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Rheinmetall has been awarded a further contract to supply Skynex air defence systems to a European customer that is almost certainly Ukraine.

Although the country was not named in the announcement on 1 March 2024, with Rheinmetall stating that the systems would “enhance the customer’s ability to defend itself against aerial threats”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made public the delivery of the first of two previously ordered Skynex air defence systems to the Ukrainian armed forces when he posted his thanks on X (formerly Twitter) on 4 January 2024.

The value of the latest order, according to Rheinmetall, is “in the lower three-digit million euro range”, with deliveries to take place over the course of 2025. “As with the initial contract,” the company stated, the latest order “will also include the associated Rheinmetall-made HX trucks”.

In its ‘List of military support services’ Germany’s Federal Ministry of Defence (BMVg) confirmed the January delivery to Ukraine and announced the supply of another Skynex system, based on a contract from December 2022. At the time Rheinmetall announced that two Skynex air defence systems with an order value of EUR 182 million would be delivered at the beginning of 2024, possibly with additional HX series logistics trucks for a further EUR 12 million.

“Relying on automatic cannon-based air defence, Skynex lends itself especially well to very-short-range contexts where guided missiles are ineffective,” Rheinmetall stated. “Moreover, the use of programmable 35 mm Ahead ammunition, as developed by Rheinmetall for this purpose, is significantly less expensive than comparable guided missile-based systems.”

Rheinmetall additionally stated that 35 mm ammunition cannot be influenced, much less jammed, by electronic countermeasures when fired. The company noted that the success of the self-propelled Gepard ‘Flakpanzer’ anti-aircraft system in Ukraine “underscores the effectiveness of 35 mm gun-based air defence against aerial targets, especially cruise missiles and drones”.

According to Rheinmetall, the Skynex concept separates air surveillance and effectors. This means that the required resources can be connected to the command-and-control system depending on the mission. Both radar systems from various manufacturers and a large number of effectors can be integrated into the system, provided a dedicated tracking unit is available.

The Skynex system essentially consists of the Oerlikon Revolver Gun Mk3 with tracking radar and the Oerlikon X-TAR3D tactical acquisition radar, which are controlled via the Oerlikon Skymaster battle management system. The subsystems are integrated on all-terrain HX trucks with swap-body systems for Ukraine. By integrating additional sensors and effectors such as surface-to-air missiles, as well as the means to use active and passive electronic warfare and future high-energy lasers, the open and modular system can be expanded into a highly effective, multi-layered protective shield against a broad spectrum of air threats, Rheinmetall states. It could thus provide the necessary response to future Russian missile and unmanned aerial vehicle saturation attacks.

On 1 March 2024 Rheinmetall “a further contract to supply Skynex air defence systems to a European customer” that is almost certainly Ukraine. (Photo: Rheinmetall)