Two of Europe’s leading defence primes will collaborate to fill what they see as a gap in mobile air defence against uncrewed aerial systems at short range.

In a letter of intent, signed during the ILA Berlin exhibition in early June 2024, MBDA and Rheinmetall agreed to integrate their products – namely a mounted version of the Enforcer missile with the Oerlikon Skyranger 30 mobile air defence system developed by them respectively.

The agreement will establish a long-term cooperation for the integration of the missile into Skyranger and other similar vehicles as well as the development, production and integration of a launcher onto various turret systems.

Background on Enforcer and Skyranger

Both parties refer to the Enforcer concept by a new designation – the ‘Small Anti-Drone Missile’ – perhaps to delineate the missile system’s new mounted version. Enforcer was primarily a shoulder-launched weapon system prior to this announcement.

The missile system provides low-collateral precision effects capabilities against the threat from lightly armoured static and moving targets that can be more than 1,800 metres away.

The German Defence Ministry has had the system since December 2019. At an international press event in November 2023, the MBDA Germany told Army Technology that plans for full-scale production before the end of that year.

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Notably, the modular design of Enforcer enables a range of future development options, including a prospective ‘family’ of Enforcer munitions for land, air and sea applications. In this case, MBDA has now set its sights on an air defence variant.

Enforcer shoulder-launched portable missile system. Credit: MBDA.

When it comes to Skyranger, the A1 variant only recently conducted its first live fire trial on the Swiss proving ground in December last year. This has peaked considerable interest in the platform as Rheinmetall nears qualifying the total system this year.

At the time of demonstration, Hungary, a Nato and EU member state, contracted Rheinmetall to develop a concept for a Skyranger 30 turret for the future air defence variant of the Lynx KF41 tracked armoured vehicle.

Drone threat

“The current conflicts have clearly shown that drone defence is one of the key challenges for armed forces,” said Thomas Gottschild, managing director of MBDA Germany.

First Person View (FPV) drones and loitering munitions have proven to be a scourge against more costly, conventional land vehicles.

GlobalData intelligence tells us that “such [systems have been] used to devastating effect in frontline combat, often compensating for Ukraine’s near-constant shortfall in conventional artillery ammunition.”

From January to February 2024, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Strategic Industries claimed that FPV production totalled 200,000. Furthermore, there have been staggering claims that more than 65% of Russia’s main battle tanks were destroyed by Ukrainian FPV systems.