Nächstbereichschutzsystem Modular, Automatic and Network capable Targeting and Interception System (NBS MANTIS) is the latest very short-range protection system of the German Air Force, intended for base-protection, particularly in Afghanistan. Formerly known as NBS C-RAM (counter-rocket, artillery and mortar), the 35mm fully automated air defence system has been developed by Rheinmetall Air Defence ( a subsidiary of Rheinmetall of Germany) for the the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr). It is a part of the air force’s future SysFla air-defence project. The NBS MANTIS system is supposed to detect, track and shoot down incoming projectiles before they can reach their target within very close range. The system itself is based on Oerlikon Contraves’ Skyshield air defence gun system.
The NBS MANTIS Air Defence Protection System consists of six 35mm automatic guns (capable of firing 1,000 rounds per minute), a ground control unit and two sensor units. The entire system is fully automated. The sensor system comprises of radar, effectors and electro-optical sensors installed on the base perimeter. The MANTIS protection system is totally automated and operates 24/7. A radar sensor in the control system recognises missiles fired onto a base from about 3km. The automatic process enables the guns to fire on the threat instantly in the calculated flight path. The response time for the system to detect and fire the target is expected to be 4.5 seconds. MANTIS’ control system is also capable of tracking the location of the assailants along with the flight path and point of impact.
The firing of the guns is based on mission-specific programmable and air burst advanced hit efficiency and destruction (AHEAD) ammunition, a technology developed by Rheinmetall Weapons and Munitions, formerly Oerlikon Contraves Pyrotec. The guns are capable of firing 1,000 rounds per minute. The ammunition has a payload of 152 tungsten projectiles, weighing 3.3g each. The AHEAD technology enables the air defence gun’s capability to track and destroy the aerial targets. The MANTIS gun fires 24 round burst, high-velocity AHEAD rounds at the target’s intercept point. The projectiles from the gun are programmed through a muzzle-based electromagnetic inductor. The technology activates and separates the projectiles into 152 heavy tungsten metal spin-stabilised sub-projectiles as per an electronic timer. The sub-projectiles of 3.3g each form a lethal cone-shaped metal cloud in the flight path of the incoming target.
The Bundeswehr did not have weapon systems to tackle the intercepting small incoming projectiles. The army bases in Masar-I-Sharif and Kunduz were under several attacks by insurgents. In March 2007, the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) contracted Rheinmetall Air Defence (formerly Oerlikon Contraves) to develop the NBS C-RAM close-range protection system. Originally, the German Army ordered a first batch of two systems in 2009, with two more following in 2013. All MANTIS systems have been transferred to the German Air Force, which is now responsible for all air defence tasks. The first two systems cost around €110.8 million, plus another €20 million for training and documentation purposes. In a follow-on contract, worth around €13.4 million, Rheinmetall will also deliver the corresponding ammunition to the German Army. The German Bundeswehr took over the first MANTIS system on January 1, 2011.