Military installations such as forward operating bases are vulnerable to rocket, artillery and mortar (RAM) attacks, a threat that also extends to civilian infrastructure in many parts of the world. Indeed, such weapons have become tools of choice in asymmetric conflicts, with militants carrying out attacks with ever-smaller, ever-more effective projectiles – with little or no warning and often launched from built-up areas. A core element of Rheinmetall’s response to the RAM threat is its Oerlikon Ahead technology. The ability to alter the time of ejection enables Ahead ammunition to deal effectively with a wide array of current and future battlefield threats, while keeping collateral damage to an absolute minimum.
The 35 mm Ahead system, consists of measurement and programming units, control electronics and programmable Ahead ammunition. It can be fitted to any suitable automatic cannon and then successfully engage small, fast aerial targets with a high kill probability. Each Ahead round contains 152 tungsten sub-projectiles which are ejected immediately in front of the oncoming target. The measurement unit determines the velocity of each Ahead round prior to muzzle exit. Based on this data, the control electronics calculates the sub-projectile ejection time, which is transmitted via the programming unit to the time fuse in the projectile.
Along with ECM-proof sensors, C4I technology and effectors (in this case, 35mm revolver guns with a high rate of fire), ammunition too is destined to play an increasingly important role in defeating the RAM threat the Rheinmetall way. The company’s 35mm x 228 Ahead ammunition significantly enhances the combat effectiveness of modern automatic cannon. As the rounds leave the barrel, the time delay fuse in each projectile is programmed to eject its lethal payload of spin-stabilized tungsten cylinders at the optimum moment, taking into account the distance to the target and the round’s initial velocity.
Ahead ammunition, resulting in an ordnance-based air defence capability that enables successful engagement of small and very small targets, gives Rheinmetall a unique edge in this critical domain. The system has now been operational for 13 years, during which time it has proved highly reliable – a fact confirmed by the sharp increase in demand for this product in the international defence market. Ahead technology also plays a critical role in the short- and very-short-range protection system (MOOTW) which Rheinmetall is currently developing on behalf of the German Bundeswehr. This MOOTW system marks a new chapter in the development of SysFla, the Bundeswehr’s comprehensive new air defence capability.