The reinforcement of eFP Battlegroup Lithuania with comprehensive air-defence capabilities is a crucial step towards further enhancing the battlegroup’s operational capability and sustainability. This is a vital contribution by the German Armed Forces to strengthening NATO’s eastern flank and bolstering solidarity with Eastern European NATO partners. Since 2012, light air defence has been integrated into the German Air Force’s capability profile under the term Short Range Air Defence. The light air defence system is operated by the 3rd Squadron of 61 Surface-to-Air Missile Group based in Todendorf, Germany at the Baltic Sea. The system is designed to provide protection against low-flying aircraft and helicopters to forces, areas, installations and mobile operations conducted by the armed forces.
The effectiveness of the light air defence system is based on the firepower of the Stinger man-portable air defence (MANPAD) system. This enables the soldiers to engage targets up to a distance of 6000m and an altitude of 3000m. The crew of the reconnaissance, command and control and fire control vehicle detects aircraft and allocates targets. The vehicle’s radar is able to detect vehicles at a distance of up to 20km and an altitude of 4km. Following detection of the target, the crew commander selects the Ozelot weapon carrier most ideally positioned to engage the target. The reconnaissance, command and control and fire control vehicle can effectively coordinate the operation of up to eight weapon carriers.
All vehicles are based on the Wiesel 2 weapon carrier. The Ozelot weapon carrier is armed with four Stinger guided missiles. Once a target has been detected and allocated, the Ozelot weapon carrier launches its missiles without radar assistance. Relying on an internal infrared sensor, a camera for daylight vision and a thermal imager, the crew commander is able to detect and engage potential targets. In order to achieve maximum reconnaissance depth, the light air defence system is employed in combination with the air surveillance radar. The system creates a radar image with a radius of up to 100km. In support of the weapon systems, transport vehicles and Eagle V armoured vehicles to carry personnel and provide fire support are employed.
The Stinger MANPAD system not only can be fired from the Ozelot weapon carrier, but can also be used by MANPAD teams as a shoulder-fired weapon. These teams can be deployed to cover blind areas, take over for the weapon carrier during ammunition replenishment or whenever the situation requires. The protection of a battalion is in principal ensured by one light air defence platoon. In order to achieve this, the men and women of the platoon need to work hand in hand. The mission of the Light Air Defence Platoon is to protect the battalion’s forces from airborne attacks and reconnaissance during all phases of an operation. To this end, the platoon may be employed in a variety of roles – from stationary operations to escort tasks during mobile operations.