its wide spectrum of simulation and training systems, which includes state-of-the-art combat training centres.

These capabilities – deriving from a single source – are particularly pertinent in upgrade programmes, where the optimum interplay of new and existing components is crucial. Moreover, Rheinmetall has an extensive international network of partner companies. The Leopard, for example, embodies the combined expertise of Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall, two of the most trusted names in the German defence industry. Today, some 5,000 of these tanks are in service with satisfied user nations around the globe. Rheinmetall also serves as prime contractor for all Leopard-based bridge-laying tanks, armoured engineering and armoured recovery vehicles.

Labelled the MBT Revolution, Rheinmetall now offers a comprehensive upgrade package for main battle tanks – a modular concept capable of meeting the current operational needs of user nations as well as assuring adequate future growth potential.

Revolutionary aspects of the Rheinmetall concept include, in particular, a force protection package as well as an extensive array of reconnaissance systems with a comparatively modest increase in weight. Moreover, an optimized stowage concept keeps alteration of the vehicle's contours to a minimum.

The MBT Revolution at a glance:

  • Protection concept: Comprehensive protection from all current threats, including RPG 7, landmines, IEDs, bomblets, large-calibre KE ammunition and EO-, IR- and laser-guided weapons.
  • Digital turret core system: Fully integrated network capabilities, fully interoperable subsystems and components, with significantly shorter reaction times and smaller additional space requirements.
  • Fire control technology: An improved first round hit probability, especially when firing on the move.
  • New commander's periscope: Night fighting and observation capabilities, improved range and higher elevation angles (up to 70°).
  • Situational awareness system: 360° day and night near-field view of the vehicle's immediate surroundings, with automatic alarm and target-tracking functions.
  • Command and control system: New capabilities include real-time blue force tracking and red force visualization, augmented reality and MIP-DEM-based interoperability.
  • Commander's brake: A revolutionary innovation that enables the commander to stop the tank in critical situations
  • Secondary armament: State-of-the-art remote control weapon station, fully stabilized and flexibly configurable.
  • Ammunition: The world's first temperature-independent KE tank round and the latest generation of programmable HE ammunition.
  • Climate control: High performance air conditioning coupled with a new insulation concept in the fighting compartment, improved ventilation and thermal protection for the magazine.
  • Auxiliary power unit: High electric power generation (17 kW) and optimized intelligent energy balance of the vehicle.
  • External two-way communications system: Enables the crew to communicate with people outside of the tank.
  • Embedded logistics: Provides comprehensive monitoring of vehicle- and weapon system-relevant logistical data; linked with a central logistical information and evaluation system.
  • Weight class: MLC 70

Protection concept

By combining numerous individual components and measures, Rheinmetall created a comprehensive 360° protection concept that addresses virtually every current threat. Thanks to the use of highly advanced materials and technologies, the increase in weight is comparatively small. Further advantages include easy mounting and dismounting of the protective modules on the vehicle's exterior; the need for structural alteration is negligible.

Modular in design, the protection package contains the following elements:

  • Lateral protection of turret and hull against IED blasts, including shrapnel resulting from the detonation of multiple artillery shells or large explosively formed projectiles.
  • Protection of the hull against large-calibre KE rounds, precision guided munitions and guided and unguided antitank weapons.
  • Protection of the roof against artillery bomblet fragments.
  • Protection of the turret against large-calibre KE rounds, precision guided munitions and guided and unguided antitank weapons.
  • Protection of the vehicle's underside and interior from mine blasts.
  • Decoupled magazine
  • ROSY, Rheinmetall's unique new smoke/obscurant system, provides 360° protection against TV-, EO-, IR-, IIR-, laser and SCALOS-guided weapons. Unlike conventional smoke/obscurant systems, ROSY not only generates an instantaneous multispectral interruption of the line of sight in less than 0.6 seconds, it also produces a dynamic wall of smoke/obscurant which provides moving vehicles with lasting protection from multiple attacks.

Commander's brake

Using tanks in contemporary conflict zones imposes certain requirements, some of them entirely new. Today, military operations often take place in built-up, heavily populated places, where great care has to be taken to avoid harming innocent civilians, causing friendly casualties or inflicting other forms of collateral damage; if not, the ensuing political fallout can easily wipe out weeks of operational gains.

Rheinmetall has developed a commander's brake for the Leopard 2, which enables the commander to bring the tank to a partial or total halt. Observing, reconnoitring, identifying and engaging targets have long been subject to commander/gunner redundancy; now, for the first time, the critical safety feature of stopping the vehicle is available as an optional backup as well.

The commander's brake can be integrated into any Leopard 2-type tank or combat support vehicle at relatively low cost and minimal effort.

Digital turret concept

Today's tanks are equipped with analogue turret systems which fail to provide the commander with a night vision capability, and which offer only limited possibilities for observing the effectiveness of fire, for example, and no means of digitally transmitting or processing video signals.

Rheinmetall has developed two ways of improving performance here. The first keeps the core analogue system in place while adding advanced components (laser rangefinder, commander's periscope, gunner's thermal imaging system, etc.), which are integrated via interfaces. This economical solution makes it possible to bring important components up to date, and enables at least partial digitalization of the system. However, this solution fails to make the best use of the limited space in the turret, and makes obsolescence unavoidable.

Rheinmetall's globally unique digital turret concept, on the other hand, involves a complete overhaul of the core system, and is in many respects the optimum solution. This system requires considerably less space, and integrates all the components – from the vision system and fire control unit to the weapon engagement system to the C4I technology – into a single, highly efficient digital network, combining outstanding ergonomics, reliability and ease of use even in high-stress situations. The digital system reduces reaction times significantly, and increases the probability of a first-round hit. For the first time anywhere, an automated operating and weapon engagement concept gives the Rheinmetall system a hunter/killer capability. In connection with an intelligent C4I system, moreover, it features augmented reality as well as enabling training to take place directly in the vehicle in simulation mode.

Reconnaissance systems

The Seoss digital fire control unit, which stands for "stabilized electro-optical sensor system", provides an enhanced vision capability. Two-axis stabilized, it is equipped with a Saphir thermal imaging device, a daylight camera and an eye-safe laser rangefinder. The data required for evaluating the situation – including the target, system status, range and ammunition type – appear on a display in the fighting compartment. Seoss enables day and night engagement of targets even when the tank is on the move, including in periods of limited visibility. The user can choose between a 360° panoramic view of the battlefield or a coaxial, weapon-aligned perspective. Seoss also features an integrated fire control computer for six different types of ammunition.

In addition, an integrated Situational Awareness System, SAS, provides a panoramic view of the immediate vicinity of the tank, automatically detecting and tracking potential targets, helping to relieve pressure on the crew. The SAS consists of two to four modules, each covering 3 x 60°, plus high-definition colour cameras and high-performance night vision components. An interface to the fire control unit enables instant transmission of detected target data, enabling immediate engagement of emerging threats, primarily with the newly developed Qimek weapon station.

Ferngesteuerte Waffenstation

Auch die neu entwickelte fernbedienbare Waffenstation Qimek ist ein wesentliches Element für einen wirksamen Eigenschutz. Modulares Design und ein hoher Grad an Flexibilität zeichnen die vollstabilisierte Waffenstation Qimek aus. Ausgestattet mit einer Universalwiege kann das System unterschiedliche Waffen inklusive eines 40mm-Granatwerfers aufnehmen. Nahezu jedes optische System kann in die Waffenstation integriert werden. Mit einem Gesamtgewicht von 200 kg ist Qimek eine ideale Waffenstation zum Nahbereichs-Selbstschutz des Fahrzeugs in unterschiedlichsten Einsatzszenarien.

Lethal systems

Rheinmetall is one of the world's leading suppliers of large-calibre weapons and ammunition. The company's globally acclaimed smoothbore L44 and L55 tank guns combine tremendous firepower with a high first round hit probability, even when the tank is on the move. Particularly in the field of weapons and ammunition, recent technological breakthroughs have let Rheinmetall make a vital contribution to the unsurpassed combat effectiveness of the Leopard MBT.

Rheinmetall's latest ammunition product is the DM 11, a 120mm HE tank round. Owing to its time-delay fuse, it is especially suitable for supporting infantry units tasked with taking lightly fortified positions as well as for engaging light and medium-weight armoured vehicles. After loading, an electronic module programs the time-delay fuse to detonate at a specific point in the projectile's flight path: the round can be timed to explode for maximum effect either above, in front or inside of a target (e.g. after penetrating a wall). The DM 11 is thus a perfect match for the altered operational requirements of modern main battle tanks.

Based on the kinetic energy principle, the DM 53 (LKE II) is specifically designed to penetrate the latest multilayer tank armour, including reactive armour modules. The penetrator consists of a special tungsten alloy. The DM 53 can be fired from Rheinmetall L 44 and L55 tank guns.

Rheinmetall has developed the world's first temperature-independent high-performance tank ammunition, the DM 63 and DM 53 A1 (the latter is an upgraded version of the DM 53). What sets this round apart is its temperature-independent propulsion system (TIPS), which maintains its internal ballistic characteristics at a constant level through a broad temperature span. This new generation of ammunition is considerably more accurate and causes substantially less barrel erosion. The DM 63 can be used in climatic zones C2 to A1, and fired from any 120mm smoothbore tank gun.

The company's newly developed 120mm PELE is an inert round. It contains no explosive and is therefore extremely safe to handle. When it hits its target, the low-density material inside the projectile becomes so compressed that it causes the warhead to burst, resulting in a large number of fragments, which travel exclusively in the round's trajectory. This is especially advantageous in the case of semi-hard targets. PELE can be retrofitted into multipurpose ammunition or armour piercing rounds.

C4I and network-enabled warfare capabilities

Featuring uniform system architecture, Rheinmetall's INIOCHOS command and information system is available for very echelon from brigade headquarters all the way down the individual soldier on the ground. A growing number of countries, including Greece, Spain, Sweden and Hungary have already opted for C4I solutions from Rheinmetall.

INIOCHOS is a family of tactical command and control systems whose functionalities can be adapted to specific operational spheres, e.g. a tactical operations centre, tactical vehicle or dismounted infantry. One of its most prominent features is systematic application of NATO interoperability standards, a critical advantage during international operations. This standardized system enables soldiers from participating nations to generate and share a common, role-oriented operating picture.

The INIOCHOS family consists of a command post system for brigade and battalion level operations (INIOCHOS C), a tactical vehicle C4I system (INIOCHOS V), and an application optimized for dismounted troops, INIOCHOS S.

Designed to support modern tactical operations, INIOCHOS incorporates the full range of current interoperability standards used in combined and joint operations. User- and role-specific configurability, scalability and a concept enabling joint use mean that this system is equally effective at every level from brigade to individual soldier. The flexible communications concept enables all participants to remain in direct contact via the combat radio net.

Climate control

An entirely new air conditioning and ventilation concept ensures maximum crew comfort even in warmer climates. Air conditioning and thermal insulation in the fighting compartment, coupled with optimum ventilation and separate cooling of the driver's compartment, result in a level of efficiency never attained before. Moreover, by ensuring that the ammunition on board remains fully functional, thermal insulation of the magazine contributes to operational safety. Thanks to intelligent control, the new climate control system automatically adapts to changing ambient conditions, assuring optimum use of energy. Simple cleaning and maintenance procedures are an added plus.

Auxiliary power unit

APUs have become increasingly important, especially in light of recent technical developments. Using an APU can optimize a vehicle's energy balance. In many cases battery capacity is insufficient, especially when older types are used. If the battery power drops below a certain level the engine has to be started to recharge them. This results in excessive fuel consumption as well as producing unwelcome noise and heat. Fitting an APU can solve this problem.

Service portfolio

Both at home and abroad, Rheinmetall's longstanding experience in the defence technology sector makes it a competent and reliable partner, and service is no exception. The company's service portfolio encompasses logistical analysis and support, efficient project management as well as innovative holistic concepts such as embedded logistics and telemaintenance for optimizing logistical operations during foreign deployments, etc.

Rheinmetall's Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) program merits special mention. CLS is an integrated package of services that guarantees the availability and readiness of an entire fleet of vehicles. The CLS program encompasses weapon systems as well as vehicles, and is by no means restricted to routine peacetime operations.

The first service contract of this kind was signed in 1991 with the US Army, primarily in support of operations in the Gulf. Today, along with the US military, CLI clients include the armed forces of the UK, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Arab Emirates. In Germany, the Rheinmetall subsidiary Heeresinstandsetzungslogistik GmbH is responsible for keeping much of the German Army's fleet of vehicles up and running.

To sum up. Balancing force protection and force projection, the main battle tank clearly has an important part to play in modern warfare and conflict management. No other land system combines firepower, survivability and mobility in quite the same way: its mere presence on the battlefield has the power to reassure friendly troops and break enemy morale. By creating greater operational flexibility, the many options of the MBT Revolution make it an economical solution that enables greater use of potentially war-winning weapons systems already in military inventories.

Rheinmetall AG

Corporate Sector Defence
Press and Information
Oliver Hoffmann
Rheinmetall Platz 1
40476 Düsseldorf
Germany
Phone: +49 211 473-4748
Fax: +49 211 473-4157