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SETTING THEIR SIGHTS ON THE CANADIAN ARMY: Dynamit Nobel Defence Offers Next Generation of Shoulder Fired Anti-Tank Missiles.

FOR THOSE WHO study the history of the Second World War, the German Panzerfaust is easily one of the most iconic weapons to be used during that conflict. Mass-produced in the latter stages of the war, the Panzerfaust was a single-shot, single-soldier weapon that fired a rocket propelled anti-tank projectile.

What made the Panzerfaust so effective was its shaped-charge warhead design, which directed all the explosive energy into a single jet--thus creating the armour penetrating capability.

As allied armies soon discovered these disposable Panzerfausts also worked well against defensive structures. Whenever possible, the allies would in fact use captured stocks of Panzerfausts to blow 'mouseholes' in buildings during the savage-street fighting in the final days of WWII.

In the 1990's, the German Army resurrected the legendary Panzerfaust name when they contracted Dynamit Nobel Defence (DND) to design and produce the Panzerfaust 3. As DND officials were quick to point out, there never was a Panzerfaust 2, and that the number '3' designation is defined by this weapon's Intended effective range of 300 meters.

While the Panzerfaust 3 does bear a resemblance to it's wartime predecessor, the modern version's capabilities go far beyond that of the original. The projectile and launch tube remain disposable, but the Panzerfaust 3 is capable of a main battle tank (MBT) kill at ranges beyond 400m. This is effected through the shaped charge concept of its predecessor but now the innovative design allows the firer to choose options which best suit the intended target.

By extending the spike on the warhead, the projectile will detonate on impact with the shaped charge focused to penetrate armour. Should the firer choose not to extend the spike, this will result in a slight delay in the warhead's detonation upon impact. This delay allows for the explosives in the warhead to squash against the surface of the structure before exploding--thus maximizing the resultant blast hole.

With the development of reactive armour, which uses counter explosive to defeat incoming projectiles, DND modified the Panzerfaust 3 even further. There is now a double-spiked option, which in essence employs a double shaped charge effect. When the first striker impacts it detonates a small shaped charge which counters the reactive armour's explosive countermeasure. The second striker then ignites the main shaped charge, which blasts through the tanks armour. Ingenious.

Since the 1990's the Panzerfaust 3 has been the primary anti-tank weapon of the German Army and it has been exported to the Netherlands, Korea and Japan.

The basic concept of the Panzerfaust 3 is not entirely unique. It employs what is known as the Davis Gun System, which has the firing charge in the middle of the launch tube. Once triggered, the firing charge propels the projectile forward while simultaneously blasting a counter mass out the rear of the tube. This concept is defined by the term recoilless.

There are of course many shoulder fired anti-armour options on the global market, but the Panzerfaust 3 leads the pack in several categories. First of all, DND's innovative counter-mass technology allows for the Panzerfaust 3 to be fired from within a confined space of just 15 cubic meters--with no second structural opening.

Then there is the sheer size of the Panzerfaust 3's 110 mm warhead, which can achieve a penetration of more than one meter of armour. That is overkill when it comes to defeating modern MBT's and puts the destructive power of the Panzerfaust 3 more In line with far heavier, crew served, mounted anti-tank systems such as the TOW or Javelin. Most other shoulder-fired launchers max out at 84mm calibre and do not have anywhere near the range of the Panzerfaust 3.

While this weapon system has been the bread-and-butter product for DND for more than two decades, the company realizes that constant innovation is the key to a successful business model. Situated in the sprawling forest near the village of Burbach in Siegenland, Germany, Dynamit Nobel Defence traces its company roots back to 1903.

Originally producing explosives for civilian mining purposes, in 1924 they were purchased by the Alfred Nobel Group--he of Nobel Peace Prize fame. Although long since disassociated with the group the name has remained.

In 2004, the company underwent a major restructuring with the Defence segment of DND focusing more singularly on shoulder firing anti-tank systems. Since that juncture DND has grown from approximately 100 employees to roughly 360 at present. Annual sales stand at $165 million (cdn) and the current customer list spans 19 countries.

Canada is not on that list at the moment, but senior executives at DND are hoping to change that. "It is a long term plan for us to sell our systems to Canada" explained Sebastian Bent, international sales director. "We only really began testing out the North American market two years ago, but we definitely see Canada as a potential market.

While any Canadian procurement project to replace the Army's current inventory of 84mm Carl Gustav reloadable, shoulder-fired anti-tank launchers is still well down the road, that timeframe will allow DND to refine and improve upon their next-generation of missiles.

They have already developed an entire family of weapons known as the Recoilless Grenade Weapons (RGW). These disposable systems come In two calibers, 60mm and 90mm, each with a number of different capabilities. Unlike the Panzerfaust 3 which has a re-useable firing mechanism and sight, the RGW family Is completely disposable in its basic configuration. Also, whereas the Panzerfaust 3 warhead extends beyond the launch tube, with the RGW systems everything is contained within a single, self-contained tube.

With the anti-tank variant the operator still has the option of extending the spike to create a shaped charge anti-armour effect, not extending the spike to maximize the anti-structure capability or In the case of the tandem round, double extending the spike to create a reactive armour defeating, double shaped charge impact.

As with all of their products, DND is constantly trying to upgrade and improve the systems and the RGW family is no exception. Weight is a major consideration for all man portable weapons, and DND's engineers are always looking at wars to reduce every possible gram. Through improved production techniques and advanced materials the upgrade from an A2 version of the RGW 90 to the next generation A3 model saw the weight of the drop from from 8,9kg down to 7,5kg.

The long range multi-purpose (LRMP) variant of the RWG 90 is designed for use against soft targets at a range up to 1200 meters.

This system is used in conjunction with a re-useable fire control sight, which includes an advanced laser range finder. Once the target is acquired and the range determined, the fire control system programs the missile in the launch tube to KM either directly hit on impact or detonate at 8 meters height, H directly above the target. The warhead contains 3500 tungsten steel balls and the zone of lethality is 45 meters by 30 meters. This deadly tool has been a part of the German Army's Special Forces arsenal H since 2016, and will be a standard piece of equipment for all | German infantry units by next year.

Other standard variants of the RGW family include antistructure munitions, illumination rounds and smoke projectiles.

Like the Panzerfaust 3, the RGW family is designed to be incredibly simple to use. With only a minimum of instruction these weapons can be fired by even untrained non-combat personnel. However to improve operator's handling skills and marksmanship, DND has produced a scale of training aids ranging from sophisticated computer simulators, to sub-caliber munitions and right up to full scale practice training sounds.

Where the future leads for DND is the marrying up of their two proven products--the Panzerfaust 3 and the RGW family--to create a 110mm version of the RGW. This monster will pack the killing punch of a Panzerfaust 3 warhead into a shorter, lighter weight, better-balanced RGW launch tube.

It will be able to fully integrate with the 90mm and 60mm RGW family and utilize the same re-useable fire control system. The RGW 110 will be able to be fired without the fire control system, but this would greatly lessen the performance. With a moving target the fire control system uses a one second laser reading to assess the speed and distance in order to provide the operator with an exact lead aim point.

Perhaps the most important selling point of the new RGW 110 would be that it has the capability to kill tanks at long ranges including those of near-peer adversarial militaries such as the Russian T-80 tank.

RGW concept is clearly the future of DND's portfolio. It is also the system (in its various calibres) that DND sees as a viable option for the Canadian forces.

In terms of cost, the DND options for shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons are not the cheapest on the world market, but their range and stopping power makes them comparable in performance to far more expensive crew-served systems.

For the marketers at DND this is something of which they are proud. "We don't pretend to be something we are not," said Bent. "We are not the cheapest choice. We are high performance at high cost."

AUTHORS NOTE: During my visit to the DND facility in Burbach, Germany it was scheduled for me to fire a full scale practice Panzerfaust 3 round at the company test range. Alas, it was not to be as I was denied by the fog of peace. Visibility was reduced to just 20 meters. So close, but no cigar.

Caption: ABOVE RIGHT: The German Panzerfaust 3 in its latest version. Still top performing and still the German Army's anti-tank weapon of choice.

Caption: ABOVE: RGW 90 series in action. The RGW concept allows for better ergonomics, the adaption of fire control sights (as seen in the picture) and better upgradability for future warhead designs.

Caption: ABOVE: DynaSim firing simulator. One of the many innovative training solutions from RGW systems.

Caption: ABOVE RIGHT: Company grounds of Dynamit Nobel Defence. The historic style of the buildings can still be seen today.

Caption: ABOVE RIGHT: RGW 110 prototypes have already undergone intense ergonomic testing. Next will be firing tests with fully integrated systems.

Caption: BELOW: Prototype of RGW 110, designated successor of Panzerfaust 3 and the new benchmark in MBT defeat.

Please Note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.
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Title Annotation:EYE ON THE INDUSTRY
Author:Taylor, Scott
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2020
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