Aerial WarfareMilitary Exercise

IRIS-T SLM Interoperability Demonstrated During NATO’s Joint Project Optic Windmill Exercise

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IRIS-T SLM Interoperability Demonstrated During NATO’s Joint Project Optic Windmill Exercise

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IRIS-T SLM Interoperability Demonstrated During NATO's Joint Project Optic Windmill Exercise
IRIS-T SLM Interoperability Demonstrated During NATO's Joint Project Optic Windmill Exercise

Led by the German Air Force, Diehl Defence participated in NATO’s Joint Project Optic Windmill (JPOW) exercise and demonstrated the interoperability of its IRIS-T SLM ground-based air defence system. Diehl Defence was supported by its partners in the IRIS-T SLM program, Airbus and HENSOLDT. Exercise JPOW took place in March 2023 at Vredepeel in the Netherlands, with the main exercise objective being “Peer Opponent, Multi Domain”. Held every two years since 1996, this year’s exercise focused on integrated air defence and interoperability at all levels of command. 13 different nations conducted individual experiments and joint missions with their systems.

Daily briefings between all participants helped to improve the interoperability of the systems involved, both operationally and tactically, as well as technically in terms of data exchange. The interoperability of NATO armed forces is a key factor in enabling joint reconnaissance, decision-making and action. Diehl Defence’s IRIS-T SLM system took part in the exercise as a “future system” under the command of the German Air Force, guided by a German and a Dutch “Control and Reporting Center” (CRC) and “Surface-to-Air-Missile Operations Center” (SAMOC) command post of the German Air Force, among others.

Surface-to-air defence systems variants came later, with the short-range IRIS-T SLS fielded in 2015, and the medium-range IRIS-T SLM fielded in 2022. The interoperability of IRIS-T SLM was demonstrated by testing its connectivity, time synchronization and air situation exchange in the network. The management of tactical data links necessary for this as well as “command and control” experiments were also part of the exercise. The achievement of this milestone in the program’s history will help accelerate the immediate procurement of the system by the German government.

The IRIS-T (“InfraRed Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled”) is a medium range infrared homing missile available in both air-to-air and ground defence surface-to-air variants. The German Air Force and others are now using a surface-launched (SL) radar-guided version of the missile, called IRIS-T SL. Two variants were available: IRIS-T SLS (short-range) with 12 km range and altitude and IRIS-T SLM (medium range) with 40 km range and 20 km maximum altitude. A third variant, IRIS-T SLX (long range) variant with a dual-mode (IR and RF) seeker, a range of 80 km and a maximum altitude of 30 km, is in development as of April 2022. Operational testing of the IRIS-T SLM was completed in January 2022.

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