Recently, it became known that the well-known German concern Rheinmetall will produce two new Skynex anti-aircraft artillery systems for Ukraine. Today we will tell you about these systems.
This important event was reported by the German newspaper Handelsblatt, citing its sources in the government. Soon after, Rheinmetall confirmed that such an order had been placed, but did not name the recipient country.
However, according to government sources, it is Ukraine that is being discussed. Deliveries are expected in early 2024. Of course, we decided to tell you in detail about this state-of-the-art German anti-aircraft artillery system.
A few facts about the history of Skynex
The promising Skynex anti-aircraft artillery system was developed by a division of the Rheinmetall Air Defense concern (formerly Oerlikon). In fact, it was created on the basis of the existing Skyranger/Skyshield system and was considered to be a deep modernization of it. New components and technological solutions were planned to improve the main characteristics and gain new capabilities. In particular, much attention was paid to the fight against UAVs and precision weapons.
Skynex was first presented in 2016, and since then it has been a permanent exhibit at all major foreign arms exhibitions. The complex attracted the attention of visitors and experts, but until recently could not boast of commercial success.
Over the past few years, potential buyers have had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the German-Swiss air defense system and draw conclusions. Probably, they were interested in the declared characteristics and combat qualities, but the actual cost of the new complex was recognized as excessive. As a result, an interesting and promising model has not yet been put into production.
The first contract for such equipment has only just been signed six years after the “premiere”. It involves the supply of only two systems. As for the battery sets, the customer will receive only a couple of command posts, two detection and tracking radars, and no more than eight combat modules. No further details on the equipment are available yet.
Skynex mobile anti-aircraft artillery system
The Oerlikon Skynex system is a mobile anti-aircraft artillery system. All of its assets are contained in containers and transported between positions by vehicle. Before starting work, they need to be unloaded and prepared for firing. The firing module can also fire directly from the vehicle.
The Skynex system includes up to four artillery modules. In the future, the manufacturer proposes to supplement them with a combat laser, which will make this complex state-of-the-art. The system also has its own Oerlikon X-TAR3D situational awareness and detection radar with a range of up to 50 km. The battery is controlled by a command post with the Oerlikon Skymaster information and control system. The anti-aircraft artillery system can operate both independently and in close connection with other air defense systems. First of all, it is supposed to receive targeting information from third-party guidance devices. That is, this effective anti-drone system can be successfully integrated into Ukraine’s main air defense system.
The combat module of the system was borrowed from the Skyshield system with some changes. It is made in the form of a remotely controlled turret, which is placed on a stationary or mobile platform. The armored housing contains a gun mount and fire control equipment in the form of an optical and radar sight.
Target acquisition and engagement are performed automatically by the built-in fire processor. The system can be remotely controlled from any location. The Oerlikon Skymaster is a versatile command and control solution that is essential for ground defense.
The main operational advantages of the Skynex system are the display of a common integrated air picture based on all available sources of information, effective real-time threat assessment and algorithm for assigning intelligent weapons, coordination of heterogeneous weapons systems and fire control in a flexible system architecture.
Effective armament of the Skynex complex
The Skynex system is one of the newest in the world of short-range air defense systems. The air defense module is armed with a 35-mm automatic Oerlikon Revolver Gun Mk 3. It uses a variety of 35×228 mm shells and has a rate of fire of up to 1000 rounds per minute. The ammunition consists of 250 rounds. Depending on the type of ammunition, the gun can achieve a muzzle velocity of over 1400 m/s. The effective firing range is up to 5 km.
According to the manufacturer, Skynex systems are effective against airplanes, helicopters, AGM-88 HARM missiles or anti-ship missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles. The increasing use of drones in modern wars and conflicts has forced the world’s armies to look for cheap and affordable ways to combat drones. This air defense system is one of the most effective means of combating drones, such as the Iranian Shahed-136, which are so annoying to our cities and villages and destroy critical infrastructure.
The ammunition includes high-explosive and armor-piercing rounds. Customers are also offered fragmentation munitions with a programmable detonator of the AHEAD type. It is claimed that such shells significantly increase the effectiveness of fire and reduce ammunition consumption, especially when attacking complex small and maneuverable targets.
The AHEAD programmable munition detonates at a certain distance. A rangefinder determines the distance to the target, and then the munition is set to self-destruct at the specified distance. The anti-aircraft system with a 252-round magazine and radar is housed in a remotely controlled module that can be mounted on an armored personnel carrier or truck chassis. A naval version of the system can be installed on ships.
In 2016, Rheinmetall Air Defense showed a variant of the system with a 30 kW laser. According to the company, this solution may be the next step in the development of methods and means to combat unmanned aerial vehicles.
That is, additional equipment and launch systems can be attached to the Skynex system, including Oerlikon X-TAR3D Tactical radar systems, Oerlikon GDF009 TREO 35-mm spare gun, Oerlikon laser gun and the new Denel Cheetah C-RAM (Counter-Rocket, Artillery) missile.
The control node, which houses the control consoles and the Oerlikon Skymaster Battle Management System, is the centerpiece of the system. A variety of sensors and effectors can be linked in a modular fashion to meet mission requirements. Radars, such as the Oerlikon X-TAR3D, provide an aerial image that is consolidated in a remote control node. From there, air targets are assigned to autonomous effectors via the Skymaster network. In addition to the highly effective Oerlikon Revolver Gun Mk3, the system can also integrate missile-based air defense capabilities. This combination of weapons provides highly effective layered defense against a wide range of airborne threats.
The Oerlikon Revolver Gun can receive and process data from 3D and 2D search radars. The integrated X-Band tracking radar provides an autonomous sector tracking function, making targeting simple, fast and reliable. Tracking and engagement are calculated and executed automatically by the integrated fire control processor. Target acquisition and engagement are monitored and verified at a remote control center.
An example of Skynex’s work in Switzerland against a swarm of drones:
High energy laser system and C-PGM/RAM Missile
In addition to continuously improving weapon systems, Rheinmetall has also been working on new weapon technologies for more than a decade. An ambitious and very promising project is the high-energy laser system. Its scalable effectiveness, low cost per hit, and extended range make it an ideal weapon against unmanned aerial systems, particularly drones and other low, slow, and small targets that move in large swarms. The high-energy laser system integrated into the Skynex air defense system undoubtedly significantly increases the level of resistance of the complex to massive attacks. Given the current state of development, Rheinmetall expects the high-energy laser system to be ready and fully operational in 2025.
Together with a partner company, Rheinmetall is currently developing a new type of very short-range air defense missile. The C-PGM/RAM missile is specially designed to combat hard-hulled targets such as precision-guided munitions and large artillery shells.
With an increased range of up to 6 km against such targets and a reusable launcher (one launcher contains up to 60 ready-to-launch missiles and can launch up to five missiles per second against individually assigned targets), Skynex will gain significant effectiveness against saturation and spectrum enhancement attacks.
In addition, with a range of up to 10 km against soft-hulled targets, the C-PGM/RAM missile will significantly increase the combat radius of the Skynex, which will contribute to the creation of a layered air defense system. The missile is expected to be fully operational by 2026.
What can the Skynex anti-aircraft artillery system do?
As we mentioned above, only two systems are to be supplied, meaning that the customer will receive two command posts, two radar stations and no more than eight firing modules. Given the known tactical and technical characteristics, it is not difficult to imagine what area can be covered by such means. Skynex will only be able to protect eight zones with a radius of five kilometers each, and it is impossible to spread such zones over a long distance. However, such complexes can be a reliable defense for certain important strategic and energy infrastructure facilities.
In fact, the two Skynex air defense systems will only allow for the organization of point defense of certain areas. The complex can be integrated with other air defense systems, but the realization of this potential depends on the availability of other anti-aircraft systems of all major classes. This means that Skynex needs the assistance of modern foreign radars and command centers.
It should be noted that the Russians are no longer happy that Ukraine will receive such state-of-the-art weapons. This is evidenced by their hysterical statements that “hypothetical Skynex on Ukrainian territory, like other air defense systems, will be the target of the next Russian strikes.” With all the declared characteristics and capabilities, the defeat of such a complex with existing firepower may pose a difficult task for the occupiers. We have already seen this on the example of the M142 HIMARS MLRS. There have been many threats, many statements about its destruction, but this powerful system is still a real nightmare for the Russians.
The crucial importance of the Skynex air defense system for the protection of Ukrainian airspace
Skynex is Rheinmetall’s core air defense concept that sets new standards with its unique and proven architecture. The Rheinmetall Skynex air defense system has demonstrated its ability to destroy swarms of drones in test trials. This is the kind of weapon we need now. Iranian-made drones, which the Russians are launching in dozens and hundreds across our cities and villages, pose a threat to civilians and damage energy infrastructure. Therefore, the emergence of such a powerful “drone warfare” would be very relevant.
Yes, it is clear that two systems are not enough, but a start has already been made. Any means of air defense is extremely important for us now. Delivery of the ordered systems to Ukraine is expected in early 2024. It should be noted that the previously delivered IRIS-T medium-range air defense system is capable of shooting down targets at a distance of up to 40 km, while Skynex anti-aircraft guns are effective at 5 km. But both systems are considered extremely accurate.
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The invaders will not escape from retribution. Death to the enemies! We believe in our Victory! Glory to the Armed Forces of Ukraine! Glory to Ukraine!