20 November 2023

Army conducts first live-fire test of new air defence system

| Andrew McLaughlin
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army air-defence system test

The Australian Army’s NASAMS short-range air defence system conducts its first live-fire test at the Woomera range. Photo: ADF.

The Australian Army has conducted the first live-fire of its new National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) at the Woomera Test Range in South Australia.

The 13-15 November test series saw soldiers from the 16th Regiment Royal Australian Artillery successfullyfired five AIM-120 AMRAAMs fired over two days, all of which successfully engaged their simulated targets. The test was attended by Chief of Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart and Head Land Systems Division at Capability Acquisition & Sustainment Group (CASG) Major General Andrew Bottrell.

The new system is being acquired under Project LAND 19 Phase 7B, the first of many elements that will come together to comprise an integrated air and missile defence system. Other projects include the AIR 6500 joint air and missile defence battle management system (JABMS), the AIR 6502 medium-range air defence system, and the navy’s Project SEA 1300 Phase 1 acquisition of SM-2 Block IIIC and SM-6 missiles.

Lieutenant General Stuart said the successful firing was a significant milestone for the modernisation of Army and its defence industry partners.

“NASAMS will enable Army to be interoperable with the wider ADF and coalition militaries to provide integrated air and missile defence,” he said.

“NASAMS is currently used by more than a dozen militaries, including the United States and Ukraine, and is a mature and proven surface-to-air missile system.”

READ ALSO Army gets first look at new advanced air defence system

The NASAMS system is being integrated by Raytheon Australia at its new Mawson Lakes facility in Adelaide. The system itself was designed by KONGSBERG, with Australian-specific elements added, including radars supplied by Canberra-based CEA Technologies.

The system comprises a KONGSBERG Fire Distribution Centre (FDC), Raytheon Mk 2 canister launcher, a high-mobility launcher, trailer and truck-mounted CEA Technologies CEAOPS and CEATAC advanced electronically scanned arrays (AESA), and an AN/AAS-52 Multispectral Targeting System (MTS-A) electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) sensor mounted on a 5m telescopic mast and housing. All of these elements are integrated with Australian Army HX and Hawkei-protected vehicles.

The canister launcher can fire the AMRAAM radar-guided and AIM-9X optically guided missiles, which can shoot down most threats inside a bubble of airspace 360 degrees around the launch site. The missiles are common to their air-launched versions used by the Royal Australian Air Force on its F-35A, F/A-18F and EA-18G combat aircraft.

concept art of army air-defence system elements

Concept art of the various elements of the LAND 19 Phase 7B NASAMS air defence system. Image: Raytheon Australia via ADF.

The Gate 2 selection of the NASAMS was announced in March 2019, and Raytheon Australia, KONGSBERG and its Kongsberg Defence Australia subsidiary, and several Australian companies, have made great strides since then to achieve the live-fire milestone.

Major General Bottrell, highlighted defence industry’s significant role in advancing Army’s capabilities.

“Land Systems Division’s collaboration with Raytheon Australia, KONGSBERG and CEA Technologies is testament to the knowledge, skill and commitment of all teams to deliver his highly complex capability.”

The system is expected to enter service in 2025.

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Tom Worthington9:30 am 21 Nov 23

The NASAMS is a very clever system, which can use old missiles from fighter aircraft.

The Canberra designed CEA Technologies radars are also clever, with many computer processors to make them faster (which students I tutored at ANU helped test).

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