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Eclectic German Research Quickens Pace

September 2000
By Clarence A. Robinson, Jr.

Armor defense systems, hypervelocity missiles, new sighting and seeker technologies, large-scale simulations redefine endgame.

Building on a broad research base at the forefront of military technologies, German industry is developing a vast array of components and systems for the Bundeswehr and other allied military forces. New concepts tumble forth almost daily from German industry and government laboratories to improve tactical programs, especially in the areas of sensor, fire control, combat management, communication and simulation systems.

Among the more innovative concepts emerging from laboratories for demonstrations are main battle tanks that have defenses against missile and anti-armor gun attacks and smoke screens that conceal friendly forces while allowing them to see through the obscurant to engage enemy armor. Large-scale simulation systems provide intense realistic training, and command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems form an integrated grid to link German and coalition forces.

Diehl Corporation, Nürnberg; Rheinmetall DeTec AG, Ratingen; and Zeiss Optronik GmbH, Oberkochen, are examples of German companies on the frontier of technical exploration. These companies embody far-reaching changes as concentrations of subsidiaries and affiliates in related industries increasingly occur in Europe’s aviation and defense markets.

A new armored defensive system involves the use of a small electronically scanned phased array radar mounted on a tank to detect, acquire, track and thwart anti-armor missiles and projectiles armed with shaped-charge warheads. This German defense ministry research program’s demonstration and validation effort in northern Germany shows the technical feasibility of protecting tanks. No additional armor or added weight are necessary for an already heavy weapon system, according to Dr. Klaus Schluter. He is an engineer with Diehl VA Systeme subsidiary, Bodenseewerk Gerätetechnik GmbH (BGT), Überlingen, Germany.

Electronically scanning beams of the phased array radar quickly locate and track inbound threats, determining their range in relation to the tank. The system’s computer calculates within microseconds precisely when to fire small grenades, Schluter points out. The grenades intercept incoming projectiles. As a grenade flies toward its intended target, it does so at a tilted angle, striking the attacking projectile approximately 10 meters from the tank.

The grenade’s impact causes the penetrator to become unstable or tumble off axis, Schluter states. Even if the anti-armor round strikes the tank, damage would not be severe because changing the angle at which it hits disrupts the effectiveness of a hollow-shaped charge. He explains the developmental importance of this defensive armor system. Tanks and other armored vehicles are close to the useful limit of protective gear that can be added. Meanwhile, new designs for projectiles, for example, anti-armor missiles and tandem shaped-charge warheads, are shifting the technical advantage in the cat and mouse game that tanks must play against anti-armor weapons.

This grenade launcher system offers the potential to defeat various anti-armor weapons. Each grenade can be fired at ±30 degrees elevation, with a rate of fire for each in less than a minute, Schluter stresses. In addition to its normal 120-millimeter gun ammunition, a tank can also carry an adequate supply of grenades—approximately 50 rounds. He estimates this protective system could reduce the weight of a tank’s armor by about 30 percent and overall vehicle weight by half. The German defense ministry expects to field the protective grenade system capability with the German army by 2010.

A second protective system for armored vehicles uses the same basic principle and is being developed with a segmented grenade to intercept anti-armor missiles and destroy them in flight. The grenades’ engagement of missiles takes place approximately 25 meters from the vehicle, Schluter observes. A grenade launcher on each side of an armored vehicle can cover a 190-degree azimuth, with elevation from -10 degrees to +60 degrees.

This armor vehicle protection system uses a multispectral radar to track an incoming missile from a distance of 400 meters, Schluter maintains. BGT also is seeking advances in phased array radar technology for the program and is assessing sensors from Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman in the United States and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG, DASA, in Germany. This anti-missile protection system is for use with a new-generation German army personnel carrier scheduled to enter production in 2007, he continues.

With its heavy emphasis on armaments, BGT developed EPHAG, an anti-helicopter projectile fired by 120-millimeter smooth-bore guns on German Leopard 2 main battle tanks. The round, guided by an infrared (IR) seeker, pulls 30,000 g’s and uses movable, fold-out wings for control. Designed for self-defense against attack helicopters at distances up to 6 kilometers (3.8 miles), this weapon has been successfully demonstrated in several German army field trials, Schluter claims.

EPHAG leaves the tank gun’s muzzle at Mach 3 velocity, or 1,000 meters per second, and acquires the target with its IR seeker, using its control surfaces to navigate autonomously. Small kinetic-energy and high-explosive warheads located in the aft section of the missile detonate to destroy the target. During guided firing tests against simulated helicopters, EPHAG successfully engaged 2-meter x 2-meter targets at a distance of 4 kilometers, Schluter claims.

Dr. Michael Langer, head of the BGT liaison office in Koblenz, reports that the company also is developing the HFK hypervelocity missile to replace the Roland surface-to-air missile system. Weapons in this category are scheduled for introduction in the inventory around 2010. The HFK system is now undergoing demonstration and validation tests by the German army. The missile is designed to fit into existing Roland missile launchers that are widely deployed. He notes that the Mach 6 missile was originally conceived to combat main battle tanks at medium distances to penetrate armor by means of kinetic-energy impact.

The HFK now is used primarily for defense against fast and low-flying aircraft and missiles at short distances. These targets require extremely short reaction times and thus very short flight times for an interceptor missile. Langer emphasizes that the “booster sends the HFK missile up to full speed within 1 second of launch. The missile’s range is out to 50 kilometers (30 miles),” he says. Emphasis is on autonomous guidance and control of hypersonic missiles by means of inertial systems and seeker-assisted terminal guidance.

“The kill vehicle separates from the missile in the endgame, when a nose cap is jettisoned and an IR seeker takes over in the 3- to 5-second terminal phase. An onboard processor is used with this very small and highly maneuverable kill vehicle,” Langer explains. Hypersonic missiles are controlled by lateral thrusters with extremely short reaction times or by aerodynamic control surfaces, which enable lateral accelerations over the entire flight. “The very small and highly agile kill vehicle can withstand heavy g loads.”

Specializing in the development and production of complete guidance and control units, seekers, guidance computers/automatic pilots and fin actuators, BGT meets its own requirements and those of other European missile system companies. The company’s development of IR, bispectral and multispectral seekers provides guidance systems for a wide range of applications. One BGT development effort is for a national technology “ABG” program, a multispectral seeker for use on unmanned platforms and air-to-surface missiles. This sensor is designed to locate and attack enemy command and control posts.

The ABG seeker contains an intelligent wideband radio receiver, millimeter-wave radar, imaging IR sensor and an imaging multisensor processing unit. Involved in flight testing, ABG is on track to become operational around 2005. Development of ARAS, another bispectral seeker head will provide a wider-band radar receiver and a higher-resolution IR detector. A new technology seeker is also in development by BGT for use in medium-range missiles to combat aerial targets. This radar/infrared technology development program will use conformal radar antennas, active radar transmit/receive modules and micromechanical mirror arrangements in the IR section.

As part of a four-nation program, with Germany as the lead nation and with the participation of Great Britain, Italy and Norway, BGT produced more than 30,000 IR-guided AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. AIM-9 deliveries went to nine European countries. Now, the company is focusing on the IRIS-T, a Sidewinder follow-on missile system selected by the German air force. The missile also is slated for introduction with the armed forces of Canada, Greece, Italy, Norway and Sweden. IRIS-T development is scheduled to be completed in 2002 by a multinational consortium under the direction and overall responsibility of Germany.

Designed as a highly maneuverable missile with a new type of imaging IR seeker head, IRIS-T uses a combination of aerodynamic and thrust-vector tail control. A pilot can slave the missile’s seeker to a target using his airborne radar, an IR search-and-track device or via a helmet-mounted sight. The seeker’s look-angle range of ±90 degrees is used during aerial engagements.

This missile program is managed by BGT as the prime contractor, with Italy’s Alenia-OTO and Sweden’s Saab Dynamics participating as system-level subcontractors; individual assembly development companies are Canada’s AlliedSignal, Norway’s Raufoss, Italy’s FiatAvio and Lital, and Greece’s Hellenic Aerospace, Intracom and Pyrkal.

Rheinmetall DeTec AG, is the lead company of the Rheinmetall Group’s defense technology arm. Dr. Dirk Kilfitt, an electrical engineer involved in the company’s marketing, describes special research and development efforts to make smoke that allows visibility from one side only, enabling those using it to look outside and shoot. An enemy, however, cannot see through the smoke screen to return fire. “This smoke screen is based on special physical effects that are similar to optical elements that cover office building windows, blocking sunlight from entering while providing a clear view to the outside for those inside. The technology development is from two Rheinmetall W&M subsidiaries—NICO Pyrotechnik and BUCK Neue Technologien,” he discloses.

A new H 400 armored combat vehicle from Rheinmetall, recently on display at Le Bourget Airport north of Paris during Eurosatory 2000, is a well-protected wheeled vehicle designed for high mobility. Customers can choose the options they require in an armored vehicle, including a KUKA Wehrtechnik turret with a smoothbore automatic 105-millimeter tank gun, Kilfitt discloses. Recoil forces are significantly reduced to adapt to the 14.5-ton vehicle dynamics. Other variants are a 30-millimeter automatic cannon or a 35/50-millimeter weapon system from Swiss-based Oerlikon Contraves, another Rheinmetall subsidiary, as is KUKA, he recounts.

The H 400’s fire control system can be provided in four variants. These include the AOZ, an autonomous optronic aiming device for day and night aiming of directly sighted weapons. A daylight camera and thermal imager permit aiming at moving or stationary targets via a monitor with a large screen magnifier, Kilfitt says. Target distance is measured by an integrated Raman laser rangefinder for fire control computation, taking into account the type of ammunition and canting involved.

A compact electro-optical fire control assembly called SEOSS is a new-generation digital system. Its electro-optical sensor is mounted on the surface of the turret. A high-performance, third-generation thermal imager is an option, with fire control and identification performance comparable to advanced main battle tanks, Kilfitt points out.

FAUST is a system designed for mobile combat against ground and airborne targets. A stabilized line-of-sight 360-degree periscope allows observation and surveillance without turning the turret. A modular laser fire control system called MOLF, a derivative of the Leopard fire control, is designed to improve combat effectiveness of various types of main battle tanks. This system permits firing on the move with first-hit probability using a two-axis-stabilized sight with both daylight and thermal imaging channels.

STN ATLAS Electronik, another Rheinmetall DeTec subsidiary, provides a modular universal vehicle command and control system that is available in different versions. Army command and control equipment, or ACE, suitable for all types of land vehicles is intended for integration into existing vehicles where space is at a premium, Kilfitt informs. This company has provided fire control systems for Germany’s entire fleet of Leopard 2 tanks and more than 5,000 state-of-the-art fire control systems located throughout North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations for the Leopard tank family.

Zeiss Optronik GmbH, a subsidiary of the Carl Zeiss Group, supplies specialized products such as thermal cameras for navies, armies and air forces worldwide, Bernd Preber says. He is Zeiss’s vice president for marketing and sales in Central Europe. The product spectrum ranges from 3- to 5-micron and 8- to 12-micron thermal cameras, to stabilized periscopes sensors, to laser rangefinders, optronic and electro-optic reconnaissance systems and missile guidance systems.

Preber continues that Zeiss Optronik systems are used in unmanned aerial vehicles, aircraft, helicopters, armored vehicles, submarines and on stabilized multisensor platforms for surface ships. A high-resolution digital video color camera system, called VOS, allows real-time surveillance from both high and low altitude. The central element in this camera’s resolution is the multispectral detector—three parallel photodiode line arrays, each with 6,000 pixels for red, green and blue colors. Spectral response is 350 to 1,050 nanometers, and a cutoff filter in front of the lens limits the spectral response to 650 nanometers, generating a true color image, he explains.

Much of Germany’s research and development activity is aimed at enabling quick decisions based on rapid sensor input and data obtained in real time. Highly specialized applications of technological development in many areas of electronics, sensors and armaments coupled with the proximity of military customers continues to sustain market objectives for the nation’s defense industry.

Shoot, Scoot and Communicate

Information automation is deemed essential by the German army to alleviate the strain on military personnel from reductions in manpower. The army and Germany’s industry are working to develop a modern command and control system that will deliver comprehensive and accurate information at great speed during battlefield maneuvering.

To digitize the battlefield, the German army is equipping with a command and information system called HEROS. This system operates down to the brigade level. A battlefield command and control system, known as GeFüSys, is being developed and introduced to provide an interface at the battalion level between the battlefield command and control systems of large units and the command and weapons control systems (FüWES) of the different branches of the armed services. The GeFüSys will ensure the interoperability of different services and systems operated by allied forces.

STN Atlas Elektronik GmbH, Bremen, Germany, is heavily involved in developing command and control systems and in providing combat training systems for the German army, according to Dr. Michael Kriewitz. He is in business development for STN Atlas Elektronik’s training and simulation systems. The German office for defense technology and procurement commissioned a consortium headed by this company to provide command support for formations, (FüUGV). Various technologies are being investigated and assessed for suitability, some prior to field trials last year, he explains.

Kriewitz’s company is responsible for procuring information technology components and for developing and performing system integration in various types of combat vehicles. Vehicle communications equipment, FaKoM, was quickly procured for German army participation in the Balkans peacekeeping contingency. The STN Atlas Elektronik FaKoM system provides universal vehicle command and communications equipment. Different system variants are available using hardware and software based on an open system architecture. This has been proven in internationally standardized protocols and reports in projects such as the battlefield interoperability program.

Based on experience from the Balkans, the company has developed a command and control system for Leopard 2 main battle tanks and other combat vehicles in the Swedish army. Called the tank command and control system, or TCCS, 130 systems are being delivered to Sweden. This TCCS connects to all relevant subsystems of the tank, such as fire control and navigation systems, via a bus.

The company also is delivering a combat command and control system based on FüUVN technology to Spain. Called the Lince, the system consists of a fire control system, optronic equipment and the command and control capability for use with 219 Leopard 2s and 16 tank recovery vehicles.

Radio voice and data communications developed by STN Atlas Elektronik are designed for dynamic network configuration. The software support is from the mobile command and control information system, which provides satellite communications and automatic symbol-oriented graphic report collection in formatted reports.


Smaller, Supersonic Missile Arises

An extremely high-speed air-to-surface missile designed to home on radar-signal emissions is being developed in Germany to attack air defenses. This new ram rocket motor-powered missile is designed to suppress enemy air defenses after being fired from an ECR Tornado combat aircraft. The missile will eventually replace today’s high-speed anti-radiation missile in German and other European air forces.

A new technology, the ARMIGER anti-radiation missile system, is being developed for the German defense ministry by BGT, a company of the Diehl Group, Nürnberg. This weapon, with a bispectral seeker that is being developed under a parallel program, is scheduled to succeed the U.S.-built high-speed anti-radiation missile (HARM) in Europe by the end of the decade, according to company officials. Among ARMIGER’s features are its Bayern-Chemie solid-propellant ram rocket motor for sustained speed and long range.

The BGT/DaimlerChrysler Aero-space bispectral ARAS seeker head with its wideband radar antenna and imaging infrared sensor are for terminal attack, even if the target briefly switches off its radar or initiates countermeasures. Under contract for nine years, BGT has completed conceptual designs and is engaged in experimental studies, which are scheduled to last through 2001. The ARAS infrared terminal seeker achieves precise hits on a target, enabling use of a smaller warhead. The smaller warhead translates to a smaller missile, which makes room for more weapons on each aircraft and causes less collateral damage in the target area.

The proposed ram rocket motor, with four air inlets located in the center of the missile’s body and a high boron content in the sustainer propellant, provides high specific impulse and low volume and a relatively simple design. Thrust vector control would provide the missile with a large velocity and altitude range. 


Bloodless Battles Play Out With Stark Realism

When soldiers of the German army find themselves in combat, they are likely to act like seasoned veterans even though they may never have experienced the chaos of actual battle. Behind their confident demeanor is the Bundeswehr’s combat training center. Reinforced tank and mechanized infantry operations at this center routinely involve up to 800 troops with tanks and armored vehicles. Soon, this bastion of realistic combat through simulation will accommodate up to 2,500 participants.

Highly realistic battles at the combat training center (CTC) are simulated, allowing mobile armor operations without having to fire practice ammunition. “Simultaneously, the center’s system keeps track of training effectiveness,” according to Dr. Michael Kriewitz. He is in business development for STN Atlas Elektronik, Bremen, Germany, a major division of Rheinmetall DeTec. “All participants—individual troops and vehicles—are equipped with sensors. No matter what the caliber, every shot fired is simulated by lasers, with hits indicated by smoke, flashes and other effects. Under these conditions, progress in training is objectively measurable,” he affirms.

The CTC subjects the users to combat-like pressure, portraying the damage of direct and indirect fire, mines and chemical attack. “The probabilities of killing or being killed in direct-fire simulation and area-weapons-effects simulation are much the same as in a real engagement,” Kriewitz emphasizes.

“As an example, the Bundeswehr uses the company’s tank gun simulator to train its Leopard 2 tank commanders and gunners. Another simulator developed by STN Atlas Elektronik and KUKA Wehrtechnik Elektronik plays an analogous role in training crews for the Marder infantry fighting vehicle,” Kriewitz observes. He assures that CTC instrumentation provides the basis for objective tactical assessment and feedback.

At the heart of the CTC is its multimedia network from STN Atlas, which collects and distributes information between the major systems. “It consists of various asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) and fast Ethernet linear array networks, terrestrial trunked radio, or TETRA, subnetworks, switches and interface electronics. All of these elements are under the control of a single network management computer,” Kriewitz clarifies.

The ATM backbone multimedia network serves the cellular TETRA data transfer and voice subnetworks. The backbone network transports the battlefield information such as global positioning system (GPS) for player positions that are accurate within 5 meters, event data such as player status, and weapon firing and hit results collected by TETRA player unit clients, Kriewitz reveals. Conversely, the network transports player unit control information such as kill/resurrect commands, ammunition resupply and vulnerability data collected by client data servers to the TETRA network, he clarifies.

The TETRA standard is designed to achieve high transmission rates and good spectrum efficiency, Kriewitz notes. “Furthermore, the danger of mutual radio frequency interference between clients is significantly reduced using the TETRA time division multiple access (TDMA) implementation. TETRA provides central control transmission channel access, along with state-of-the-art network management, and a sleep-mode control that significantly reduces the power consumed by player units’ data transceivers, he discloses.

“Commercial off-the-shelf TETRA equipment provides carrier frequencies in the region of 380 to 440 megahertz. This spectrum is usually wide enough to accommodate user frequency constraints. In the event that operating frequencies are required outside this band, low-risk modification to the equipment can be performed,” he illustrates. “By this means, very desirable features of the TETRA standard and commercial software continue to be realized.”

The TETRA technical performance parameters, the number of player units, the amount of battlefield data to transfer, and the player update frequency, taken together, determine the required number of radio frequency carriers. Call handling is designed to serve player units moving at speeds up to 300 kilometers (180 miles) per hour and at altitudes up to 500 meters (1,650 feet) so that helicopter players can be included in simulated battles.

The CTC provides the realism that keeps troops under sustained combat pressure, increasing combat readiness. The system also delivers tactical assessments and feedback of strengths and weaknesses under combat conditions, while allowing evaluation and improvement of existing doctrines and strategies, Kriewitz concludes.


Sensor Pod Handles Ticklish Flying

High-speed military aircraft pose challenges in designing weapons systems that allow the pilot to react within fractions of a second. This important requirement makes ultramodern navigation and targeting systems a condition for mission success. Precise identification of a target, accurate delivery of the weapon, and reliable damage assessment are critical capabilities of a fighter aircraft’s systems.

An airborne targeting and navigation pod from Zeiss Optronik, Oberkochen, Germany, provides all of the required critical features as well as the ability to operate in day, night and adverse weather conditions. The Litening aircraft pod merges targeting and navigation functions into a single system, providing a high-performance multisensor system, according to Bernd Preber. He is the Zeiss vice president for marketing, Central Europe. The Litening pod is easily adaptable to all fighter aircraft.

The pod contains a high-resolution forward looking infrared (FLIR) system with three fields of view, FLIR images projected on a head-up display to enable low-level flight at night using navigation aids, and two high-resolution charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras with different fields of view for daytime operation and target verification. A high-performance laser target designator and rangefinder allow accurate delivery of laser-guided bombs. A laser spot detector also enables cooperative missions with target hand-off. Electronic image processing for derotation and avoidance of breaklock when tracking at the nadir is another Litening feature.

A strap-down inertial navigation system (INS) on the gimbal provides pod-to-aircraft automatic boresighting and improved target tracking during high-g maneuvers and target obscuration, Preber asserts. The versatility of sensor functions are accommodated in the pod through a unique design, he emphasizes. The sensors—FLIR, CCD, laser designator, laser spot detector and INS—are part of the same payload and share the same optical bench leading to a stable boresight of the lines of sight.

In low-level missions, the pilot is supported by the FLIR image superimposed in a 1-to-1 aspect ratio on the head-up display. This allows night flying at very low altitudes. The air-to-ground mission includes detection, recognition and identification of targets—armored vehicles, tanks and bridges—target designation, rangefinding and laser spot detection. In the air-to-air mission, Litening is able to perform identification and tracking of airborne targets.

Another development by Zeiss is a high-definition infrared (HDIR) camera that provides pinpoint reconnaissance capability through its high-resolution images. This sensor system produces an analog and digital video signal that meets international standards for high-definition television.

HDIR consists of modules that can be combined in a thermal camera. The case and telescope, which determines the field of view, are variable. HDIR creates an image of 1,152 lines per 1,920 pixels for early target recognition and acquisition. In comparison with standard thermal cameras, HDIR provides a field of view enlarged five times while maintaining the same resolution. This technology offers nearly four times better resolution within a 33 percent wider horizontal field of view and the same vertical field of view.

Through its thermal resolution, HDIR recognizes objects where there is minimal temperature difference between the objects and their surroundings, and the camera performs well even at long distances. Together with image processing, an intelligent sensor can be formed for automatic 360-degree search and object identification. Automatic target tracking is also possible with extensions and a laser rangefinder and laser target illuminator.