Iris-T, Patriot and Arrow-3

What You Need to Know About the European Sky Shield Initiative

Timm Ziegenthaler / Alamy

“A jointly developed air defense system (…) would also be a security gain for Europe as a whole, and an outstanding example of what we mean when we talk about strengthening the European pillar within NATO,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said during a speech at Charles University in Prague in the summer of 2022. With these words, he paved the way for the European Sky Shield Initiative. In this article, we explain what’s behind it exactly:

What’s planned?

The European Sky Shield Initiative, or ESSI, aims to strengthen European air defense. This is because many European states have identified capability gaps in protecting against air attacks and lack sufficient technical equipment. The war of aggression in Ukraine changed the perception of the threat, with the result being that there is now an increased focus on the expansion of integrated air and missile defense, for example against enemy drones, missiles, and aircraft.

How did it come to this?

On October 13, 2022, 15 European nations signed the agreement on the European Sky Shield Initiative at NATO headquarters in Brussels. This also included Germany. In the meantime, a total of 19 countries have joined the initiative. The air defense systems will be acquired, operated, and maintained jointly in order to create synergies and reduce procurement costs through higher unit numbers.

How does a protective shield work?

An effective protective shield consists of several systems with different ranges that build on each other, are interconnected, and span across the protected area like a dome. One system has several components; in the case of Patriot, for example, this means a multi-radar unit that detects objects in the airspace, a fire control station and launcher for firing guided missiles, and a power generation unit and radio relay troops. Notable in this context is that VINCORION has been reliably supplying the power unit for Patriot’s radar system and launcher for decades.

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Which systems does Germany plan to procure?

The German government has particularly identified capability gaps in short to medium-range and long-range ballistic missile defense. It intends to quickly remedy this situation with systems that are already available on the market and have been thoroughly tested in the field:

Iris-T SLM for medium ranges: The system from German manufacturer Diehl Defence is currently demonstrating its capabilities under real combat conditions in Ukraine. With a range of up to 40 kilometers, it defends against drones, helicopters, aircraft, and cruise missiles. The energy supply plays a crucial role in ensuring that the systems function reliably. VINCORION supplies the power supply unit for IRIS-T’s rocket launcher.

Patriot for long ranges: The German armed forces are already using the US Patriot system. The manufacturer intends to maintain its capabilities through 2048 and beyond and plans to modernize the system as part of the European Sky Shield Initiative. Equipped with a variety of guided missiles, Patriot can hold its own against large unmanned systems, cruise missiles, and tactical ballistic missiles with a range of up to 68 kilometers. As a long-standing partner of manufacturer RTX (Raytheon), VINCORION supplies power units for Patriot radars and launchers worldwide.

Arrow-3 for extremely long ranges: To date, there is also a gap in the defense against long and medium-range missiles that fly at high altitudes. To this end, Germany plans to procure the Arrow-3 system, which was jointly developed by Israel and the United States. It can intercept enemy missiles even outside the atmosphere at a distance of up to 2,400 kilometers. The German government signed a letter of intent to purchase it at the end of September 2023, and it is expected to be operational by 2025.

What You Need to Know About the European Sky Shield Initiative

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