Sensor specialist HENSOLDT is supplying four of its high-performance radars in record time for Diehl Defence’s IRIS-T SLM air defence system, which is designed to strengthen Ukraine’s defence capability. As part of an order from Diehl Defence worth a two-digit million euro sum, one of the TRML-4D radars has already been delivered, with three more to follow within a few months.
Thomas Müller, CEO of HENSOLDT, said: «The situation in Ukraine requires quick and decisive action. Due to a serial production line and the commitment of our employees, we are able to deliver such systems to protect the population in the shortest possible time».
TRML-4D uses the latest Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar technology with multiple digitally shaped beams. It is capable of detecting, tracking and classifying various types of aerial targets, with a focus on small, fast and low-flying and/or manoeuvring cruise missiles and aircraft, as well as hovering helicopters. It ensures the rapid detection and tracking of some 1,500 targets in a radius of up to 250 km/155 miles.
HENSOLDT has decades of experience with radar systems for air defence and actively drives the further development of key technologies in this field. In addition to the TRML-4D multifunction radar, the company’s portfolio also includes the Twinvis passive radar, the Spexer product family and radars for securing ship and air traffic. HENSOLDT supplies radars for the new frigates and corvettes of the German Navy, for airspace surveillance and for approach control at airfields of the German Armed Forces, among others.
As purely German systems, HENSOLDT’s solutions are not dependent on foreign technology and therefore offer the highest degree of approvability and certifiability for operation in Germany, as well as the highest possible security of supply. At the same time, they are fully compatible with NATO’s integrated air defence architecture.
In October, Germany delivered the first IRIS-T SLM medium-range anti-aircraft system to Ukraine. There is a lot of talk about this complex among specialists – we will try to understand why this system raises so many questions, what is good about IRIS-T SLM, and why Ukraine needs this system today.
But let’s change the order of presentation this time and immediately start with the last question: why does Ukraine need the IRIS-T SLM complex? If you are monitoring the situation developing with the air defense systems of Ukraine, you should be aware that today it is already possible to state a good equipment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with portable short-range anti-aircraft missile systems (up to 5-7 km/3-4 miles) – these are the famous American FIM-92 Stinger and British Starstreak HVM on Alvis Stormer armored personnel carriers. What As for long-range air defense systems, this niche, albeit with a sin in half, is still closed by the old Soviet S-300 systems. Of course, they lag behind the American MIM-104 Patriot anti-aircraft systems in terms of their capabilities, but to some extent they cope with the tasks set. The worst situation is with medium-range air defense systems, which are obliged to close the gap between the long-range S-300 and the «last line of defense».
That is why western countries that have analyzed this situation are now starting to supply Ukraine with medium-range anti-aircraft systems – Norwegian NASAMS complexes and German IRIS-T SLM systems. And then we will make the following remark: NASAMS and IRIS-T SLM complexes have one thing in common. The fact is that the Norwegian NASAMS, and the German IRIS-T SLM were created on the basis of air-to-air missiles, which were upgraded to launch from the ground. Only in the case of the NASAMS complex, we are talking about an improved medium-range AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range missile of American production, while in the German system the IRIS-T air-to-air missile was taken as a basis, which is designed for both close combat and interception of targets at medium range (up to 40 km/25 miles).
So, it makes sense to start the «debriefing» with a story about the key element of the German complex – the IRIS-T rocket. To begin with, we will explain its name. Despite the obvious associations with the English word Iris («Iris»), the name of the complex has nothing to do with «Iris». IRIS-T is an abbreviation that stands for InfraRed Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled. That is, we are dealing with a missile equipped with an infrared homing head, as well as with a controlled thrust vector, like the American fighter with vertical take-off and landing F-35B.
Initially, IRIS-T was created to replace the American AIM-9 Sidewinder close-combat missile, which has been in service with many NATO countries since 1956. The Germans approached this issue with their inherent thoroughness, so the new missile received backward compatibility: any aircraft capable of launching AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles can also launch IRIS-T missiles. however, in essence, the German development is quite an original design, even taking into account the fact that at the development stage of IRIS-T the German company Diehl used a navigation system from the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile.
In the 1980s, NATO countries signed an agreement that the United States would develop a medium-range air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-7 Sparrow, and Britain and Germany would develop their own short-range air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-9 Sidewinder. The American development was called the AIM-120 AMRAAM, and the British-German one was called AIM-132 ASRAAM. These abbreviations, as it is not difficult to notice, they differ from each other only in one letter: AMRAAM – the second letter «M» stands for Medium, indicating the average range; ASRAAM – the second «S» stands for Short, indicating close combat.
The roots of the ASRAAM project date back to 1968, when the development of the Hawker Siddeley SRAAM («Taildog») rocket began. In 1974, all work on the Hawker Siddeley SRAAM rocket was curtailed. The closed project was recalled in the 80s, when the UK and Germany began to develop the ASRAAM missile – the UK provided most of the remaining components from the Hawker Siddeley SRAAM, and the Germans created a new homing head. Since then, the need for high maneuverability of the missile has been reduced in favor of a longer flight range.
After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the Germans discovered a large stockpile of Soviet Vympel R-73 (AA-11 Archer according to NATO classification) missiles intended for MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters. German experts came to the conclusion that the key capabilities of the R-73 were noticeably underestimated. In particular, it was found that these Soviet missiles have good maneuverability and are much more functional in terms of capturing and tracking homing heads. than the latest versions of the same AIM-9 Sidewinder. Therefore, in 1990, Germany withdrew from the general ASRAAM project, while the UK decided to continue the development of ASRAAM in accordance with the original requirements.
At the end of 1990, the United States came to similar conclusions and began to modernize the existing design of the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile to provide increased maneuverability and improved characteristics of the IRCCM (InfraRed Counter CounterMeasures). During this program, the Americans created a new aim-9X Sidewinder short-range missile, which, by the way, can be launched from an upgraded version of the upgraded version. M1152A1 launchers of the Norwegian NASAMS complex.
But back to the German IRIS-T-missile. Compared to the AIM-9M Sidewinder, the IRIS-T has a higher resistance to electronic suppression measures and to glare suppression. Improvements in target discrimination have increased the firing range from 5 to 8 times, compared to outdated versions of the AIM-9M Sidewinder missile. The IRIS-T missile is also capable of hitting targets coming behind the aircraft, which was made possible by extreme maneuverability at close range. the distance provided by the controlled thrust vector, as well as due to the ability of the missile to capture the target after launch.
IRIS-T is capable of intercepting fast-moving and miniature targets, such as air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles, as well as air-to-surface and surface-to-surface missiles, drones and cruise missiles. To increase the probability of a direct hit, the IRIS-T missile is equipped with an active radar proximity sensor.
The ground-based version of the IRIS-T missile used in the IRIS-T SL anti-aircraft system has more advanced capabilities that allow it to destroy aircraft and helicopters, cruise missiles, air-to-surface missiles, anti-ship missiles, anti-radar missiles and large-caliber tactical missiles. IRIS-T is also extremely effective in dealing with drones and other small, highly maneuverable targets at extremely short and medium distances.
The Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) has tested a new air-to-surface missile developed by Diehl BGT Defense. In September 2016, test firings were conducted in Norway to test the concept of capturing, tracking and hitting a sea target, which is a small high-speed strike boat. The IRIS-T missile was launched from the Norwegian Air Force’s F-16AM multirole aircraft. As for the air-to-surface class, the IRIS-T missile retained its standard hardware configuration, including its high-explosive fragmentation warhead and infrared guidance package with updated software needed for additional surface attack capabilities. Basic air-to-ground functionality provides the ability to detect, track, and engage individual targets, such as boats/ships, small buildings, and vehicles on the ground.
There was also a very exotic version of the IRIS-T missile, which received the designation IDAS – Interactive Defence and Attack System for Submarines. The IDAS is a naval version of the submarine launch missile that is being developed for the German next-generation submarine Type 212A. The IDAS missile is designed to deal with air threats, small or medium surface ships and nearby ground targets. The flight range of the IDAS is about 40 km/25 miles. At the same time, the missile is launched from the nose launchers, part of its movement is carried out under water, and after reaching the surface, IDAS flies through the air. The missile is equipped with an infrared homing head: the length of the missile is 2.9 m/9.5 feet, the diameter is 180 mm/7 inches, the mass is 120 kg/265 lbs.
So, the Germans managed to develop a smart, extremely maneuverable, universal missile capable of hitting targets at short and medium range. It is not surprising that the developers of anti-aircraft systems soon took this development in sight.
As part of the MEADS (Medium Extended Air Defense System) program, the German Air Force decided to integrate a radar-guided version of the IRIS-T missile into its new anti-aircraft system, designated IRIS-T SL. The last two letters of this abbreviation stand for very simply Surface-Launched [missile].
This version of the missile has a pointed nose that reduces drag, which makes it easy to distinguish it from the usual IRIS-T with a discarded nose fairing. The IRIS-T SL missile system uses a GPS-based inertial navigation system and a radar data transmission channel for IRIS-T command guidance at the initial stage, and the interference-resistant infrared homing head is activated at the final stage of the flight. Compared to the standard air-launched IRIS-T, the engine diameter of the IRIS-T SL anti-aircraft missile was increased from 127 to 152 mm/5 to 6 inches. Qualification tests of the IRIS-T SL complex were completed in January 2015 at the Denel Overberg test site in South Africa.
Based on the development of the IRIS-T SL, three variants of the anti-aircraft system were created: IRIS-T SLS, IRIS-T SLM and IRIS-T SLX.
Despite the abundance of letters, it is not so difficult to understand these abbreviations: here one letter is added to the letters SL (Surface-L aunched): S – Short-range; M – Medium range; X – long range.
Operational tests of the IRIS-T SLM medium-range complex were completed in January 2022. It is he who will be transferred to Ukraine – more precisely, we are now talking about the transfer of 4 anti-aircraft systems, the first of which will appear in October.
A variant of the IRIS-T SLX long-range complex with the latest dual-mode homing head has been in development since April 2022.
The Swedish army has already received a version of the IRIS-T SLS short-range complex to replace the outdated RBS 70 system. Four missiles are mounted on the Eldenhet 98 launcher, which is mounted on a special version of the Bv 410 tracked vehicle. The complex includes a Giraffe 1X radar from SAAB.
Similar to the NASAMS complex, the German IRIS-T SLM system can be integrated with various modern AESA (active phased array) radars, such as the Hensoldt TRML-4D, Thales Ground Master 200 MM/C, CEA CEAFAR and SAAB Giraffe 4A. At IDEX 2019, a version of the complex called Falcon Ground Based Air Defense with a Lockheed-Martin Skykeeper control and monitoring station was shown. Giraffe 4A radar and Diehl IRIS-T SLM launcher.
And for a snack, we left the key technical characteristics of the German anti-aircraft systems of the IRIS-T SL family.
Short-range system IRIS-T SLS: maximum target interception range – 10 km/6.2 miles; the maximum height of target interception is 6 km/3.7 miles.
Medium-range complex IRIS-T SLM: maximum target interception range – 40 km/25 miles; the maximum height of target interception is 20 km/12.4 miles.
IRIS-T SLX long-range system: maximum target interception range – 80 km/48 miles; the maximum height of target interception is 30 km/18.6 miles.
As for radars, then, as we noted above, the IRIS-T SL complex allows integration with radars of various types. Thus, the IRIS-T SLS short-range system, made for Sweden, was equipped with the Giraffe 1X radar from SAAB, which detects targets at a range of 25 km/15.5 miles and at an altitude of up to 10 km/6.2 miles, which is quite acceptable for a close combat system.
Naturally, for the medium-range IRIS-T SLM complex, which Ukraine will receive, a more powerful radar is needed. Perhaps the Ukrainian version will come with an active multifunctional radar Hensoldt TRML-4D.
It is worth noting the presence of passive radar sensors that can provide operators of the IRIS-T complex with additional capabilities for covert early detection of air objects, as well as relaying the picture of the air situation to operational personnel without launching the radiation of the main radar, which dramatically increases the survivability of the entire system. According to the developers, this additional passive detection system can provide omnidirectional 3D tracking of more than 180 objects at a distance of up to 250 km/155 miles.
As you can see, Ukraine will have at its disposal the latest German development – weapons of the XXI century, which are not yet in service with Germany itself. Let’s take the liberty to assume that if the Ukrainians manage (and we have no doubt about this) to successfully master the IRIS-T SLM medium-range anti-aircraft system, this will be an important step for the development of other complexes of the IRIS-T SL family in the future. when the Germans need to test the latest IRIS-T SLX long-range system, the choice will also be made in favor of Ukraine.
And the last note at the end: the ability to work with the IRIS-T family of missiles can be useful in the future, when the Ukrainian Air Force begins to switch to air-to-air missiles of the NATO bloc countries.
February 18, 2019, Lockheed Martin, Diehl Defence and Saab announced the Falcon air defense weapon system as the short and medium-range air defense solution for current and emerging threats.
Falcon integrates Diehl’s 40-kilometer/25-mile range Infra-Red Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled (IRIS-T) SLM interceptor and vertical launcher, Saab’s 360-degree Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Giraffe 4A radar through Lockheed Martin’s flexible SkyKeeper command and control battle manager. Falcon’s open architecture allows the system to easily integrate into any air operations center.
Threats such as unmanned aerial systems carrying lethal payloads, cruise missiles that can attack from any direction, and fixed and rotary winged aircraft capable of delivering ordnance at extended ranges, demand a technologically advanced solution that Falcon delivers.
«Our international customers are looking for the next generation short and medium range air defense solution. Falcon is threat driven and ready now», said Scott Arnold, Lockheed Martin vice president and deputy for Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD). «Falcon is a great example of working with our customers to identify potential gaps and find rapid-response solutions to take on today’s evolving threats».
The Diehl IRIS-T SLM is a highly maneuverable interceptor fired from a 360-degree vertical launcher with the ability to engage multiple targets simultaneously in all weather conditions. The Saab Giraffe 4A AESA radar offers high discrimination capabilities and leverages gallium nitrate technology to detect and track both fixed and rotary-wing aircraft and drones, while simultaneously featuring an Automatic Sense & Warn functionality. Lockheed Martin’s SkyKeeper command and control battle manager gives commanders unparalleled situational awareness with real-time early warning of incoming threats and optimized engagement solutions for critical decision making. Together these elements make the Falcon weapon system the only integrated short and medium-range missile defense system available in the world with the capabilities required to defeat current and emerging air threats.