Light, fully automatic and deadly. Rheinmetall has sent a new anti-aircraft tank to Ukraine. It is designed to protect troops from drone attacks. Its airburst ammunition shreds targets with a hail of tungsten projectiles.

Rheinmetall sends the Skyranger to Ukraine. This is a light anti-aircraft tank, sort of the successor to the Cheetah already in service in Ukraine. Strictly speaking, the Skyranger is just the tower. In the spirit of the times, the tower is a module that can be placed on different platforms. The model of choice is the Boxer wheeled armored vehicle, which is also modular in design. It would also be possible to place the Skyranger on the track-driven Lynx or other armored personnel carriers. Since the tower weighs less than three tons, it could in principle also be accommodated on a light four-wheel drive truck.

Smart scrap shot

Like the cheetah, the Skyranger engages its targets with an autocannon. Several types have been presented. The more powerful armament is a 35mm revolver cannon – an evolution of an older 35mm Oerlikon Contraves air defense artillery system. The revolver gun type allows for a very high rate of fire. It is up to 1000 rounds per minute – an air target is attacked with a salvo of 20-24 rounds. The tower carries 220 cartridges.

The gun was designed to fire 35mm airburst ammunition. When fired, this type is programmed to a specific distance at which it detonates, releasing a cloud of 160 tungsten projectiles each. In a burst of several projectiles, the target is literally riddled. Simple Kamikaze drones can be intercepted with single shots. The range is then 4000 meters. The Skyranger can also use ammunition against ground targets. In use, you can switch between the two types, and the turret does not have to be converted due to a double ammunition feed.

The Skyranger can act in a group and then be assigned targets by a control unit, but it can also carry out its missions autonomously. With five modules, the Skyranger monitors the airspace 20 kilometers away, it has been optimized for small missiles. Its passive sensor system consists of infrared camera, TV camera, laser range finder. It’s an all-weather system that works day and night. A Skyranger squad would consist of a command post vehicle with reconnaissance radar, a rocket launcher and two gun systems.

Only two copies

A version with triple armament was also presented. It is armed with a lighter 30mm cannon, but also has guided missiles and a high-energy laser. The guided missiles compensate for the reduced range of the cannon. A combat drone uses guided missiles and has a range advantage against a solo Skyranger armed only with the revolver cannon.

The Skyranger is an air defense system for today. It is also able to intercept small drones effectively and inexpensively. One problem with the large air defense systems is that their missiles are far more complex and expensive than cheap Iranian-made drones. Because of the small number of the new system – there are said to be only two Skyrangers in Ukraine – it will not be able to achieve a decisive effect on the war.