Rheinmetall Showcases Hybrid Protection Module at IDEX 2019

Issue 91 - May 2019

At IDEX 2019 Rheinmetall has presented its Hybrid Protection Module for the first time at its stand. Combining active and passive protection technology, the Hybrid Protection Module is primarily designed to be mounted on the sides of tracked and wheeled tactical vehicles. 

The new Hybrid Protection Modules allow for an integrative approach: passive protection components simultaneously serve as interface and shield for the components of the active protection system ADS-Gen.3 Active Vehicle Protection System (AVPS). Conversely, the ADS-Gen.3 AVPS components comprise ballistic functions and characteristics. The specially harmonized bulkhead design features two layers. The first one, the external protection layer, protects the ADS-Gen.3 AVPS components against shell fragments, small arms fire and other sources of mechanical stress. The ADS-Gen.3 AVPS countermeasure component is embedded in the first protection plate from the outside. The deflector of the countermeasure serves simultaneously as part of the first layer of passive protection. The sensors of the system (a mix of optronics and radar sensors) are contained in the space in between. 

In standalone mode, the complete module already offers additional ballistic protection that significantly enhances the basic integrity of the vehicle hull. The integrated ADS-Gen.3 is effective against rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). It is designed to intercept and destroy ATGMs from ranges as short as 10 meters (33ft) by using a directed explosive detector. The incoming ATGM is detected by a mix of optronics and radar sensors. Operating at 20GHz to 30GHz wavebands the radar sensor can detect incoming ATGMS at ranges of 30m (98ft), but thanks to its very low output power of around 1 watt the radar sensor can not be detected by enemy’s ESM sensors at ranges greater than 350 to 400m. According to Rheinmetall the ADS-Gen.3 can cope with multiple attacks thanks to its capability to defeat 4 incoming missiles/rounds within 0,5m2 area with a timing difference of 100 milliseconds between the missiles/rounds

The prime advantage of this new possibility for ADS-Gen.3 AVPS integration into tactical vehicles is its compact size: the Hybrid Protection Module is less than 150 mm in height. Moreover, it is relatively simple to install and can be mounted onto existing vehicles. The Module thus offers an easy-to-implement way of adding active protection technology to a platform. The new modules can replace existing add-on passive protection elements either completely or in part. Furthermore, the modules can be mounted to vehicles in preparation for a specific mission. 

Thanks to variable material configurations, Hybrid Protection Modules can be readily adapted to be meet individual customer requirements. Rheinmetall has already fabricated various prototype modules, successfully conducting rigorous ballistic trials of variously configured modules with rocket-propelled grenades and antitank guided missiles. 

During IDEX 2019 we had an opportunity to have a quick word with Mr Stefan HAASE, Rheinmetall Active Protection GmbH Managing Director on the Hybrid Protection Module.

Defence Turkey: Can you elaborate on the Hybrid Protection Module?

Stefan HAASE: It is an integrated Active Defence System (ADS). It is deeply integrated now. We never had it before. We had it always as modules that attached to the vehicle and detached when it’s not needed anymore. It is the first time that it comes with passive armor. Integrated meaning it is now in the passive armor of an armored vehicle. We have an outer layer in certain protection level and an inner layer. Such modules like spaced add-on armor, in the space we integrate the ADS. It uses countermeasures to disable shaped charge weapons, which approach the vehicle.

Defence Turkey: Can it be effectively used against ATGMs with tandem warheads?

Stefan HAESE: Yes, here you can see the shot at a close distance 10 meters against the ADS. Metals in the way of the sensors get harmed but the threat is still disabled prior to impact. That is something for lighter vehicles. 

Defence Turkey: How many effectors do you have? How many intercepts can you perform with this system?

Stefan HAASE: In such a module it is always one sensor with one effector. Alongside the vehicle, we would usually distribute between 20 to 30 modules.

Defence Turkey: So, each sensor has a specific angle of point of view when the missile approach. What about the reloading time?

Stefan HAASE: You can see the countermeasure sits in a very rigid metal structure. You just take off the countermeasure and bring in a new one and a new detonator. If you suspect the electronics are harmed, you can change the entire module and bring a new module to connect it and it works.

Defence Turkey: There are too many modules on the vehicle so do you have to change all these modules?

Stefan HAASE: No, the number of modules is identical alongside the vehicle. If one is suspected of having a failure you can take it off but as you can see, they all look the same, so you don’t have individual shapes. For more sophisticated shapes you get individual shapes, but the passive armor needs to cover the exact part of the vehicle.

Defence Turkey: So, what about protection capability against ATGMs with top-attack capability?

Stefan HAASE: There are two possibilities. One is you have an over-flying top attack, in such cases, the countermeasure fires upward, and the other one is dive attack like a HellFire then you need another countermeasure which really fires high load of fragments to the sky, but the advantage is you have no collateral damage to consider. There is no infantryman in the sky.

Defence Turkey: Does the system use an effector with a warhead or burst fragments to destroy the target?

Stefan HAASE: You can see the disabling mechanism as the Eryx ATGM is coming we fire a charge through the direction of the warhead. 

Defence Turkey: So, at we at the video it uses directed explosive?

Stefan HAASE: Yes, and as you can see it is firing downwards now, you can have the same ones firing upwards.

Defence Turkey: Do you use optical or radar-based sensors?

Stefan HAASE: Both. We have a radar-based sensor to pre-alert and to track, and an optical sensor for ideally identifying the exact spot of the warhead.

Defence Turkey: Has it become operational or still under development?

Stefan HAASE: It is operational on Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank (MBT) with a customer that I cannot disclose but we delivered more than 80.

Defence Turkey: What can you tell us about the deployment of the Hybrid Protection Module on Leopard 2A4 MBTs?

Stefan HAASE: Alongside you will get roughly ten of these modules. Here is one and that would be for turret protection. Usually, the turret is the most exposed part of the tank, so you need to put it on the turret. For the Leopard, we put the ADS only on the turret, and we can protect parts of the hull from the turret by firing downwards as you have seen. The missile comes in a little bit lower, so the system has to consider the position of the turret at this moment of time and select the right count measure to take care of the missile. We had great trials with SSB and people from Turkey.

Defence Turkey: Did they witness live firing trials? When?

Stefan HAASE: Yes, it was already two or three years ago.

Defence Turkey: What about weight penalty? For example, if you add this module on Leopard 2A4 MBT?

Stefan HAASE: For Leopard MBT, you get around two tonnes with the right passive armor.

Defence Turkey: In this configuration?

Stefan HAASE: Yes. For Leopard MBT honestly, something like this here would be much more massive because you have another kind of KE threat that you have to think about. 

Defence Turkey: So, can it also provide protection against KE rounds?

Stefan HAASE: That is the idea. This is an add-on module with KE functionalities as well. The projectile has to travel through the spacing that is very good for passive armor as well. You decouple the outer skin and takes the jacket from the armor piercing ammunition and you have AP core fresh and naked intercepting new armor. There are lighter solutions as well that can go down to several hundred kilograms. When you want to really protect the turret and up-armor the Leopard 2A4 turret you get two tonnes, which is feasible.

At IDEX 2019, Rheinmetall also presented its subsidiary Rheinmetall Protection Systems Gulf (RPSG). Operating in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since September 2017, the company is a subsidiary of Rheinmetall Ballistic Protection. RPSG develops and produces ballistic protection elements. Its product range extends from protection level NIJ IIIA right through to STANAG 4569 Level 4. 

Meanwhile, rounding out its portfolio in the field of protection technology for military vehicles, the Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall Group is completing its force protection portfolio with taking over the operational assets of IBD Deisenroth Engineering GmbH. According to press release issued by the Rheinmetall on 26 Mach 2019 the parties have agreed not to disclose the purchase price. The transaction is to take effect on 1 June 2019. The buyout reinforces Rheinmetall’s position as a major supplier of advanced defence technology to the ground forces of Germany, its allies and other likeminded nations. 

IBD Deisenroth Engineering is a world-renowned supplier of passive protection systems, principally for military vehicles. The company has around 120 employees achieved a revenue of €35 Million in 2018