German Forces Pursue Boxer Based Mobile Air Defence

The German Government formalized a program to address its existing gaps in tactical mobile air defence that have been highlighted by combat action in the Ukraine. These deficiencies were the result of the retirement of the Roland self-propelled air defence missile in 2005 and FlakPanzer Gepard in 2010.

German manufacturers Rheinmetall, Diehl Defence, and Hensoldt signed a contract on January 25, 2024, with the LVS NNbS consortium, to develop a Boxer-mounted anti-aircraft weapon system for Germany based on the IRIS-T missile. The contract was approved by the Parliament on January 19, 2024, for US$1.34 billion (€1.23). The effort is directed toward the development and provision of system prototypes in 2026-27 and projected initial delivery as early as 2028.

The Boxer Air Defence system will consist of units with effectors launchers employing the Diehl IRIS-T missile (FlugabwerrakentenPanzer – FlaRakPz) and command and control vehicle (Feuerleitpanzer – Fltpz) both utilizing the GTK Boxer. These would expect to be supported by Hensoldt TRML 4D multimission radar, already in service with units using IRIS-T SLM launchers on Rheinmetall/MAN 8X8 tactical trucks.

Although the original objective appeared to be short-range air defence a recent consortium statement identified these “as a key objective” while “extending the intercept zone” suggesting that medium-range capability is an additional “core objective.”

Around September 2023, consortium members unveiled a concept for Boxer Air Defense (AD), which included four IRIS-T missiles equipped with fixed Hensoldt Spexer radar and passive electro-optic tracking. The concept included a 40mm automatic grenade launcher for self-defence. This system concept appears to be at least the baseline for the objective Air Defence missile system now being pursued.

Given that the IRIS-T is offered in two different range variants by 2022—a 12 km SLS version and a 40 km SLM (medium range version)—the possibilities for extended range engagement with the Boxer AD appear reasonable.

In addition, qualification of the Rheinmetall Skyranger 30A1 were completed in December 2023 and January 2024. This coupled with contracts for the system from Germany (20), Denmark (15) and Hungary provide a complement to the Boxer AD missile system.

Skyranger 30 with its 30mmX173 KCE revolver cannon, with 3km range and highly effective AHEAD ammunition are ideally suited to the Very Short Range (VSR) mission including counter-drone. The anticipated 2024 qualification of Skyranger 30A3 which will incorporate a 5-8 km range VSHORAD (Very Short-Range Air Defence) missile and possibly other non-kinetic effectors will fill the near-target counter.

The IRIS-T and Skyranger would complement each other while having comparable mobility to support the demands of manoeuvring forces. It would further re-introduce the effective proven partnership once demonstrated with Roland SPAA and Gepard.

by Stephen W. Miller