Since the beginning of armed conflicts, combat operations were defined by the factors of forces, space and time. The challenge of future battles in the context of national and alliance defence is similarly challenging for many modern armed forces and is presented as follows:
In principle, a fight against a near-peer opponent must be assumed. Furthermore, based on the experience of the current Ukrainian conflict, it must be assumed that wars or conflicts can arise without long warning periods.
Therefore, the reality for military leaders will be as follows:
- Hold or take overstretched areas with a limited amount of personnel.
- Conduct operations on a "transparent battlefield". Preserving information, reliable transmitting and processing of all incoming data is crucially important.
- Provide electronic warfare counter measures with redundant command channels, which use modern command and control systems with access to Battle Management Systems (BMS) and recourse in analogue form should there be digital space disruptions.
In view of potential COVID 19-related cost-cutting measures across many armed forces, modernisation projects and operational readiness will only succeed if the efficiency of the systems can play a decisive role in the new procured weapons systems effectiveness.
Requirements for future mortar systems
The infantry's fire support capabilities are crucial, as they are quickly deployable, cover large areas with available effect and comparatively small forces and logistic footprint. Future mortar systems must meet several criteria simultaneously to make a decisive contribution to combat operations. In terms of survivability, speed of engagement and command and control, their performance must significantly improve in comparison to systems currently in use with many armed forces, including the Bundeswehr, by integrating weapon systems and the BMS in the digital space.
It is also of interest to simplify the training of system operators and increase the effect of weapon systems accuracy, range and lethality.
Since the described requirements already exist (due to the ongoing operations) there is little time for developing new systems. The risks inherent in these systems are sometimes difficult to control, from the initial development phase until it is operationally ready.
Mission-ready systems for the performance upgrades of mortars
Hirtenberger Defence Systems (HDS) already offers market-available, cost-efficient and superior systems for enhancing the combat effectiveness of mortar systems of all common NATO calibres currently in use.
GRid Aiming Mode - GRAM
By 2017, Hirtenberger’s GRAM electronic aiming device already on the market, now has several additional functions. The globally unique device is add-on-capable and can enhance the combat effectiveness of all common 60 mm mortars, including all commando mortar models. Weighing only 900 g, the GRAM combines several sensors for determining the orientation of the mortar barrel, and wireless communications with the fire control device. The integrated position sensors enable more precise determination of the lateral and vertical barrel elevation than by using conventional levels. It attaches to the barrel by means of a clamp.
The GRAM enables fully digital aiming and firing of 60 mm mortars. Now, this enables fire missions to be carried out much quicker, since observer can transmit them to the mortar via uninterrupted radio data transfers. Transmission errors occurring during voice communications are eliminated. The deployment of the commando mortar in combination with the GRAM is no longer limited to direct firing. With the electronic aiming device, a commando mortar also fires indirectly behind cover and as precisely as a 60 mm bi-pod mortar.
Digitisation of mortar systems is achieved through integration into existing command and control systems via standardised interfaces. This allows the mortar to integrate with the BMS and in simulation environments - including processing and handling trainers based on the Virtual Battle Space Software. This means realistic crew training no longer depends exclusively on mortar live firing.
Armed forces are increasingly equipping soldiers with Android platform tactical smart devices. Hirtenberger developed a GRAM app that allows Android devices to become a complete fire control computer. This means the entire system is even more cost-efficient, because the need to purchase additional IT hardware is unnecessary. Communication with GRAM is via a Bluetooth connection. The target data is directly transferrable from the target locating device to the app via Bluetooth when in close range. Without such connection, the data can also be typed in manually.
Mortar Digital Aiming Solution - MDAS
The MDAS is a digital aiming system for 81 and 120 mm mortars. With this system, the deployment and aiming of bi-pod mortars can be performed independently of traditional aiming means by using aiming circles and connections to Global Navigation Satellite Systems.
MDAS weighs less than seven kg, consisting of two hardware components: a navigation system-independent gyroscope-based sensor package, including a battery unit and a display attached to the mortar - instead of a periscope - showing weapon system orientation.
MDAS is ready for use and undergoing field-tests in central Europe. The MDAS concept offers several advantages:
- It functions independently of the weapon system, retrofits into existing mortar systems and integrates into the BMS in use with an armed force. This facilitates both command and control and the deployment of these systems.
- Digitisation enables faster target data transmission than by voice communication. Depending on the stability of the data connection, transmission errors / misunderstandings are also eliminated, enabling a faster effect on the target.
MDAS eases crew burdens. This applies to both the quality and quantity of the tasks. The weapon systems are deployable more energy-efficiently. Soldiers setting the aiming posts must not expose themselves in advance. Furthermore aiming via digital display is easier to learn and perform in stressful situations than with aiming posts, collimator and periscope. Hence, training is easier and faster. MDAS is also reducing the required crew size for mortar deployment. Freed-up personnel can perform additional tasks and those necessary for weapon system transportation.
Using MDAS independently of the navigation system allows it to be used in an electronic warfare-dominated scenario.
MDAS allows continuation of the mortar’s use in tried and tested manners with periscope and aiming posts when appropriate.
Available, ready for deployment and cost-efficient
As a long-standing partner of the German Armed Forces, Hirtenberger Defence Systems proved several times that it is able to realise projects in a pragmatic, satisfactory way for customers – even at short notice.
Hirtenberger set the goal of accelerating the sensor-to-shooter cycle by digitising the dismounted mortar systems and preparing them for use on the future battlefield. "Digitisation" in this context refers to the integration of the mortar into a BMS and the projection of the mortar into the digital space, which is currently only possible for vehicle-based systems.