The power of diversity
While each GBAD guidance system has its strengths and shortcomings, combining them can produce truly outstanding results.
In situations where multiple missiles are likely to be required in quick succession it can be useful to have fire-and-forget solutions at hand. At the same time, in the likely scenario that jet fighters will form part of the aerial threat, a solution that is effectively unjammable, such as the RBS 70 NG, brings huge advantages not available to missiles with conventional guidance systems. Meanwhile, gun systems may have a role to play in defeating simple aerial threats like drones and helicopters.
The same rule – that a diverse range of solutions brings the best results – also applies when one considers range.
Different ranges – and strengths
Ground-based air defence is commonly divided into three main ranges: short range for systems capable of bringing down targets between zero and 10 kilometres away; medium range for solutions effective up to 50 kilometres from the target; and long range for systems capable of covering more than 50 kilometres.
Long-range systems – one example is the Patriot system from the United States – are formidable weapons. They have large coverage areas and a proven ability to destroy a variety of aerial threats, including jet fighters. But long-range systems also have a number of weaknesses. The relatively high cost of both the launcher and missile make long-range systems a poor choice of weapon for destroying small, disposable drones – an increasingly common weapon choice among the West’s enemies. Their reliance on radar guidance creates other issues. For one, the curved nature of the earth’s surface creates radar shadow zones when radar systems are used to scan locations many kilometres away. This means that if an aerial threat remains close to the ground, say, less than 1000 metres, it can potentially avoid detection by a distant long-range GBAD system. Meanwhile, modern fighter aircraft very often carry sophisticated countermeasures to manage the threat from radar-guided missiles. Long-range systems are also very slow to deploy due to the large sized of both the launcher and missile.
Medium range GBAD systems share many of the strengths – and also many of the failings – of long-range systems. A medium range solution, as exemplified by the Russian BUK M2 system, might have an extended range of 45 to 50 kilometres and be highly effective against a wide range of aerial threats. But again, the expense of such systems tends to be high. Again, the curvature of the earth and radar shadow are problems when acquiring targets over long distances. And, once again, radar jamming of missiles and relatively slow deployment times are issues.
Short range GBAD systems have limitations, too. They don’t have the long reach of bigger systems, with some capped at just 3,000 metres. Many use infrared missile guidance systems which can be fooled by the countermeasures on military aircraft. But they bring benefits in terms of agility and fast deployment and don’t suffer as much from the radar shadow effect as long-range systems. A number of short-range systems are man-portable meaning they can go where no long-range system could ever go – off road, into wilderness areas, and onto roof tops in highly built-up urban areas. The smaller size of short-range GBAD systems means they are less likely to be sighted during satellite reconnaissance, providing an element of surprise that can prove lethal to enemy aerial threats.
Additionally, the RBS 70 NG system brings a number of benefits other short-range systems don’t. It is effective to an impressive nine kilometres, creating a deadly threat to any aircraft that dares drop within range. As previously mentioned, it also uses laser guidance, making in impervious to jamming.
Layered air defence
The secret to achieving truly effective air defence is to use these different systems in concert and with other technologies to create layered aerial defence.
Long-range systems can be used to provide a solid defence backbone, helping to monitor and secure large geographic areas, with a particular focus on high-value assets, particularly in peer-to-peer conflicts. These long-range GBAD systems can, in turn, be supported by medium range solutions, which bring increased mobility and coverage into play. Through the use of quality short-range solutions, armed forces can provide high levels of coverage to assets on the move and overcome issues such as radar shadow.
Our RBS 70 NG solution brings together a range of features to enable high-quality short-range air defence. Missiles fired by the system are capable of achieving Mach 2 and the solution is effective at altitudes of up to 5000 metres. Reloading time once a missile has destroyed its target is less than five seconds.
The RBS 70 NG comes with a range of features aimed at enhancing the operator experience. Integrated, high-resolution thermal imaging allow for night and day capabilities, while advanced cueing allows for improved reaction times and target acquisition. An auto-tracker assists the operator during engagement and increases hit probability. Meanwhile, built-in video recording allows after-action review.
The overall lesson is clear. The secret to effective air defence today lies in combining the strengths of a number of systems. Armed forces looking for the best results should combine long, medium, and short range GBAD systems, include a wide diversity of guidance technologies, and make sure the RBS 70 NG is part of the mix.
Further reading about GBAD
The mobile shield that will transform ground-based air defence
The battlefield is changing. With the advent of drones, unmanned aerial vehicles and other advanced weapons, airborne threats are diversifying all the time, and keeping ground units safe is harder than ever. Saab’s Mobile Short-Range Air Defence (MSHORAD) system is a vehicle-integrated solution that can identify, counter and neutralise air threats quickly, effectively and decisively.
What is ground-based air defence?
Since the first military aircraft took to the skies, air attack has been one of the most powerful strategies for dominating opponents on the ground. The term ground-based air defence (GBAD) refers to a systems aimed at neutralising or diminishing the aerial threat posed by manned aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), smaller drones and missiles. As distinct from air-based air defence, GBAD systems are operated from the surface of the earth or from ships located in marine environments.