Germany buys Rheinmetall’s Skyranger to reinstate mobile air defenses

BERLIN — Germany will purchase up to 49 Skyranger 30 air defense systems from Rheinmetall for a total of almost €600 billion, or $650 billion, the company announced in a press release this week.

The Skyranger 30 weapons stations will be mounted onto the Bundeswehr’s Boxer armored fighting vehicles. In the German setup, the system contains a sensor suite, a 30-millimeter cannon and Stinger surface-to-air missiles. It promises the ability to engage fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft as well as drones and cruise missiles. Additionally, the Bundesweh, Germany’s armed forces, will be able to network it with other air defense assets.

The order contains one prototype and 18 production vehicles, with an option for 30 further vehicles. Rheinmetall said it would deliver the Bundeswehr’s prototype by the end of the year.

The German acquisition, worth €595 million, is part of the military’s project to develop an integrated air defense system for close- and short-range protection. The Skyranger 30 platform is to play an integral role in this endeavor, the manufacturer said in a press release.

Just a month ago, on January 25, a consortium made up of Rheinmetall, Diehl and sensor manufacturer Hensoldt was tasked by the German government to develop this capability for the Bundeswehr for a total of €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion).

The contract was “aimed at implementing the necessary solutions for networking individual components, integrating the IRIS T-SLM air defense system, establishing interoperability and extending the interception range to the short range,” Diehl Defense said in a January statement. To this end, the Skyranger 30 system will be able to work both autonomously and in communication with other systems, according to the manufacturer.

Germany has put itself in a leading role on the continent when it comes to air defense thanks to Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s European Sky Shield Initiative, announced in August 2022. The initiative now counts 21 countries following the recent announcement that Greece and Turkey intend to join. ESSI was launched in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the heavy use of drones and cruise missiles to damage critical civilian infrastructure in the conflict, which highlighted European vulnerabilities.

With this latest move, Germany hopes to strengthen its position as a “role model for ground-based air defense,” Rheinmetall said. The 2010 retirement of the country’s Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns for cost-cutting purposes left a gap in the German army’s capabilities which this new acquisition is meant to fill.

Just days earlier, the neighboring government in Vienna – another ESSI member – had been the first country to confirm it would acquire the new Skyranger 30 system, which is a quarter lighter than its predecessor, meaning it can be mounted on Austrian army vehicles. Austria will be acquiring 36 Skyrangers for their Pandur EVO armored vehicles for a total of €1.8 billion ($1.95 billion).

Rheinmetall said the company expected more orders to follow. Hungary tasked the German manufacturer with integrating the Skyranger system with its Lynx KF41 vehicles in December of last year, while Lithuania and Denmark are considering acquisitions of their own, according to the company.


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