In his first interview since taking up his post as the Head of Rheinmetall’s Vehicle Systems Division, CEO of Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH and Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles GmbH, Ben Hudson talks to Battlespace about Rheinmetall’s increased focus on the UK market.
This year has seen some significant structural changes within Rheinmetall. Could you talk us through the new structure and the benefits for your customers?
Rheinmetall has re-organised earlier this year to align its structure along the main product portfolios via the establishment of three divisions: Vehicle Systems, Weapons and Ammunition and lastly Electronic Solutions. The Vehicle Systems Division (VSD), which I head, brings together all our military vehicle products and technologies, with the core of this being our two main vehicle companies, Rheinmetall Landsysteme (RLS) and Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles (RMMV). Along with these two core companies we have facilities/subsidiary companies in Austria, Poland, Australia, the Netherlands, North Africa and the UK.
VSD has been formed to leverage the military vehicle competence of RLS and RMMV to create Europe’s widest and deepest portfolio of land mobility technology, while at the same time streamlining our international footprint to provide a single face to the customer. VSD’s portfolio ranges from main battle tanks (MBTs) to trucks, and features cutting edge systems such as the Puma IFV, Leopard 2 based support vehicles and MBT upgrades, the Boxer1, Fuchs and AMPV1, as well as the TG, HX and SX truck families. VSD also includes turret systems, product including the Lance turret and the turret structure for the UK’s Ajax reconnaissance vehicle.
It appears to have already been a good year for Vehicle Systems. Can you tell us a little about some of the recent success?
Our year started with a great win in Poland with a large contract to upgrade their Leopard 2 fleet. This was a hard fought contest against some of the best in the MBT upgrade business. The Polish will be delivered an excellent tank with a high level of local industrial participation, a model we want to replicate for the UK C2 LEP programme.
In April we delivered the first of more than 2,500 HX2 trucks to the Australian Army.
In June we launched our Lynx IFV and our enhanced 35mm Lance turret at Eurosatory and shortly after we were down selected with our Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle (CRV) for the Australian Land 400 programme
Lastly ARTEC, a joint venture between RMMV and KMW, signed the Lithuanian contract with OCCAR for the delivery of 88 Boxer IFVs, another competition won against rivals from across Europe and North America.
Clearly VSD has the capability to address a whole host of UK requirements, the most immediate of these include C2 LEP and MIV. How is Rheinmetall’ s UK footprint developing to offer the MoD viable options for these and other requirements?
We see the UK as an important strategic market for Rheinmetall and have increased our focus on the market as we look to further internationalise the business. VSD will deliver a clear benefit to the UK customer through a consolidation of our military vehicle activities in the UK under the leadership of Peter Hardisty, managing director of both Rheinmetall Defence UK and RMMV UK. He is ex-British Army and served in Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and so knows the UK customer and industrial landscape well. Peter will focus on bringing together our UK operations that will centre around the support and upgrade of our fleet of more than 7,000 trucks that provide the logistic backbone of the British Army and will integrate our future UK industrial plans for programmes such as MIV and C2 LEP, should we be selected.
Rheinmetall also has two other UK companies that will be leveraged for the future UK programs, namely RFEL (on the Isle of Wight) and Rheinmetall Technical Publications. RFEL in particular is a real technological jewel in the Rheinmetall group as they provide us a world leading digital video and signal processing capability that allows us to offer unique capabilities related to digital image fusion, image stabilisation and automated target detection and tracking. All foundation technologies resident in our turret and air defence products that we will leverage for the C2 LEP program. We are also channelling the RFEL technology into our Australian Land 400 offering, thus creating export jobs in the UK.
We completed a comprehensive review of the C2 LEP requirement and analysed our previous work on the Challenger 2 Lethality Improvement Programme (CLIP) to identify how we could best solve the obsolescence and lethality questions asked by the customer.
You may remember that the CLIP program installed a 120mm smoothbore gun in the C2 back in 2006 but the resulting system had some human factors and ammunition stowage issues. As Rheinmetall invented the 120mm smoothbore gun we are in the unique position to be able to overcome the CLIP smoothbore installation issues and deliver a C2 Mk2 with a lethality package the equal of any current MBT. If the UK MoD chooses our solution the British Army will be able to fire the latest generation depleted uranium free 120mm DM63 APFSDS round and the unique 120mm DM11 programmable air-burst round that is invaluable in the asymmetric fight that C2 found itself in during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
Our solution also includes the latest proven MBT technology from Rheinmetall and will leverage our RFEL team to deliver a future proof solution that includes a digital core architecture, automatic target recognition and tracking, 360-degree multi-spectral situational awareness and the ability to fit our Active Defence System for improved survivability against ATGM threats.
To ensure that we build and sustain a long term capability in the UK we will invest in our own UK capabilities and leverage key UK suppliers including BMT, Supacat and Thales UK who we have taken into our team.
You are displaying Boxer at DVD this year, a vehicle that has not previously been seen at the show. There is renewed interest in Boxer, how do you feel it is positioned for the UK’s emerging MIV requirement?
Boxer was a vehicle ahead of its time. The German and Dutch customers pushed ARTEC, KMW and RMMV hard to deliver a vehicle to a requirement set that at the time was without peer, particularly regarding survivability. This has set a great foundation for the UK MIV requirement.
Boxer has now come of age and we have seen an additional order of 131 vehicles for the German Army in late 2015, the recent win in Lithuania and our shortlisting in Australia for Land 400.
Boxer has the unique ability to be able to survive against the aggressive asymmetric threats that were encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan while being able to simultaneously protect the crew against traditional conventional threats such as medium calibre cannon, a capability that could be vital in the future here in Europe.
The partnership RMMV has on the Boxer with KMW will allow the UK MoD to access the two most experienced military vehicle manufacturers in Europe to rapidly deliver a low risk solution for the UK MoD.
What do you see as the trends in the logistic vehicle area for the future and do you see opportunities to further enhance the UK’s truck fleet?
We are seeing our customers asking for capabilities that move our trucks closer to the role of a traditional tactical vehicle with remote weapon stations, electronic counter measures, extensive C4I equipment and protection levels exceeding many 8×8 APCs. This increasingly allows our trucks to operate autonomously in hostile environments, and without the need for asset-straining escort.
The second trend is improved platform driver safety through the desire to fit civilian systems such as cruise control and lane keeping. We have commenced a programme called the Future Tactical Truck Demonstrator to exploit these technologies and show how they can be fitted to in-service trucks such as those in the British fleet.
The last trend is the desire to move more payload with less personnel. We are delivering on this for our customers with higher capacity trucks, fitting systems such as our Integrated Load Handling System (ILHS) and investigating leader-follower technology which means that not every truck in a convoy needs a driver. This is technology we have now running on a demonstrator.
In summation, what do you think the new Vehicle System Division offers the UK MoD that your competitors may not?
 in partnership with KMW