Page 56 - Australian Defence Magazine November 2019
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Techsystems and General Dynamics already supplied to the ADF via the US For-
eign Military Sales (FMS) channel.
Qualification testing
Assegai live fire qualification testing began in March 2019 at the Port Wakefield Proof and Experimental Establishment north of Adelaide and is scheduled for completion by mid-2021.
The qualification program includes a num- ber of static and dynamic as well as live fire tests to collect data and ensure the munitions meet Australian requirements for storage, transportation and weapons performance.
The live fire component is extensive and broken into a number of undisclosed phases. It will also contribute towards the production of ballistic data for the Assegai family of munitions that will be incorpo- rated into ballistic software used by the US and other nations.
Making the M777
THIS follows the $100 million contract announced in March 2018 under the Land 17-Phase1C.2 Future Artillery Ammu- nition program for the supply of various 155mm projectile types from Rheinmetall’s Assegai family.
The contract also includes a family of common component fuses from Germany’s Junghans Defence and two separate families of modular charge systems from German- South African company Rheinmetall Denel Munition, and Rheinmetall’s Nitrochemie.
The contract marks the first time that Assegai ammunition has been ordered by a user nation for the M777A2, which is also in service with the United States, Canada, India, and Saudi Arabia.
The munitions supplied via Brisbane-based NIOA in support of the two-year qualification program were divided across two shipments, the first in 2018 and the larger of the two in July 2019. Supply chain issues meant that some undisclosed components were excluded and would be delivered separately, Defence said.
The qualification program includes inte- gration into the Raytheon Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS)
which provides general and fires command and control capabilities to ground forces, from mission planning to execution.
Warstocks are included in the five-year supply contract, but will not be procured until successful qualification is achieved, following which an additional order is also anticipated for training ammunition.
In due course the new ammunition suite will supplant 155mm rounds from Alliant
more lethal
Since all Assegai projectiles are ballisti- cally-matched, changes to fire control tables are not required when switching between different capabilities, for example between an infrared illumination projectile and a pre-formed fragmentation round produc- ing more than 20,000 fragments not only from the projectile’s casing but also from encapsulated tungsten spheres.
This ballistic stability is enhanced by a five-zone Rheinmetall Insensitive Muni- tion-compliant modular charge system that is qualified for use in all NATO standard 39-calibre and 52-calibre gun configurations.
All 11 Assegai projectile types are sup- plied with a boat tail assembly that can be replaced in the field with a base bleed unit, adding about 30 per cent to the maximum range. For the M777A2, this would provide a reach of more than 30km.
A range of up to 41km is achieved by two Assegai Velocity Enhanced Artillery Pro- jectile (V-LAP) variants, a number of which are understood to be included in the Port Wakefield qualification testing.
Currently the long-range precision capa- bility of the ADF’s M777A2s is provided by the Raytheon M982 Excalibur guided projectile, achieving ranges of up to 37.5km with a reported Circular Error of Probabil- ity (CEP) of less than five metres – but at a cost of around $70,000 per round.
A much cheaper alternative is the M1156 Precision Guidance Kit Course Correcting
M777 in action
Australia and the US are working col- laboratively to establish the necessary soft- ware engineering requirements, a Defence spokesperson disclosed.
Eight years after the 39-calibre M777A2 ultra- lightweight towed howitzer entered service with the ADF, live fire qualification testing is underway with a new suite of 155mm ammunition that will provide the weapon with increased range and lethality.
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