By Walter Christian Håland, Major (ret.)
Vinghøg’s Mature Advanced Sight, called the Vingmate Fire Control System for a variety of 40 mm HV Automatic Grenade Launcher weapons (AGL), gives an impressive fire accuracy and operation functionality
Increasingly, armed forces worldwide require a universal fire support system to combat ground targets. In the past, armies had been depended on heavy machine guns or light mortars, but neither is ideal. Machine gun ammunition provides no fragmentation effect above concealed fox holes, and is largely ineffective against advanced, Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) and battle tanks. On the other hand, mortars have also relatively slow rates of fire (except for the Patria twin barrel AMOS system, which has an astonishing fire rate of 16 rounds/min). AGLs were originally designed for firing on an area target, but now the demands are pin-point accuracy (hit the bulls eye) and with an air-burst capacity.
Vingmate Fire Control System (FCS)
The Vingmate FCS is mounted on soft mount cradles for best performance.
The weapon system can be ground mounted using tripod or vehicle mounting. The FCS Sight and Fire control Systems for crew served weapons such as 40 mm Automatic Grenade Launchers and anti-tank weapons, are expensive, but Vingmate FCS is the ultimate state-of-art system for effective and precision fire. Through high performance technology the Vingmate FCS gives the gunner the handling speed and first hit probability needed on the battlefield. The Norwegian Army is now using some of the Vinghøg’s Vingmate for 40 mm grenade launchers on operations in Afghanistan. Since formally unveiling the Vingmate demonstrator in 2006, Vinghøg AS, Norway, (Part of Rheinmetall AG, Corporate Sector Defence), has continued to refine the design and are currently producing and delivering more than 350 units to coteries such as Canada, New Zealand and Norway. Vinghøg produces the state-of-the art multipurpose fire-control units for crew-served automatic grenade launchers (AGL) and the .50 cal machine gun in addition to systems for portable anti-tank weapon systems (for example such as Carl Gustav recoilless gun or Panzer Faust - a modern and disposable recoilless anti-tank weapon developed between 1978 and 1985 and put into service by the Bundeswehr in 1992. It was first ordered in 1973 to provide West German infantry with an effective weapon against contemporary Soviet armour ).
In order to provide devastating firepower against visible and hidden targets, such as those in foxholes, behind rocks and walls, and inside buildings with windows. The new sight, known as Vingmate, is designed for automatically computing ballistic solutions, including drift for a range of weapon types, airburst ammunition programming (a feature developed in partnership with Rheinmetall Defence and NAMMO AS, Raufoss, Norway) and target acquisition, providing the user with an indirect fire capability for day and night operations. The three most actual AGL weapons in use today are described below and in the table (this article will not describe other AGLs such as for example the AGS-17 (Avtomatischeskyi Granatmyot Stankovyi - Automatic Grenade launcher and the Singapore CIS 40 mm Automatic Grenade Launcher (CIS 40 AGL) which is extremely versatile. It fires both CIS 40 mm High Velocity Ammunition and US-type classified 40 mm High Velocity Ammunition, and is modular in construction, the GDSBS – St Barbara’s LAG 40 SB, which is a new concept in lightweight, user friendly and low maintenance grenade launchers. It is a stable, accurate and very reliable weapon that is highly successful in the international market. It is an automatic, belt-fed weapon firing 40 x 53 grenades at a rate of 215 shots per minute with an effective range of 1500 meters. The grenades are effective at distances of between 50 and 2000 meters, thus providing utmost response capacity in the most varying tactical situation and others as for example Denel’s 40 mm Automatic Grenade Launcher, the 40 mm Automatic Grenade Launcher (AGL 40).
The new Vingmate FCS is a small and lightweight fire control system for day and night operations with sophisticated solutions for direct and indirect fire, target acquisitions and airburst programming.
The ballistic correction allows impressive first hit probability. Additional sensors like thermal cameras and/or laser pointers can easily be mounted on picatinny rails on the sight and given the same ballistic correction. The Vingmate Fire Control and Target Acquisition System – FCS, is tested with a variety of 40mm AGL’s and .50 cal weapons with impressive accuracy and functionality.
According to a Vinghøg’s spokesman, the Vingmate was designed to meet a requirement to place a 40 mm round into a 1x1 m window at a range of 400 m at the first shot. "Today we have already been able to do this from a distance of 700 m," a Vinghøg operator said, "while we have been able to hit a tank-size target at a distance of 1,800 m in live firing trials in the Germany 2008."
Vingmate features a variety of functions, including a laser rangefinder, digital magnetic compass; day and night cameras; a separate display at the back end of the weapon so that the user can maintain situational awareness and it can be fired in an ergonomically optimal position; a keypad controller; GPS; and a pointer/target illuminator. The product is based on a modular design. The basic version has just the laser rangefinder, a camera and a motor for ballistic correction.
It is prepared for mounting a bore sighting and a thermal camera, optical sight or other sensor given the same ballistic correction on picatinny rails outside the sight.
At the Eurosatory 2008 exhibition, I was told that it would be designed a medium modular design which would have FCT and an advanced version also with functionality like FCT and Battlefield Management System (BMS) with picture/video transmition capacity.
A USB 2.0 communication interface allows the exchange of data and imagery between the sight and a PDA-type personal computer, allowing the Vingmate sight to be used as a sensor for the benefit of the overall BMS. Target information, co-ordinates, imagery, maps or external laser rangefinder data can be exchanged using this interface.
The development of Vingmate has taken into account the lessons that Vinghøg learned from its other sight called “Vingsight”. This was a compromise between a rifle sight and a sight for a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher (AGL) with FCS and BMS features. Vingmate is much more focused towards the requirements of the 40 mm AGL.
Vingmate is designed to help the operator handle the super elevation required when operating in an indirect fire mode. Rather than moving internal prisms, as was the case in Vingsight, The new Vingmate moves as a complete unit to find the correct super elevation angle. In this way, it also becomes possible to use a laser pointer with the sight, a requirement for close-range combat operations in an urban environment.
With the Vingsight, it was necessary to reset the sight to zero before making a measurement on a new target. With the new Vingmate sight, the operator only needs to fire the laser to get the range to the new target, which significantly speeds up the response time.
The Vingmate technology demonstrator was ready by the end of 2005. Initial live firing trials were done in mid-January 2006 at the Elverum field firing range in Norway. This was done with Vingmate was attached on the General Dynamics MK 19 and on the GMG from Heckler & Koch, both 40 mm AGLs.
The firings were successful.
- Short “Time to engage”
- Day and night capacity
- Automatic ballistic correction
- Direct and indirect fire modes
- Airburst programming
- Target acquisition
- MET (weather conditions) corrections
- Data communication
- Modular design.
- Laser range finder
- Digital magnetic compass
- Day / night / thermal cameras
- Display / Head-Up
- Keypad controller
- GPS (internal / external)
- Pointer & Target illuminator. For details – see table Specifications below.
The basic FCS configuration consists of three main units. A fire Control Unit, a Display Control Unit and a Keypad Control unit. External optional configurations can include Thermal Imager (TI), Night Vision (NV) and Laser Pointer and Illuminator.
Fire Control Unit (FCU)
The FCU provides all fire control functionalities. This includes a ballistic computer for direct and indirect fire using ballistic tables as reference for calculation of the corrected aim point for the firing trajectory. The ballistic computer calculates firing trajectories and fuse-times for airburst ammunition in single or string-of-pearls firing modes.
Display Control Unit (DCU)
The DCU can be either a weapon mounted colour display or a head mounted colour display, both with resolution corresponding to the FCU video output interface.
Keypad Control Unit (KCU)
The KCU is an external unit for controlling all functionality of the Vingmate FCS. The Keypad will be mounted on the softmount providing the user a safe and easily ergonomic interface. The Keypad includes a laser button, a 4-way navigation (toggle) switch.
Combat Fire Mode
The Vingmate FCS has a Combat Fire Mode to engage all targets which are within the line of sight and visible to the gunner. The combat fire mode includes a graphical layout placed on top of the video imagine. The Combat Fire Mode is the default mode of the Vingmate FCS and is always the starting mode after power up.
Direct Fire mode
The Vingmate FCS has a Direct Fire Mode to engage all targets which are within the line of sight and visible to the gunner. The Direct Fire Mode is a more advanced direct fire than the Combat Fire mode. The direct fire mode provides the user with MET and VO settings directly in the user interface. It includes air burst programming interface for single fuse or string of pearls airburst programming. It provides the user to choose pre-programmed targets and selection of ballistic firing tables.
Target Acquisition Mode
The FCS has a Target Acquisition Mode to acquire target positions and to store target information for direct or indirect fire engagements. Target information can be transferred to/from Vingmate FCS. The FCS can store 10 indirect fire targets. The target acquisition mode includes a graphical layout placed on top of the video image.
The FCS provides an automatic ballistic compensation. The automatic compensation physically moves the FCS to the correct elevation. When the elevation is in position its locks and stops it movement. The azimuth (grenade drift) corrections are done by graphically moving the crosshair in the azimuth (heading) direction of the display. Graphical arrows guide the user back to the target values acquired during lasing (see photo).
The Vingmate FCS will provide the same ballistic compensation in both the Combat Fire Mode and the Direct Fire Mode. The ballistic compensation will start either on a valid laser return or by manual target range input. The Target Acquisition Mode can be used to obtain pre-programmed targets. These pre-programmed targets are selectable both in the Direct Fire Mode and Indirect Fire Mode.
Heckler & Koch (H&K) GMS
The “Granatmaschinenwaffe” (HK GMW) or grenade machine gun (GMG), an automatic grenade launcher was developed by Heckler & Koch for the German Army.
It fires 40 mm grenades at a rate of about 340 rounds per minute. The GMG is belt-fed, and can be loaded from either side, making it ambidextrous. With a variety of sights available (including Vinghøg’s systems and other night-vision and infrared types) the GMG can be used for accurate, long range bombardments in a large number and types of situations.
The weapon itself is 1.09 m long, the barrel is 415 mm, and the ammunition box has dimensions of 470x160x250mm. The gun operates on a recoil operated blow back basis. It weighs 29 kg; the tripod is an additional 11 kg.
General Dynamics Mk 19 Grenade Launcher
The MK19 40 mm grenade launchers are by some named as “grenade machine gun”.
The MK19 Mod 3 is an air-cooled system, a blow-back operated (see below), belt fed (ambidextrous) operated, crew served, fully automatic weapon. It is highly portable within small soldier units. The weapon’s high lethality ammunition and broad versatility, makes it the prime choice of the U.S. Armed Forces as an essential weapon in both offensive and defensive operations. The first MK19s entered U.S. military service during the Cold War, first seeing action during the Vietnam War. MK19s are remaining in service today.
Firing M340 High Explosive Dual Purpose (HEDP) grenades, the MK19 provides lethal fire against a variety of targets, including lightly armoured vehicles and dismounted infantry. It will penetrate 75 mm Rolled Homogenous Armour (RHA) at a maximum range of 2,200 meters. Dismounted personnel, within a radius of 15 meters from impact, will be immobilized by blast and fragments.
- Sustained automatic or single-shot firing
- Dual tri-pod spade grips for stable control
- Removable barrel
- No headspace or adjustments required
- Open bolt firing eliminates cook off, enhances cooling between bursts and allows sustained firing at three- to five-rounds bursts
- Simple design for easy maintanenance
- Mean rounds between failure exeeds 20,000 rounds.
The Mk 19 fires 40 mm grenades at a cyclic rate of 300 to 400 rounds per minute, giving a practical rate of fire of 60 rounds per minute (rapid) and 40 rounds per minute (sustained). The weapon operates on the blowback principle, which uses the chamber pressure from each fired round to load and re-cock the weapon. The Mk 19 is able to lob its grenade at a maximum distance of 2,100 meters, though its effective range for a point target is about 1,500 meters (without the advanced Vingmate FCS – witch gives the weapon a precision first hit capability to the maximum range) compared with the standard simple rear leaf sight that is only graduated to 1,500 meters. The nearest safe distance to launch the grenade is 75 meters during training. In addition, the Mk 19's flash suppressor and its lack of smoke during firing, makes it difficult for enemies to spot and counter it. For night operation, night vision sight can be fitted.
MK47 Advanced Lightweight Grenade Launcher (ALGL)
The MK47 ALGL is a lightweight, portable, 40 mm grenade machine gun with an advance sight and fire control system that combine to give a gunner a high probability of first round target hits. The development of this more lightweight and effective weapon, is meant to replace the venerable Mk.19 Mod.3 automatic grenade launcher in US and in foreign service. Later on, in the development process, General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products was joined by Norwegian NAMMO AS company, which develops the advanced, air- bursting 40mm ammunition for new weapons. In the year of 2003, US Special Operation Command (USSOCOM) adopted the 40 mm automatic grenade launcher as Mark 47 model 0, complete with its new tripod mount and AN/PVG-1 Lightweight Video Sight developed by Raytheon. These weapons (February 2006) are in limited service with US Special Operation forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, The MK47 is also being considered for adoption by US Marine Corps. Mk.47 grenade launchers are compatible with full spectrum on NATO-standard 40 mm high velocity ammunition; advanced air-bursting ammunition with programmable fuses is being developed for this weapon.
Integrating the latest sensing, targeting and computer- programming technology, the MK47 is a reliable, portable 40 mm grenade weapon system suited for mobile, tactical combat soldier units. It will provide NATO forces with a decisive technological advantage over enemy forces equipped with older crew-served weapons. The MK-47 low-recoil weapon system is lighter than the MK19. It features quick detach barrel for ease of transport. It fires all standard NATO 40mm linked grenades, including programmable airburst ammunition. The MK47 fires from an advanced, lightweight tripod and universal vehicle mount. The MK 47 receives distance to the target from the Laser Range Finder (LRF) and convert that information to time of flight for air burst (induction) when the grenade leaves the muzzle.
NAMMO Raufoss RF
The 40mm AGL RF (Radio Frequency) grenade from NAMMO Raufoss receives the flight time in Msec (converted from the distance to the target through a small computer) sent from a radio transmitter to the grenade embedded radio receiver. The benefit with this grenade is that it is programmed after having left the muzzle regardless the type of AGL. When the grenade reaches the programmed flight time (over the target), the air burst explosion is directed backwards. This makes an enemy unsafe even if hidden behind a wall. Other 40 mm grenades burst forwards, witch could be said for certain scenarios not to be equal effective.
Vingmate FCS is designed for high precision and fast handling. The Vingmate FCS is the ultimate Sight and Fire Control System for crew served weapons such as 40mm Automatic Grenade Launchers, anti-tank weapons and .50 cal machine gun (a simpler and less expensive) for day and night operations with sophisticated solutions for direct and indirect fire, target acquisition and air burst programming. It can easily be mounted. Tests conducted shows impressive accuracy and functionality. Vingmate features an advanced fire control system and BMS capabilities, which will go very well with soldier modernisation programmes such as Norway's NORMANS future soldier program. Acquire even enhanced performance by choosing the Vinghøg’s Vingmate, allows the gunner to engage non line of sight targets, utilizing the full potential of the weapon.
Vingmate FCS Data
Fire Control Unit (FCU) …….….4495 grams
Display Control Unit (DCU)…....1595 grams
Key Pad Control Unit (KCU….… 179 grams
Total FCS weight …………….....6270 grams without battery
Fire Control Unit……………….... 186.3 mm
Display Control Unit ………..…….. 174 mm
Key Pad Control Unit ……..……..83 mm
Fire Control Unit………….………… 228.3 mm
Display Control Unit ……………..... 246 mm
Key Pad Control Unit …………..… 79 mm
Fire Control Unit………………….. 204.9 mm
Display Control Unit ……………..… 152 mm
Key Pad Control Unit …………….… 72 mm
Day Sight Characteristics
Camera FOV (horizontal)……………. 3.46º
Display Eye relief………………..… 300 mm
Entrance Pupil…………………..….. 20 mm
Focus.. 20 meters to infinity in sharp focus
Magnification…………………………… 5 x
Video…………….. PAL/NTSC (BW / Color)
Protocol interface………….. NMEA 0183
Protocol interface ………….NMEA 0183
Electrical Interface…… RS232 / RS422
Battery power…… /BA-5800/U /
Optional Battery power
(external unit)………. BA-5590 / BB590
Vehicle power……28 VDC (9-36VDC) compliant with MIL-STD-704 D/E and MIL-STD1275B
Typical external GPS units are PLGR or DAGR. Thermal/Night Vision
Video Format………………………. PAL/NTSC Composite
Data Communication……………………... RS422 / RS232
Power (external power)… 12VDC / 500mA (1000mA peak)
Mechanical mounting Interface MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail
Weight limitation……………………..…………. 4500 grams
Thermal/night vision is external thermal video or image intensifier units mounted on top of the FCU providing the Vingmate FCS thermal and night capacity.
Format………………………….. 800 x 600 (Hor/Vert. pixels)
Controls………………………………… Brightness and Gain
Eye safety……………………….. Class 1 per IEC 60825-1
Ed 1.2 (2001-8)
Wavelength………………….. 1550 nm (optional 905 nm)
Range………………………. 4500 m (2500 m for 905 nm)
Accuracy………………………………….. +/- 1m to +/- 3m
External Video Output
External Video Output Format …….800x600 RGB video, H-Sync and V-Sync
Optional External Video
Output Format …………………AL Composite / S-Video
* Note – Users of H&K GMG:
Canada - Joint Task Force 2 uses the HK GMG (grenade machine gun) in addition to other Automatic Grenade Launchers, within squads as well as mounted on vehicles. Finland - the Finnish Army has purchased the weapon for urban-, special- and coastal Jäger companies and refers to it as 40 KRKK 2005 (KRanaattiKoneKivääri )
Germany - The German Army uses the GMG for the infantry and as main armament on the Dingo, Fennek, AGF Serval, Mungo ESK (Einsatzfahrzeug Spezialisierte Kräfte) and Boxer Multi Role Armoured Vehichle (MRAV). German airborne troops, the KSK, the Objektschutzregiment of the Luftwaffe, the Spezialisierte Einsatzkräfte Marine and Marineschutzkräfte of the German Navy also use the GMG.
Greece - The Hellenic Army uses 633 GMG on armoured and military utility vehicles. Ireland - used by the Irish Army Rangers on their F350 patrol vehicle.
** Note - Users of MK19:
Argentina (Argentine) Marines). Australia, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Georgia, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, Republic of China, Spain (Spanish Marines), Sweden, Turkey, United States, United Kingdom.
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