On March 3rd, German company Rheinmetall unveiled its new Skyranger 30 mobile air-defense system during an online press briefing.
The system is housed in a 2–2.5-ton turret, enabling it to be carried by lighter vehicles than the 4–4.5-ton turret Skyranger 35 the company first presented in 2004.
In a lengthy introduction speech, Moritz Vischer, Rheinmetall’s product manager effectors, air-defense systems, said the lighter Skyranger 30 could be carried by both tracked and wheeled vehicles.
Vischer went through the system peculiarities, highlighting that the company did its best to generate a well-balanced system in terms of sensors and effectors, leveraging the R&D work and the deep knowledge that it has in both those fields, giving birth to an “agile, aware and effective system”.
He started from the first link of the air defense chain, that is sensors allowing target detection;
“The first issue is to see the target, which is not easy task when dealing with small items such as Class I UAVs. The detection sensor adopted on the Skyranger 30 is the brand-new S-band AESA Multi-Mission Radar (AMMR) under development by Rheinmetall Italia, five flat antennas being integrated around the turret to provide full 360° coverage,” he explained, adding that the new radar was tested in Switzerland one day prior the presentation, starting its qualification process.
The S-band provides a detection range of around 20 km, the system being optimized for small targets in order to cope with most recent threats. An active system is always a target for RF-seeking weapons, hence RAD installed on its Skyranger 30 a passive detection system, in the form of Rheinmetall’s FIRST (Fast InfraRed Search and Track) that allows surveillance without giving out the presence of the Skyranger.
“This sensor is also optimized to detect pop-up targets, as the typical helicopter threat has not gone away,” Dr. Vischer pointed out.
Similarly to the Skyranger 35, the Skyranger 30 can be carried by an 8×8 armored personnel carrier or infantry fighting vehicle with a three-strong crew but the latter can also be carried by a 6×6 vehicle.
The Skyranger 30’s smaller 30 mm gun allows the integration of two missiles into the turret. Rheinmetall officials said they were “missile-agnostic”, with the possibility of semi-automatic command to line-of-sight or passive fire-and-forget missiles being integrated into Skyranger 30 by their manufacturer. Vischer said air-defence missiles with a range of 8–9 km would complement the 30 mm gun’s 2–3 km range. The gun’s 85° elevation allowed it to combat terminal diving targets, he added.
“The Nagorno Karabakh conflict has shown a series of gaps in air defense assets,” Fabian Ochsner, Rheinmetall Air Defence (RAD) CEO told the audience at the Digital Defense Talks session.
To be effective a system must first of all remain standing and operational.
“The first rule is not to be seen, thus we developed a very low profile turret, which does not give away the vehicle,” the PM Effectors says, showing in real that the concept demonstrator has also been fitted with two Rheinmetall’s ROSY (Rapid Obscuring System) launchers fitted to the turret, each with nine multispectral smoke rounds.
Further adds-on are being considered, such as i.e. electronic warfare systems, in the form of passive emitter locators, able to pick-up data link signals used by UAVs, as well as RF-jammers, to jam such data link, neutralizing UAVs without even engaging the main gun.
According to Fabian Ochsner the Skyranger 30 is currently at TRL 4-5, “but we are planning first firing trials around the middle of the current year.”
Dr. Vischer added that the first contract for the upgraded system had already been inked for it to also have a naval application.
Rheinmetall Air Defense thus aims reaching TRL 6 for its Skyranger 30 by the end of 2021, when all subsystems will have been tested, adding that the system will then remain at that stage until a launch customer will show up.
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