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It is now common knowledge that stand side by side equally in Germany the national and Alliance defense and forces in international crisis management. The White Paper of the Federal Government and the following documents describe - also due to the Russian aggression in Ukraine / Crimea - the necessary paradigm shift.

Combat vehicles and vehicles of the tactical country mobility make a decisive contribution to the success of military land operations, they meet in all skill categories crucial tasks. In the future, possible threat spectrum of the land forces, the protection of crews and the vehicles present a special challenge.

The threat

The military activities of the armed forces and the NATO allies are more complex. The associated threats have become more extensive and more dangerous as the threats of symmetrical warfare may be overshadowed by threats of asymmetric warfare.

Fennek by bombardment with RPG-7 (Photo: Bundeswehr)

In the White Paper 2016, the federal government is held: "Overall, the risk spectrum is broad, diverse and unpredictable for our security."

Land vehicles are the entire mission spectrum essentially completely by active means such. As explosives (improvised explosive devices, IED or explosively formed penetrator, EFP), mines, chippings and direct fire weapons (such as kinetic energy projectiles, KE) and threatened antitank hand weapons.

In the current operations within the framework of international crisis management is the threat of mines, IEDs and anti-tank hand weapons such. As the RPG-7 particularly acute. The danger of the RPG-7 is due to the high penetrating power and is also in the fact that it is inexpensive, was built in very high quantities worldwide and is available in all areas of conflict.

It also creates new threats. So RPG also be used on roofs in top attack mode and IED are with EFP effect and with high quantities of explosives for. B. culverts (Culvert Mines) was used.

Current threat vectors for armored wheeled and tracked vehicles (Graphic: Horst / mawibo media)

For operations within the framework of national and alliance defense also new Russian battle tanks developments (eg. B. Armata T-14) lead and carried out in recent years, modernization and ongoing combat efficiency of the Russian combat and armored personnel carriers to a significant increase in the threat potential. Essentially, the performance firepower and protection of main battle tanks were considerably improved. The Russian 125-mm smoothbore gun also allows the use of KE-projectiles up to 695 mm long modern penetrators, with high penetration capabilities (at least 600 mm Rolled Homogeneous Armor, RHA) are achieved. and Laser-guided missiles with tandem HL-warhead can be fired from the weapon.

So the new threat is the use of large-caliber KE penetrators, high cadence smaller KE penetrators and laser-guided missiles with tandem HL-warhead. Reactive and active protection technologies, improvements in fire control and a strong armament are the main features of this battle tank variants. The new battle tank Armata T-14 and the conversion of variants T-72, T-80 and T-90 set to address the hazard developmental technological leap that will affect not only a possible new generation of western battle tank developments but also the development of new antitank technologies of all kinds.

The military defense of understanding

In the armed forces of protection in the sub-concept describes "protection of forces and equipment in use" from a military point of view. Here is meant by protecting all legal remedies with threats, especially by enemy action. Protection helps to preserve one's own capacity and readiness of its own forces and resources.

The overall protection concept (Source: Bundeswehr WTD 91 / mawibo media)

During the "indirect protection" on policies, procedures and the organization aims to prevent the occurrence of a threat in advance, which is "direct protection" of active, reactive and passive protection measures.

In the following article, it is essentially about the "direct protection" and especially passive, reactive and active distance protection solutions and their possible combination.

possible solutions

The requirements for protection have increased significantly in recent years and by multiple threats. What is needed is always a stable framework that can accommodate the residual amounts of energy or of projectiles / projectile parts safely. Military land vehicles, however, are limited by the volume and the weight on the possibilities for protection.

passive protection

The basic protection of pure steel structure is not sufficient, as a rule, to achieve protection against higher threats. Pure passive protection solutions and add-on solutions (new types of steel, ceramics, lining material, composite armor plates, Bulkhead and Beulblechpanzerung) do not provide complete protection and because of the often required air transportability in available aircraft types as well as the always limited weight reserves are not feasible. Weight and construction volume of this solution way beyond even the weight and volume of construction limitations of current German battle tank.

Concepts and protection solutions at LMV Iveco (Photo: Horst)

With the use of materials with equal or better performance (eg, titanium) with respect to steel have a lower density or the hydrodynamic penetration more resistance set (glass, ceramic, composite armor) were partially achieved great success. But more such benefits have been paid for by a larger volume and / or a high price, the weight savings usually are not more than 50 percent. Whether steel armor, new composite materials or ceramic composite systems are used, it should be achieved in addition to a high protection factor and significant weight savings.

Even with today's modern materials (eg. As nano-materials) would exceed the tactical weight limits of the platforms. But as significant improvements in material properties can not be predicted, alternative approaches must be found to increase the protection of crews without affecting the mobility of land vehicles significantly.

Passive protection solution against large KE-projectiles for a battle tank (Photo: Horst)

(Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, IBD Deisenroth Engineering GmbH, CPCE Protection GmbH eg Rheinmetall) from materials with high protective properties of specialty companies made - for land vehicles with integrated protective vehicle covers are - using the largest possible components and thus fewer welds or fasteners. The production requires special know-how in dealing with the special materials particularly when bending and welding.

In recent years, IBD Deisenroth Engineering (Rheinmetall Protection Systems since June 1, 2019) develops concepts and solutions that came in several vehicles to be used. IBD / RPS has developed a range of high-strength nano-materials based on metals, ceramics and fiber composites that have a significantly increased energy absorption capability. By combining these materials in hybrid solutions new protection solutions can be developed to cover the complete range of threats and all relevant threat levels. As a hybrid solution in 3D fiber composite moldings embedded, metals and ceramics can also protect complex areas of the vehicle and include ballistic gaps. The new protection technologies are 4569 Level 2 to 6 used both for the complete range of STANAG and against large-caliber threats. They also offer protection against all known types of BLAST and splitter IED.

If these measures to meet the protection capabilities not, one must come to further protection solutions or combinations of protective systems, which could also modular apply.

reactive protection

The reactive protection There are basically explosive, reagiblen, non-explosive and electric armor. Especially explosive reactive protection solutions are characterized by significant achievements in the protection and are in many nations of vehicles in use for a long time.

Function of the reactive protection in an X-ray flash photograph, the beam of the spike is deflected and broken. (Photo: DND)

The explosive reactive protection (Explosive Reactive Armor, ERA) provides the shaped charge jet contrary not only armor material, it does not disturb the projectile itself, but works with a the shaped charge jet itself disruptive defensive principle. This reaction must of course be done very quickly, because play after hitting the grenade the processes at very high speed. Therefore turn comes here as an effective means of explosives into question. Between two plates (made of metal or also of composite material), one or more layers of explosive to be attached. An impinging hollow charge jet will trigger the explosive which then accelerates the beam at an angle against the plates and holds erect a high blast effects in the space. This mechanism leads to a drastic reduction in the penetration depth of the shaped charge jet.

Of course, the overall size of the structure and the amount of explosives after the performance to be controlled threat directed. In practice, reactive protective elements come in boxes used. Therefore, the effect usually is confined to a box after a hit. The boxes are by weight such that they can be mounted by the crew of the vehicle without much effort or replaced.

Of course, the weight and the volume of construction of such a protection order as compared to a steel armor are interesting for practical use on vehicles. The use of reactive protection is achieved a weight reduction of up to 90 percent compared to a pure steel solution. Is reactive protection used on a vehicle, extremely insensitive explosives are used. Detonate only one impact of a shaped charge jet and stay with the fire with machine guns, powerful KE ammunition or the effects of IED passive. Neighboring boxes do not respond because only the active elements directly taken from the shaped charge jet detonate.

The protection must be examined not only in terms of its ballistic effectiveness, but also the so-called system compatibility and compliance with special security requirements need to be considered. The reactive protection must be exactly as the vehicle to withstand various environmental conditions without losing its effect and its insensitivity or change its properties. This includes standard test methods to temperature changes, rain, sand, lightning, shock and fire with different weapons and ammunition types.

SPz Puma with upgraded reactive protective elements of DND (Photo: PSM)

Mainly due to fears of collateral damage it was the reactive protection in Germany vis skeptical. Here only led the consistent use of nichtsplitterfähigem material and the use of a special very insensitive explosive for acceptance. It used composite plates and plastic screws, which decompose upon reaction of the explosive in the immediate vicinity of the bombarded vehicle and do not produce dangerous splinters. During the qualification existing security concerns could be overcome, so now is an effective and harmless product to protect military vehicles (eg. As the Puma infantry fighting vehicle) is available. Manufacturer of reactive protection is the company Dynamit Nobel Defense GmbH.

SMART Protech on a vehicle side (Graphic: RPS)

With the development of SMART Protech it is pure metal protection system managed to be able to provide effective protection in particular against shaped charges. The base member is a module that includes a sensor and one or two countermeasures, depends on the module size and its position on the vehicle. By the impact of the threat on the module surface associated countermeasure is triggered.

The energy beam generated by it is oriented so that it destroys the main warhead before the shaped charge sting developed. The modules can not be triggered by small and medium-caliber weapons.

Operating principle SMART Protech (Graphic: RPS)

Active distance protection solutions (Hard kill)

The protection of combat and transport vehicles against shaped-charge warheads is a special challenge. The use of conventional protective materials (steel, ceramics, composite materials), but also more active, acting with explosives protective elements is difficult to achieve in terms of the volume and weight of vehicles, without affecting the mobility characteristics significantly. This type of threats can be countered with standoff protection systems that operate on the hard-kill system.

In the 1980s, the first hard-kill protection systems have been introduced on the Russian battle tanks. In other armies it was far more reserved regarding the use of this automatic defense systems.

Since guided and unguided missile of anti-tank weapons usually a comparatively low speed (150 m / s to 400 m / s), which available time between firing and hitting the active agent leaves the vehicle the possibility to actively fight the projectiles and destroy by countermeasures.

Distance Active protection systems are offered worldwide by some companies and some are on combat vehicles already in use. By some companies systems for use on combat vehicles and lighter systems are available for use on wheeled vehicles.

Trophy Rafael is successfully used in Israel on the Merkava battle tanks. (Photo: IDF)

When Trophy Rafael are recorded with a radar threats, tracks and off of small shaped charges using a Feuerleitcomputers featuring a series. Trophy is used in Israel to successfully combat vehicles (Merkava). The US Army procured a Trophy interim solution for their battle tank M1 Abrams and Iron Fist intermediate solution of Elbit (formerly IMI) system for the Bradley vehicles. Investigations by the US Army to equip the Stryker fleet with a standoff protection system have not yet been satisfactorily completed and are ongoing. Presumably here claims to the vehicle structure in conjunction with weight and space challenges decisive.

Functionality Trophy (Video: Rafael)

Through the so-called IS destroyed Turkish Leopard 2 battle tank (Photo: Horst)

The lack of standoff protection systems also provides for the German battle tank is a known weakness for years, which was last significantly in January 2017 was due to this lack of protection destroyed by IS-forces as a Turkish battle tank Leopard 2 A4. As part of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force country 2023 17 Leopard main battle tank will be equipped with 2 Trophy.

Iron Curtain Artis uses radar and optical sensors to the opinion of goals and fought them to calculate the threat with counter ammunition. Attacks can be blocked in a few inches away before impact. A proof functionality as part of the US Army test program active hard-kill protection systems could not be provided for Iron Curtain. As a result, the US Army has decided to include the German ADS system of Rheinmetall in the test program and test extensively.

Iron Fist of Elbit is a distance-active protection system, which was neutralized with a defense projectile threat detected. With radar and infrared sensors approaching threats (including anti-tank grenades and rockets) are detected. In optimal distance from the missile defense body is started which detonates near the target, and with its pressure wave disturbs the approaching threat or the shaped charge at some distance from the protected platform brings to trigger.

Operation Iron Fist (Video: Elbit Systems)

AVePS (Active Vehicle Protection System) Diehl is a bowler-based protection system, the effectors verschießt against approaching threats. Combined radar and IR sensors are used for detecting and tracking the threat from a distance of several hundred meters as well at close range.

Defense against an attack ATGM-blank range with a system of ADS (Photo: Rheinmetall)

The Active Defense System (ADS) Rheinmetall has radar-based and redundant electro-optical sensors, which cause the activation of a protection sector in detected threat. Threats are destroyed by the directed (pyrotechnically generated) Blast effect. The system is particularly effective in multi-hit scenarios and can be adapted to each vehicle size.

Missiles are detected on approach and destroys directional blast effect immediately before the goal. The active charges are fixedly arranged around the vehicle and do not use rotary thrower. The sensor tracks the trajectory and determined the defense logic, whether the weapon will hit. If a flyby before, the other components are not capitalized.

The system ADS-Gen3 was designed with a graded number of redundant sensors and destruction charges at least three attacks in any area - can withstand - and at the same time from different directions. A destruction of the threat from ten meters in front of the carrier vehicle is therefore possible.

The extremely short reaction time - the reaction times of the ADS Gen3 range below milliseconds - coupled with the ability to mitigate threats shortest distance, gives additional advantages:

The sensor system of the ADS Gen3 only monitors a radius of about 30 meters around the vehicle to be protected. Thus, it is compared to rocket systems, which have a longer response time and therefore must reliably detect a target much earlier, little radiated electromagnetic energy. The small distance monitoring of the ADS Gen3 radar enhances a higher resolution at which both arms with a low radar profile can be reliably detected and staggered attacks are detected. The low Abstrahlenergie also reduces the interference with vehicles in the immediate vicinity, and the precise control in absolute close range destroyed the attacking projectile, without the actual firing of the warhead takes place.

The reaction times required ADS Gen3 require autonomous functions. The functional safety and system security in the focus that has been consistently implemented on the basis of ISO 61508 is. , System security in this context means that inadvertent operation with a very high probability is excluded. The triad of functional verification, reduced Kollateraleffekten and proven system security must be met in order to ensure a manageable and reliable introduction on vehicles of the armed forces and to cause confidence in this technology.

Functionality ADS (Video: Rheinmetall)

Distance Active hard-kill systems generally offer the potential to improve the protection of personnel in the field, especially in the protection against bullets from anti-tank weapons and guided missiles. The defense of fast-flying big KE-projectiles KE projectiles at high rates and IED / EFP effects require additional protective measures.

Active distance protection solutions (soft kill)

MUST-sensors on the Puma infantry fighting vehicle (Photo: KMW)

The distance active Multifunctional self-protection system (MUST) of HENSOLDT is integrated in the Puma infantry fighting vehicle. The Puma IFV is considered the best-protected armored personnel currently in its class. The system works on the soft-kill principle. Approaching missiles are dissuaded by the failure of steering systems from the course, or the target is obscured for the collection systems so that results can be avoided. MUST protects against both laser- and wire-guided missiles, and is suitable for use against fire-and-forget weapons. The system, however, does not protect against unguided antitank hand weapons that are brought to the finish with all-optical sighting.

The future

The multitude of possible threats from incendiary about IED effects through to large-caliber KE-basement of a modern enemy battle tank requires optimal coordination of the individual protection components. The design of protection systems for military vehicles crucial Abhäng- of the threat and can only be realized in an overall system approach. Land vehicles must be designed so that various protection measures may be combined to suit threat to a maximum guard value. The solution lies in hybrid measures and the intelligent combination of protection technologies.

In addition, the individual systems can - especially with regard to emerging threats such. As by KE penetrators - are optimized to improve the protective effect. Active safety systems are both supported by passive and reactive solutions such. For example, by the design of the reactive armor in response to KE-threat (higher explosive sensitivity) or by the combination of passive and reactive solutions. Since distance active protection systems against KE threats (symmetric warfare) and top attack attacks are not very suitable and excrete pure passive solutions for weight and volume of construction generally, there is here a need for the effective combination of passive and reactive protection technologies. z is in the significant reduction of the effect of modern KE-projectiles. B. worked through a combination of passive and explosive reactive armor protection.

Passive, reactive and active protection solutions should be implemented in cooperation of various protection technologies so because the only way of optimally possible protection can be achieved by land vehicles. As a German manufacturer Rheinmetall - most recently with the inclusion of IBD Deisenroth Engineering and all protection technologies available in the Group (Hard-kill protection, soft-kill protection and liability protection production) in Rheinmetall Protection Systems GmbH - responds to this need and for the first time to offer comprehensive and holistic protection solutions capable.

One hundred percent protection can not exist. but the residual risk must be as low as possible are kept, and the protection not least in view of the duty of care of the employer a high priority. It now also matters to implement the military protection requirements in subsequent documents of the Bundeswehr Concept so that a common understanding with financial resources, sophisticated, realistic achievable level of protection required and is promptly reached.

Michael Horst