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Contacts

Endre Lunde

Senior Vice President, Communications

MAIL P.O. Box 142, NO-2831 Raufoss, Norway
VISIT Enggata 37, 2830 Raufoss, Norway
EMAIL endre.lunde@nammo.com
TEL +4790853270

Norway

Nammo AS

MAIL P.O. Box 142, NO-2831 Raufoss, Norway
VISIT Enggata 37, NO-2830 Raufoss, Norway
EMAIL info@nammo.com
TEL +47 61 15 36 00
Photo: Sgt. Averi Coppa, USMC

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Nammo short documentary about ramjet missiles

Nammo short documentary about ramjet artillery

Ramjet technology – Quick facts:

  • A ramjet is a form of airbreathing jet engine that uses the engine’s forward motion to compress incoming air without an axial compressor or a centrifugal compressor.
  • Ramjets work most efficiently at supersonic speeds around Mach 3 (2,300 mph; 3,700 km/h). These engines can operate up to speeds of Mach 6 (4,600 mph; 7,400 km/h).
  • Ramjets can work both in smaller projectiles like 155mm artillery shells, as well as in larger missiles.
  • Boeing and Nammo have signed a teaming agreement to jointly develop and produce the next generation of extended range artillery projectiles – utilising ramjet technology.
Contacts

Endre Lunde

Senior Vice President, Communications

MAIL P.O. Box 142, NO-2831 Raufoss, Norway
VISIT Enggata 37, 2830 Raufoss, Norway
EMAIL endre.lunde@nammo.com
TEL +4790853270

Thomas Danbolt

Vice president, Large Caliber Ammunition (LCA)

EMAIL thomas.danbolt@nammo.com
TEL +47 470 10 625

What Could the Next War Look Like?

New weapon systems and doctrines are bringing change at an accelerating pace. Yet the age-old problem persists: everyone plans for the previous war. Experts warn that the next large-scale conflict might be something very different.

You might also be interested in:

Nammo short documentary about ramjet missiles

Nammo short documentary about ramjet artillery

Ramjet technology – Quick facts:

  • A ramjet is a form of airbreathing jet engine that uses the engine’s forward motion to compress incoming air without an axial compressor or a centrifugal compressor.
  • Ramjets work most efficiently at supersonic speeds around Mach 3 (2,300 mph; 3,700 km/h). These engines can operate up to speeds of Mach 6 (4,600 mph; 7,400 km/h).
  • Ramjets can work both in smaller projectiles like 155mm artillery shells, as well as in larger missiles.
  • Boeing and Nammo have signed a teaming agreement to jointly develop and produce the next generation of extended range artillery projectiles – utilising ramjet technology.
Contacts

Endre Lunde

Senior Vice President, Communications

MAIL P.O. Box 142, NO-2831 Raufoss, Norway
VISIT Enggata 37, 2830 Raufoss, Norway
EMAIL endre.lunde@nammo.com
TEL +4790853270

Thomas Danbolt

Vice president, Large Caliber Ammunition (LCA)

EMAIL thomas.danbolt@nammo.com
TEL +47 470 10 625
Thorstein Korsvold, 25 May, 2020

– Will there even be a recognizable front? Will we have a battlefield in the classic sense of the word? Will it be possible to protect our most important assets?

Ståle Ulriksen, military scientist at Norway’s naval war college in Bergen, grapples with some of the central questions concerning “the next war”. A leading expert on Russia and naval military matters, he still does not believe he has all the answers.

– We can speculate. We can look at capabilities and scenarios. Some things are more probable than others. But at the end of the day, we cannot know how the next major conflict will play out, Ulriksen says.

“The Battle of Austerlitz, 2nd December 1805” painting (by François Gérard) shows one of Napoleon’s greatest victories. The emperor/general radically changed warfare by fielding much bigger armies than was done in earlier eras. Napoleon also reinvented the artillery branch.

The examples are many: Napoleon introduced Levee en Masse (mass conscription) and for a time fielded much larger armies than his opponents. Later, railroads and machine guns would overthrow all previous doctrine. For those who expected armies clashing on battlefields, 1914-1918 came as a shock with its trench warfare. And the next war was radically different again, with mobile tank warfare.

World War 2 reintroduced mobile warfare (or Blitzkrieg as the Germans would label it) – a result of tactical changes as well as improved tank designs led to a radical departure from the static World War 1 warfare. Here a German Panzer III tank. Photo: Bundesarchiv

Historically, conflicts between large and powerful states will happen – at least every few generations. And almost every time, they are utterly different from what was expected. Ulriksen – along with his scientist colleague at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), Greger Johansson, believe there is a need to analyse what “the next big one” could look like.

– One of the most important changes concerns missiles. Their range has been increasing substantially for years. We expect that to continue. They have become more precise, and several countries – among them Russia – have stockpiled significant amounts of them, says Greger Johansson.

Greger Johansson

One of the most important changes concerns missiles.

Hiding in caves for three days

Long range missiles are one thing, but can be seen as part of a bigger picture as well. Both in the West and in Russia there has been a drive towards long rang artillery, too. At the same time, sensor and control systems have improved. Altogether, a future conflict could involve players with plenty of capability to strike targets precisely, from far away. What happens when everyone can do that?

– That’s a hard question to answer. We could be looking at an initial phase, maybe three days or so – where everyone fires off what they have. That would be a phase where thousands of missiles and other long range efforts try to destroy opponent’s most important assets: military bases, command and control centers, infrastructure like power plants, and so on, says Ståle Ulriksen.

Ståle Ulriksen

We could be looking at an initial phase (...) where thousands of missiles and other long range efforts try to destroy opponent’s most important assets.

The first jet fighters appeared toward the end of World War II. In the following decades, they would completely replace propeller planes as the preferred fighter aircraft. U.S. Air Force photo: An F-86 Sabre fighter aircraft in 1954

– What’s a good defense in such a case?

– We could be back to one of the central Cold War tenets: Hide in a cave for a while. Unless we have incredibly good (and numerous) air defense systems, it’s hard to defend against incoming swarms of missiles, Ulriksen says.

– Using well-protected bases, hidden deep inside mountains, is one of the few effective ways to preserve your forces, but identified entryways are likely to be targeted, Johansson agrees. The other philosophy is to be able to disperse rapidly, but that is very time critical and labor intensive for a defender given a short alert notice.

Ståle Ulriksen argues that an initial phase could possibly see most missiles being used. After that, conventional forces – involved in a classic war of attrition – could once again rise to preeminence. Both sides would still need land forces: tanks, soldiers, artillery, etc. An attacker would need them to exploit a situation where missiles have disabled an opponent’s most important defensive assets. A defender would need them to fight back on the ground and prevent loss of territory.

– Missiles do change a lot. They can be exceedingly effective against high value targets. Carrier groups, air bases, oil platforms, and so on. They also – possibly – can change the entire strategic situation in a war. Just the existence of weapon systems that can strike anywhere, anytime, against any target in whole countries… What would happen to the concepts of a battlefield and a front?

Missiles have steadily extended in range over the last few decades, a trend which will likely accelerate. This picture shows Sidewinder 9L rocket motors being prepared at Raufoss. Photo: Nammo

Ulriksen by no means considers missiles omnipotent, however. He reminds of the NATO air campaign against Serbia in 1999. After three days of bombing, almost all the strategic military targets were destroyed. Yet the Yugoslav (serb) army kept on fighting.

– They tricked NATO into wasting missiles on worthless targets, and after 78 days the Serb forces left Kosovo almost intact.

Nevertheless, he argues missiles can be eminently usable – and have changed much over the last 20 years:

– They can be very effective against high-value targets.

Aircraft carriers are capable of significant power projection, and played an important role in World War II. But what happens when they encounter an opponent who has amassed long-rang anti-ship missiles? Photo: U.S. Navy / Mass communication specialist 3rd class, Jake Greenberg

Low-tech resilience

Expensive, high value targets like carriers or large amphibious ships are obvious missile goals: They can be sunk, or forced by the missile threat to move out of the area of operations. Even a remote possibility of being destroyed by a missile costing thousands or a few millions – can be an Achilles heel for ships or planes costing billions. Both Ulriksen and Johansson believe a stronger emphasis on volume, low-tech, cheaper and more resilient units could be a possible answer.

Against less costly units in greater numbers, missiles would be relatively weaker. What would an attacker do when facing, say, dispersed army vehicles in substantial number, each costing less than a missile? And what if there was a significant ability to replace losses, and a will to fight on?

Johansson goes so far as to describe resilience – the ability to take a beating and still continue the fight – as the most important trait for a defending force. Ståle Ulriksen agrees.

MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER: Resilience – the ability to take a beating, but still continue the fight – is arguably the most important trait for a defending force, Greger Johansson believes. In the picture: Norwegian Army Leopard 2 A4 main battle tanks.Photo: Frederik Ringnes / Forsvaret / Norwegian Armed Forces

– I’ve come to the conclusion that the most important aspect of a weapon system isn’t necessarily the firepower, but its resilience and robustness. We cannot use “glass cannons” that break soon after engaging an opponent or can be easily neutralized. A lot of countries have invested heavily in very costly systems that can do a lot of damage in a short time. But what do you do when they’re gone? Take the combat aircraft, the F-35 for example: While in the air they are very powerful, on the ground they can be vulnerable. They must be provided with safe and robust bases to be able to operate effectively. My impression is that many countries have bought these extremely capable weapon platforms, but have put less emphasis on the whole support system around the platform. If this is neglected, these assets can be lost quite quickly.

Greger Johansson

A lot of countries have invested heavily in very costly systems that can do a lot of damage in a short time. But what do you do when they’re gone?

First strike advantage

Both researchers also worry about the huge advantage a first strike gives to the party that initiates armed conflict.

– The surprise factor could be extremely important. If the transition from peace, where no one believes in armed conflict, to war is short enough, it would immensely favor an attacker. Missiles could destroy important infrastructure quickly and at a low cost. Then there is only one question, really: Does the defender have the resilience, the strategic depth, the backup and the will to fight back? I’m afraid a lot of western countries may not have this today. That beings said, the recent Trident Juncture exercise was an impressive show of NATO unity, says Greger Johansson.

Greger Johansson

The surprise factor could be extremely important. If the transition from peace, where no one believes in armed conflict, to war is short enough, it would immensely favor an attacker.

His fellow researcher Ståle Ulriksen has spent years analyzing Russian capabilities, and concludes that their military is set up with strengths matching some of the West’s weaknesses: With a considerable missile capacity and troops that can move quickly over large distances, Russia could exploit an early advantage effectively.

– This is what we see, when we look at their forces. And the Russian ability to operate over a longer time periode, their resiliency? I would say it’s rather poor. We end up with a situation where a first strike followed by ground operations – a quick land grab or a hybrid operation – could be followed by a fait accompli (something that’s already happened, a fact on the ground that can no longer be prevented). The cost of fighting back – and do not forget Russia could threaten to use its nuclear arsenal at this point – would be very high, Ulriksen reasons.

– I believe we could be going back to a phase where the classic conventional forces would become very important. Any armed forces would have to have them, not to the exclusion of missiles or other such systems, but in addition to. Culture, mentality and the will to fight are also paramount, Johansson concludes.

U.S. Paratroopers establish security after conducting a night-time air assault operation from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during an exercise. Photo: U.S. Army / Davide Dalla Massara)

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About the author

Thorstein Korsvold

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