Shorad on the go: self-propelled systems intended to provide short-range air defence on the battlefield are evolving to meet the challenges of high intensity and asymmetric operations.
At the lowest level mobile air defence is provided by missile systems many of which were developed initially as shoulder-launched man-portable air defence units known as manpads. In some armies these are complemented by self-propelled anti-aircraft guns that can also be used against ground targets. Amongst Western forces the most widely deployed of these missiles is the Raytheon Fim-92 Stinger fire-and-forget missile, which first entered service in 1982. The Boeing Integrated Defense Systems AN-TWQ-1 Avenger was developed in the early 1980s to provide the US Army with a low-cost highly mobile system. Mounted on an AM General Hummer, the Avenger gyro-stabilised turret is armed with eight Stinger missiles in two pods. Targets are acquired by using the optical sight or a flir (forward-looking infrared) unit. The current production standard Fim-92C missile can engage targets beyond 4500 metres in range and at altitudes between ground level and 3800 metres. An FN Herstal MP3 .50 calibre heavy machine gun with 300 rounds of ready-to-use ammunition is fitted to provide self-defence and also cover the Stinger's dead zone out to 200 metres. A further eight missiles are carried in reserve and mounted with a grip stock to allow them to be launched from the shoulder. More than 1000 Avengers were produced for the US Army and US Marine Corps with the first becoming operational in 1989. In 1996 74 Avengers were sold to Taiwan and this was followed in 1998 by the sale of 50 systems to Egypt. Inactive since completing the first Egyptian Foreign Military Sales (FMS) in 2004, Boeing has restarted the Avenger production line in Huntsville, Alabama, this after receiving a further $ 50 million FMS contract in late June to deliver additional 25 Avengers to Egypt along with associated spares and logistics support. The new systems, scheduled for delivery by September 2008, will equip two brigades each of twelve units. Company officials are keen to capitalise on the reopening of the line as several countries, including South Korea, the Czech Republic, Poland and Thailand, have expressed an interest in the Avenger.
The Turkish Armed Forces took 40% of the offset of the European Stinger production programme so it is not surprising that a requirement for a mobile Stinger system was developed. Turkey's Aselsan produced the pedestal-mounted air defence system and has received a contract to produce 126 fire units in two versions: the Atilgan, which carries two standard vehicle-mounted launchers each with four ready-to-fire Stingers on a modified M113 tracked armoured personnel carrier, and the Zipkin, which has two two-cell Atas launchers mounted on a long-wheelbase 4 x 4 Land Rover. Each version also has a .50-calibre HMG. For export customers the system can be configured to launch other V-shorad missiles. Aselsan won its first export contract in mid-2005 to supply 18 pedestal units to the Royal Netherlands Army. These will be integrated onto the army's new Fennek 4 x 4 armoured vehicles and will replace the Gepard 35 mm vehicle. The Dutch configuration will feature two Stingers in the ready-to-launch position. The German Army also uses the Stinger, launched from the Rheinmetall Asrad (Advanced Short Range Air Defence) system, to provide self-propelled shorad cover. Developed as a private venture, the modular Asrad can be used with other missiles such as the MBDA Mistral and the Kolomna KBM Igla-1, and mounted on a range of tracked and wheeled chassis. The Germany Army decided to install the Asrad on the Rheinmetall Wiesel 2 light tracked airborne vehicle. The German order consisted of 50 Ozelot weapon platforms armed with four ready-to-launch Stingers, ten platoon command post vehicles equipped with the Ericsson Improved Hard 3D radar and seven battery command post vehicles. The Improved Hard radar can track more than 20 targets out to a maximum range of 20,000 metres and a maximum altitude of 10,000 metres. Rheinmetall received a $117 million contract from the Hellenic Army in October 2000 to supply 54 Asrad systems for integration on the locally produced Hummer chassis--in July 2002 the Finnish Defence Force ordered the Asrad-R, developed by Rheinmetall in collaboration with Saab Bofors Dynamics, which consists of a four-round RBS 70 launcher coupled with the Hard 3D radar. The Asrad-R was mounted on the BAE Systems M113 for trials, although the Finnish system is mounted on the Mercedes Unimog 5000 high-mobility vehicle.
Having deployed the Blowpipe and Javelin missiles only in the man-portable configuration, the British Army decided that their successor, the Thales Starstreak, would be developed primarily for use as a self-propelled weapon with a man-carried capability. The first of 135 missiles, mounted on a BAE Systems tracked Stormer chassis, entered service in 1995 and was declared operational two years later. Eight missiles are mounted ready-to-fire in two servo-controlled armour protected containers on the vehicle's roof along with a Thales Optronics Mk 2 passive Adad infrared air-defence alerting device. Although its effective altitude has not been disclosed, the laser-guided Starstreak, which carries three darts, travels at a speed greater than Mach 3 to engage targets at ranges from 300 to 7000 metres. Under a 70 million [pounds sterling] contract awarded in 2001 Thales is developing a thermal sighting system to provide a 24-hour capability. In August 2004 the British Ministry of Defence placed a new 181 million [pounds sterling] plus contract with Thales for additional missiles for delivery from 2007. The armoured Starstreak system can be mounted on other vehicles, such as the Mowag Piranha series and a Lightweight Starstreak launcher, with six ready-to-fire missiles it can be mounted on light utility vehicles such as the Peugeot 4 x 4 chassis, as was the case for development trials.
Thales has recently developed the modular Thor MultiMission System, a 500-kg unmanned turret armed with four ready to launch Starstreak missiles that can be mounted on a wide range of tracked and wheeled chassis. In 2005 Thales unveiled the Thor prototype mounted on an ATL Pinzgauer 6 x 6 as used by the British Army. The launcher can be configured to fire four Starstreak multi-role missiles, two Starstreak missiles and either two fire-and-forget surface-to-air missiles such as the Stinger or two anti-armour/anti-structure missiles such as the Javelin or Spike-LR or four anti-armour/anti-structure missiles. The Thor reflects work underway following the 2003 order to supply the Starstreak for South Africa's Ground Based Air Defence programme.
MBDA's fire-and-forget Mistral is another man-portable missile that was successfully employed for vehicle applications. The Atlas lightweight twin-round launcher can be mounted on the flatbed of a 4 x 4 cross-country truck to provide an inexpensive solution such as that supplied to the Hungarian Army in 2000. The French Air Force fields 30 Thomson Shorts Aspic firing posts, which include four Mistral launchers mounted on the rear of the Peugeot P4 4 x 4 light utility vehicle. At Eurosatory in June 2006 MBDA unveiled a new turret that can be integrated into a wide range of tracked and wheeled chassis to produce a Multi-Purpose Combat Vehicle (MPCV) for both the air-defence and anti-tank roles. The turret was in fact jointly developed with Rheinmetall. At Eurosatory the MPCV was integrated in a Panhard 4 x 4 VBR light armoured vehicle. Configured for the air defence mission the turret would be armed with four Mistral 2 missiles--two mounted on either side of the turret. Four of the new 3000-metre range MBDA Milan-ER (Extended Response) anti-tank guided missiles would be mounted for anti-armour missions. In a vehicle such as the VBR four missiles would be carried for manual reloading. Mounted on the centre of the turret is a Rheinmetall stabilized electro-optical sight capable of engaging air and ground targets by day and night. Also mounted on the turret is a .50-calibre HMG to provide local defence.
There are comparatively few self-propelled air defence systems in Western service at present. As part of BAE Systems Hagglunds Combat Vehicle 90 (CV90) family, the Swedish Army deploys the CV90 Anti-Aircraft Vehicle (AAV), which mounts a turret equipped with a Bofors 40 mm L/70 gun and a Thales Defence Systems Gerfault TRS 2620 search radar on the tracked CV90 chassis. The last of 30 vehicles ordered was delivered in 1999. The CV90 AAV turret is offered for integration on other platforms such as the Mowag Piranha 10 x 10 chassis, on which trials were conducted successfully in 1998.
Switzerland's Oerlikon Contraves (part of Rheinmetall) is seeking to exploit the success of its 35 mm Ahead programmable munition, now purchased by a least ten countries, by developing an air-defence vehicle to complement its GDF series of twin 35 mm towed anti-aircraft guns. The company's new Skyranger air defence system consists of three components: the Skyranger Gun System, the Skyranger Missile Launcher System and the Skyranger Radar System with Integrated Control Centre. The manufacturer suggests that a typical unit comprises two guns, one missile launcher and a radar/command vehicle. The unmanned turret of the Skyranger Gun System is armed with an Oerlikon Contraves 35/1000 revolver cannon, which has 220 rounds of available ammunition. To engage ground targets, frangible armour piercing discarding sabot ammunition would be used, while Ahead ammunition would be used against air targets with a typical engagement sequence consisting of 20 to 24 rounds. A Rheinmetall Defence Electronics day/night sighting system, which features a laser rangefinder and a 3D radar with a range of 25 km, are mounted on the roof. Two crewmembers are seated in the hull to operate the turret. The first prototype is integrated on a Mowag Piranha 8 x 8 chassis, although the system can be installed in a range of wheeled and tracked chassis. Rheinmetall has indicated that the Spanish Army, among others, is interested in the Skyranger Gun System. The Skyranger missile launcher consists of the Rheinmetall Asrad with four ready-to-launch Saab Bofors Bolide missiles.
France, Israel and the United States have all developed mobile launchers that employ missiles first developed for the air-to-air role. Raytheon, Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace and Boeing have collaborated to develop two surface launchers for Raytheon's AIM-120 Amraam family: the trailer-mounted six-missile Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (Nasams), which entered service with the Royal Norwegian Air Force in 1995 and the 'Humraam' launcher, based on the Hummer, now in the final stage of development. The US Department of Defense deployed Nasams launchers around Washington DC for the presidential inauguration on 20 January 2005. The US Marine Corps awarded Raytheon a contract in April 2001 for the development of the Hummer-based Complementary Low Altitude Weapon System (Claws) and in February 2004 the US Army Aviation and Missile Command awarded Raytheon a contract to develop the Slamraam, which is also mounted on the Hummer, the two services' requirements have been merged into the Slamraam project. Using the same onboard electronics as the Nasams the Hummer can carry up to six missiles. The launchers would be used in conjunction with a Hummer-mounted Fire Direction Center, chosen by the US Army as its baseline Integrated Fire Control Station, and the trailer-mounted AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel 3D radar. The first integrated fire control system was delivered in May and the Slamraam successfully completed its System Critical Design Review in June.
At Eurosatory 2004 Rafael and Israel Aircraft Industries displayed the Spyder, a unit that combines surface-to-air Python 5 and Derby missiles. The partners adapted the infrared-guided Python 5 and electromagnetic beyond-visual-range Derby for the Sam role. The original Spyder, now known as the Spyder-SR (Short Range), Missile Fire Unit mounts four missiles in ready-to-fire launcher containers on the flatbed of a high-mobility 6 x 6 truck. The Spyder-SR has a maximum range of, << 15 km-plus against targets flying at altitudes of between 20 and 9000 metres >>, according to the manufacturer. The companies suggest that four fire units be linked to a truck-mounted command and control unit that incorporates an Elta DL/M 2106 Atar 3D surveillance radar able to track 60 targets at a maximum range of 35 km. Following a competitive evaluation that included systems from Europe, Russia and South Africa, the Indian Army is seeking cabinet approval to award a $ 250 million contract for the Spyder. The system is being evaluated by the Israel Defence Force. The Spyder-MR was developed to compete for a forthcoming Finnish Defence Force requirement. It mounts a combination of eight Python 5 and Derby missiles equipped with boosters to extend their range to 35 km and maximum altitude to 16,000 metres. The command unit is equipped with the new IAI/Elbit MFStar surveillance radar, which has a range of about 100 km. The short and medium-range Spyder systems are designed to be interoperable.
MBDA unveiled its Vertical Launch Mica concept for land and sea-based applications in 2000. It employs the hitherto fire-and-forget air-to-air Mica originally developed as an all-weather missile for the French Air Force; the missile was introduced into service with the Mirage 2000 in 1996. The land variant of the VL Mica (see cover photo) would mount a launch unit with up to 16 missiles on the rear of a five-tonne class cross-country truck. Two missiles are available: the active radar Mica RA and the passive imaging infrared Mica IR. Both missiles have an effective range and ceiling of more than 10,000 metres. The VL Mica was shortlisted along with the Israeli Spyder to meet an Indian requirement.
Strategic and tactical mobility will be an important requirement of future long-range systems such as the Meads (Medium Extended Air Defence System) being developed by Meads International to provide a more effective, mobile replacement for the Hawk and Nike low- to medium-altitude and the MIM-104 Patriot low- to high-altitude missile systems. The Meads is intended to protect both manoeuvre forces and fixed locations against tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, drones and aircraft. The system is expected to achieve a first-unit-equipped status in US Army service by 2014 and completely replace the Patriot by 2030. The Meads consortium consists of MBDA Italia, Eads-LFK and Lockheed Martin. In June 2005 Meads International signed a $ 3.4 billion contract for the project's design and development phase. The Meads consists of six major components: multifunction fire control radar, surveillance radar, battle management system, command and control, communications, computers and intelligence, Certified Missile Round (Pac-3 missile and canister), launcher and Reloader. Like all elements of the system, the 16-missile Meads Launcher, mounted on a five-tonne 6 x 6 high mobility truck, can be carried by a C-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft. The Pac-3 missile is able to engage targets from 50 to more than 15,000 metres in altitude and more than 20,000 metres in range.
Russia has also developed a formidable arsenal of air-defence vehicles, essentially tracked, as is the preferred course in the East. One of the most formidable units is the KBP Tunguska-M (left), which entered service in the early 1990s. It carries its own detection and tracking radars and electro-optical suite, plus two twin-barrelled 2A38M 30 mm guns flanked by no less than eight 9M311 missiles. On a lighter scale, and very much like the Western Mistral and Stinger man-portable missiles, the KBP Igla moved from shoulder to vehicle-mounted firing post as seen on the photo at right, taken by Armada editors at the Maks air show near Moscow.