IDEX 2019: Rheinmetall introduces hybrid protection modules for vehicles

Paolo Valpolini

Rheinmetall unveiled a hybrid protection module that integrates the Active Defence System elements into a passive armour.

In a stand mostly dedicated to protection, “Force Protection is our Mission” was the slogan for the 2019 edition of IDEX, the German Rheinmetall Group unveiled a hybrid protection module that integrates the ADS active protection system elements into a passive armour, the aim being that of reducing the weight impact of the ADS. The traditional way to install the ADS on board vehicles needed a heavy interface system between the vehicle itself and the system, something that Rheinmetall defines as parasitic weight.

The Business Unit Protection Systems, part of the Weapons and Munitions Division of Rheinmetall, decided to develop a new configuration where the final sensors of the ADS system as well as its effector were embedded into the passive armour. This is made of an external ballistic plate providing Level 2 protection, which both protects the system sensors as well as the vehicle; a plastic cover hides the effector, as this has to generate its energy blade and cannot thus be installed behind an armour. As it is made of insensitive explosive it does not represents a danger should it be hit by a round, while in most cases even after being hit it would work anyway, even in a degraded mode. Beside the effector, which is lodged in a recess which bottom side is made of armour plate also providing Level 2 protection,  we find two small openings; behind the first one to the right we find the laser emitter the laser emitter, while the receiver is behind the second one. The sensors and the energetic effector all look left, thus protecting the module on that side. Each module is interfaced with one of the radar sensors that provide all round pre-warning, the system assigning the threat to one of the modules. A spacer between the front and back plate provides the space for installing ADS components, these being installed on a light interface structure; the combination of the front and back plates allows to increase protection up to Level 5.

This integrated passive/active solution allows to spare around 50% of the ADS weight, the passive armour getting a slight increase, so by the end the overall saving is of about 35% compared to a non-integrated solution. The modules need to be linked to the vehicle power system; however Rheinmetall is already thinking at a self-powered version containing a battery, that should last 24 hours, thus further reducing the integration issues of those modules on a vehicle. The system has been qualified against Level 2 ballistic threats and is considered to be at TRL 6. Rheinmetall intends to bring it to TRL 8 in the next 18 months, so we should probably see some of those modules integrated into real vehicles at Eurosatory 2020.

Photo by Paolo Valpolini