SPG layout on HX3 chassis arr. 2021
The command of the Bundeswehr considers it necessary to further increase the firing range of field artillery. In this regard, the Zukünftiges System Indirektes Feuer Mittlerer Reichweite (“Promising medium-range indirect firing system”) program is currently underway, the goal of which is to create a new self-propelled howitzer with improved performance. Rheinmetall has already offered its own version of such an ACS.
In May 2021, the Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles (RMMV) joint venture for the first time introduced the promising family of HX3 military platform trucks. Various variants of such chassis with one or another target load were demonstrated. In particular, the 10x10 chassis became the basis for self-propelled guns with a howitzer in the turret. However, the details of this project were not given at that time.
At the Eurosatory 2022 exhibition, Rheinmetall presented an experimental self-propelled gun, and also revealed some information about it. So, it became known that it is being created to participate in the Bundeswehr ZSIFMR program. The aim of the project is to develop a wheeled self-propelled gun with improved mobility and increased fire performance. At the same time, it is already planned to develop the project in the distant future, aimed at further growth of key parameters.
In December last year, Rheinmetall presented new materials on its project for the so far unnamed self-propelled guns. According to the publication European Defense Review, they named the main participants in the project and revealed the features of the development organization. Some technical details that were previously unknown are also given.
Self-propelled gun with a 60 klb gun, 2022
The new project of the German self-propelled guns is being created by several companies from the two countries. The chassis was presented by the German joint venture RMMV, the artillery unit is being developed by Rheinmetall, and the fighting compartment as a whole is being made with the participation of the Israeli company Elbit Systems. The latter provided its developments on the SIGMA / Roem project and is now helping to adapt them to the requirements of the Bundeswehr.
By joint efforts, the companies have already worked out the issues of using a wheeled chassis and installing a new fighting compartment on it. Now a full-fledged tower is being created with all the necessary devices and functions, as well as the potential for modernization. The current version of the project uses the existing artillery unit and simultaneously studies the possibility of creating new guns. Another way to increase the range should be new shells and propellant charges.
Rheinmetall chose the latest five-axle chassis of the HX3 family as the basis for the self-propelled guns. This is a cabover car with a MAN D26 diesel engine and a transmission from ZF. The main chassis systems are controlled by the integrated MAN EE-Architecture system. At the request of the customer, an armored cab can be used and mine protection can be installed.
The HX3 10x10 chassis is capable of carrying various loads; the gross vehicle weight can reach 45-50 tons. This ensures high mobility on the highway and sufficient off-road mobility.
Aft of the chassis, above the three axles, is a payload called the Artillery Truck Interface (ATI). This is a platform with folding jacks and a fully revolving turret with weapons. A similar layout is well known from other projects, and specific units were taken from the Israeli SIGMA self-propelled guns.
The previously shown prototypes of the German self-propelled guns received a 155-mm howitzer, made on the basis of a serial gun from the PzH 2000. This is a rifled gun with a barrel length of 52 klb, a multi-chamber muzzle brake and a 23-liter charging chamber, made according to the requirements of the current NATO Ballistic Memorandum.
Charging is done automatically. Along the sides of the fighting compartment there are mechanized stacking: on the left there are 40 shells, on the right - 192 modular propellant charges. Packings are placed in armored boxes and have external kick-out panels. The supply of ammunition to the gun is carried out using manipulators; manual loading is possible. Declared rate of fire up to 8 rds / min.
The fighting compartment is equipped with a fire control system from Elbit Systems. It includes a computer, communication and navigation facilities, etc. Provides reception of target designation on standard NATO lines, calculation of data for firing and automatic aiming control. A programmer is also being introduced to work with guided projectiles and fuses.
Rheinmetall is already working on new weapon variants. So, a 155-mm 52-caliber howitzer with an enlarged charging chamber was created. Due to this, it is proposed to increase the propellant charge and increase the firing range. A longer gun is also being developed - it will receive a 60 klb barrel and an even larger chamber. Such a howitzer will be able to send a conventional projectile to a distance of at least 45-48 km. Active-reactive ammunition will give a range of 80-82 km.
The layout of the fighting compartment of the SIGMA self-propelled guns and the new vehicle from Rheinmetall
As part of the ZSIFMR program, a number of new ammunition is being developed. Several new 155-mm shells are being created by the Rheinmetall forces at once. In the short and medium term, the company plans to offer the Bundeswehr "blanks" with improved aerodynamics and increased range, active-reactive, programmable and guided munitions, etc. Their exact characteristics will depend on the length of the gun.
Prospects for Directions
The Israeli project Elbit SIGMA has now advanced quite far. Experienced wheeled self-propelled guns with an ATI fighting compartment and a gun with a length of 52 klb were successfully tested and were recommended for adoption by the Israel Defense Forces. The first batch of such equipment is expected this year, and a total of one hundred self-propelled guns will be built.
The unified German project is still at the stage of development work. At the same time, prototypes and prototypes in various configurations already exist, are tested at test sites and are demonstrated at exhibitions. So, in the first materials about the HX3 family of vehicles, an self-propelled gun with a 52-caliber gun appeared, and last year they showed a model of a howitzer with a 60-caliber barrel.
Probably, in the near future, all variants of the self-propelled guns will reach the test site and enter full-fledged sea and fire tests. After that, it will take some time to fine-tune the design. Depending on various factors, Rheinmetall's unnamed wheeled self-propelled guns will take their final form in the second half of the decade. Then the Bundeswehr will decide whether to take it into service.
Corrected projectile М1816А1
The future of this project is still unclear. But the published materials allow us to imagine how the prospects of self-propelled artillery are presented abroad, and how they are going to develop it in the near future. Judging by the project from Rheinmetall and Elbit, in general there are several main tasks. This is a further improvement in mobility, an increase in range and an increase in shooting accuracy.
The increase in mobility due to the wheeled chassis is not surprising. However, Rheinmetall seems to be placing such a combat vehicle on a five-axle vehicle for the first time. Whether such a base will show the required characteristics is unclear. There are no fundamentally new layout solutions, and the ACS has an optimal design.
Of great interest are plans to create new guns with an increased firing range. The length of the barrel is proposed to be increased from 52 to 60 klb, as well as to increase the volume of the propellant charge. The creation of such a weapon is obviously difficult, but the successful solution of this problem will give the army new combat capabilities. The same applies to new types of ammunition. Despite the complexity and technical risks, they will provide significant benefits.
Plans for the future
Thus, the Bundeswehr is already thinking about the further development of self-propelled artillery and has launched a program, the result of which in the indefinite future will be the start of rearmament. In turn, the industry began to develop real projects, taking into account the requirements of the army and with a reserve for the future. So, with foreign assistance, Rheinmetall developed and brought to the stage of the first tests a new wheeled self-propelled guns.
So far, the unnamed project of the German self-propelled howitzer is of some interest from a technical point of view. It offers an interesting combination of already known solutions and new components, and also shows how artillery can develop in the future. How correct are the applied engineering solutions, and what prospects such a project has, time will tell.