The German government has finally decided to send heavy military equipment to Ukraine to fight the Russian invaders. We are going to talk about the anti-aircraft self-propelled gun Gepard.
The war with orc hordes continues. Ukraine is heroically defending itself, inflicting numerous losses on the Russian occupiers, destroying not only manpower but also military equipment. But there is a constant shortage of armaments. Our Armed Forces need to replenish not only portable anti-tank and anti-missile weapons, but also heavy weapons. We have already written a lot about the powerful 155 mm howitzers of American and British production, about French SPH, Polish MPADS, but we have not yet mentioned any military aid from Germany. The German government stood aside for a long time and only verbally supported Ukraine in its struggle against Russia.
The situation has changed dramatically after the historic meeting of defense ministers of 40 countries at the Ramstein US Air Force Base, located in Germany. Following the meeting, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said that her government had decided to provide Ukraine with 50 Gepard anti-aircraft self-propelled guns. With this important announcement, Lambrecht wants to try to soften the sharp criticism of Germany for arms supplies, as the federal government has been criticized for several weeks for its indecision.
So the Germans decided that the Gepard systems would finally be handed over to the Ukrainian military. So let’s consider what kind of weapon it is.
Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG)
Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft gun is a heavily armored, autonomous and mobile air defense system based on the chassis of the Bundeswehr’s Leopard 1 main battle tank. The Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft gun was manufactured by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), based in Munich, Germany, and was shipped to armed forces of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.
The gun itself was developed in the 1960s, so it is not a new design, but, as with other military equipment, this weapon has also undergone several upgrades. For many years, the Gepard was the backbone of the German anti-aircraft defense, it was also used by other NATO countries, the Netherlands and Belgium, and is now in the service of Brazil, Jordan and Romania.
Gepard’s modernization scheme included the integration of anti-aircraft self-propelled guns, improving targeting efficiency by increasing range, reducing response time and improving survivability. The main focus of the improvement program was the installation of new fire control systems, instruments for measuring the initial velocity of the projectile and the certification of new fragmentary armor-piercing munitions (FAPDS).
The command, control and communication network of the Dutch version of Gepard includes a new TICCS control system with FM 9000 from Thales Nederland (formerly Signaal). The communication system for the German Gepard, HflaAFüSys, includes the new SEM 93 radio station from SEL/Alcatel (GE).
The Dutch version, the PRTL 35mm GWI, is based on the same system technology used in the German Gepard, except for the radar system configuration. For this reason, the modernization program was implemented as a bilateral project.
The first deliveries of modernized equipment were made in 1998, and the program was completed in 2005. Germany has upgraded 147 systems. It is still unknown which version will come to Ukraine, but most likely it is German.
AA turret and guns of Gepard
Gepard is equipped with a 2-crew turret, armed with two 35-mm Oerlikon KDA guns with automatic belt feed cartridges. The length of the barrel is 90 calibers (3150 mm). The rate of fire of the two barrels is 1100 shots per minute. The ammunition of each gun consists of 320 shells to hit air targets and 20 armor-piercing shells to shoot at ground targets. The guns are capable of firing standard 35-mm ammunition, including new FAPDS shells. The initial velocity of the shells exceeds 1440 m/s. Gepard is equipped with eight exhaust pipes installed on both sides of the turret.
Each gun has a rate of fire of 550 shots per minute, and an effective range of 5.5 km. Guns can use two types of ammunition – standard and anti-tank.
KMW also developed a Stinger anti-aircraft missile system for Gepard. The Stinger dual launcher was mounted on the side of the 35mm gun as a single unit. The system was tested but not deployed due to financial constraints.
Gepard is equipped with a digital fire control computer from EADS (DASA). The miniature digital computer uses 32-bit Motorola 68020 microprocessors, single-board computers with special coprocessors and a command, control and communication interface.
The Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft system is equipped with two independent radars – search and tracking. The search radar operates in the S band for the German version and the X band for the Dutch version, and the tracking radar in the Ku band for the German version and the X/Ka band for the Dutch version.
Radars provide 360° scanning with simultaneous tracking of the target, interference suppression, ability to search for targets while driving and monopulse tracking mode.
Since we may get a German version of the Gepard SPAAG, I note that the S-band search radar installed on the German Gepard has a range of 15 km and is able to withstand interference with a signal level of up to 60 dB. The Gepard tracking radar, which operates in the Ku range, has a range of 15 km, resistant to interference with a signal level of up to 23 dB.
The Gepard is controlled by a crew of three people – the driver, the gunner and the commander. The driver’s seat is in front, to the left of it is an auxiliary power unit, and the commander and the gunner are seated in the turret. The crew is protected by ordinary steel armor. These anti-aircraft self-propelled units are able to operate in any weather conditions.
The Gepard SPAAG borrowed a lot from the Leopard 1 tank. The auxiliary power unit of the Gepard is a Daimler Benz 66 kW diesel engine with liquid cooling, type OM 314. It is a power source for three 200/115V 380Hz generators, which provide 2x20kVA of electric power. The generators are used for two electric motors that control the turret, letting it rotate 360°.
It is also worth mentioning that the Gepard anti-aircraft self-propelled systems borrowed not only the chassis from the Leopard 1 tank, but also the transmission and exhaust system, so they have a lower thermal signature.
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Main specifications of Gepard SPAAG
- Weight: 47,3 t
- Length: 7,68 m
- Width: 3,71 m
- Height: 3,29 m
- Rate of fire: 550 rounds per minute (per cannon)
- Barrel length: 90 calibers (3,15 m)
- Initial projectile velocity: 1440 m/s
- Effective firing range: 5500 m
- Ammunition: 640 AA shells and 40 armor-piercong shells
- Top speed: 65 km/h
- Cruising range: 550 km
- Passability: wall – 1,15 m, ditch – 3 m, ford – 1,2 m
In total, Ukraine will be provided with 50 Gepard anti-aircraft self-propelled systems and they will certainly be useful in the fight against the Russian aggressor. Almost from the very beginning of the invasion, the Ukrainian authorities stated that they needed additional anti-aircraft systems, as the struggle for control over the country’s airspace continues almost all the time.
We believe in our Armed Forces, we believe that they will be able to break the back of hordes of orcs from Muscovy. Victory will be ours! Glory to Ukraine!