by Nathan Gain and Christina Mackenzie
The continuation and end of our tour of Nexter’s Ammunition Business Group.
Developing and producing a munition logically includes testing which involves a series of live firings. After three days of “theory” in Italy, France and Belgium, we moved onto the “practicals” organised by MECAR on the test range of Alcochete on a Portuguese Air Force Base 30km east of Lisbon.
The Alcochete shooting range still guarded by an ancient Portuguese Air Force A-7P Corsair II. Photo credit: Nathan Gain
The shooting range is surrounded by a magnificent forest of cork oaks. Photo credit: Christina Mackenzie
The polygonal test range of Alcochete, rented 120 days annually by MECAR, allows the Belgian company to fire at distance of 150, 600 and 1,000m as well as indirect firings up to 10km. The range of munitions tested is wide: from 25mm shells to 120mm mortar bombs. Testing is undertaken under the watchful eye of many instruments, including ultra-high-speed cameras that, given the right weather conditions, can take up to 140,000 frames a second, thermal cameras and Doppler radars.
But as photos speak a thousand words, and we took quite a few, those below should help you understand what a test firing campaign looks like.
Data is collected by, amongst other instruments, ultra-high-speed cameras such as this one. Photo credit: Nathan Gain
In the mobile lab, all sorts of data concerning the firings are collected. Photo credit: Christina Mackenzie
The engineers, protected by an armoured hut, use a simple rope to fire the gun. Photo credit: Christina Mackenzie
A 30mm APFSDS-T (Armour-Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding Sabot-Tracer) shell. Photo credit: Nathan Gain
Three shells of this type were fired from the Mk44 Bushmaster II gun. Photo credit: Christina Mackenzie
And this was the result. Photo credit: Nathan Gain
A 90 mm Mk8 gun, made by Belgian company CMI Defence. Photo credit: Nathan Gain
…from which three 90mm HESH (High Explosive Squash Head) shells were fired. Photo credit: Christina Mackenzie
The testing then moved to a 120mm mortar. Photo credit: Nathan Gain
Three 120mm SMK M592A2 smoke shells were fired. Photo credit: Nathan Gain
Photo credit: Nathan Gain
The camera was taking 15,000 frames a second which allows the trajectory of the munition to be tracked closely. Photo credit: Christina Mackenzie
We then watched a series of firings made from a distance of just 150m from the target, some of which were done by the recoilless anti-tank Carl Gustav gun. Photo credit: Nathan Gain
No, it’s not a sculpture by Richard Serra that escaped from the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, but protection from possible shrapnel when firing at close range. Photo credit: Christina Mackenzie
An 84mm smoke bomb fired from the Carl Gustav. Photo credit: Nathan Gain
Photo credit: Nathan Gain
MECAR also demonstrated the capacity of its 90mm APFSDS fired from a 90mm F4 which equips the French ERC 90 Sagaie six-wheeled, armoured, all-terrain vehicle. Photo credit: Nathan Gain
And this was the result: 250mm of armour pierced through. Photo credit: Nathan Gain
And all of this observed by people wearing high-visibility jackets with well-protected ears! Photo credit: Christina Mackenzie
There you go. We hope you’re now a little better informed on the European “ammunitions” sector.