Land Platforms

Assegai aims to squeeze more reach out of NATO howitzers

10 November 2017
The PzH2000 self-propelled howitzer is the archetype of the JBMOU-compliant 52-calibre 155 mm howitzer for which RDM is developing the VLAP 70 projectile, the better to compete with alternatives such as Leonardo’s rival Vulcano BER. It potentially also provides one avenue for mitigating the perceived range advances manifested by contemporary Russian integrated artillery fire support systems. Source: Bundeswehr

A 70 km-range version of the Assegai 155 mm artillery projectile, fully compatible with NATO-standard extended-range ordnance systems, is in its concept study phase within the German-South African company Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM).

This level of performance was demonstrated as far back as 2006 by the then Denel Naschem with the M9703 hybrid base-bleed/rocket-assisted Velocity Enhanced Artillery Projectile (VLAP) version of its Extended-Range Full-Bore (ERFB) 155 mm artillery projectile. In that instance the ERFB VLAP projectile was fired from Denel’s G6-52L self-propelled howitzer fitted with a Losvoor 52-calibre/25-litre tube and using a charge comprising six M64A1 propellant modules to give it a muzzle velocity of 1,015 m/s. However, neither the 48 kg M9703 projectile; its associated charge system; nor the Losvoor ordnance system (which is no longer being marketed by Denel), are compliant with NATO’s Joint Ballistics Memorandum of Understanding (JBMOU). The latter constrains projectile weight to 43.5 kg and chamber volume to 23 litres.

The established Assegai JBMOU-compliant 155 mm projectile family does already include two VLAP variants: the M2005 high-explosive (HE) projectile filled with 4.3 kg of TNT/HNS and featuring natural fragmentation, and the M0256 IHE-PFF version with press-filled PBX4 insensitive explosive and pre-formed fragments (PFF). In a standard atmosphere both can be fired to 41 km out of a 39-calibre/18-litre tube (muzzle velocity [m/v] 827 m/s), and to 54 km out of a 52-calibre/23-litre tube (m/v 950 m/s), respectively using JBMOU-compliant five-module and six-module charges.

The new Assegai VLAP projectile, informally designated VLAP 70, is planned to be fired using a newly developed unitary top charge. This will exploit the Assegai’s in-built permissible individual maximum pressure margin (PIMP 450MPa) and will be specifically matched to the 23-litre chamber volume of the JBMOU 155mm/52-calibre ordnance system.

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