Rheinmetall - History


The steam locomotive parked in Trebnje, Slovenia, was produced in 1922 by Rheinische Metallwaren- und Maschinenfabrik from Düsseldorf.

With help from a consortium of banks, Rheinische Metallwaren- und Maschinenfabrik Aktiengesellschaft was founded on 13 April 1889 by Heinrich Ehrhardt (born 1840 in Zella/Rhön – died in 1928 Zella-Mehlis).

During the Spanish Civil War, Rheinmetall-Borsig, in 1938 nationalized by Reichswerke Hermann Göring,was a major supplier of arms to the Spanish Republicans, even though German forces were fighting with the Spanish Nationalists. They were shipped via Pyrkal in Greece.

The company had a close relationship to the Nazi regime with Göring, purchasing a majority stake in June 1938.

Rheinmetall built the MG 42, the Wehrmacht's main general-purpose medium machine gun. Its successor, the MG3, is still used by the Bundeswehr, as well as other armies.

Rheinmetall made bomb fuses during World War II. The most notable was a double-capacitor design, invented by Herbert Ruhlman and patented in the UK before the war, which was particularly dangerous to defuse should the bomb not explode on impact. Many bomb disposal personnel were killed. The patent for the fuse was filed in the UK two years before Hitler came to power in 1933. The UK Armed Forces spotted this and reference to the patent helped enormously with disarming these early bombs, although Rheinische Metallwaren- und Maschinenfabrik Aktiengesellschaft and Ruhlman constantly innovated with many new electrical fuses being added to the Luftwaffe armoury throughout the war. The U.S. Patent Office put a 32-year secrecy order on a similar patent by the University of Illinois in 1948.

In 1990 the company acquired a majority stake in the military vehicle production facilities of Krupp's Kiel plant; MaK System GmbH.

In 1993 Rheinmetall acquired Mauser AG and in 1996 and 1999 the majority share-holdings of STN Atlas and Oerlikon Contraves, all of which are major European defense companies. STN Atlas was later split into Atlas Elektronik and Rheinmetall Defence Electronics, the latter is now a full subsidiary of Rheinmetall.

In March 2008, Rheinmetall acquired Dutch defence company Stork PKV.

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