Skynex air defense: a new threat to Iranian drones Shahed
One of the largest manufacturers of weapons and military equipment, the Rheinmetall concern announced the delivery of two Skynex air defense systems to an unknown international customer. Information has spread in the German media that the anti-aircraft systems are intended for Ukraine, but there is no official confirmation from the governments of the two countries yet. We offer a closer look at this anti-aircraft complex and why even the potential transfer of Skynex is good news.
Air defense production Skynex
The Skynex short-range anti-aircraft artillery system is the latest development in the arms market, introduced by Rheinmetall in November 2021. The manufacturer has a decent reputation in the defense industry and is engaged in the manufacture of artillery fire tower systems, control and communication systems, armored vehicles, etc.
By the way, Rheinmetall is already supplying HX 8×8 trucks to Ukraine on behalf of the Bundeswehr. The company names the exact number of vehicles handed over for December 2022 – 26 high-pass vehicles, the cost of which is 12 million euros.
The delivery of the Skynex system will cost approximately 182 million euros. In addition, Rheinmetall is involved in the Ringtausch program, which is run by the German government to support Ukraine in cooperation with neighboring European countries and NATO partner countries.
However, there are dark spots in the history of the Rheinmetall concern, because in 2011 the company cooperated with the Russian government. True, after the military invasion in 2014, Rheinmetall closed a joint project with the Russians, although, according to a specialist from the Center for International and Strategic Studies, cooperation between the two countries contributed to the receipt of new communication equipment by the Russians and influenced the process of modernizing technical equipment.
Nevertheless, already in 2023, with the support of Germany, a subsidiary of Rheinmetall Zeppelin Mobile Systeme GmbH will supply a turnkey field hospital to Ukraine. And given that Rheinmetall has announced the finalization of the project of the latest 130 mm tank gun until 2024, then such a partner will definitely not interfere with the build-up of Ukraine’s military power.
The Skynex is technically comparable to the German Gepard anti-aircraft gun, as they both use 35mm ammo. The Oerlikon Revolver Gun Mk3 is the main weapon of the Skynex. The firing range is 4000 meters, and the rate is 1000 rounds per minute. The gun uses Ahead programmable ammunition with 152 or 600 submunitions.
The Oerlikon Gun Mk3 is a high-tech weapon that is compatible with 3D and 2D search radars. Tracking and hitting the target is calculated and performed automatically by the built-in fire control processor. Control and verification of the effectiveness of actions is carried out in a remote control center. The manufacturer also notes that the gun is all-weather and capable of operating as a C-RAM anti-aircraft system. The complex can contain up to four Oerlikon Mk3 guns.
For guidance, a set of tools is provided: observation and infrared cameras, a laser rangefinder and an X-Band tracking radar. The radar supports the autonomous target search function, which makes the targeting accurate, fast and reliable.
The Skynex system is compatible with other Oerlikon equipment: the Oerlikon X-TAR3D Tactical 3D tactical acquisition radar, the Oerlikon GDF009 TREO 35mm twin cannon, the Oerlikon laser cannon and the new Denel Cheetah C-RAM missile (Counter-Rocket, Artiller). The Oerlikon Skymaster Battle Management System is the control node and central part of the system. It allows remote control of the system.
The target detection range of Skynex is 30-50 km. The system exists in a stationary and mobile version with a wheeled chassis. Rheinmetall reports that an agreement has been signed with Skynex for the supply of HX trucks, therefore, most likely, a mobile version of the system is being prepared. Skynex will be transferred to Ukraine based on a 6 × 6 truck with a crew cab in front and Oerlikon Revolver Gun Mk3 weapons installed in the rear of the chassis.
HX trucks are one of the most common types of military trucks, with more than 15,000 vehicles currently in use around the world. They are characterized by their ease of use and durable modular design. There are versions of vehicles 4×4, 6×6, 8×8.
The cost of one Skynex complex is 90.5 million euros. The main purpose of the system is to work against drones, but Skynex is also effective in destroying cruise missiles, low-altitude aircraft, MLRS, mortar shells, artillery rockets at a distance of up to 4 km. The system can destroy various targets, including a whole swarm of drones, as demonstrated in the video:
Advantages of Skynex Air Defense
According to the manufacturer, the Skynex air defense system can significantly increase the effectiveness of the level of protection against air threats. Similar in design, the Gepard installation has already successfully demonstrated its capabilities at the front. And the fact that more than eighty Iranian drones were shot down in the sky over Ukraine in just two days since the beginning of the year confirms the effectiveness of Western weapons and the need for their stable supply.
The main advantage of Skynex lies in the relative cheapness of ammunition when compared with air defense systems using guided missiles, such as NASAMS or Avenger. In addition, Skynex ammunition is not subject to electronic countermeasures during the shot. Such characteristics make Skynex ideal for combating drones, the cost of which is several times higher than the cost of guided missiles in the previously named air defense systems.
The mobility of the system allows you to cover various objects, and given the comment of the speaker of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Yuriy Ignat about the impossibility of creating an “iron dome” over the territory of Ukraine, it only proves the need to use the latest Western solutions.
The speaker notes that Ukraine needs to transfer multi-purpose F-16 aircraft of a certain modification, but even if they were not available, on January 1-2 of the new year, air defense forces destroyed 84 drones, which is 100% of those launched by Russia.
That is, Skynex can become a successful protection for critical infrastructure facilities, airfields, military bases, bridges or nuclear power plants. In addition to economic profitability and mobility, Skynex can be integrated into a single air defense system with target designation from a single command center.
However, not everything is as simple with German help as we would like it to be. The first obstacle is that 35-mm ammunition for Germany is supplied by the indicatively “neutral” Switzerland. For the first time, a dispute between national governments occurred during the transfer of Gepard.
The ammunition for the installation was produced by Switzerland, and under the terms of the agreement, Germany must obtain permission from Swiss contractors if it plans to resell or donate weapons. Switzerland has been slow to grant the necessary approval, so this could once again be an obstacle to using Skynex.
The second issue is the speed of obtaining weapons – Rheinmetall emphasizes that the systems will be ready for delivery in early 2024. That is, the application of the system here and now is not worth waiting for, but it is good that Ukraine has concrete steps to strengthen the air defense system.
After all, as President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said in his annual message to the Verkhovna Rada: “… the security of the state is not a state that you achieve once and for all, it is a difficult job, it is a process. Leadership and security always go hand in hand — by acquiring one, you work for the other.”