SAM Aspide: Spanish defender of the Ukrainian sky
On Monday, November 7, Minister of Defense Alexei Reznikov announced the good news. On his Twitter, he wrote that NASAMS and Aspide air defense systems had already arrived in Ukraine. And if the first complex is already quite well known for its capabilities, then much less information was distributed about Aspide. What is a complex with such a threatening name capable of and what is its role in air defense?
Let’s start with the fact that Aspide is not an anti-aircraft missile system itself, but the name of a whole class of missiles. They have been known since the 70s and are produced by the only integrated company in Europe, MBDA. Aspide belong to a medium-range guided missile based on the American AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile. The missiles are used by the armed forces of many countries, including Spain, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Argentina, Brazil, Cyprus and others.
During development, Aspide received a redesigned engine, a new radar homing head, updated electronics and rudder drives. The European version of the rocket has become more maneuverable and resistant to obstacles, and also received several modifications – for launching from aircraft, offshore platforms and ground installations. It was the land-based system that Ukraine received from Spain – the short-range anti-aircraft missile system Spada Aspide or Skyguard Aspide.
In the 80s, Spain acquired these complexes, but from the 90s they began to replace them with newer versions. The Spada Aspide anti-aircraft missile system is a joint Italian-Swiss development and was created in the process of modifying Aspide missiles for launch from a land platform.
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It is worth noting that there are several versions of missiles – the base one has a flight range of about 12 km and a maximum target altitude of up to 5.5-6 km, and the upgraded version of Aspide 2000 provides a range of over 25 km, according to the manufacturer. In 2013, after test launches in Kuwait, the manufacturer called the Aspide 2000 missile “the ultimate aircraft destroyer”.
Aspide 2000 missiles fired from the Skyguard air defense system shot down two remotely piloted Banshee targets. Both targets were destroyed, one by a direct hit and the other by an explosion at close range. The interception occurred at a distance of about 6 km and at an altitude of about 1500 meters.
The Spada Aspide complex is designed to protect limited areas or objects. Able to cope with aircraft, helicopters and air-to-ground missiles. All elements are placed on a chassis that is adapted for towing. The launcher is built on a wheeled platform with jacks. The main part consists of four transport and launch containers, which contain missiles, a device for turning the installation and a pair of target illumination antennas.
The surveillance and search radar, depending on the version, provides data at a distance of up to 20 km, and from the rest, the complex includes a tracking station, an optoelectronic system, and radio equipment.
The complex is able to detect targets independently and work on the specified targets. One of the advantages is the ability to work in pair with the 35 mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft gun. Oerlikon is a Swiss veteran, having been developed back in the 1950s. This installation allows you to work more effectively on targets at low altitude and in total Skyguard can have a pair of such twin Oerlikon GDF-007 anti-aircraft guns and two guided missile launchers.
It is important that Skyguard is compatible with other anti-aircraft artillery systems. But the main advantage is the ability to work as part of a layered air defense system, exchanging data with other anti-aircraft missile systems. That is, operators can receive information from different radars and systems operating at different heights. That is, the systems can cover each other, and the command center will have more information to make decisions and destroy hostile targets.
Why is it so important for Ukraine? The ability to integrate into a broader air defense architecture is a very useful parameter. Pay attention to how often you see the name of various systems – NASAMS, IRIS-T, Hawk, Crotale. AT
All of them come to us from partners, and it is worth making a single “umbrella” out of them to cover Ukraine. And if they are able to work together, then instead of a hodgepodge from different complexes, we get a single system that will protect against targets at different heights. How will Skyguard help others? It “shoots” low-flying targets that are trying to bypass long-range and medium-range systems.
The question remains about the number of complexes. Spain, as a NATO country, is more focused on the use of fighter aircraft than on anti-aircraft missile systems, therefore it has 77 air defense systems, of which only 13 Skyguard Aspide. Most of the missiles for these complexes belong to the basic version, only 51 were “pumped” by Aspide 2000.
That is, even if Spain would give us all the air defense systems and missiles, this would not be enough to fully protect itself from massive rocket attacks. However, it is enough to solve urgent problems and strengthen the air defense system.
The fact is that Skyguard Aspide is best suited for stationary work – the protection of important infrastructure facilities, seaports, airfields, and industrial enterprises. And watching the agony of Russian generals at war with Ukrainian electrical substations, one can hope that Skyguard Aspide will help keep light and heat this winter.