As for nearer-term hardware, one of the new products launched at the show was the Rapidfire air defense system developed by Thales Air Systems and Nexter, as part of the Rapid mobile integrated weapon systems family. Cyril Dupuytrent, system engineering manager and the system's first gunner, told Aviation Week that its particular characteristics are its firepower (up to 200 shots per minute) and accuracy (up to 4 km). It is particularly designed to cope with threats from helicopters, UAVs and asymmetric threats such as rockets.
Rapidfire consists of a GM60 ground-to-air radar and a 40-mm, mobile cannon that can be used either to protect a fixed site or to accompany troops. “Its principal function is as an air defense system but its secondary function is to provide ground-to-ground self-defense,” Dupuytrent explained.
The 40-mm cannon is designed by CTA (Case Telescoped Ammunition) International, a 50/50 joint venture between Nexter and BAE Systems, based in Bourges, France. It fires case-telescoped ammunition designed by Nexter that bursts in the air close to the target, releasing tungsten pellets with a high lethal hit probability against very small aerial targets. The optronic sight, developed by Thales Belfast, has a thermal imager, a day TV camera and a laser rangefinder. Precision firing tests were made a year ago in Biscarosse, France, and development of the product should be complete by year-end.
CTA's radical gun is receiving more attention in other places, as it nears being fielded as part of the U.K.'s upgrade of its Warrior fighting vehicle. It also appeared on Panhard's Sphinx experimental 6 X 6 combat vehicle, which is being pitched to the French army as a solution to its EBRC (armored combat and reconnaissance vehicle) requirement, part of the Scorpion army upgrade program. The concept is for a vehicle protected to Level 5 but offering high mobility both in the tactical sense—with up to 550 hp and long-travel double-wishbone suspension—and strategically, its size and 16-ton weight making it possible to carry two vehicles in the Airbus A400M.
Next to the Sphinx was the CRAB (combat reconnaissance armored buggy), a smaller 4 X 4 (three fit in an A400M) that gets its name in part from four-wheel steering, which allows it to move obliquely sideways. Innovations on the demonstrator platform (not yet equipped with an engine) include the use of a small, low-cost optronics turret based on one of Sagem's infantry-portable systems. A notable feature of both vehicles was a large transparency area around the driver—using newly developed transparent ceramic armor.
Another new vehicle was the 4 X 4 version of BAE Systems' RG35, the 6 X 6 version of which was unveiled at Eurosatory in 2010. The design has been refined, but still retains the offset side-mounted engine bay, and is still intended to combine a high degree of mine and IED resistance with better mobility than classic mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles.
The RG35's size and shape are reminiscent of the M113 armored personnel carrier, and the visual trend at Eurosatory is that wheels are gaining ground on tracks except in the case of the biggest infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), as better suspension improves their off-road mobility.
Meanwhile, at least two tracked IFVs—Bumar's Anders from Poland and an upgraded Rheinmetall Marder —appeared in the guise of medium tanks or fire-support vehicles. The Marder carried an Oto Melara turret, while the Anders was fitted with a Cockerill turret containing the Belgian-French company's 105-mm high-pressure gun, which can also fire the Falarick laser-guided missile from the Ukrainian Luch company.
Also on the Anders was the Zaslon active protection system (APS) from Ukraine's Microtek, using cylindrical fragmentation charges extending sideways from ports in the hull. Another APS manufacturer's representative was dubious: Zaslon might take out the incoming warhead, but it also looked likely to mission-kill the tank itself by destroying its optics, and it would assuredly cause some discomfort to troops in the open.
Rafael introduced two new versions of its Trophy APS, for medium and light vehicles. Trophy-MV is basically similar to the system now installed on Merkava tanks, with slewing countermeasure heads that fire a pattern of explosively formed projectiles toward the incoming threat, but has been downsized to a 450-kg (992-lb.)package versus 800 kg for the heavy version and is designed for infantry fighting vehicles. The LV model is different, comprising a roof-mounted frame carrying modular “energetic blade” charges that fire downward and outward and separate the fuse from the weapon. In tests, an up-armored Humvee absorbed five RPG-29 hits without being penetrated.