Germany Orders MANTIS C-RAM Base Defense Systems
Rheinmetall’s MANTIS C-RAM (Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortars) system is a further development of their Skyshield system. Also known by its German initials NBS (Nachstbereichs-Schutzsystem, very short range protection system), it is intended to detect and physically intercept incoming rocket, artillery and mortar rounds, in order to protect stationary bases.
The USA and Britain have already taken similar measures, deploying and using modified Mk15 Phalanx “Centurion” land-based systems equipped with special self-destructing ammunition. While the German C-RAM system looks set to reach the field 2 years late, reports indicate that the German government has approved a purchase – and signed a pair of contracts:
The NBS System
A single MANTIS system comprises a ground control system and 2 sensor elements (unmanned radars, with electro-optic sensors) as well as 6 highly automated Oerlikon 35 mm “Millennium guns.”
A very high degree of automation, including automatic target detection and engagement processes which the operator only has to monitor, helps the system operate 24 hours a day for many years with minimum personnel. The system’s radars and controls are also networked and integrated into local air and ground communications, in order to allow central operational control if required.
In order to prepare Skyshield for the special task of protecting forward operating bases, Rheinmetall subsidiary Oerlikon Contraves had to redesign its 35mm AHEAD ammunition with sub-projectiles that are heavy enough to destroy mortar rounds, grenades and missiles reliably. The ammunition carries a lethal payload of 152 tungsten projectiles weighing 3.3g each. they rely on kinetic energy to carry out their task, and an electronically programmable fuse ejects them just 20m ahead of the target. This split-second timing creates a very dense cloud of projectiles that has little time to disperse, improving the odds of a hit and kill.
Contracts and Key Events
Aug 21/10: German Defence Minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg decides that the responsibility for all air defence and anti-aircraft tasks will be assumed by the Luftwaffe. This means MANTIS will transfer to them. Source.
May 19/09: Rheinmetall announces a contract with the German government for C-RAM systems. A EUR 110.8 million contract encompasses 2 full systems, and a EUR 20 million option covers additional services like documentation and training if it is exercised, bringing the total to EUR 130.8 million ($176.3 million equivalent). A EUR 13.4 million ($18.1 million equivalent) follow-on contract will provide 35mm modified AHEAD ammunition for the system.
May 13/09: Germany’s Bundestag (Federal Parliament) decides to buy 2 NBS C-RAM systems from Rheinmetall Air Defence AG to counter artillery and mortars, budgeting EUR 136 million ($185 million equivalent). The system is expected to enter service in 2011. Bundesministerium [in German] | Defpro translation.
March 30/07: The German BWB defense procurement agency picks Rheinmetall to develop a system for protecting Bundeswehr forward operating bases. The development contract is worth EUR 48 million. Germany expects that the first functional unit will be ready for deployment as soon as development work is complete, in the third quarter of 2009. Rheinmetall release.
- Rheinmetall (December 2006) – New challenges for air defence: Skyshield system to thwart terrorist attacks
- Rheinmetall Defence – Skyguard
- DID/DII FOCUS – Phalanx CIWS: The Last Defense, On Ship and Ashore. Includes the land-based C-RAM/Centurion version.