Austria has awarded the German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall a significant air defence contract in the three-digit-million-euro range for 36 Oerlikon Sky Ranger gun turret systems.

The Düsseldorf-based supplier will serve as subcontractor as part of a much larger €1.8bn ($1.9bn) contract with General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS), awarded several days earlier, for 225 Pandur EVO 6×6 wheeled vehicles. According to the leading intelligence consultancy, GlobalData, this deal builds on the 34 existing Pandur vehicles it acquired in 2019-20.

Austria now intends to integrate the 30mm gun turrets onto their newly acquired armoured vehicles.

The entire project falls under the Austrian Government’s modernisation initiative in which it aims to increase its defence spending from 0.74% of its gross domestic product to 1%, according to intelligence from GlobalData.

Despite its historical neutrality, Austria’s decision to modernise its air defence capabilities will help to bolster its commitments to the European Sky Shield Initiative, which it recently joined in July 2023.

Austrian troops stand by a 6×6 Pandur armoured vehicle, 2019. Credit: Austrian Bundesheer/Robert Giessauf.

Sky Ranger and Pandur systems

The Skyranger is a light, multi-purpose air defence system mountable on wheeled or tracked vehicle platforms such as the Boxer and Lynx KF41 as well as the Pandur.

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It employs a 30mm x 173 calibre KCE Revolver Cannon, which fires at a rate of 1,200 rounds a minute, reaching out to an effective range of three kilometres. It offers high firepower and accuracy against small targets, including micro and nano drones and can also rapidly fire single shots at a rate of 200 rounds a minute.

Combined with air burst munition technology (rounds that detonate in mid-air), the cannon measures 2.9 metres (m) in length with a 2.1m-long barrel.

It features a remote-controlled gun or missile turret, weighing 1,500 kilogrammes (kg) to 2,000kg without ammunition or 1,800kg to 2,300kg with ammunition. The turret has a swept radius of 3.6m and an elevation range from -10 to 85 degrees.

According to Rheinmetall, the Austrian configuration will accommodate the MBDA -built Mistral guided missiles.

The systems has proven increasingly popular across the continent, capturing the hearts of Denmark, Germany and Hungary.

Meanwhile, the Pandur serves as an amphibious armoured personnel carrier designed by the Austrian manufacturer and GDELS subsidiary, Steyr-Daimler-Puch.

Other versions in the Pandur family are in 6×6 and 8×8 configurations and include a platoon command vehicle, company or battalion command vehicle, fully amphibious armoured vehicle, an anti-tank guided weapon carrier, forward observer vehicle, battlefield ambulance and a driver training vehicle.