Rheinmetall | ADW – An intelligent top-attack anti-tank weapon system
Defence Redefined
Published on 02/10/2023 at 18:23

Rheinmetall has presented a new intelligent anti-tank weapon designed to support combined arms operations.

According to Rheinmetall, Area Defence Weapon (ADW) is a sensor-effector, network-centric weapon system for multi-domain operations. As an intelligent anti-tank weapon, the ADW employs various passive and active sensors to detect and classify targets. These sensors provide a 360° surveillance capability, enabling it to function independently in its area of operation.

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The ADW is cylindrical with a diameter equal to 234 mm and a height of 187 mm, weighing less than 25 kg. Six radial stabilisers are hinged at the bottom of the cylinder and open up when the system is installed on the ground. Each carries one microphone at its end, used to gather sounds from the battlefield. The acoustic sensor is only one of the three available sensors, the other being a seismic one, while the last is a radar sensor, with small antennas at the top of the main cylinder.

The ADW’s effector is a SMArt 155 sensor-fuse submunition, which attacks targets from above (top attack), where their armour protection is weakest. This way, it can successfully engage even heavily armoured vehicles within a radius of over 100 metres.

To develop this munition, the joint venture GIWS (Gesellschaft für Intelligente WirkSysteme) was formed by Rheinmetall and Diehl Defence. The 155 mm round contains two submunitions. Once it reaches the target area, the two submunitions are released and descend under a parachute, their sensors start looking for enemy battle tanks or other targets. When one is identified the munition is activated and the warhead hits the tank from above.

With ADW a network of smart mines capable of launching those submunitions may be created once they have identified the threat, leveraging current technologies to maximise effect.

Thanks to its network-centric architecture, ADW can be activated or deactivated accordingly, making it safe for friendly forces operating close to an area with such scattered munitions.

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The said system can be emplaced by hand or from logistic vehicles by means of a mine dispenser system or artillery.

The ADW was exhibited at DSEI 2023 by Rheinmetall, which has apparently resumed work on a barrier concept that first emerged in the 1990s. Towards the end of the Cold War, the German Army was looking for a barrier concept to intercept the Soviet and Warsaw Pact battle tanks that might have attacked its borders. 

Besides standard anti-tank minefields – airborne formations capable of funnelling Red Army Operational Manoeuvre Groups into attack helicopters’ kill-boxes – the concept of a barrier made of smart land-based mines able to attack the weakest point of an MBT – its top – emerged. Yet, the concept was never realised, while its financing stopped in the late 1990s.

Also read: Ukraine | Proven use of Top Attack BONUS 155 mm artillery shells – Photos

Since February 24th, 2022, things have changed, and old ideas are now back on computer screens. The SMArt 155 munition has been used in Ukraine and is therefore combat-proven. 

Now, an upgrade programme has been launched by Germany, which will allow re-starting the production of the SMArt 155, the legacy version being in service with Australia, Germany, Greece and Switzerland, being also qualified for use in the United States. 

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