Aerial Warfare

Denmark Hungary and Germany Strengthen Collaboration Under European Sky Shield Initiative

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Denmark Hungary and Germany Strengthen Collaboration Under European Sky Shield Initiative

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Denmark Hungary and Germany Strengthen Collaboration Under European Sky Shield Initiative
Denmark Hungary and Germany Strengthen Collaboration Under European Sky Shield Initiative

The governments of Denmark, Hungary and Germany have decided to intensify their cooperation within the framework of the European Sky Shield Initiative (ESSI). The initiative was originally proposed by the Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz in August 2022. A letter of intent to this effect was signed this month by representatives of the three sides at the Rheinmetall AG stand at the Eurosatory trade fair in Paris. Specifically, the agreement covers the procurement of Rheinmetall’s Skyranger 30 short-range air defence system in the three countries, adapted to the respective national requirements. Skyranger can be realised on a range of platforms, both 6×6 or 8×8 wheeled, but also on tracked vehicles.

Rheinmetall displayed a Boxer fitted with the Skyranger 30 air defence system.
Rheinmetall displayed a Boxer fitted with the Skyranger 30 air defence system. (Photo by Rheinmetall)

European Sky Shield Initiative (ESSI) is a project to build a ground-based integrated European air defence system which includes anti-ballistic missile capability. As of April 2024, twenty-one European states participate in the initiative. In December 2022, the German Chancellor expressed a hope that the system will be developed in the next five years. The ESSI will use multi-layered defence, with the following systems planned:
Medium range: primarily IRIS-T SLM
Long range: MIM-104 Patriot
Very long range (exoatmospheric): Arrow 3

Rheinmetall displayed a Lynx fitted with the Skyranger 30 air defence system.
Rheinmetall displayed a Lynx fitted with the Skyranger 30 air defence system. (Photo by Rheinmetall)

The Skyranger is a short range air defense turret system developed by Rheinmetall Air Defence AG (formerly Oerlikon) and first revealed in March 2021. Its role is to provide ground units with a mobile system capable of engaging fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, Group I and II unmanned aerial systems (UAS), loitering munitions and cruise missiles. The Skyranger 30 follows the same general configuration as the Skyranger 35, a remote turret with a 1.414 m-diameter turret ring, but with less weight of 2-2.5 tonnes enabling it to be installed on lighter 6×6 wheeled vehicles. The system is designed to both be operated autonomously and in networked operations. Total system qualification of the Skyranger 30A3 version is expected in mid-2024.

 Rheinmetall displayed a Leopard 2A4 fitted with the Skyranger 30 air defence system.
Rheinmetall displayed a Leopard 2A4 fitted with the Skyranger 30 air defence system. (Photo by Rheinmetall)

It is fitted with a modified version of the Oerlikon KCA 30 mm cannon used on the Saab 37 Viggen fighter jet named the KCE. It maintains the ability to elevate 85° to combat terminal diving targets. 252 ready rounds are carried. The gun fires a 30 mm airburst munition based on the 35 mm AHEAD ammunition carrying 160 tungsten cylinders, each weighing 1.25 grams for a total payload of 200 grams, which is time-programmed upon leaving the muzzle to open up in front of a target to form a lethal cone. Due to the system’s reduced weight, the Skyranger 30 turret is able to integrate very short range missiles. Two short-range surface-to-air missiles which would be guided by laser beam riding or infrared homing such as the FIM-92 Stinger or Mistral, as well as the SkyKnight.

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