The Ruag golden rule. (Special Report).
The Ruag brand name is as new as its foundations are deeply anchored into the history of Switzerland. Shortly after the demise of the Eastern Bloc, the various Swiss state-supported defence manufacturing facilities quickly saw their backlog orders drying up. In a first stage of `privatisation' the various entities were regrouped as SW, SE, SF and SM. A second restructuring stage saw these companies being brought as divisions under a single name: Ruag Holding.
As we shall see, there is little Ruag cannot handle in the field of defence technology, from small arms ammunition, through heavy guns and all the way up to fighter aircraft (all of the 34 Swiss Air Force's F/A-18s minus two were assembled in Emmen). However, the final applications of Ruag's products perhaps provide a better understanding of those capabilities as they primarily focus on:
* Firepower upgrades
* Power for Special Forces
* Successful Training
* Efficient Demining
* Aerospace Maintenance and Upgrades.
The actual Ruag business centres, from which the products originate, however, become of secondary importance when one realises that several of those centres can be involved in any given product. Their names (see box "The Holding" elsewhere within this report) nevertheless provide more than a clue as to who, in the end, does what. Due to space limitations it is impossible to review the entire spectrum of Ruag's competences, but throughout this report the author will attempt to provide a foretaste the Swiss group's overall capabilities with a few of its systems randomly chosen.
The Holding Ruag Holding mainly consists of four divisions known as: * Ruag Aerospace, * Ruag Electronics * Ruag Land Systems * Ruag Munition, to which Ruag Components was subsequently added through the acquisition of Von Roll-Betec. However, the company has many stakes in various other companies, the most internationally known being Nitrochemie, Dynamit Nobel AmmoTec and Mecanex. It must be noted that Ammotec is in fact now part of Ruag Munition.
Ruag's offerings encompass a thorough upgrade programme for the M-109 howitzer, but also the Compact Tank Gun, the Stinger and Rapier upgrade, the Ranger drone system, the Bighorn vehicle-mounted mortar and the Bison fortress gun.
The list of foreign warhead programmes in which Ruag is involved will probably be a revelation to a number of readers. In a most recent development, the firm got its `entry ticket' to take part in the development of the American Common Missile programme. It also produces the tandem and downwards-firing warhead for the Swedish Bill 2 as well as the warhead for the British-selected MBT LAW, and has completed the tests of the improved tandem warhead for the French Apilas, which now overcomes over 700 mm of armour protected by third-generation ERA. Most of this prominence derives from Ruag's highly developed isostatic pressing and shrink-fit, liner shaping and quite importantly proper precursor/main charge decoupling (this to prevent frequency interference between the two warheads). Where average armour penetration of hollow charges typically hover over seven or eight calibres, Ruag, unbelievable as it may sound, is currently toying with 10+ calibres penetrations.
MEP: Having said this, it may appear arguable to say that one of the most spectacular (and recent) achievements is the MEP (Modular Explosive Penetrator) which can be fitted to the Panzerfaust, the AT4 and, yes, the RPG7 as well. However, no pun intended, the MEP constitutes a substantial breakthrough. Indeed, any warhead attacking a hard wall surface sees a considerable amount of its energy being wasted on the wrong side of the target. The MEP, through accurate nose cone shaping and surface treatment, exploits the reverberating shockwaves resulting from initial impact, destroys the integrity of the cement and ends up travelling through sand, so to speak. Job done, its specially developed fuze sets off its 150 grams of explosive. An AT4-launched MEP thus clears a 20.4 cm double reinforced concrete wall to devastate whatever might be behind it, but has also recently demonstrated to a bewildered audience that the difficulty of defeating a bunker-representative pile of sandbags now belongs to the past. Fitted with a hybrid thermobaric warhead, the weapon literally devastated a US Marine Corps-standard bunker. And more is to come, like cutting up a 61-centimetre diameter hole in a concrete wall by using a ring-shaped hollow charge.
Mapam: The above-mentioned explosives production techniques provide a quantum leap in punch for a given volume. This has motivated Ruag to look into ways of improving a mortar calibre used by some 70 nations around the world, the 60 mm mortar bomb. In doing so, the resultant Mapam has demonstrated its ability--as witnessed by the author--to provide the same degree of lethality as an 81 mm round. After testing it against the latest M720M1, the US Army had to admit a 1.8 lethal factor superiority. The insensitive PBXN-110 explosive shares, however, the starring role with the actual shell. Indeed, the idea is to create a consistent lethality pattern to a range of 25 metres, which precludes natural fragmentation. The answer was found in a casing skin that incorporates 2400 steel balls. Another factor that improves the lethality of a mortar bomb is `how it is set off'. Ruag has thus developed a high-speed fuze that triggers the bomb as soon as it comes into contact with the softest materials--and this includes snow.
Ranger: Although it is based on an existing foreign design, this drone system has been vastly improved to meet the somewhat harsh Alpine operational environment. In an unusual step the aircraft had to be fitted with retractable landing skids (see title picture) to enable it to land on grass, dirt, snow or stones alike, which precluded the use of a wheeled landing gear. Then the Ranger's control systems had to incorporate a fully redundant flight control system and two power generators to make it the first drone of its kind to be certified for flight over populated areas. The aircraft is also fitted with an emergency landing parachute, but in wartime conditions this can be removed to allow the installation of an extra 20-litre fuel tank. The most outstanding feature of the Ranger, however, is the automatic landing system that enables it to land on a 40 x 200 metre strip, although experience has repeatedly demonstrated that it actually requires only 20 x 120 metres. To this end, the Ranger uses a tracker called Opats (Object Position and Tracking Sensor). Mounted on a tripod and placed on the landing strip, this device laser scans a relatively large vertical window in the flight path of the aircraft some three kilometres away from the required touch down point.
As soon as the return signal from the aircraft's laser reflector is detected, the Opats switches to continuous mode and sends deviation signals to the ground control station which in turn keeps the aircraft within the beam all the way down to flaring point, engine shut down and finally touch down with less than a one-metre deviation. In this respect, the footage of numerous Ranger landings is a delight to watch.
Things are moving apace with the Ranger system, which has thus far logged 600 trouble-free landings Ruag, which has exported the Ranger to Finland, also offers the Opats, which can be adapted to a wide range of drones. Further refinements to the Opats enables the above-mentioned `intercept' window to be moved out to four kilometres allowing a drone like the Ranger to land on a 10 x 100-metre strip. The Ranger was hitherto solely relying on a truck-mounted hydropneumatic catapult system for launch. Ruag has now developed the Archer, a lightweight launch trailer which enables it not only to be towed by lighter vehicles but also easily transported by aircraft as small as the C-27 Spartan.
The CTG: The Compact Tank Gun was originally developed for the stillborn Swiss NKP tank, which for financial reasons was abandoned in favour of the Leopard 2. Nevertheless, if the hull didn't survive the exchequer's axe its 120 mm main weapon did. Because of the very strict design constraints imposed from the outset, the Nato-standard CTG is now proving to be an ideal weapon, not only as a retrofit item that will fit in an original 105 mm gun enclosure (it looks like it will enjoy some future in M60s, particularly in Jordan), but also for arming new, lighter vehicles. In fact, the gun was not allowed to gather dust in the corner of a workshop until an application could be found. It has been continuously improved, notably in its cradling system to allow it to have a longer recoil.
Power For Special Forces
While a number of the weapon systems described so far more than qualify for special operations forces, but perhaps in a more offensive manner, Switzerland as independent a nation as it may be, has been involved for some time now in peacekeeping missions abroad. Ruag has played a major role in developing systems for Switzerland's armed forces.
Issys: As part of its 1998 defence acquisition programme, the Swiss Armed forces have recently received another twelve Eurocopter Cougar helicopters. However, in the light of the numerous attacks on low-flying aircraft by light anti-aircraft weapons, the Swiss decided to have its new choppers equipped with an effective means of protection. Readily available equipment could have been purchased, but more powerful ejector and cartridges were required. Working in conjunction with Avitronics for the electronic systems, Ruag embarked on a project to provide a comprehensive missile detection and decoying suite. This takes more resources than one may first imagine. Indeed, the ambitious programme could only be cost-effectively carried out through the use of complex simulation to avoid spending endless flight hours on an expensive helicopter the size of the Cougar. Mathematical models, for example, thus had to be developed then used to verify the interference of the system with the actual flight path of the machine.
A very simple example is making sure that, once launched, the cartridges will not find themselves flying straight into the rotor disk when the helicopter suddenly takes a hard banking, a manoeuvre that usually is listed in the recommended things to do to shake a missile off one's tail. This sounds relatively easy, but when one takes downwash plus the handful of vortices thus generated into the equation, the entire operation expands to rather scary proportions. Also, one does not modify an airframe with total impunity, particularly when some of the equipment is slightly cantilevered. So here too, careful evaluations of stresses had to be computed. The resultant product is the Issys--which is a contraction of Integrated Self-protection SYStem'. Weighing a total of 80 kg, the Issys does not only detect an incoming missile to throw all manner of flares at it, but is also able to detect its actual firing--a feature any pilot can only be grateful for when one knows that upon detection of a missile, reaction time is a precious little 2.5 seconds. The Issys suite includes four laser sensors, four missile sensors, four radar sensors and amplifiers, a control module (a so-called black box), a display and control unit (which also copies to the cockpit's multiple-function display) and finally four chaff and flare dispensers, each with 32 cartridges.
.338 Lap Mag: Ruag Ammotec results from the recent merger of Ruag Munition's small arms division and Dynamit Nobel's similar activity and as a consequence offers one of the world's thickest catalogue of civilian, sports, hunting and defence munitions. In fact, Ammotec has become the largest supplier of infantry rounds in Europe. One recent development is the .338 Lapua Mag 8.6 x 70 mm which is able to destroy the integrity of a standard ceramic vest protection plate at a range of 600 metres. The 45-gram cartridge despatches a 16.8 copper/zinc-jacketed lead/tin alloy core at a muzzle velocity of 847 metres per second. At a range of 500 metres, trajectory consistency is such that ten rounds will hit within a diameter of 80 centimetres.
There are several methods of envisaging training. The easiest is to do it with the real thing but, depending on the weapon involved, this can be expensive. Then comes the simulator. Here too, a careful balance between the real thing and the purposely-developed item has to be reached, or one again faces the risk of running into more expenses. Finally, one has to consider the environment. This does not only include consideration to Mother Nature, but also to the people living in the vicinity. Due to Switzerland's very convoluted topography and resultant limited available space, Ruag has been able to acquire a certain expertise to cope with all those aspects.
Stinger Tracking and Launch Simulator: Not only did Ruag build the Stinger under license from then General Dynamics when the weapon was ordered by the Swiss Armed forces in 1984, but the firm also ended up improving it. Next came the time to procure a trainer. The first Stinger trainer was acquired from the United States, but Ruag quickly saw ways of developing and producing its own version. The end product, through the subtle balance mentioned above, is the Stinger Tracking and Launch Simulator--a system that is largely based on the real item but reinforce to enable it to fire 400 shots. Initial missile launch speed is the same, at 38 m/sec; noise ditto at 168dB and the same goes for the recoil forces at a tad under 3.6Ns. And of course both the simulator and actual weapon tip the scales at exactly 15.6 kg. The smart cut is that no real missile is launched, but rather a dummy, which, under the power of a small cartridge, will provide the bang and then land some 125 meters from its launch point. In most cases, visual inspection of the dummy--a long aluminium rod--will clear it for reuse. An option allows one to fit a smoke generator. In a strange twist of events given the development of the Issys, Ruag is investigating the possibilities of using special infrared flares to enable gunners to train in conjunction with missile detection-equipped aircraft.
Codarts: Ruag offers and supplies a wide range of simulators for individual, crew and unit training, but perhaps the most comprehensive training system of all is the Codarts training centre. As it's fully spelt out acronym suggests--combined arms direct fire and area weapon training system--it combines virtually every element of the modern battlefield, from infantrymen through mortars all the way up to armoured vehicles and main battle tanks. The Codarts set-up entails the use by each unit, be it human or hardware, of Cosim elements, which include laser emitters, receivers/reflectors and radio reporting equipment. Starting with the infantryman, the gear concerned here is the Cosim Soldier kit, which includes a body harness, fitted with a number of laser reflector/ receivers, a transceiver and a small arms receiver that is mounted onto the soldier's weapon. A little finesse is introduced, because the laser mounted on the weapon would be able to score over unrealistic distances, so it does also measure the range to validate the shot (which is a blank round, of course). The transceiver, for its part, also specifies to the Exercise Control Shelter which part of the body has been hit. Depending on the `injury' level, both the soldier and the `game master' will know whether the soldier is still able to use his weapon or not. In turn, this also enables a medevac team to join the battle when deemed necessary to include this very essential parameter (and the logistics it entails) if one wants to keep things realistic. So the pattern is as follows: a soldier shoots a laser beam instead of a bullet (although he still needs to fire a blank round to activate his system), his shot is recorded by the harness worn by his opponent and the resultant data is received by the instructors. The lasers are coded, which means that the principle can be applied to a grenade launcher, a machine-gun or an anti-tank guided or unguided weapon, meaning that even vehicles, light and heavy alike, can be fitted with a Cosim suite, fire, be hit and put out of commission (in this case a red smoke generator will show anyone on the battlefield that there is no reason to fire at it again).
Another subtlety introduced by Ruag in the Codarts battlefield is the Fire-Marker. This is a sort of indestructible disk (it can be rolled over, even by a tank) that contains a number of sensors and a transmitter. Laid in a grid pattern over the battlefield, its exact position is determined by radio goniometry. This device allows the Codarts battlefield to introduce in a rather unique manner other weapons: the mortar, the anti-tank mine and the hand grenade, for instance, since each one of the concerned Fire-Markers on the grid will be able to accurately detect the position of the impact and transmit it over to the instructors--even in a rocky or forest environment.
The Swiss Army has two training centres; the first covers a two square kilometre area on which some 710 markers are scattered to meet the training needs of 460 infantry with 48 vehicles--the larger one which spreads over 7.3 square kilometres with 1500 markers can accommodate 600 infantry and 70 vehicles. However, the system is perfectly mobile and can be laid out almost anywhere.
Interestingly, the Codarts has been selected by the US Department of Defense for a foreign comparative test programme, since the suite will easily integrate within existing simulation systems such as the Miles.
Naturally, a system such as the Cosim suite can be fine-tuned for urban warfare. As a matter of fact, Ruag has studied such a layout for the Swiss Army.
Aerospace Maintenance and Upgrades
Ruag has long experience with aeronautics. In fact, until 1996, what eventually became known as Ruag Aerospace was the Federal Aircraft Factory and part of the Swiss Air Force's Logistics Command. Based in Emmen, this division of Ruag is in charge of the licence manufacture and/or assembly of most of the Swiss Air Force's fighter aircraft and helicopters. Because it has been in charge of maintenance from depot level all the way up to maintenance engineering, the firm has garnered vast experience in the manufacture of upgraded parts. For instance, it has been producing over 330 improved F-5/T-38 horizontal stabiliser sets since 1984 for operators worldwide on Northrop Grumman's blueprint specifications.
F/A-18 Hornet expertise: With the experience gained through the operation of numerous jet engine-powered aircraft types since the second world war, the Swiss Air Force had more than a good idea of the immense stresses flying short cycles in a mountainous region could impose on an airframe. When the time to acquire a new aircraft came up (the F/A-18), the Swiss aeronautical experts very quickly realised that some major improvements would have to be incorporated in certain areas of the structure. In fact, it was concluded that the Swiss F/A-18 would be subjected to a wear and tear factor of three compared to those of the US Navy. Ruag thus worked in conjunction with Boeing (McDonnell Douglas at the time, of course) to redevelop the bulkheads and ribbings of the central fuselage, which were subsequently made of titanium. In the end, these new parts were adopted by Boeing for the C/D series.
As mentioned in our introduction, Ruag has manufactured 32 Hornets for the Swiss Air Force. However, due to the expertise gained in the field of composites as well as in steel, titanium and aluminium bonding techniques over the years, Ruag continues to manufacture certain parts and thus delivers ailerons, rudders and vertical stabiliser leading edges to Boeing. No less than 700 sets of the latter have been shipped so far to St. Louis, and there are strong signs showing that this line will continue to run until 2008.
It goes without saying that Rung has the competence to carry out, and is in charge of, the 200-hour scheduled maintenance and inspection of the Swiss Hornets (involving some 800 man-hours) and is now able to offer this service to foreign customers. More importantly perhaps, is the fact that Ruag has embarked on an ambitious programme, under contract from the DPA, aimed at remaining ahead of any trouble that could be encountered by the Air Force. To this end, an entirely new full-scale fatigue test bed concept has been developed. Based at Emmen, the test bed incorporates, inter alia, some 68 push-pull actuators.
Ruag has developed and is delivering to the Swiss Army a light mine-clearing device that is fitted to an M113. The system--a plough fitted with electromagnetic field generators headed by a sweeping chain--is intended to clear anti-personnel and anti-tank mines equivalent to two kg of TNT. In the extreme opposite in terms of weight comes a family of UXO detonators. Extremely simple and safe to use, these consist of small plastic encased hollow charges that are fixed on snap-on tripods to accurately aim them at the desired spot on the unexploded item.
A Comprehensive Set Up
As indicated in the introduction to this article, it was impossible to review all the products and activities of the Ruag group in such a small space, notably in the field of small arms ammunition, part task simulators, howitzers (M-109), tank and video-aided simulators, weapon systems, barrel sub-calibre inserts, mine-clearing, UXO disposal and aerospace (including civilian aircraft). This overview, however, should suffice to give an idea of the broad range of systems and services that can be generated by such a small nation's industry. This fact has certainly bewildered the author during his visit to Ruag's various plants and the rigour that oozes from every single wall definitely reminded him that the Swiss Armed Forces are still not quite ready to compromise with quality. Anyone will certainly agree that the F/A-18 redesigning episode with its original designer required a "certain pull".
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|Author:||Biass, Eric H.|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2003|
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