Weapons: Anti-air capability study looks to futuristic technologies | ADM Sep 08

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Australia, like many countries, is placing greater emphasis on rapid deployment ‘combat teams’. The consequent need to protect them against a widening range of air threats, including cruise missiles, will redefine our air defence capabilities.

Tom Muir

In what may herald important changes to the ADF’s ground-based air defence (GBAD) system—including the introduction of new technologies, such as directed energy weapons (DEW)—Defence has initiated Phase 7 of Land 19, concerned with enhancing or replacing the current RBS-70 short range air defence system.

Phase 7’s enhanced or replacement capability is expected to combine the components of airspace surveillance and identification, target tracking, and target interception and destruction and will be managed by a networked C4I system.

And it will need to provide improved threat detection and engagement against a wide range of threats including aircraft (fixed and rotary wing), UAVs and their combat counterparts, UCAVs. Other potential threats include rockets, artillery and mortars, stand-off weapons, and cruise missiles.

Capability functionality is expected to encompass:

• airspace battle management and situational awareness;

• threat tracking and interception; and

• battle damage assessment, and all underpinned by

• an underpinning networked command, control, communications, computing and intelligence system.

In deference to the wider range of threats, including missiles, the Phase 7 capability is now referred to as the Ground-Based Air and Missile Defence (GBAMD) system, and may include new technologies such as directed-energy systems.

To gain a better understanding of anti-air capabilities as part of the Phase 7 process, Defence is conducting a global capability study, solicitations for which were released to industry worldwide in July, with final submissions sought by the beginning of this month.

The timing of the analysis of industry responses to the study, and the final report by the end October 2008, appears to be no more than a wish to get the Phase 7 process underway expeditiously rather than concern over the emergence of new air threats and the changing nature of expeditionary warfare, encountered by the ADF.

The evolving land force structure, based on mercuric battle groups, whose composition will vary according to operational demands, will require flexible, integrated, highly mobile air defence systems for their support.

Operating independently, or as part of coalition or joint force operations, they must be capable of protecting small mobile combat teams, battle groups on-the-move or, as part of the wider Air Missile Defence (AMD) system.

The study solicitation seeks marketing-level operational and technical information as well as broad costings, and high-level assessments of technology maturity, for analysis.

This is to assist in the development of broad capability options on how best to provide GBAMD for Australian forces.

Defence emphasises that in the absence of any formal decisions on preferred systems and technologies, the study is entirely solution-independent.

To that end it relies on a number of operational scenarios and a broad range of threats to elicit information. There are five aspects to the information sought.

These are:

• how the respondent would address each scenario with reference to an indicative functional breakdown,

• the system(s) needed to achieve the GBAMD mission in each scenario,

• the Human Systems Integration (HSI) aspects, including numbers of people needed for operation and support and their skill-sets,

• the technical maturity of the systems and that of their embedded technologies, such as Directed Energy (DE) systems, and finally,

• the capital acquisition and operating costs.

Recognising that not all of the information requested may be available for disclosure, and that a comprehensive response to the solicitation could involve substantial effort, respondents are asked to give priority to operational and costing aspects over technical detail.

The scenarios

Study respondents are requested to describe how their proposed systems would contribute to achieving, the GBAMD functions within each of five generic operational scenarios provided.

The first two represent GBAMD protection of a mobile combat team (mechanised company group) operating in open and urban terrain respectively.

The next represents protection of a fixed Forward Operating Base (FOB) situated in complex urban terrain and occupied by a battle group and, at the same time, protection of a mobile combat team depicted in the first two, operating from the FOB.

The fourth scenario represents a GBAMD capability integrated as part of a larger integrated AMD system assigned to protect an airfield required for the conduct of operations while the last scenario represents GBAMD as part of a larger integrated AMD system assigned to protect an amphibious littoral lodgement of a brigade-sized task force.

In the scenarios, the Phase 7 capability would usually be deployed as part of a larger (Joint or Combined) integrated AMD environment, but might have to operate independently in some instances.

In such cases external tracks would be provided to the GBAMD system when operating as part of a larger joint or combined integrated AMD environment, involving other linked capabilities, such as fighter aircraft, AMD ships and AEW&C aircraft.

However, when the GBAMD system is providing stand-alone AMD there would be only intermittent support from other integrated AMD capabilities.

In place

The ADF has two Air Defence Batteries equipped with 30 new and upgraded RBS-70 short range air defence weapon systems, acquired under Phase 6, which also provided improved capabilities such as FLIR night sighting systems, Thales IFF, and the Lockheed Martin PSTAR extended range search and target acquisition radar.

A further advance has been the adoption of the latest RBS-70 missile, the Bolide, which has an intercept range of about 8 km and a ceiling of 15 000ft, compared to the previous 7 kms and 10 000ft of the Mark 2 missile.

Like its predecessor, Bolide reaches a velocity of about Mach 2.2.

However, increased acceleration and other developments have improved missile performance against high-speed crossing, pop-up and other demanding targets.

To defeat complex air threats, the Bolide also features a multi-role proximity fuse, selectable for threats like fighters, transport aircraft and helicopters, to smaller targets such as UAVs or cruise missiles.

But for Saab Systems their tactical C2 system, TaCCS, was a high point of the upgrade.

The system enables all radars linked to the Command Post (CP) to be networked to produce a single correlated local air picture with immediate transmission of threat data to a handheld terminal by the weapon detachment commander.

TaCCS can operate in a fully automatic state so that incoming threats are assessed and then allocated to the weapon detachment with greatest probably of a successful engagement.

TaCCS can also operate with a ‘soldier in the loop’ so that the CP can review the radar information and manually allocate targets to fire units.

Using the TaCCS, the CP can also communicate with the detachments using free text (similar to SMS) or a template messaging system (eg VMF) for Air Defence reports and returns.

For Saab Systems Australia, the incumbent GBAD capability supplier, the battle management C4I and sensor systems are critical to the success of Land 19-7.

General Manager Land and Air Systems, Richard Price, claims—not without justification—that the company’s international experience in the design and delivery of complex networked air defence systems positions it well to support Defence in the realisation of Phase 7.

“Recent successes in the qualification of externally sourced medium and short range missile systems, for operation with Saab’s own sensors and C4I systems, demonstrates of the company’s ability to deliver air missile defence capability to precisely match user requirements.”

And certainly the Phase 6 upgrade has helped set the course for building a more capable system.

A candidate for Phase 7 could well be the Saab BAMSE RBS 23 system, described as an all weather, all target SAM system, which can be used against today’s range of very small and very fast targets, including rotary and fixed wing aircraft, UAV, cruise and anti-radiation missiles.

The system offers a target range that exceeds the stand-off distance of E/O controlled weapons and the control centre is equipped with the Saab Giraffe AMB 3D surveillance radar.

GBAD unit structure

The 16 Air Defence Regiment comprises two Batteries each equipped with 15 RBS-70 fire units.

Normally, a Battery of 15 fire-units will be allocated to Task Force and, depending on the task, a Troop of five fire-units may be allocated to a Battle Group.

The versatility of the new systems is such that, for first time, GBAD radars can be deployed independent of the missile launchers.

This means the Air Defence Regiment can deploy an independent airspace surveillance force element that is able to distribute the local air picture to commanders throughout the battlespace.

The Air Defence Regiment’s configuration is changing too.

The two missile batteries will be mirror images of each other, creating a modular force structure that enables the deployment of up to six independent missile Troops that can be rapidly grouped, task-organised and re-grouped to meet changing operational needs.

Changes to the existing RBS-70 Battery structure include the introduction of GBAD liaison teams that will initially deploy with the Battery.

These teams can be detached to the supported headquarters (such as Task Force or Battle Group HQ), RAAF air traffic control towers or the Joint Force Air Operations Centre (JFAOC).

Future GBAD systems

A number of countries are upgrading or replacing their GBAD systems and like Australia, many have an eye to protecting rapid deployment forces with air-mobile systems for use against smaller and faster targets, including UCAVs, artillery rockets, and cruise and anti-radiation missiles.

New hard-hitting missile systems, many adapted from air-to-air missiles, with rocket boosters for greater range, and with a greater range of kinetic effects, are seen as moving GBAD from the very short, point defence capability closer to the medium range anti-air capability.

In some case these are combined with short-range systems.

The Raytheon AIM-20 Advanced Medium Range AAM is the basis for a number of missile systems adapted for ground based anti-air capabilities.

In the USA, the derivative is known as Surface Launched (SL)-AMRAAM, while internationally, Raytheon and Kongsberg have teamed to produce ground-launched AMRAAMs for Norwegian and Dutch GBAD systems.

At the top of the scale perhaps is the Patriot PAC-3 update for US, Dutch and Japanese Forces.

This Advanced Capability derivative of the Patriot SAM system was developed under a US government contract by Lockheed Martin as prime with Raytheon as SI.

The ‘hit-to-kill’ PAC-3 missile has a Ka-band millimetre-wave seeker developed by Boeing, and is designed to defeat advanced cruise missiles as well as tactical ballistic missiles.

Following is a sampling of GBAD systems under development for, or in service in various countries, that may not include other systems also in use.


Rafael’s truck-mounted Spyder system, developed with IAI for Israel’s Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) system mixes any combination of the medium-range Derby beyond visual range missile, with the agile short-range Python missile.

Both missiles are Rafael products adapted from the company’s portfolio of AAMs.

The C2 Unit is supported by a 60km range radar or additional long range Radar with long range mast-equipped radar, plus up to six Missile Firing Units (MFU).

Currently, MFUs can be fitted with a trainable launcher for short range engagement or a vertical launcher for medium range, both firing standard air-to-air Python 5 (IR) and Derby (active radar) missiles with booster units for medium range (over 35km and 50 000 feet in altitude).


Diehl’s IRIS-T SL (vertical surface launched) system is based on the concept of the IRIS-T air-to-air missile and complies with the German Air Force’s new requirements for a secondary missile for ground-based, medium-range air defence within the trilateral MEADS program.

As will be the case with most systems proposed, standardised ‘plug and fight’ data interfaces will enable ready integration into existing and future, networked air defence command and control systems.

SysFla GmbH has redesigned its LFK NG which will be the guided-missile component of Germany’s SysFla (System Flugabwehr) future ground-based air-defence system.

Late last year, three German companies - Rheinmetall AG, KMW and LFK, set up the SysFla GmbH consortium.


Raytheon’s SL-AMRAAM short to medium range system, under contract for the US Army, includes integrated FCS, launcher units comprising four to eight Hummer-mounted AIM-20-based missiles, and the Thales/Raytheon Sentinel radar.

The X-band radar is claimed to automatically detect track, identify, classify and report airborne threats, including helicopters, high-speed attack aircraft, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.

According to Raytheon SL-AMRAAM completed its first system field test on March 3/08 at White Sands Missile Range, NM.

The test system included two integrated fire control stations, two fire units, two SL-AMRAAM sensors, and a sensor emulator.

The government-provided targets were used to complete five planned mission runs, and all primary objectives were accomplished. System field testing is planned to continue through May 2009.


The Dutch Army’s Future GBAD program, designed to protect Dutch forces against aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, is based on fully mobile SL-AMRAAM systems.

The FGBAD NL system comprises TRML-3D mobile surveillance radars supplied by EADS, mobile command and control operation centres provided by EADS and Rheinmetall subsidiary Oerlikon-Contraves, a digital radio communication network from Oerlikon, and six Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS II) supplied by Kongsberg.

To ensure weapon coordination, all components of the FGBAD NL are networked in a wireless LAN communications infrastructure for secure, real-time exchange of information between the radar units and the command vehicle and weapon systems.

The system will be delivered in 2009 when the Dutch will employ it for national as well as international operations.


Still within the Phase7 capability requirements is the Aster 30 SAMP/T, a land-based air defence system effective against high-speed threats such as tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, combat aircraft and UCAVs.

The missile system has been developed by Eurosam, jointly owned by MBDA Missile Systems and Thales.

The French Ministry of Defence has placed orders for six SAMP/T systems for the French Army and six systems for the French Air Force, while Eurosam has received an order for six SAMP/T systems for the Italian Army.

The first qualification trial involving the whole system took place in July 2005.

The successful trial included target acquisition and tracking by the Arabel radar and interception of a C-22 target at an altitude of 7000m and range of 26km.

Subsequent tests were also successful. SAMP/T began operational evaluation with the French and Italian armies in May 2008 with two successful test firings.

It is scheduled to enter service in 2009.

MBDA is developing the ASTER block 2 missile for the SAMP/T launcher, which will have longer range and, with different trajectories, will be effective against future ballistic missile threats.


A new air defence command and control system, ADC4I, is to be developed for the UKMoD’s Ground-Based Air Defence (GBAD) program Phase I.

The system will integrate Thales’ Starstreak missile and the Rapier FSC air defence system to provide a network enabled capability.

Phase 2 will involve the upgrading of the missile systems. MBDA and EADS Defence & Communications were contracted for the assessment phase of the program.

In September 2007, Thales announced the development of Starstreak II, which has a range extended to more than 7km, as well as increased coverage and altitude and improved precision guidance.

Thales is also developing the Multi-Mission System (MMS), a lightweight vehicle-mounted turret system, which can be equipped with the Starstreak and/or other missiles including anti-armour missiles or rocket systems.

The system has automatic target tracking and can be integrated into a network-enabled force structure.

The Starstreak II system was successfully demonstrated to the UK MoD in March 2008. The upgraded launcher and missile is planned to enter service at the end of 2010.

Directed Energy Weapons

The Capability Study seeks details of any directed energy (DE) effector systems proposed, ranging from the technology employed, the mechanism for defeat of each of the given threats, effect of weather conditions on DE, rate of use of consumables or power when firing, and so on.

In a paper1 published some years ago on the development of high energy laser weapons, DSTO researchers pointed out that it was no secret that Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) concept demonstrators were currently being evaluated with the four main DEW technologies of interest including Lasers, RF devices, EMP devices and Particle Beams.

Of these technologies, the High Energy Laser (HEL) was seen as the most mature with concept demonstrators being tested with intention to field the weaponised technology in the very near future.

Included in publicly acknowledged programs are the Airborne Laser (ABL), Airborne Tactical Laser (ATL), Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) and the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (MTHEL).

To place this technology in perspective, the paper reviewed the developmental progress and status of some HEL Weapon systems and concluded that the unique characteristics exhibited by HEL based weapon systems would ensure their ascendancy in the battle-space, and that such systems were then a reality.

Dr Carlo Kopp (Air Power Australia) in a recent review of DEW capabilities2 says most contemporary literature lumps together a broad mix of weapons technologies in the DEW category, including HEL, High Power Microwave (HPM) weapons, particle beam weapons and Laser Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) weapons.

“The first two of these four classes of weapon are genuine Directed Energy Weapons.

"Particle beam weapons are best described as a form of projectile weapon, using atomic or subatomic particles as projectiles, accelerated to relativistic speeds.

"The LIPC is a hybrid, which uses a laser to ionise a path of molecules to the target, via which an electric charge can be delivered into the target to cause damage effects.

“Of these four categories, HELs have the greatest potential in the near term to produce significant effect.

"HPM technology has similar potential, but has not been funded as generously and thus lags well behind lasers.

"LIPC has significant potential especially as a nonlethal weapon.

"Particle beam weapons at this time are apt to remain in the science fiction domain, as the weight and cost as yet do not justify the achievable military effect.”

Kopp suggests that the next ten years will see the emergence of high energy lasers as an operational capability in US service.

“These weapons will have the unique capability to attack targets at the speed of light and are likely to significantly impair the effectiveness of many weapon types, especially ballistic weapons.

"Constrained by propagation physics, these weapons will not provide all weather capabilities, and will perform best in clear sky, dry air conditions.”

At Farnborough this year Raytheon’s vice president of advanced missile defence and directed energy weapons, Mike Booen, told media that the company was ready to produce and quickly field four new directed energy systems developed to solve problems facing warfighters and homeland security organisations.

The first is a laser enhanced version of the Phalanx anti-missile gun system that the company claims can shoot down mortar bombs and large artillery rockets.

The second is Vigilant Eagle, a high-power microwave (HPM) system intended to defend aircraft from shoulder launched missiles by disrupting their guidance processing without having to mount any equipment on aircraft.

The third is a low cost, low weight Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) system for helicopters that makes use of Raytheon’s IR missile seeker technology to direct the jamming beam.

The fourth system is a non-lethal ‘pain ray’ called Active Denial that uses a highly directional millimetre wave beam to cause intense pain without harm, according to Raytheon.

Active Denial’s 95 GHz millimetre wave RF energy penetrates the skin to a depth of one 64th of an inch to where the pain receptors are. The pain stops as soon as the targeted person moves out of the beam.

1Lucas, Wachsberger, Krstic: Progress in the development of high energy laser weapons, Land Warfare Conference, October 2003, Adelaide.

2Carlo Kopp: High Energy Laser Directed Energy Weapons, Australian Air Power, May 2008.

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