Behind the scenes of the live firing demo days GM200 MM/C!

September 10, 2021

The low buzz of voices that had just filled the tent on the military site of ASK 't Harde, quickly died down. Through a video livestream, the public saw that the howitzer of the Ministry of Defence started firing a few kilometers away. Within seconds, a second screen with a 3D map showed the target tracks of all projectiles including predicted trajectories and predicted impact points, as measured by the GM200 MM/C. Seconds later, the dull thud of the firing reached the tent – the radar was clearly faster than the sound!

This live firing demo was the heart of a two-day event around the GM200 MM/C radar, also called the MMR (multi mission radar). The strength of this radar - as the name suggests - lies in its multi-mission capability. The GM200 MM/C can be used simultaneously for different operations, such as locating different projectiles and air targets for counter battery, air surveillance and air defense operations. In addition, the system automatically detects, tracks and classifies missiles, artillery shells and mortars, aircraft and UAVs.

Collaboration with the Ministry of Defence

The MMR has been developed with and for the army. The lessons of the past played a leading role in this. During the missions in Iraq, for example, it became clear that the radars that were brought along were not or only poorly resistant to local conditions such as heat and dust. Moreover, those radars could not detect the small UAVs, such as remote-controlled planes with explosives. That clearly had to change. Thanks to the close collaboration with the Ministry of Defence and the exchange of these experiences and potential wishes, we were therefore able to develop this uniquely flexible, mobile radar, fully prepared for the most important threats of today and tomorrow.

In order to cope with these threats, we’ve considered not only issues such as detection accuracy and recognition (classification), but also the deployment and march order times (which must be very short). Furthermore, maintenance is simple and intuitive, supported by built-in diagnostic software. The GM200 MM/C is operational within 2 minutes on site, even if the vehicle it is mounted on is on a slope. Maintenance is no longer limited to special dust-free areas, but can largely be done in the field. In addition, the radar remains usable at temperatures up to plus 55 degrees Celsius, but it also continues to work up to minus 40 degrees.

Factory Tour

The GM200 MM/C radar event, organized by both the Ministry of Defence and Thales, was set up for about 60 guests from 11 NATO countries and NATO partners. They came to the Netherlands to be able to discover the ins and outs of the GM200 MM/C for themselves. Day 1 started at the Dutch head office of Thales in Hengelo, with various presentations about the portfolio of the Thales, the interaction with the Defence forces, and of course about the most important features of the GM200 MM/C.

After this introduction and a lunch in the late summer sun, it was time to get some more hands-on experience: via a tour through the factory halls. Here, the guests were able to talk with the engineers responsible for the GM200 MM/C, and got an extensive look behind the scenes. For example, they were shown a demo of the software interface and the mission planning tool, with an explanation of the available 3D and 2D data presentation possibilities. The inner workings of the antenna and load tray were also displayed, prompting the guests to ask about maintenance and training. This takes significantly less time with this radar than most visitors were used to. The smart design of for example the transmitting and receiving modules, plus the details with which the software indicates to the user where maintenance is required and what you need for this, makes the work much more user-friendly.

Information exchange

A few brave guests were then invited to put on VR glasses, because virtual and augmented reality can support training and maintenance even more. By imitating a radar system in VR in detail, users can go through their training much quicker. This way you don't need an expensive physical copy available for training. Moreover, it has been scientifically proven that training via VR provides better information retention than ‘traditional’ theoretical training.

During the last stop of the factory tour, it was remarkably quiet. Mainly because it took place in a special anechoic, sound-absorbing chamber, designed for taking electromagnetic and acoustic measurements. Fortunately, the conversation started again immediately after! What about secure data transfer? Do you use machine learning? What about UAV classification and its automation?

As hoped, this event turned out to be extremely suitable as a stage for interaction and knowledge sharing between the Ministry of Defence, Thales and our guests. Experiences were compared and exchanged with anecdotes from our own findings in the field, in order to better understand the core features of the GM200 MM/C. With a lot of new insights gained, it was time for a drink and a bbq before going back to the hotel. After all, the next day would start early.

ASK ‘t Harde

Day two of the GM200 MM/C event took place in 't Harde, at the Artillery Shooting Camp of the Ministry of Defence: the perfect location to test the accuracy and reaction time of the GM200 MM/C in practice. A large tent was set up next to the vast moorland of the site, where the guests, sheltered from the still burning sun, could comfortably listen to more presentations. Since the day before Thales had explained the technological aspects in detail, this second day the Ministry of Defense was able to go into their field expertise. What does the GM200 MM/C mean to them during their missions? Why had they specifically chosen this radar? And why does this align so well with the growing threat of UAVs and loitering ammunition?

Still, the audience was noticeably looking forward to more than the presentations on this day. In fact, day two was building towards to the live firing demo, during which a volley of howitzer grenades and mortars would be fired, so that the GM 200/MMC could display this instantaneously. Could this demo live up to the built-up expectations?

Live firing demo

Via a video link, the tent was in direct contact with the location from which the shots would be fired. On the two screens next to the video feed, you could immediately see in 3D and 2D images what the GM200 MM/C observed. And then the moment of truth arrived! The armored howitzer started firing from miles away, and almost immediately the trajectory of the detected ammunition was visible through the GM200 MM/C. In parallel, the point of origin and point of impact of the different projectiles were shown. While all the armored howitzer projectiles were still being tracked, more and more new tracks came into view: the mortars had also been fired. The radar made everything clear in detail at lightning speed. The result? A resounding applause!

Knowledge exchange

The demo underlined the main message of the event: working together towards a secure future. From brainstorming about smarter forms of camouflage to sharing information about UAVs: together with the Ministry of Defence we want to continue to learn from our customers and partners, and regularly exchange ideas with other NATO countries. After all, this kind of collaboration resulted in the GM200 MM/C: one radar for all missions, no longer all kinds of different measuring points. A heartfelt thank you to all involved in this event!