Poland completed tests of Rak artillery munitions and is satisfied of them
WARSAW, (BM) – In evaluations of the implementation of modernization programs of the Polish Armed Forces – excluding direct purchases of equipment from foreign suppliers from these evaluations – artillery programs enjoy the opinion of being the most efficient, consistent, timely and at a satisfactory quality level, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing detailed analysis of Defence24.
However, new artillery assets must be supplemented by both support systems, including reconnaissance, and appropriate ammunition, allowing them to take full advantage of their capabilities. Recently, a big step has been made in this direction – tests of the Rak mortar ammunition have been completed, allowing them to reach the assumed range of over 10 kilometers.
In the context of Polish artillery programs, an important issue is ensuring the supply of modern ammunition. This applies especially to the Rak mortar, because it – being a unique development of the Polish industry, innovative in terms of construction and technology – needs specially designed ammunition, because for self-propelled turret mortars – which are a new class of weapons in NATO – there are basically no general, allied standards of ammunition construction. as in the case of 155 mm howitzers (JBMoU).
The automatic 120 mm Rak mortar has become famous recently, due to successive contracts for equipment and the achievement of an important stage in the development of ammunition. At this point, it is worth recalling a few dates, which will allow you to imagine where we are today.
The M120K Rak mortar program was initiated in 2006 as a response from Huta Stalowa Wola SA addressed to the Ministry of National Defense to the undisguised fascination of the Ministry of Defense with the 120 mm AMOS and Nemo self-propelled mortars of the Finnish Patria company, which are also intensely promoted in Poland. HSW SA offered the military to design and deliver not only the firearm itself, but the entire complex, defined as the KMO 120 mm self-propelled automatic mortar Rak (Cancer Company Fire Module), which also includes support vehicles, ensuring KMO considerable operational autonomy.
The subject of the above-mentioned offer, however, was not the development and delivery of ammunition, therefore HSW, together with other partners (WITU), developed a “bridge solution” in the form of a modification of the OF843B mortar grenades, designed in the years of World War II, intended for towed mortars.
However, this temporary solution allowed us to complete research and development on Cancer and conduct its qualification studies. It has never been assumed that the mortar manufacturer would also be responsible for the supply of modern ammunition suitable for it, so further work on it was entrusted to other entities – military institutes and companies of the current PGZ.
Despite having a lot of twists and turns, the Cancer program had a happy ending. After the successful completion of the qualification tests in 2015, the first contract was signed in April of the following year (value: PLN 968.3 million gross) for the supply of eight KMOs of 8 M120K Rak and 4 Artillery Command Vehicles (AWD).
In separate proceedings, the Ministry of National Defense obtained for these eight KMO Rak Artillery Vehicle Repair Armaments (AWRU) for 53 million. PLN gross and Artillery Ammunition Vehicle (AWA) for 129 million. PLN gross and intends to acquire the Artillery Reconnaissance Vehicle (AWR). The first two vehicles are based on the Jelcz chassis and are already in service, while the development work on AWR based on the Rosomak chassis should be completed this year.
The first contract for the supply of mortars and AWDs was completed in 2019. In the same year, the Ministry of National Defense signed a contract for the supply of two more KMOs with 16 more Rak mortars in 2020-2021 and the production of 2 SM120K for a training battery created at CSAiU in Toruń.
In May 2020, another contract was signed for the supply of equipment elements for the next five KMO Rak in 2022-2024, for the gross amount of PLN 703.1 million. These kits will include 40 mortars and 20 AWDs. The remaining elements for these modules will most likely be sourced in separate procedures, similar to the first batch of Rakow.
By the end of 2021, the Polish Armed Forces will have 10 KMOs with a total of 80 M120K Rak (plus 2 in the training battery at CSAiU), and by the end of 2024 – already 15 KMOs, including the “Toruń” vehicles, 122 fire means in the form of an automatic 120 mm self-propelled mortar.
The previous analyzes and assumptions (not all of them are explicit) for the development of the Polish Armed Forces show that after the completion of the implementation of the Rak mortar in the M120K circular variant, its tracked variant (M120G) is expected to be acquired, intended to support up to a dozen mechanized battalions. Even over 100 are expected to be involved.
If this plan continues, the number of Crayfish in the Polish army should reach 200-250 copies. This is a significant potential from the point of view of NATO’s defense capabilities in Central and Eastern Europe.
The numbers and dates quoted should make the Readers (and not only them) aware of the importance for the Cancer program of “keeping up” with the work on ammunition with the equipment. Completion of the qualification tests for the basic ammunition for the Cancer, i.e. HE fragmentation ammunition, completes an important stage of the work, but does not mean their complete end.
It is worth recalling that during the R&D phase of the Raka turret system, modified ammunition was used, using OF843B grenades. However, the full cycle of her qualification tests was not completed until 2017, when the army was already receiving supplies of the first KMO Cancer. The completion of these studies allowed for the conclusion of a contract for the supply of a batch of 6,000. pcs of this kind of missiles.
Let us remind you that the modernized OF843B grenades differ slightly (mainly in terms of the design of the hardware cooperating with the automatic storage, forwarding and loading system) from those developed by HSW SA and WITU for the R&D phase and Raka qualification tests.
However, the basic performance of this ammunition, which has quite significant drawbacks, does not change. The most serious of them is range, not exceeding 8 km (practically it is about 6-7 km). Increasing it is impossible for design reasons, mainly due to the strength of the grenade shell, which is not able to withstand the pressure level in the barrel at the time of the shot.
High pressures are a prerequisite for obtaining the appropriate initial speed, which determines the range. The Initial Tactical and Technical Assumptions (CTMR) formulated in 2012 by the WITU for the target Cancer ammunition provided that in order to obtain the required range of at least 8 km at that time, a muzzle velocity of at least 370 m / s was required, and this required a barrel line of 150 MPa. The maximum length of the projectile was set at 784 mm, and the mass – about 15 kg.
Nota bene, the contract for the development of the target Cancer ammunition was signed in 2012 – only a few years after the development of the mortar itself had begun. This, combined with the innovative design of the mortar itself, translating into major challenges in the development of the ammunition, is at least part of the explanation for why it was only recently tested, although the Raki themselves have been in service for three years.
The manufacturer of the Cancer designed the gun so that the maximum pressure in the barrel could reach 216 MPa (during the tests, the barrels were even tested at 250 MPa), which would allow the muzzle velocity of the grenades to exceed 500 m / s. These are supersonic speeds (approx. 1.5 Ma), unattainable for the previous generation grenades, unable to overcome complex aerodynamic phenomena in flight (e.g. wave crisis).
After the modification, the OF843B grenade, reaching a flight speed below the speed of sound (up to 300 m / s), was not able to meet these conditions, so from the beginning it was planned as a “plan B”, which could be used for training purposes. One of the most important advantages of this solution, however, was the fact that the military has a large stock of this type of grenade, which should be gradually utilized. Using them after modification during fire training was an economically justified solution, the more so that Rak did not have any other ammunition.
Work on the target HE ammunition for Cancer was initially carried out in a consortium system with WITU as a leader whose task was to construct the ammunition. Since 2015, this role has been taken over by Metalowe Dezamet Nowa Dęba (WITU remains in the consortium as a research contractor). The factory in Nowodębskie will be the final producer and supplier of ammunition.
The innovative nature of R&D works related to the design and testing of new ammunition for a modern automatic mortar resulted in the necessity to solve technical contradictions and reconcile mutually exclusive requirements on many occasions. Ultimately, in the first half of 2020, the test cycle was successfully completed, for the needs of which – as the manufacturer informs – two batches of ammunition, several hundred pieces of grenades each, were made and used.
The final protocols signed on June 5 confirm the achievement of the performance expected by the Armament Inspectorate, such as maximum range “not less than 10,000 meters”, and minimum – with a high-speed shot – not greater than 300 meters, guaranteed effectiveness at least 97%, appropriate focus, rate of fire and the required characteristics related to storage and storage, with cooperation with ammunition loading, delivery and storage system in the rotating turret magazine (20 pcs) of the Cancer and the spare magazine (26 pcs) in the chassis body, arming the fuse, etc.
The new HE cartridge, loaded with TNT (TNT), weighs 19.2 kg with a throwing charge and achieves a grenade muzzle velocity of 510 m / s with a range exceeding 10,000 tons. m. Its minimum shooting distance along a flat track (straight fire) is 150 m, which is possible thanks to a fuse designed especially for Raka ammunition, which uses the effect of aerodynamic impact on the inertia mechanism, initiating the rearming process – in the case of a direct shot – already after 40-100 meters and the arming limit is constant, independent of the actual speed of the projectile.
It is worth emphasizing that the new grenade opens the way to further, target solutions. It is tested with TNT, but in the end, the fragmentation ammunition will be elaborated with the new, not very sensitive K-43 material, developed by Bydgoszcz Nitro-Chem (Defender at MSPO 2019), on which the company has been working in cooperation with WITU and WAT for the last five years . It is the first Polish explosive of this class.
Thanks to the new composition of elaborating material, the ammunition, as the manufacturer declares, “minimizes the risk of unintentional detonation when exposed to various stimuli (including thermal, mechanical, pressure), and at the same time maintains energy properties comparable to TNT. Moreover, due to the presence of special aluminum in the composition, it also partially has the properties of blast enhanced materials. “
During the work on the K-43, the 120 mm mortar grenades loaded with this agent could not detonate e.g. shooting with a 12.7 mm projectile, HEAT blast and shocking artillery fragments. It effectively minimizes the risk of unintentional detonation, thus reducing the risks for the crew of Cancer or AWA.
Coming back to the new generation basic HE ammunition that has already been tested, as of today it is not known what the next course of action will be. The management of the company from Nowa Dęba is waiting for the commencement of trade talks regarding the supply of new ammunition with the Armament Inspectorate soon. The subject of the talks will also be the expected scale of deliveries, and this is a derivative of, inter alia, adopted fire training cycles and exercise intensity.
Negotiations can realistically start at the end of the year. The talks may take weeks or months, preparing ZM Dezamet and their partners for large-scale production – most likely the next several months. This means that the first mass-produced grenades should be expected not earlier, than around mid-2021. Then the army will receive Raki from the ninth and tenth KMO.
Two types of special grenades will complement the range of ammunition for the Stalowa Wola automatic mortar, consisting of four rounds. Work on the smoke (SMK) and illuminating (ILL) missiles are ongoing. The management of ZM Dezamet is cautious about the current state of work on these types of ammunition.
What is known about them is that they are ultimately intended to ensure adequate dazzling of the enemy observation and targeting systems and to provide a smoke screen within the range of 300 to 8,000 meters from their own fire position. The grenades weigh up to 15 kg and are equipped with the most modern PMZ-10 programmable detonators with EPROM memory, also developed by ZM Dezamet, powered by a chemical battery initiated at the moment of firing. – This is the research and development phase and we are very careful in submitting any declarations regarding the further work schedule – says director Krzysztof Zuba.
Of course, the expected production scale of SMK and ILL grenades will be incomparably smaller than HE grenades, but it will be necessary to have appropriate technical and technological competences, independent of the production scale, both by ZM Dezamet and its partners.
ZM Dezamet is preparing for the phase of “production intensification”, associated with preparations for the development of ammunition production for both artillery products from Stalowa Wola. As artillery units become saturated with Regina systems (by 2024, the army should have at least 120 sh 155 mm Krab vehicles in the line, unless another DMO is ordered, which has been talked about for a long time), the demand for 155 mm ammunition will increase supplied by Dezamet.
The increase in the number of Crayfish in support units will create circumstances conducive not only to the formulation of orders for a significant volume of a new type of ammunition, but also for the recognition of purchases in long-term contracts. Agreements of this type are beneficial for all parties, as they allow not only to plan investments in companies with greater peace of mind, affecting the quality and level of production potential, but also facilitate the conclusion of well-prepared agreements with cooperators, which in both production programs, 155 mm howitzer ammunition and a 120 mm mortar, ZM Dezamet have at least a few.
The last delivery of 4,000 pcs. of modified OF843B grenades for Raka ZM Dezamet finished in 2019. It is difficult to say how large stocks of these grenades are still available by the support companies, using a total of 64 M120K mortars today. Their crews conduct intensive fire training and participate in exercises, also abroad.
The Cancer fire unit (i.e. the ammunition supply) is 46 grenades. One AWA (and there are three such vehicles in each KMO) takes on board 6 special pallets, containing 120 pieces of 120 mm mortar cartridges. In other words, to equip only one company module with a fire unit and the basic, full-time supply on AWA vehicles, 728 cartridges are required. Almost 11,000 will be needed for all fifteen KMOs that will be in service as early as 2024. And this – without leaving a single grenade in the warehouses! Only the military knows the answer to how long the training period will last.
These numbers should give you an idea of the scale of the future ammunition requirement for Cancer, and only that on wheels …
“We are ready to resume the production and supply of the modified ammunition produced so far at any time to meet the needs of the military in the field of fire training for Rak mortar crews until we begin deliveries of new ammunition. Military warehouses still have a large stock of grenades of this type, suitable for modification. We constantly declare our readiness to provide the military with this safe product, still at a good price, which successfully fulfills its role in training crews. We hope that we will provide both old and old ammunition simultaneously. new type “ Krzysztof Zuba, Director of the Management Board Office of ZM Dezamet said.
For now, it is an open question whether production of the modified OF843B ammunition will be continued. Given the number of Rak mortars already owned and procured by the military, the purchase of a batch of these ammunition could provide a temporary capacity replenishment, for example for training purposes, in parallel with the build-up of new-design ammunition. The representatives of the factory in Nowa Dęba emphasize that they are ready to simultaneously produce both types of ammunition for Cancer, if this is the Ordering Party’s expectation.
Regardless of what the company from Nowa Dęba contributes to the M120K Rak automatic mortar program, other centers are also working towards the 120 mm mortar ammunition development program. Mesko companies and Centrum Rozwojowo-Wdrożeniowe Telesystem-MESKO are approaching the end of works on APR120. The 16.8 kg laser guided anti-tank grenade is to have a range of up to 8 km.
In the basic variant, it is to have a cumulative warhead and will use the Polish digital guidance system for the reflected laser beam, compatible with that used in the two companies built by the two companies: 155 mm Precision Fire Ammunition (for Krab howitzers) and the Pirat anti-tank guided missile . The production of this missile is scheduled to start in 2021.
Coming back to Cancer, however, there are no signals about the military’s interest in acquiring other types of ammunition for the purposes of this system, the importance of which on the modern battlefield seems to be growing: thermobaric and cluster.
By November 30, 2020, the qualification tests for the AWR prototype, the last component of the Company M120K Rak mortar fire modules, should be completed. This will complete the development work on AWR and enable the signing of a contract for the supply of these vehicles. Most likely, serial deliveries of vehicles will become possible from 2021 and first, 20 of them will go to the equipment of ten KMOs already delivered (or currently in production), and then to another five KMOs ordered in May 2020 and planned for delivery to 2024r. The KMO stocks in the scope related to ammunition and technical vehicles are also to be successively supplemented.
The commencement of serial production of a specific military product is not the same as putting it on and equipping it, implementing it and achieving real operational readiness by a given product. It does not work like that. You have to add to all this the time necessary for the necessary training, possible supplementation of the units with the appropriate class of specialists, creating or retrofitting the logistic facilities of the units, creating the necessary warehouse stocks, min. spare parts, consumables and ammunition.
However, if there are no unforeseen circumstances, the probability of which is difficult to estimate today, 2021 should be an important year for the Cancer mortar program and for the system to achieve the assumed operational readiness. Now is the right time to start thinking seriously about further development of the system.
Even if it will not involve a forced change in the functionality of the entire system, some improvements may soon be required by electronic systems, some solutions in the field of communication, automation of information exchange, command and reconnaissance, etc. This is the result of the never-ending development of military technologies . The proof of the inevitability of the system entering the next phase of “life” is the ever greater feasibility of the modernized Langusta WR-40M.
The current scale of expenditure on the implementation of the program of acquiring and implementing the Rak mortar system in the Polish Armed Forces has already exceeded PLN 2.1 billion. And this is without taking into account the costs of development work and the costs of acquiring ammunition.
Let us recall that each Company Fire Module (KMO) M120 Rak includes: 8 M120K self-propelled mortars, 2 Reconnaissance Artillery Vehicles (AWR) and 4 Artillery Command Vehicles (AWD) – all based on the Rosomak APC chassis, the Armament Repair Artillery Vehicle (AWRU) and 3 Artillery Ammunition Vehicles (AWA) – all based on Jelcz chassis.
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