Category Archives: Ground Forces

Successful in Tests

Lockheed Martin’s modernized Tactical Missile System (TACMS) missile continued its streak of successful flight tests with two recent flights at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. These tests represent the third and fourth consecutive successful trials of the modernized TACMS.

A TACMS long-range missile takes flight from a Lockheed Martin M270A1 launcher during a test
A TACMS long-range missile takes flight from a Lockheed Martin M270A1 launcher during a test

In December 2016, a modernized TACMS successfully engaged and destroyed a target in a 44-mile/71-kilometer test. And in early February 2017, a fourth modernized TACMS destroyed a target at White Sands at a range of more than 124 miles/200 kilometers. In both tests, the TACMS missiles were launched from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launcher.

«With our third and fourth consecutive successful modernized TACMS flights, I believe we have demonstrated that our production quality and new technology are ready to move forward», said Scott Greene, vice president of Precision Fires & Combat Maneuver Systems at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. «These modernized TACMS missiles will allow our warfighters to quickly and accurately address imprecisely located targets on the battlefield».

The missiles used in these two tests were produced at Lockheed Martin’s Precision Fires Production Center of Excellence in Camden, Arkansas.

As part of the U.S. Army’s TACMS Service Life Extension Program, the modernized missile includes new state-of-the-art guidance electronics and added capability to defeat area targets without leaving behind unexploded ordnance. The TACMS modernization process disassembles and demilitarizes TACMS Block 1 and 1A submunition warheads, replacing them with new unitary warheads and bringing them into compliance with Department of Defense policy on cluster munitions and unintended harm to civilians. The modernization process also resets the missile’s 10+ year shelf life.

In December 2014, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Army signed a $74 million contract to take existing TACMS missiles from inventory and modernize them.

The TACMS platform provides maximum flexibility to quickly integrate new payloads and capabilities to meet current and future demands.

With unsurpassed performance and an unwavering commitment to production excellence, TACMS is the only long-range tactical surface-to-surface missile ever employed by the U.S. Army in combat. TACMS missiles can be fired from the entire family of Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) launchers.

Next Generation Vehicles

Oshkosh Defense, LLC, an Oshkosh Corporation company, will showcase its MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) and Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle (L-ATV), the U.S. military’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) solution, at the IDEX Conference 2017. The vehicles will be on display at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, in Abu Dhabi from February 19-23, 2017.

M-ATV Assault 2
M-ATV Assault 2

«Our M-ATV and L-ATV platforms serve a full spectrum of military and security missions around the world», said George Mansfield, vice president and general manager of International Programs for Oshkosh Defense. «Both platforms having a place on today’s modern and undefined battlefields, these vehicles represent a new generation of protection, mobility, lethality and communications, which is allowing customers to redefine their ground vehicle capability».

The battle-proven M-ATV Family of Vehicles combines best-in-class off-road mobility and life-saving survivability to deliver optimal protected mobility with MRAP-level protection against IEDs and other battlefield threats. The M-ATV Assault variant on display is outfitted with a Moog Reconfigurable Integrated-weapons Platform (RIwP), which can help achieve tactical unit overmatch with proven precision lethality in any operational environment. The featured RIwP configuration employs the Orbital ATK M230LF 30-mm lightweight automatic chain gun, an M249 machine gun, a Javelin missile, and the DRS Long Range target acquisition sensor suite. RIwP provides commanders with options of direct fire, missile, sight and non-lethal configurations to meet changing enemy threats. It also improves soldier situational awareness with a gunner’s hatch and protects them through weapon reload under armor. The M-ATV is further equipped with the DRS Technologies Driver’s Vision Enhancer and Enhanced Situational Awareness System to provide greater coverage and mission capability.

M-ATVs are offered in standard and extended wheel base models with five variants to meet mission requirements for militaries and security forces around the world. The M-ATV variants include:

  • M-ATV Special Forces;
  • M-ATV Assault;
  • M-ATV Engineer;
  • M-ATV Command;
  • M-ATV Utility.

After years of U.S. Government testing, the Oshkosh JLTV Family of Vehicles is recognized as the most capable light tactical vehicles ever built, providing troops with the payload, performance and protection they need for current and future battlefields. Built with the future in mind, the JLTV takes lessons learned from past conflicts to prepare for threats unknown. The JLTV General Purpose variant on display is equipped with an EOS R-400S-MK2 remote weapon system integrated with Orbital ATK’s M230 LF 30 mm lightweight automatic chain gun to demonstrate the vehicle’s ability to support increased lethality including a medium caliber weapon system. The JLTV is available in 2-door and 4-door models in the following configurations:

  • JLTV Utility;
  • JLTV General Purpose;
  • JLTV Close Combat Weapons Carrier;
  • JLTV Heavy Guns Carrier.

Oshkosh Defense leadership will be available to discuss the Oshkosh M-ATV and L-ATV Family of Vehicles, and the Company’s full portfolio of Heavy, Medium, Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) and protected vehicles, technologies, integration capabilities and aftermarket solutions at IDEX 2017 in booth 02-B11.

Finnish Thunder

According to Finnish Broadcasting Corp., Finland will buy 48 used self-propelled howitzers from South Korea for 146 million euros. Besides the howitzers, the deal also includes training, spare parts and maintenance.

The Korean-designed K9 Thunder 155-mm self-propelled gun was evaluated in Finland’s Lapland, and its suitability to Finnish requirements confirmed (Finnish MoD photo)
The Korean-designed K9 Thunder 155-mm self-propelled gun was evaluated in Finland’s Lapland, and its suitability to Finnish requirements confirmed (Finnish MoD photo)

Defence Jussi Niinistö (Sannf) approved the purchase on Friday, February 17.

The new vehicles are to replace part of the Finnish army’s artillery park that will become obsolete in the 2020s and 2030s.

The first self-propelled guns will arrive in Finland next year and the final ones in 2024. Conscripts are scheduled to begin training in the new artillery system in 2019.

The Army tested the K9 Thunder self-propelled guns last year in Lapland. Their 155-millimeter (6.1 inches) guns have a range of about 40 kilometers/24.8 miles. They have a top speed of over 60 kilometers per hour/37 miles per hour.

Protection and Mobility

General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada has been awarded a CA$404 million contract amendment by the Government of Canada to upgrade 141 Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) III vehicles.

General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada to Increase Protection and Mobility for Canadian Army’s LAV Fleet
General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada to Increase Protection and Mobility for Canadian Army’s LAV Fleet

The upgrades will enhance the performance and survivability of these Canadian designed and manufactured vehicles. It also ensures the consistency and availability of equipment for training and deployments. In addition, having a fleet of LAVs of largely the same configuration reduces long-term maintenance costs.

The LAV III Upgrade program delivers vehicles in the new LAV 6.0 configuration. It is the direct result of lessons learned by the Canadian Army in Afghanistan, and was developed with substantial inputs from the Government of Canada. The upgrades include the life-saving double-V hull, protection and mobility enhancements, onboard vetronics and capacity for future growth and modularity.

«We are committed to delivering highly protected, flexible and capable vehicles to our soldiers and the LAV 6.0 provides the Canadian Army with best-in-class protection and mobility», said Danny Deep, vice president of General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada. «This announcement is welcome news to the London area and to our suppliers across Canada whose jobs will be sustained with this additional work».

In October 2011, the Government of Canada awarded General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada a CA$1.064 billion contract to incorporate a comprehensive upgrade package into 550 of the Canadian Army’s fleet of LAV III combat vehicles and extends their life to 2035.

This contract sustains approximately 250 highly skilled jobs in advanced manufacturing in the London, Ontario, region. In addition, it will be of direct economic benefit to General Dynamics’ extensive supplier network located across Canada.

General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada is a defence industry leader in land and amphibious systems development and integration. Based in London, Ontario, the Canadian operations employs more than 2,000 people in the design, manufacture and support of light- and medium-armoured vehicles, and are specialists in machining, materials, electronics, software development, prototyping, logistics support and systems integration.

Mobile Air Defence

During a press meeting on 06 February, 2017 Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide announced the decision to conduct the project for providing the Army a Mobile Ground Based Air Defence System in a direct acquisition with KONGSBERG. The Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency will initiate the acquisition process with KONGSBERG to define the final configuration and system solution before the delivery contract is signed. The deliveries are planned for 2018 to 2021.

Norway is beefing up its army’s air-defense capabilities, and on 06 February, 2017 announced it was procuring a new, mobile version of the Kongsberg NASAMS air-defense system already widely operated by its air force (Norway Defence photo)
Norway is beefing up its army’s air-defense capabilities, and on 06 February, 2017 announced it was procuring a new, mobile version of the Kongsberg NASAMS air-defense system already widely operated by its air force (Norway Defence photo)
Army Ground Based Air Defence is a highly mobile, short-range air defence system based on some existing elements in today’s structure in combination with the acquisition of some new elements. The system will reuse National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS) command and control and its unique network solutions. KONGSBERG has been a supplier of air defence solutions to the Norwegian armed forces through several decades, from canon and gun systems to today’s modern NASAMS. NASAMS has also been the foundation for significant competence developments and spin-off’s to other technology areas. The Army Mobile Ground Based Air Defence system will be a world leading solution with unique capabilities to combat modern airborne threats, as well as having the ability to integrate with networks with other sensors and weapons. «NASAMS is a very important product for KONGSBERG and one of the most successful internationally. We are very pleased to be have been chosen as supplier for the Army Mobile Ground Based Air Defence. This will add further capabilities to the Norwegian air defence community, and secure jobs in Kongsberg and for a large number of subcontractors throughout Norway», says Eirik Lie, President of Kongsberg Defence Systems.
Norway acquires Army Mobile Ground Based Air Defence
Norway acquires Army Mobile Ground Based Air Defence

Stealthy vehicle

In a tactical situation, the last thing a Soldier wants to do is give away his position to the enemy. The ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle promises to provide that important element of stealth, said Kevin Centeck. team lead, Non-Primary Power Systems, U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center at the 2017 Washington Auto Show here Thursday, on January 27, 2017.

General Motor's ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (Photo Credit: TARDEC)
General Motor’s ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (Photo Credit: TARDEC)

The ZH2 is basically a modified Chevy Colorado, fitted with a hydrogen fuel cell and electric drive, he said. It was put together fairly quickly, from May to September, and will be tested by Soldiers in field conditions later this year.

Charley Freese, executive director of General Motor’s Global Fuel Cell Activities, explained the ZH2 is stealthy because its drive system does not produce smoke, noise, odor or thermal signature. GM developed the vehicle and the associated technologies.

The vehicle provides a number of other advantages for Soldiers:

  • The ZH2 produces high torque and comes equipped with 37-inch/94-centimeter tires that enable it to negotiate rough and steep terrain.
  • The hydrogen fuel cell can produce two gallons per hour of potable water.
  • When the vehicle isn’t moving, it can generate 25 kilowatts of continuous power or 50 kilowatts of peak power. There are 120 and 240-volt outlets located in the trunk.
  • The vehicle is equipped with a winch on the front bumper.

Doctor Paul D. Rogers, director of TARDEC, said the Army got a good deal in testing this vehicle, leveraging some $2.2 billion in GM research money spent in fuel cell research over the last several decades. The Army is always eager to leverage innovation in new technology, he added.

While GM developed the technology and produced the demonstrator, the Army’s role will be to test and evaluate the vehicle in real-world field conditions over the next near.

 

HOW IT WORKS

Electricity drives the vehicle, Centeck said. But the electricity doesn’t come from storage batteries like those found in electric cars today. Instead, the electricity is generated from highly compressed hydrogen that is stored in the vehicle by an electrochemical reaction.

A look under the hood of the ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle was allowed at the Washington Auto Show, January 26, 2017 (Photo Credit: David Vergun)
A look under the hood of the ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle was allowed at the Washington Auto Show, January 26, 2017 (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

As one of the two elements that make water (the other being oxygen), there’s plenty of hydrogen in the world. But hydrogen isn’t exactly free, Centeck pointed out. It takes a lot of electricity to separate the strong bond between hydrogen and oxygen.

That electricity could come from the grid or it could come from renewables like wind or solar, Centeck said.

Existing fuels like gasoline, propane, and natural gas can also be used to extract hydrogen, he said. The Army and GM are comparing the costs and benefits for each approach and haven’t yet settled on which approach to use.

Christopher Colquitt, GM’s project manager for the ZH2, said that the cost of producing hydrogen isn’t the only complicating factor; another is the lack of hydrogen fueling stations.

Most gas stations aren’t equipped with hydrogen pumps, Colquitt pointed out, but California and some other places in the world are in the process of building those fueling stations. For field testing purposes, the Army plans to store the hydrogen fuel in an ISO container.

Another cost involves the hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system itself. Fuel cell stacks under the hood convert hydrogen and air into useable electricity. They are composed of stacks of plates and membranes coated with platinum.

In the ZH2 demonstrator, there are about 80 grams of platinum, costing thousands of dollars, he said. But within the last few months, GM developers have managed to whittle that amount of platinum down to just 10 grams needed to produce a working vehicle, he said.

The modern-day gas and diesel combustion engine took a century to refine. Now, GM is attempting to do that similar refining with hydrogen fuel cells in just a matter of months, he said. It’s a huge undertaking.

By refining the design, Colquitt explained, he means lowering cost and providing durability, reliability and high performance. Refining doesn’t just mean using less platinum, he explained. A lot of other science went into the project, including the design of advanced pumps, sensors, compressors that work with the fuel cell technology.

Colquitt said the ZH2’s performance is impressive for such a rapidly-produced vehicle. For instance, the fuel cell produces 80 to 90 kilowatts of power and, when a buffer battery is added, nearly 130 kilowatts. The vehicle also instantly produces 236 foot-pounds/320 newton-meters of torque through the motor to the transfer case.

The range on one fill-up is about 150 miles/241 km, since this is a demonstrator, he said. If GM were actually fielding these vehicles, the range would be much greater.

 

NOT READY FOR CONSUMERS

Colquitt said hydrogen fuel cell technology hasn’t yet yielded vehicles for consumers, but GM is working on doing just that in the near future, depending on a number of factors, mainly the availability of fueling stations.

A look at the 120- and 240-volt outlets of the ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle was allowed at the Washington Auto Show, January 26, 2017 (Photo Credit: David Vergun)
A look at the 120- and 240-volt outlets of the ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle was allowed at the Washington Auto Show, January 26, 2017 (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

The Army is no stranger to the technology, he said. GM’s Equinox vehicles, powered by hydrogen fuel cells, are being used on several installations. The difference is that the ZH2 is the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to go tactical, he said.

The value of having the Army test the vehicle is that it will be driven off-road aggressively by Soldiers, who will provide their unvarnished feedback, Colquitt said. Besides collecting subjective feedback from the Soldiers, he said, the vehicle contains data loggers that will yield objective data as well.

Testers will put the vehicle through its paces this year at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Benning, Georgia; Quantico Marine Base, North Carolina; and, GM’s own Proving Grounds in Michigan.

Modular Handgun System

On January 20, SIG Sauer, Inc. announced that the U.S. Army has selected the SIG Sauer Model P320 to replace the M9 service pistol currently in use since the mid-1980’s. Released in 2014, the P320 is a polymer striker-fired pistol that has proven itself in both the United States and worldwide markets. The P320 is the first modular pistol with interchangeable grip modules that can also be adjusted in frame size and caliber by the operator. All pistols will be produced at the SIG Sauer facilities in New Hampshire.

SIG Sauer, Inc. Awarded the U.S. Army Contract for its New Modular Handgun System (MHS)
SIG Sauer, Inc. Awarded the U.S. Army Contract for its New Modular Handgun System (MHS)

The Modular Handgun System (MHS) Program provides for the delivery of both full size and compact P320’s, over a period of ten (10) years. All pistols will be configurable to receive silencers and will also include both standard and extended capacity magazines.

«I am tremendously proud of the Modular Handgun System Team», said Army Acquisition Executive, Steffanie Easter in the release. «By maximizing full and open competition across our industry partners, we truly have optimized the private sector advancements in handguns, ammunition and magazines and the end result will ensure a decidedly superior weapon system for our warfighters».

Ron Cohen, President and CEO of SIG Sauer, said «We are both humbled and proud that the P320 was selected by the U.S. Army as its weapon of choice. Securing this contract is a testimony to SIG Sauer employees and their commitment to innovation, quality and manufacturing the most reliable firearms in the world».

According to Jane’s International Defence Review, the long-running XM17 Modular Handgun System contract, intended to replace legacy 9-mm M9 Beretta pistols, was awarded on 19 January with a total USD580.217 million maximum ceiling.

It is understood that SIG Sauer bested bids from Beretta, FN Herstal, and Glock, after Smith & Wesson and partner General Dynamics Ordnance Tactical Systems (GDOTS) had earlier been dropped from the programme. A total of nine bids were submitted, according to a separate Pentagon statement. The U.S. Army declined to reveal the other bids.

The MHS programme, which is expected to reach full-rate production in 2018, could result in buying between 280,000 and 500,000 weapons for the army, navy, air force, marines, and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOC). The army has said it wants more than 280,000 handguns, including potentially about 7,000 compact versions of the handgun.

In the statement, the army said the USD580 million potential contract was «sufficient to procure army requirements, other service requirements, and potential Foreign Military Sales requirements», and allows for the procurement of handguns and ancillary components for up to 10 years and ammunition for up to 5 years.

Army officials expect the first handguns to be will be provided to units in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2017 to participate in initial operational testing.

Counter-drone system

The AUDS counter-UAS defence system – field proven to detect, track and defeat malicious and errant Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or drones – is the first fully integrated system worldwide to achieve Technology Readiness Level-9 (TRL-9) status. This follows the successful mission deployment of the Anti-UAV Defence Systems (AUDS) system with United States Forces.

AUDS Counter-drone System First to Achieve TRL-9 Status Following Successful Deployment with U.S. Forces
AUDS Counter-drone System First to Achieve TRL-9 Status Following Successful Deployment with U.S. Forces

TRL-9 is the very highest technology readiness level or maturity that a technology system can attain. According to the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and NASA definitions, TRL-9 signifies that a technology system or product is in its final form and that the actual system is proven through successful mission operations.

Mark Radford, speaking for the AUDS team, said: «Achieving TRL-9 status is an important milestone for AUDS in the embryonic counter-drone market. The sale and deployment of multiple AUDS systems to the U.S. military to protect critical assets and personnel makes AUDS, we believe, the only TRL-9 rated fully integrated strategic counter-UAS system on the market».

Over the last 18 months, the AUDS system has been heavily evaluated and tested by military and government organizations. Through this process, AUDS consistently exceeded the mission requirements, simultaneously providing ground and air surveillance against possible threats.

The AUDS system – developed by Blighter Surveillance Systems, Chess Dynamics and Enterprise Control Systems – can detect a drone six miles (10 km) away using electronic scanning radar, track it using precision infrared and daylight cameras and advanced video tracking software before disrupting the flight using a non-kinetic inhibitor to block the radio signals that control it.

This detect, track, defeat process is very quick and typically takes 8-15 secs. Using AUDS, the operator can effectively take control of a drone and force a safe landing. The AUDS system works in all weather, day or night and the disruption is flexible, proportional and operator controlled.

AUDS is positioned at the strategic end of the UAS countermeasures market for use by government agencies, the police and military to protect high value critical national infrastructure or strategically important sites/events. These include nuclear power stations, borders, political, sporting or VIP events, airports and airbases.

AUDS is also currently being evaluated by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for use at major U.S. airports as part of its Pathfinder Programme. The FAA has signed a Co-operative Research and Development Agreement (CRDA) with Liteye Systems, the AUDS team’s manufacturing and integration partner in North America, to test AUDS at US airports selected by the FAA.

To further consolidate its market leading position, the AUDS team has developed a range of new platforms – fixed, semi-permanent and temporary – to better meet the needs of customers in different markets. These include a platform for the deployment of AUDS to the roof of a building; a field mast system for the protection of semi-permanent sites such as Forward Operating Bases (FOB), air bases or army camps; and a system for rapid deployment purposes.

AUDS will be showcasing its counter-UAS solutions at The International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX 2017), at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), from 19 to 23 February 2017. AUDS will be represented at IDEX by its local UAE partner Trust International in Hall 11/Stand C05.

Hoverbike prototype

The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and industry partners demonstrated the flying capabilities of a unique rectangular-shaped quadcopter during a visit from Department of Defense (DoD) officials January 10. Doctor William Roper, director of the Strategic Capabilities Office at the Office of the Secretary of Defense and members of his staff visited the Aberdeen Proving Ground laboratory to see the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, or JTARV.

Army researchers and industry partners fly a prototype rectangular-shaped quadcopter during a visit from DOD officials to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, January 10, 2017 (Photo Credit: Jhi Scott, ARL)
Army researchers and industry partners fly a prototype rectangular-shaped quadcopter during a visit from DOD officials to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, January 10, 2017 (Photo Credit: Jhi Scott, ARL)

Also known as the «hoverbike», the vehicle may one day make it possible for Soldiers on the battlefield to order resupply and then receive those supplies rapidly.

During the visit, Roper told laboratory officials that he is concerned about adapting future technology advances. He said he wants to figure out how to get people to «see something that’s coming on the shelf, immediately identify the use, determine if it’s good enough for rock and roll, get it into the field, but in a way that allows us to keep one-upping it».

Researchers envision a future JTARV flying low to the ground or at thousands of feet at speeds of 60 miles per hour/96 kilometers per hour or more. «Anywhere on the battlefield, Soldiers can potentially get resupplied in less than 30 minutes», said Tim Vong, associate chief of ARL’s Protection Division. He likened the concept to «Amazon on the battlefield». «We want to have options like that», Vong said.

While the current prototype is electric, researchers are looking at a hybrid propulsion system that could dramatically increase range. «We’re exploring increasing payload capacity to 800 pounds/363 kg and extending the range up to 125 miles/201 km», Vong said. «We’re also looking to integrate advanced intelligent navigation and mission planning. We’re looking to end up with a modular, stable platform that can be used for even more dynamic and challenging missions».

The laboratory began exploring the JTARV concept in the summer of 2014. They identified a manufacturer, Malloy Aeronautics, and a systems integrator, SURVICE, entered into a contract and moved quickly from concept to full-scale prototypes.

The JTARV is now a joint effort with the Marine Corps, led by Army researchers, at the Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey; however, the ARL researchers still serve as subject matter experts on aeromechanics, assessment, analysis, propulsion, intelligence and controls and materials and structures.

«The project is successful because we went from concept development to engineering evaluation in collaboration with all various government agencies and industry», explained Ernesto Garcia Lopez, ARDEC. «The demo we saw was a unique opportunity for us to show a seamless transition between one Army organization and another Army organization and having the industry along the whole time», he said.

In addition to other industry, government and academic partners, the JTARV project is teaming with the Office of Naval Research. «Researchers hope to demonstrate full autonomy in the near future», Vong said.

«I think the visit was a great success», Vong said. «It gave us an opportunity to showcase to Dr. Roper ideas and also the progress we’ve been making in exploiting commercial UAS technologies».

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

Army flies hoverbike prototype

New assault rifle

Two of Europe’s most respected defence companies, Rheinmetall and Steyr Mannlicher, have joined forces to manufacture and market the RS556 modular assault rifle. This German-Austrian cooperation project adds a key item to Rheinmetall’s growing array of infantry products.

Highly ergonomic and easy to handle, the RS556 can be readily adapted to individual equipment profiles (Photo: Rheinmetall/Steyr Mannlicher)
Highly ergonomic and easy to handle, the RS556 can be readily adapted to individual equipment profiles (Photo: Rheinmetall/Steyr Mannlicher)

The RS556 is based on the highly regarded STM556, which Steyr Mannlicher first unveiled in 2012. Outstanding modularity characterizes this easy-to-use, future-proof 5.56-mm × 45 cal. weapon.

Rheinmetall and Steyr Mannlicher are offering the RS556 assault rifle as a jointly produced product, made in Germany, with a German valued added share of 60%. Among other things, the two partners thus have their sights set on the German market. This innovative weapon is a possible candidate for the new «System Sturmgewehr Bundeswehr»: the German armed forces intend to replace their standard G36 assault rifle with a more advanced system starting in 2019.

Rheinmetall and Steyr Mannlicher each have well over a century of experience in developing and manufacturing infantry weapons. The RS556 project underscores both companies’ commitment to supplying military and security services around the globe with reliable, future-proof, state-of-the-art systems and equipment.

Featuring an adjustable short-stroke gas piston system and rotating bolt, the gas-operated RS556 is based on the tried-and-tested Steyr Mannlicher AUG, or Universal Army Rifle, a design concept that has proven itself in decades of service on every continent.

With a 16″ barrel (406 mm) and a fully loaded, 30-round magazine, the RS556 weighs around 4.2 kilograms, just over 9 pounds. The adjustable-length light-weight stock clicks into seven different positions, meaning that operators can adjust the RS556 to match their individual equipment profile in optimum fashion.

In a matter of seconds and without tools, the hammer-forged barrel can be easily exchanged. This means that the RS556 can be readily modified for various missions.

A number of standard barrel lengths are available (14.5″, 16″, 18″ and 20″); however, customer-specific barrel and rifling lengths can be easily created.

The RS556 features several standard and optional NATO accessory rails with receiver systems designed in accordance with MIL-STD-1913, STANAG 2324 and STANAG 4694. This means that the weapon can be fitted with various optics and night observation devices or laser light modules. A 40mm grenade launcher can also be mounted on the new assault rifle. Moreover, the RS556 is compatible with Rheinmetall’s modular «Future Soldier – Expanded System» (IdZ-ES), and can also be connected to other soldier systems.

A special breech system with an emergency operation feature ensures that the weapon always functions reliably even in extreme operating conditions, e.g. in severely hot and cold environments.