A mystery solved — The delivery of 10 fire command units for IRIS-T SLM by Germany

3 min readJul 22


Copyright: leonardo.com

Note: Before I start my article, I would like to point out that the theory I described in this article has since been confirmed by the German Ministry of Defence.

After the German government updated its list of military assistance to Ukraine on Friday morning, I noticed that they quietly changed the designation “laser aiming equipment for air defence system Iris-T SLM” to “laser target designators VULCANO artillery ammunition”.

What is Vulcano artillery ammunition?

Vulcano artillery ammunition for the calibre 155mm is high-precision ammunition with enormous range, which was developed in cooperation between the Italian company Leonardo and the German company Diehl Defence.

The 155mm version only became operational in 2019. The artillery ammunition is so modern, even the German armed forces do not use it yet. Germany delivered 255 freshly produced rounds to Ukraine from industrial stocks. Ukrainian soldiers were trained on them at Diehl Defence.

This modern ammunition is most likely to be fired exclusively from the PzH 2000s delivered by Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, or the FH-70s delivered by Estonia and Italy.

These are the only systems that have already been tested with the ammunition. Apart from that, the SMArt 155 ammunition provided by Germany has also so far only been fired by the PzH 2000.

Back to the change made on Friday. That solved a first mystery that many had struggled to solve. After all, it made no sense to supply laser aiming equipment for an air defence system that uses infrared-guided missiles.

But the recent change makes a lot more sense now. A laser target designator for example attached to a drone will illuminate the target. The Vulcano ammunition is then guided to the target to within one meter using the SAL (Semi Active Laser) mode, instead of its usual GPS guidance. This is particularly useful against moving targets, such as tanks or other vehicles.

But the second mystery, the 10 additional fire command units, were strangely not corrected. Is this really a delivery that has to do with the IRIS-T SLM air defence system? I have another explanation! However, this time the explanation is less spectacular.

Now that the first delivery had to do with Vulcano ammunition, I think the same applies to the fire command units. But where do you need fire command units for ammunition in the same context as with air defence systems?

My explanation

In my opinion, the answer is very simple. They are probably the Portable Fire Command Units, which are stand-alone kits responsible for programming the Vulcano shells.

This allows, for example, to configure the final attack angle of the shell. On the one hand, this enables maximum precision as well as great effectiveness of the projectile, and on the other hand, it prevents the shell from being easily detected by defence systems of the enemy.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYWCGsmbiXM

As a small piece of information on the side: As an alternative to the stand-alone kit, the so-called “Portable Fire Command Unit”, there is also the integration kit, which is called the “Vulcano Programming Unit”.

Finally, I would once again like to point out how similar the two terms sound. On the German government’s website, they are called “fire command units”. On the website of the company Leonardo, the equipment is called “portable fire command unit”.

This, and the fact that the laser aiming equipment originally designated for IRIS-T SLM were also intended for the delivered Vulcano ammunition, convince me that I am most likely correct in my theory.

Of course, there is no proof of my theory as long as it is not corrected or further clarified in the list of the German government. I will of course keep an eye on the situation and report further about the topic, as soon as I know more.

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German Aid to Ukraine (deaidua.org/en/) is a private project that aims to help you to keep track of Germany's assistance to Ukraine in the Russia-Ukraine war.