This is the updated version from the German article, published at the end of October 2017.
The Swiss army’s ground-based air defenses (GBAD; in Switzerland called BODLUV) is rather outdated. The effective altitude is with about 3,000 m above ground level too low; the same applies to range and also ineffectiveness against guided missiles as well as artillery projectiles. Nowadays, this is hardly acceptable. A new system should be able to succesfully combat any type of flying object, including drones, guided missiles, and artillery projectiles, at any time of day in any weather up to an altitude of about 15 km and a range of around 50 km. Such a system should have a coverage area around 6,000 square kilometers. In addition, it should be easily integrated into the current system of sensors, effectors, guidance systems, airfields, communication equipment and aircraft; not only should it be transportable but also mobile deployable, as cheap as possible (max. 800 million CHF) and politically innocuous.
The Swiss Army’s catalog of requirements is very high. Currently, hardly a single system fulfills all these requirements, which was ultimately a factor in the suspension of the BODLDUV 2020 project by the head of the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport, Guy Parmelin. In July 2017, after the suspension, Parmelin announced that the project for ground-based air defense should be reinitiated. Therefore, in this article, we want to review the market: which modern ground-based air defense systems exist, what characteristics do they have and which systems could make it onto a Swiss Army short list?
MANTIS from Rheinmetall Defense
Rheinmetall’s MANTIS is a further development of the Skyshield (with GDF-007 cannons), which itself is a further development of the Oerlikon 35 mm twin cannon (GDF-005), which is currently in use in Switzerland. As the name MANTIS (Modular, Automatic and Network capable Targeting and Interception System) suggests, improvements have been made, especially in the integration of external sensors. In addition to aircraft and helicopters, MANTIS will also be effective against drones, guided missiles, and artillery projectiles. By default, the system is designed for close-range engagement of targets; however, coverage could be significantly increased by integrating medium and long range radars. Also new is the use of AHEAD ammunition, which consists of 152 sub-projectiles made from a tungsten alloy (3.3 g per sub-projectile), which are released 10-30 m from the target and form a “cloud”. Thus, a target can be destroyed by approximation, which increases effectiveness.
The system includes a control and fire control unit, two radar sensors, and up to four GDF-020 35 mm cannons per sensor (the German Bundeswehr appears to use only three cannons per sensor). For a 24/7 operation, 16 soldiers are needed in the control and fire control unit and another 20 soldiers are responsible for maintenance and loading. The supplied radar sensors should be able to detect a target the size of a tennis ball at a maximum distance of 20 km. Even though MANTIS appears to be very effective in close range combat, it cannot meet the Swiss Army’s range requirement: slow or low maneuverable aircraft can be successfully engaged up to only 5 km, the remaining targets up to 3 km. The area coverage is modest at around 1 square kilometer. MANTIS is thus suitable for defending specific targets, but not for covering areas. In addition, the system components are transportable, but not mobile. The price of a system should be around 138 million euros.
Actually, MANTIS was planned from 2011 on for the protection of German bases in Afghanistan. Nothing came of it. Officially, it was said in September 2011 that rocket fire had decreased and that protective measures such as bunkers were greatly improved. However, it could also have been due to the system lacking precision and problems with the segmenting rate of the AHEAD ammunition at that time. Finally, at the end of November 2012, MANTIS was handed over to the Air Defense Missile Group 61 (Flugabwehrraketengruppe 61) of Air Defense Missile Wing 1 (Flugabwehrraketengeschwader 1). According to Military Balance 2017, the Bundeswehr has two MANTIS systems and no systems have been exported so far. As of November, one of the systems – respectively only its sensor units and control system – were deployed to the Camp Castor in Mali as a warning device, so that troops under fire could quickly make it to safety.
RAPIDFire from Thales
Thales’ RAPIDFire is a newer system that was tested by the French Army in 2011 and presented to the public in 2012 at Eurosatory. Later, in 2016, Thales presented a sea-based version of the system at Euronaval 2016: the RAPIDSeaGuardian.
Similar to MANTIS, RAPIDFire belongs in the category of the very short-range protection systems and is especially suitable for defending specific targets. In addition to conventional flying objects, as well as drones, guided missiles, artillery projectiles, the system can also be used against ground targets. AHEAD ammunition with 200 sub-projectiles (each 3.3 g per projectile) made from a tungsten alloy is used against air targets (operational distance: max. 4 km). Against unarmored ground targets, general purpose round-air burst ammunition (max. operational distance 2.5 km) are used, armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding-sabot is used against armored ground targets (max. operational distance 1.5 km). The system should also be able to use separately acquired STARStreak guided missiles, with which air and ground targets can be engaged up to a maximum of 7 km. In addition to a maximum of four fire units, a complete system also includes a CONTROLMaster 60 as a command and control unit as well as a 3D GROUNDMaster 60 radar, which can detect potential air targets between max. 40-80 km.
All components of the RAPIDFire are not only mobile, but are designed for use during transportation (for example, for self-protection). Six soldiers are needed for a 24/7 mission. In terms of range, the system does not meet the Swiss Army’s requirements.
SAMP/T from Eurosam
SAMP/T (Surface-to-Air Missile Platform/Terrain) from EUROSAM (66% MBDA and 33% Thales) is also a newer European system that can fend off conventional flying objects, including drones, guided missiles and artillery projectiles. The French Air Force tested SAMP/T in February 2011 and then deployed it at the G8 Summit (May 26-27, 2011) in Deauville. Since June 2012, the first Italian regiment has been equipped with the system and on March 6, 2013, both the French and Italian systems were deployed by NATO (“SAMP/T Mamba Aster 30 surface-to-air defense missile system technical data sheet pictures video“, Army Recognition, 08.04.2013). According to Military Balance 2017, the French Air Force has 9 systems, Italy has 16 systems.
As a medium-range ground-based air defense system, Aster 30 Block 1 anti-aircraft missiles are deployed by default to engage a target. This is a two-stage solid rocket 4.9 m in length weighing 450 kg, with the fragmentation warhead accounting for 15 kg, and has an impact and proximity fuse. This allows a conventional flying object to be targeted at a distance of min. 3 km and max. 120 km (unofficially 160 km) and an altitude of up to 20 km – it seems, however, that ballistic missiles can only be destroyed up to a maximum distance of 15 km. The Aster 30 is to be modernized with the block 1 NT (New Technology) and thus the range can be increased. This should be able to intercept ballistic missiles within a distance of 1.5-600 km. However, the development will not be completed before 2023 – delivery could take place in 2024.
The system includes four to six transporter erector launcher with eight Aster 30 and at least one command and control unit, a vehicle with an “Arabel” radar (the use of other radar types is possible) and a transporter with an electric generator. If equipping the transporter erector launcher with new missiles after a mission is to be possible, then further vehicles with hydraulic cranes and reserve missiles are necessary. The system is mobile – but the hydraulic stabilizers have to be extended for use. Fourteen soldiers are required for its operation.
At first glance, SAMP/T seems to meet the Swiss Army’s requirements with only a few drawbacks. At least three systems would be necessary for an almost nationwide protection (coverage of 30,000 square kilometers per system). For financial reasons, the previous model Aster 15 guided missiles could be used, which, however, with a range of 1.7-30 km (unofficially 50 km) have a much smaller coverage area. The fact that the booster is jettisoned during flight to the target, however, is not without its own problems in built-up terrain. The price of a Aster 15 is about 1.7 million CHF, an Aster 30 could probably cost more than 2 million CHF and about half a billion CHF has to be budgeted for the entire system.
IRIS-T SLM from Diehl Defense
Diehl Defense’s IRIS-T SLM is an air defense system based on the IRIS-T SL guided missile, which is nearing operational readiness. The IRIS-T SL guided missile represents the ground-air variant of the IRIS-T, which has a stronger rocket motor and therefore can travel up to 40 km and reach an altitude of 25 km. This should allow for a coverage of 5,000 square kilometers per system. The IRIS-T SL missile will also be used in other projects in the future, such as the further development of the Patriot system (see below).
CAMM-ER from MBDA
MBDA’s CAMM-ER is also under development and a European ground-based air defense system, which is built around a guided missile. The CAMM (Common Anti-Air Modular Missile) exists in four variants: air-air (CAMM (A)), surface-air (CAMM (L)), sea-air (CAMM (M)) and in an “extended reach” version (CAMM-ER). “Extended reach” means that at least a 45 km operational distance should be possible instead of just 25 km – but currently this is not the case. This was criticized in the context of the BODLUV 2020 project: the current missile travels the given 45 km, but then has too little energy to destroy the target (Kurt Grüter, “Administrativuntersuchung im VBS: BODLUV 2020“, 21.09.2016, S. 56). Even the maximum achievable altitude of 10 km is unconvincing in terms of the Swiss Army’s requirements.
Iron Dome and David’s Sling from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems
Probably no other air defense system has been put to the test since its operational commissioning (2011) in real operational use as much as Iron Dome by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. By the end of October 2014, the systems deployed in Israel are said to have fired around 1,200 missiles. Iron Dome should have a success rate of almost 90% (“Israeli Firm Adapts Iron Dome for Intercepts at Sea“, DefenseNews, 27.10.2014) – a success rate that is not undisputed among experts.
Iron Dome is a short-range ground-based air defense system designed primarily to defend against short-range missiles and artillery projectiles, but can also destroy other missiles between a distance of 4-70 km and an altitude of up to 10 km. The system can cover a 150 square kilometer area.
The system consists of three components: an EL/M-2084 multi-mode radar produced by Elta and Israel Aerospace Industries, a command and control unit produced by mPrest Systems and a transporter erector launcher with 20 “Tamir” interceptor. Although the individual components can be installed relativ quickly, they must be placed on the ground before use.
Iron Dome can distinguish between protected and unprotected areas, where the impact of a missile will not cause any damage. Depending on the terrain, this can reduce costs, as an interceptor costs around 70,000 US dollars. By contrast, the Israelis usually shoot two interceptors per target to guarantee its destruction. A system costs a total of around 50 million US dollars. All in all, Iron Dome does not meet the Swiss Army’s requirements. In addition, the acquisition of an Israeli system can be expected to result in additional political discussions.
It is unlikely that the range of the Iron Dome will be increased by the further development of the existing interceptor. For a medium-range ground-based air defense system Israel will use another, newly developed system, called David’s Sling, from the same manufacturer. David’s Sling should replace the MIM-23 Hawk and MIM-104 Patriot systems. It is used to fend off traditional flying objects, drones, missiles and artillery projectiles in a range between 40 km and 300 km – so as not to replace Iron Dome, but to complement it. Standard interceptor for David’s Sling (“Stunner”) are available for around one million US dollars each.
David’s Sling is based on the same EL/M-2084 multi-mode radar as Iron Dome, but also comes with a “Golden Almond Battle Management Center” and a number of transporter erector launchers, each of which can be equipped with a maximum of twelve “Stunner” missiles. The system has been operational since April 2017 — so, teething problems cannot be ruled out.
SPYDER from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems
SPYDER is the small, cheaper brother of the Iron Dome. The product name Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby stands for the two variants of the system: short and medium range. The Python 5 guided missile with an operational distance of about 20 km and an operational altitude of 9 km is used in the short range variant, which has been operational since 2004. The Derby guided missile with an operational distance of about 50 km and an operational altitude of 16 km is used in the medium range variant, which has been operational since 2011. Both the Python-5 and the Derby were originally designed as air-to-air guided missiles and later developed as a surface-air variant. They also differ in terminal phase control: in the Python 5, this is done via an infrared sensor, which may make them sensitive to weather conditions; the Derby uses radar. Both variants of the SPYDER system also differ in the type of radar used: an EL/M-2106 ATAR for short range, an EL/M-2084 multi-mode radar for medium range (this radar is also used in Iron Dome). In addition to the radar and the transporter erector launcher, which can accommodate eight missiles, the system also includes a command and control unit from Israel Aerospace Industries.
In addition to the IRIS-T SLM and the CAMM-ER, SPYDER (medium range) was the third system whose effectors were shortlisted in the BODLUV 2020 project. However, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems was not prepared to supply the classified information requested by the Swiss procurement organization, which is why it was removed from the list. All the trials had to be carried out in Israel. In addition, there was no price breakdown on the individual components and the overall system was too expensive (Kurt Grüter, “Administrativuntersuchung Im VBS: BODLUV 2020“, 21.09.2016, S. 40, 90).
MIM-104 Patriot from Raytheon
Raytheon’s MIM-104 Patriot is probably the best-known ground-based air defense system. Raytheon has built more than 220 Patriot fire units and delivered them to customers in 13 nations. However, it is an older system, as evidenced by, among other things, the fact that unlike the other current systems it only covers a 120° area (at least until now — soon, new systems will be equipped with a modern AESA radar, which allows 360° coverage). The first basic version (MIM-104A) went into operation in 1984. An improved version (MIM-104C) with PAC-1 interceptors was used in the Gulf War of 1991 as a protection against Iraqi Scud missiles. At the same time, the successful use of an Anti-Ballistic Missile System was demonstrated, even if its effectiveness remained debatable.
A completely revised version has been in use since 2001 with the MIM-104F. With it two types of interceptors can be used:
- Raytheon’s PAC-2 interceptor is specialized in targeting conventional flying objects but can also shoot certain ballistic missiles. A transporter erector launcher can accommodate four PAC-2; the range is 3-160 km with a maximum operating altitude of 24 km. One missile costs around 2 million US dollars.
- Lockheed Martin’s PAC-3 interceptor is more effective against ballistic missiles, but at the expense of the maximum operational distance, which is only 15-45 km. The maximum operating altitude is 15 km. The PAC-3 can destroy the target by a direct hit or by proximity, with the latter variant ejecting 24 tungsten alloy sub-projectiles. The cost per interceptor is approximately 3 million US dollars.
That quadcopter that cost 200 bucks from Amazon.com did not stand a chance against a Patriot. […] Now, that worked, they got it, OK, and we love Patriot missiles, […] [but] I’m not sure that’s a good economic exchange ratio. — US Army General David Gerard Perkins an der 2017 Konferenz der Association of the United States Army, 15’00”.
Poland wants to buy eight patriot systems, which is expected to cost 7.6 billion US dollars (apparently not with the new AESA radar for the time being). Poland is following the example of Romania, which is buying seven systems at a price of 3.9 billion US dollars, which should be operational in 2020. Raytheon’s current delivery includes ten Patriot PAC-3 systems for Qatar, which according to SIPRI’s Trade Register cost 7.6 billion US dollars — delivery is to be completed by 2019. In November, Sweden has chosen the Patriot system over Eurosam’s SAMP/T. The procurement volume comprises 1,2 Billion US dollar. The delivery is expected in 2020 and the systems should be operational in 2025 (Missile Defense Project, “Sweden Green-Lights Negotiations to Acquire Patriot System“, Missile Threat, 08.11.2017).
With a coverage of around 5,000 square kilometers per system, Switzerland would also have to dig deep into its wallet when purchasing several systems. Apart from this, the Swiss Army’s requirements are not fully covered. Downing a cheap quadrocopter with a 3 million US dollar missile would inevitably trigger a heated discussion in Switzerland. Otherwise, the costs and returns for Switzerland are disproportionate for this aged system. In addition, Switzerland will hardly be able to benefit from a technology transfer in procurement, since the critical components of the system are delivered as self contained “black boxes” – as usual in US systems.
There are currently two successor projects to replace the Patriot system in the long term:
- The Patriot Advanced Affordable Capability-4 (PAAC-4) is a variant of the Israeli “David’s Sling”, where Raytheon is involved in the development in addition to Rafael Advanced Defense Systems (see system above).
- The USA, Germany, and Italy are cooperating with the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS). MEADS should provide 360° protection against conventional flying objects, drones, all kinds of weapons, and large-scale rocket and artillery. In its minimum configuration, it should have a multi-function and fire-conducting radar, a command and control unit and at least two fire units. However, the system can also be supplemented by a monitoring radar, a maximum of four fire units and three reloading vehicles. In range it corresponds to the MIM-104F (PAC-3) because it is supported by default on the same interceptors. This will also make MEADS one of the more expensive systems. The Germans, however, have shown that they want to use the IRIS-T SL as a guided weapon in addition to the PAC-3.
S-350E Vityaz and S-400 from Almaz-Antey
The S-350E Vityaz from Almaz-Antey is a Russian system, which would bring some political and technical risks with regard to deployment in the Swiss Army. The case of Turkey, which agreed to the purchase of two Russian S-400 Triumf systems at the beginning of September, shows how sensitive the US can get when NATO member states purchase Russian systems. This has further weakened the already tense US-Turkish relations. Of course, Switzerland is not in NATO, and basically it is also free to buy Russian and Chinese systems, but the United States is just as free as to decide to whom they will sell their systems in the future — and Switzerland currently has some of these in service. Not only is Switzerland not a NATO member state, unlike Turkey, its geopolitical importance for the US is insignificant — Switzerland’s armaments policy could come under considerable pressure in the face of an obvious affront. With the current tensions between the Western states and Russia, the procurement of a Russian system, which must be maintained for at least the next 30 years (including supply of spare parts), is an unnecessarily high risk. The risks of successful integration into the current system, which is currently outlined by in the West applied standards, is not to be ignored (e.g. Link 16 or “Plug and Fight“; see also: Metin Gurcan, “US, NATO Wait to See If Russia-Turkey Defense Deal Goes Through“, Al-Monitor, 1 August 2017).
As a replacement for the older S-300PS, the S-350E Vityaz system was already around as a concept at the end of the Soviet Union. However, only when South Korea expressed its interest in the system in 2007 and co-financed the development of a variant specially adapted to its needs (KM-SAM or Cheolmae II), work was taken up on the fire control units, radar components, and carrier vehicles, which differ in the South Korean prototype. The South Korean prototype was completed in 2010, the first field tests were carried out in 2011 and the system reached its operational readiness in 2015. The Russian prototype followed in 2012; by 2020, Russia hopes to be able to produce up to 30 units (Defence Intelligence Agency, “Russia Military Power“, 2017, S. 80).The performance of the S-350E Vityaz system depends on the type of intercepting guided missile used. The maximum operational distance is between 60 km with a maximum operational altitude of 20 km (9M96E) and 120 km distance at 30 km altitude (9M96E2). The terminal phase control is carried out by means of a built-in radar sensor for both interception guided missiles. These guided missiles can also be used with the S-400 Triumf system, which was also developed by Almaz-Antey. The S-350E Vityaz system consists of at least one 50N6A multi-functional radar, a 50K6A command and control unit and 1-8 50P6 transporter erector launcher, each capable of accommodating 12 guided missiles. The system is mobile and can be operational within 5 minutes.
The S-400 Triumf system (formerly also referred to as S-300PMU-3) includes four different guided missiles: in addition to the two 9M96 guided missiles, the 48N6 (max 250 km operational distance) and the 40N6 (max 400 km operational distance) can be used. The system consists of a 55K6E command and control unit built on a Ural-5323, a 91N6E radar detection system mounted on a MZKT-7930 with a range of 600 km, an additional multi-functional radar with a range of 400 km and up to 12 fire units. Such a system could cover four times the area of Switzerland, but this would create considerable headaches for the states neighboring Switzerland.
Panzir-S1 from KBP Instrument Design Bureau
The Panzir-S1 from KBP Instrument Design Bureau is another Russian system. The first prototype was completed in 1994 and presented at the MAKS in 1995. Due to financial difficulties, further development was delayed and practical tests were not carried out until 2006/2007. Operationally, the system was not introduced until 2012 by the Russian armed forces.
The Panzir-S1 is a system primarily designed for defending a specific target, and is used, among other things, by the Russian armed forces to provide short range defense for operational ground-based air defense systems (S-300/S-400), air bases, and rocket launchers. In addition to air targets, surface targets can also be engaged. The system is not only mobile but designed for use during transport. Many variants are suitable as the carrier vehicle, such as, for example, the KamAZ-6560 8×8 or the MZKT-7930 8×8 (wheeled vehicles) or the GM-352 chassis (track vehicle). The 50 systems purchased by the United Arab Emirates are partly mounted on German MAN SX 45 8×8 trucks.
The integrated radar has a maximal range of 20 km and an altitude of 15 km. Several Panzir-S1 systems can also be networked with one another, with additional radars and with a command and control unit. For the guided missile, 12 two-stage 57E6 or 57E6-E are used per system, which can cover the entire range of the integrated radar (“The Modernization of Russian Ground Force’s Air Defense Assets”, OEWatch 6, Issue 2, Februar 2016, p. 53). In addition, the system has a 2A38M 30mm twin cannon, which can engage targets up to a distance of 4 km and an altitude of 3 km. The operation can be carried out fully automatically, so that no operator is required to engage a close range target (Yuriy Rossolov, “Камчатка под панцирем“, Krasnaya Zvesda, 25 June 2017, translated in OEWatch 7, Issue 7, August 2017, p. 9).
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Post Scriptum: Umkhonto from Denel Dynamics
Following the publication of the article above, Darren Olivier, Senior Correspondent at African Defense Review, informed me that there is a modern ground-based air defence system from South Africa, based on the Umkhonto-IR short-range guided missile. Therefore, I would like to add this system to our list retrospectively.
According to Denel Dynamics, the Umkhonto-IR was developed for use on ships and has been deployed on South African Valour Klasse (MEKO A-200SAN) frigates since 2001. One reason for South Africa developing their own system was the high cost of the US Aegis combat system, which the South African armed forces could not afford.
The Umkhonto-IR Block 2 has also been deployed on Finnish Hamina Class missile boats since 2002, and on Finnish Hämeenmaa Class minelayers since 2006. In 2012, Algeria also ordered 100 Umkhonto-IR Block 2 at a price of 61 million US dollars, of which, according to SIPRI’s Trade Register, around half had been delivered by 2016. They are deployed on Algerian El Radii Klasse (MEKO A-200 AN) frigates.
[Regarding Aegis,] we can’t afford the launchers, let alone the missiles — Rear Admiral Johnny Kamerman zitiert in Leon Engelbrecht, “Further Money for GBADS 2“, defenceWeb, 19.07.2011.
The Umkhonto-IR/EIR forms the foundation for Denel Dynamics‘ Ground-Based Launcher System (GBL). Like the sea-based version, GBL should be deployed with little effort and maintenance and, if necessary, autonomously. The radar used is a Reutech RSR320 Dual-Band Radar (DBR) XL with a maximum detection range of 80 km and a target tracking range of 40 km, or a Giraffe AMB passive phased-array radar from Saab with a range of 120 km (“Solutions Overview: Denel Air Defence Solutions (South Africa)“, Quwa, 13.09.2017). However, this plays only a minor role, because the intention is to enable the system to be operated with other sensors. One fire unit (stationary or for mobile deployment mounted on a truck) has six guided missiles.
As the term “IR” suggests, final stage guidance to the target is ensured by an infra-red seeker — with all of the associated potential weather-related shortcomings. Depending on the further developmental success of the Umkhonto-EIR, the system will be able to cover an area of between 1,250 and 3,800 km², which does not meet the requirements of the Swiss Army. This may perhaps change in the future, if the range is extended significantly with the Umkhonto-R, which is currently under development and is planned to have a radar seeker. Whether Denel Dynamics really have enough resources in the long run for such an ambitious ground-based air defence system, however, remains to be seen. In the spring of 2016, the manufacturer certainly did not have the necessary capacity to test the Umkhonto-EIR in practical conditions.
Do you have any other potential systems to suggest? Use the comment function bellow for your personal additions.