Press commentary: Multifaceted systems for a today’s multifaceted combat engineers

Combat engineers have the task of enhancing the mobility and survivability of friendly forces, while simultaneously hemming in and channelizing the enemy. In order to perform their multifaceted mission, combat engineers need versatile, flexibly deployable equipment. A competent partner with a proven track record, Rheinmetall offers just the right solutions

The Rheinmetall Group’s Kodiak armoured engineering vehicle, its Route Clearance System and KAI, the EOD reconnaissance version of its Fuchs/Fox armoured transport vehicle, serve as veritable force multipliers for today’s combat engineers.

The Kodiak armoured engineering vehicle

It wasn’t until the beginning of the new millennium that a project was launched to develop a state-of-the-art combat engineering vehicle based on the Leopard 2. The Armoured Engineer Vehicle 3 (AEV3) – the “Kodiak” in Rheinmetall parlance – is the world’s only newly developed, currently fielded armoured engineering vehicle with its own anti-mine protection concept on the basis of the Leopard 2. The Kodiak is Rheinmetall’s entry in the competition to supply the Bundeswehr with a new armoured engineering vehicle.

The new AEV features a central design concept: unlike retrofitted armoured recovery vehicles, the crane boom isn’t located on one side of the vehicle, but right in the middle. This offers the major advantage of making it easier for the crew to see what they’re doing while working, and also allows the vehicle to operate more easily in confined spaces. The Kodiak is in the 70-tonne Military Load Class (MLC 70), while its mine-protected Leopard 2 chassis and 1,100 kW diesel engine assure outstanding mobility.

The vehicle is equipped with a high-performance hinged arm excavator with a shovel volume of one cubic metre. This means it is able to move around 200 cubic metres of earth per hour. Moreover, it can lift objects weighing some 3.5 tonnes with its crane boom. And, thanks to a hydraulically actuated quick coupling device, combat engineer-specific and standard commercial tools such as a universal gripper or concrete crusher can also be fitted.

In addition, the Kodiak features a tiltable, 1.11 metre-tall dozer blade with expandable width (from 3.42 to 4.02 metres) as well as an adjustable cutting angle. If required, it can be replaced with a Pearson mine plough. Its mine-clearing equipment includes a Pearson LMS lane-marking system, with fifty marking posts per side. The vehicle also features an interface for the Demeter 2 mine destruction system. As an option, it can also be equipped with a PMBS Plofadder minefield demolition system. All of the exchangeable tools and mine clearing systems can be handled with multi hook-lift changing pallets.

Furthermore, the Kodiak is outfitted with a versatile double winch system with 9-tonne capstan winches. And an auxiliary power unit can supply 4.2 kW of electricity if required. To defend itself, the vehicle is armed with a remote control weapon station and smoke/obscurant dispenser.

Six cameras on the crane boom, dozer blade and the front and rear of the vehicle provide the two- or three-person crew with a panoramic view and enable them to switch tools and carry out the full range combat engineer-specific tasks without leaving the safety of the fighting compartment.

As a result, the Kodiak is capable – among other things – of breaching minefields, tearing up field fortifications as well as erecting and dismantling obstacles. Besides military operations, the vehicle’s array of equipment makes it ideal for disaster relief missions and civil-military cooperation programmes.

Rheinmetall jointly manufactures and markets the Kodiak in a consortium with RUAG Defence, the Swiss Army’s strategic technology partner. Along with the Swiss military, the Swedish and Dutch armies are adding the Kodiak to their inventories, together with the “Bergepanzer 3” armoured recovery vehicle, also made by Rheinmetall.

Rheinmetall’s "Route Clearance System" (RCSys) – a high-tech system of systems

The Route Clearance System, or RCSys for short, developed by Rheinmetall on behalf the German Bundeswehr, is a cutting-edge system for detecting mines and improvised explosive devices. It is designed to do a more efficient job of detecting explosive devices in the ground, thus making it safer for convoys, etc., to travel on frequently used routes. In hazardous operations like this, remote control systems offer a major advantage: crewmembers can perform their task from the safety of an armoured vehicle, remaining outside of the danger zone.

Intended for heavy-duty EOD operations, seven systems were supplied to the Bundeswehr as part of the “German Route Clearing Packages (GRCP)”. A complete system consists of the following vehicles: a crew vehicle, a detector vehicle, a manipulator vehicle and a transport vehicle. Operating in unison, they are used for remote control detection of mines and other explosive devices as well as for transport.

The remote control Wiesel detector vehicle, featuring a newly developed dual sensor with integrated ground penetrating radar and a metal detector, has the task of detecting mines and IEDs in the segment of the route being searched by the Route Clearance System. Mobile and heavily protected, a Fuchs/Fox 1A8 is outfitted with workstations for remote control operations and evaluating signals from the dual sensor.

Ordered separately, the remote control “MiniMineWolf” manipulator vehicle has the task of neutralizing dangerous explosive devices. Depending on mission requirements, the 10-tonne vehicle can be equipped with a variety of different tools, including a manipulator arm, rotary tiller or bulldozer blade. An integrated video system keeps the operators in the crew vehicle directly informed of the situation on the ground at all times. The MiniMinewolf is already in service with the Swiss armed forces.

Multi FSA logistical vehicles from Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles (RMMV) are used for transporting the vehicles comprising the Route Clearance System.

Fuchs/Fox 1A8 armoured EOD vehicle

Developed by Rheinmetall, a high-precision bomb disposal manipulator arm has been successfully integrated into the Group’s Fuchs/Fox armoured EOD vehicle, or “KAI”, short for “Kampfmittelaufklärung und –identifizierung”. With an operating reach of over ten metres and a robust lifting capacity, it can be used to verify and manipulate suspicious objects from a safe standoff.

At the end of 2012, the Bundeswehr ordered seven Fuchs/Fox vehicles configured for an EOD role. They are slated for delivery between October 2015 and the end of 2016. The order is worth around €37 million. These vehicles reinforce the German military’s Route Clearance System, which enables detection and neutralization of improvised explosive devices from the safety of an armoured fighting compartment. This represents a significant advance, as EOD operations with handheld devices are labour intensive and time consuming as well as very dangerous.

The Fuchs/Fox KAI reinforces the Bundeswehr’s heavy-duty EOD capability, and is designed to reconnoitre places the Route Clearance System can’t reach. In addition, the Fuchs/Fox KAI is intended to serve as an autonomous EOD detection system capable of reconnoitring hotspots during convoy operations.

The platform vehicle for the KAI is the Fuchs/Fox 1A8, the latest version of Rheinmetall’s tried-and-tested armoured transport vehicle. It features excellent protection from landmines and IEDs, as well as advanced protection elements and special suspended seating that keeps the crew’s feet off the floor of the hull. The KAI’s most salient feature is its multiple-joint, high-precision manipulator arm, with a 10-metre-plus operating reach and 400 kg lifting capacity. This enables EOD personnel to investigate and identify unexploded ordnance and booby traps from a safe distance.

The manipulator arm can be fitted with two different tools. The first is a dual sensor, an 80-cm variant of the RCSys sensor. It enables inspection of suspicious spots and helps the operator to determine if an IED has been buried there. It also features a tool camera. This device, mounted on a pan-and-tilt head, enables inspection of hard-to-see places such as drainage pipes or behind walls to check for the presence of explosive devices. Moreover, a special rescue platform can be attached to the manipulator arm in order to evacuate personnel from a danger zone.

Source: Wehrtechnischer Report, 2/2015 issue

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