Germany and France are working on a new state-of-the-art tank, the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS). It is set to replace the current Leopard 2 and Leclerc main battle tanks. For this project, HENSOLDT strives to develop the game-changing networked sensor solution.
An MGCS platoon, consisting of several vehicles, rolls across urban terrain on a rainy day. In the command vehicle, the crew members attentively keep an eye on the area around the platoon with a 360° panorama view.
When the sensor system detects someone on an upper floor, the crew is automatically notified. But the on-board UAV reviewing the threat does not raise an alert. It is a civilian. A few minutes later, a new object appears on the digital situation map in the vehicles.
It is a UAV, classified as hostile by the sensor system with the aid of the digital radar. The firecontrol system immediately offers the crew multiple combat options that allows the MGCS platoon to quickly incapacitate the enemy object.
Once the danger has been eliminated, the platoon sends out its own reconnaissance drones that report an enemy rocket launcher a few miles away. With the aid of the firecontrol system, the MGCS crew can also neutralise this threat and continue their mission.
Maintaining an overview in chaotic combat situations is never easy for a tank crew. The restricted view from the armoured hull is already compensated by a multitude of different sensors, from radars through to thermal imaging cameras. But the crew still has to capture, consolidate and correctly analyse all of these information streams from different sources – in a matter of seconds – before they can take any defensive measures. At HENSOLDT, we see huge potential for improvement in this area.
Besides the planned automation and robotics capabilities for manned and automated unmanned platforms, the major development opportunities for the Franco-German defence project lie therefore in the user-oriented consolidation and analysis of information from sensors such as optronics and radars as well as communication equipment within a single system. The goal is to offer the MGCS crew a full overview, including automated situation analysis, in real time with artificial intelligence (AI) support.
For us at HENSOLDT, this programme means deployment of key technologies, including a decision-centric battle management solution. After all, the intelligent fusion of data from different sources not only grants an information advantage but also decision-making superiority. And the ability to make faster and more purposeful decisions – in other words, to issue commands and initiate action – also considerably improves the likelihood of mission success.
This is especially the case when such detailed situational overviews need to be exchanged between vehicles and platoons:
“This is what we call Distributed Sensor Data Fusion, which is a key enabler and contributor to the Combat Cloud. It means that all information can be accessed by all vehicles at all times. The crew receives the data from all connected vehicles at that time. This has never existed in this form before.”
Head of Ground Based Systems
In short, the intelligent sensor technology for MGCS that HENSOLDT intends to develop will be a real game changer in combat situations on the ground and will thus decisively set the tone for the future.
The vision set out for MGCS makes it clear that all HENSOLDT divisions have a role to play in this project, since our portfolio includes the right solution for all sensor requirements within MGCS. A prime example for a one stop shop:
While multi-mission radars monitor tracts of up to many kilometres, a careful eye can be kept on the area at close range around a vehicle using the 360° panoramic view of SETAS. In order to protect against enemy attacks, products such as the MUSS self-protection system or RCIED solutions can be integrated into the MGCS sensor suite. Of course, UAVs from HENSOLDT Avionics for long-range reconnaissance are also firmly established in the concept. Laser rangefinders, friend-or-foe identification systems and jammers are other examples of products that we may integrate into MGCS.
Our AI developers will then have a key role to play. All information captured by the devices and sensors in use has to be merged and evaluated in real time with the aid of data analysis, pattern recognition and machine learning algorithms. Only then it will be possible to provide the MGCS crew with a comprehensive overview of the situation and recommendations for action.
Prototype Targeted by 2025
The next big milestone will be the development of a technology demonstrator. This demonstrator will achieve the necessary technology readiness level (TRL) to be set up in a relevant deployment environment for customer demonstrations by 2025.