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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. Modern GBAD technologies include guns and missile systems aimed at targeting and destroying aircraft and other threats, as well as jammers that can be used to interfere with the instrumentation of attacking aircraft. Passive GBAD measures include the use of camouflage and decoys to confuse pilots, while barrage balloons have traditionally been used to stop aircraft from approaching closely to assets.

Ground-based air defence is often seen as more economical form of defence against air threats than maintaining fighter squadrons. GBAD can be deployed and left in place for extended periods, only becoming active when a threat approaches. The relative lower cost of GBAD systems means they can be widely deployed, with a combination of short-, medium- and long-range systems achieving extremely high levels of coverage. 

Layered Defence
Layered Defence


The benefits of MANPAD (man-portable air defence systems)

Ground-based air defence systems that rely on missiles to take down aerial threats come in a range of shapes and sizes. Some systems may be permanently fixed in place, while others, particularly long-range solutions, are so large they require trucks or trains to transport them, from location to location.

Vehicle integrated GBAD systems are more agile, but their range is limited by the availability of curvature of the earth. At the other end of the spectrum are man-portable air defence systems, known as MANPADs. As the name suggests, such systems are small and light enough to be carried either by a single individual or perhaps a two-soldier team within a squad. Because of their size, they can be taken to locations that larger GBAD systems would find inaccessible, delivering major tactical advantages in terms of flexibility. MANPADs can be fired from rooftops, ridges and the most inaccessible of terrain.      


A standout example is the Saab RBS 70 NG system. Weighing in at 75 kilograms, it’s typically carried by a two-man team, with one soldier transporting the weapon and the other carrying the stand. Capable of being assembled and ready to fire in just 45 seconds, it has a range of up to nine kilometres and serves as a powerful deterrent against aerial incursions.

Brazilian soldiers carrying the RBS 70 NG MANPAD

What is the best GBAD solution?

Ground-based air defence (GBAD) is one of the most powerful strategies available for armed forces defending territory and combatting aerial threats. Having the ability to target and destroy aircraft, drones and missiles using munitions fired from the earth’s surface can stop the enemy from achieving aerial dominance – and turn the course of battles and wars.

While it would be convenient to say one GBAD system is superior to all others, the reality is more complex. No single system has all the attributes needed to completely neutralise all aerial threats. But by using a mix of different systems, armed forces can create a truly comprehensive defence system.

Saab´s sensor Giraffe 1X
Saab´s sensor Giraffe 1X
Saab´s missile system RBS 70 NG
Saab´s missile system RBS 70 NG

One factor to consider is the guidance system for GBAD missile systems. Many long- and medium-range solutions rely on radar guidance. Infrared systems are more common on short-range systems, while the Saab RBS 70 NG system relies on an unjammable laser system. When a variety of guidance systems are used in concert, there is a greater chance that one will defeat enemy countermeasures and destroy the target.

The same applies to operating range. Long- and medium-range systems can protect large areas but suffer from issues such as slow deployment, radar shadow, high cost, and easy satellite detection. Short range systems, like the Saab RBS 70 NG can fill these gaps with strengths including agility, affordability, and fast deployment.

Read full article on which ground-based air defence solution is best.

Radar coverage landscape
Radar coverage 10.000ft
Radar coverage landscape
Radar coverage 5.000ft
Radar coverage landscape
Radar coverage 500ft
Radar coverage landscape
Radar coverage 100ft

Introducing the unjammable missile

Fighter jets are extremely expensive pieces of military equipment, typically costing many tens of millions of dollars. With such a huge investment on the line, it’s natural that armed forces use a range of highly sophisticated deterrent measures to keep their jets flying – and an active threat.

One key defence against GBAD is jamming. Systems within the jet emit electronic signals that confuse the guidance and targeting systems of the missile. Alternatively, the jet may drop flares covering a range of infrared spectrums to confuse infrared targeting systems.

However, a GBAD missile that doesn’t rely on radar or infrared for guidance cannot be jammed by such systems. A case in point is our RBS 70 NG system. Its primary means of guidance and targeting is a ground-based laser, which enables an exceptionally high degree of accuracy and lethality. Regardless of whether an aircraft turns on its radar jammer or deploys flares, the RBS 70 missile keeps a firm trajectory towards its target. Even if the aircraft pilot identifies that they have been targeted, they have no means of breaking the system tracking. 

The importance of short-range air defence

Today’s long-range air defence systems are truly formidable weapons. Capable of shooting down an aerial threat from tens of kilometres away, they are a powerful deterrent against a range of aerial threats. Few pilots would confidently climb into the cockpit knowing they will pass within range of such a weapon.

But as awesome as long-range capabilities are, they have downsides. For one, they’re expensive to buy, maintain and fire. For another, they take time to dismount, move and redeploy. And they’re generally easy for the enemy to spot through aerial and satellite surveillance.

This is where short-range system have the advantage. Nimble, light-weight and highly lethal short-range systems, such as our RBS 70 NG, cost a fraction of the price of a long-range system in terms of the weapon and the missiles. It makes no sense to fight a small drone with a USD 5 million long-range missile, and much better sense to neutralise it with a more economical short-range missile. Once in place on a rooftop or in a forest, the RBS70 NG can be ready to fire in just 45 seconds. It can be rapidly moved from one location to the next, providing cover to assets on the move. And its ability to be rapidly deployed means it can also be used to lay traps for enemy aircraft trying to establish aerial dominance.


Short and sharp

Flexible, fast-to-deploy, and comparatively inexpensive, short-range systems form an essential part of any nation’s ground-based air defence (GBAD) strategy.

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Why is mobile GBAD needed?

Modern combat scenarios are often highly dynamic. The battle front can shift rapidly, creating a needs for assets such as troops, tanks and other weapons to be rapidly transported over hundreds of kilometres. In such circumstances, armed forces can be highly vulnerable to air attack.

The path the assets need to take maybe outside of the coverage of fixed air defence systems and long-range systems can be extremely slow to move and redeploy. In such circumstances, highly mobile GBAD systems can be a game changer. Our RBS 70 NG system is prime example. A complete unit can be carried between two soldiers, making it highly transportable by all sorts of military vehicles and it can be ready to fire within 45 seconds. It is affordable, meaning multiple units can be deployed to protect assets on the move, providing outstanding aerial protection within a nine-kilometre radius.


Mobile GBAD has a range of other benefits. Mobile systems can be taken to locations that are inaccessible to bulkier systems and they can more easily be hidden from enemy surveillance. This helps them close the gaps left by less mobile longer-range systems.

The mobile shield that will transform ground-based air defence

MSHORAD infographic
"What we are offering here is the world’s most modern and capable short-range sensor, combined with the world’s most modern and capable ground-based air defence system"