Rheinmetall Defense has introduced another variant of its Skyranger air defense weapon system, the Skyranger 30 HEL – a mobile, hybrid solution mounting the company’s 30mm AHEAD with a laser onboard.

The Skyranger 30 HEL is designed to thwart the full range of current and future airborne threats as a hybrid solution. The interplay of a 30mm automatic cannon, guided missiles, and a high-energy laser (HEL) results in a mix of effectors unique in this combination. The Skyranger HEL was presented in public for the first time at a counter-drone event held last year by the Swiss procurement agency armasuisse in Bure, Switzerland.

Teamed with the Skymaster fire control system, and the different effectors, Skyranger 30 HEL achieves maximum tactical impact. It can monitor airspace autonomously, while simultaneously selecting the optimum effector in response to the threat being detected. The missiles provide the outer layer of defense primarily against aircraft, helicopters, and unmanned aerial systems. The gun, firing AHEAD or ABM (airburst) ammunition is designed to defeat hard targets, such as rockets and projectiles, and add a second line of defense to the missiles. The laser operates at close range, to defeat soft targets, such as drones and loitering missiles, as well as against helicopters, aircraft, and guided weapons, targeting their optical systems.

Rheinmetall’s HEL effectors consist of a laser source and laser guidance system, both of which are integrated into the vehicle, along with a laser weapon station built into the turret that simultaneously serves as a platform for the electro-optical sensors. The laser weapon station tracks targets automatically, neutralizing them with a laser beam.

The Skyranger 30 HEL integrates a 30mm automatic cannon, guided missiles, and a high-energy laser (HEL) results in a mix of effectors combination. Laser outputs of up 20-50 kW are planned for the first realization phase. Photo: Rheinmetall

In live trials, current technology sample systems for laser weapon systems have successfully achieved laser outputs of 20kW. Laser outputs of up 20-50 kW are planned for the first realization phase. The ability to increase this figure to 100kW is already an integral feature of this technology, combining multiple fiber-optic lasers into one powerful beam. The laser weapon station used on the Skyranger 30 HEL has its own sensors for identifying and tracking targets. System subassemblies are coordinated to interoperate harmoniously to produce the beam quality required for high-output laser weapons, enabling the beam director to point to the target and track it with high precision.

Mounted on an armored vehicle chassis, the Skyranger 30 HEL can protect mobile units on the march or critical stationary infrastructure and facilities from aerial threats. The integration of the missiles and laser is part of Rheinmetall’s air-defense road map. As an experienced system house for combat vehicles and air defense systems, Rheinmetall can support mechanical and system integration into wheeled or tracked mobile platforms such as the Boxer multipurpose wheeled armored vehicle or the tracked Lynx KF41 armored vehicle.

Featuring a rate of fire of 1,200 rounds per minute, the 30mmx173 KCE revolver gun is the world’s top-performing weapon in this calibre. Programmable time-delay ammunition enhances the probability of hitting even the smallest aerial targets. The Skyranger 30 HEL’s guided missiles increase the system’s operational flexibility and maximum range.