According to ABC News, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Ruslan Stefanchuk appealed to the members of the US Congress with a request for assistance in transferring additional air defense equipment to Ukraine. First of all, we are talking about C-RAM systems, which can withstand Iranian-made kamikaze drones. What is C-RAM and what samples of such weapons do our Western partners have?
C-RAM is an acronym for Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar, meaning that these are systems that can defend against rocket and artillery fire by destroying shells, mines, and missiles on approach to positions.
The most famous of such systems is the Israeli Iron Dome, which consists of missile, artillery and energy weapons that can counter any threats. But more often, when they talk about C-RAM, they mean first of all automatic rapid-fire anti-aircraft artillery systems integrated with radar, optical-electronic and acoustic sensors. Most of such systems are built on the basis of ship artillery installations of 20-30 mm caliber.
If we talk about the USA, to which the request of the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada was sent, then the Centurion C-RAM system is in service with this country. This is the land-based version of the ship’s Phalanx CIWS system. That is, Raytheon, which now manufactures the Centurion C-RAM, simply took the Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapons System) turret and moved it to a ground platform (trailer) and added a generator.
The Centurion C-RAM is based on the well-known M61 Vulcan 20mm rapid-fire six-barreled aircraft gun with a rotating barrel assembly, which has been used by the US Air Force for 60 years. This gun is characterized by a simply insane rate of fire, releasing up to 4,500 shells per minute. The speed of the projectile is 1,100 m/s, the effective distance of fire is almost 1,500 m, the maximum is 5,500 m. The guidance system is based on a centimeter radar integrated into the turret and an infrared camera.
It must be understood that Centurion C-RAM is an artificial system. 20 such installations were deployed at US naval bases, and 23 more systems were additionally ordered in 2008. That is, there are a little more than 40 of them in total.
Another variant of C-RAM is the German MANTIS Air Defense System. Unfortunately, this short-range anti-aircraft artillery complex is not mobile and consists of 6 35 mm guns located in ground towers, two sensor devices and a control system. MANTIS is primarily designed to protect air force bases and unfortunately uses the same Swiss Oerlikon GDF guns with 35×228 mm ammunition that Ukraine will not get it even for its Gepards. By the way, the new AHEAD (Advanced Hit Efficiency and Destruction) projectile with programmable detonation, designed just for hitting air targets, is used here.
Again unfortunately there are only two copies of MANTIS and Rheinmetall Air Defense doesn’t seem to be building new systems just yet.
In addition, the C-RAM includes the Dutch Goalkeeper CIWS based on the GAU-8/A Avenger 30 mm seven-barreled anti-aircraft gun, the same one used on the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft. Unfortunately, Goalkeeper CIWS is a ship-only system with no land-based version.
Another option is the Porcupine C-RAM from Italy’s OTO Melara, which also uses the M61 Vulcan 20mm anti-aircraft gun. But this is again a stationary system of 4 ground combat modules, a 3D radar and a control module. Each Porcupine C-RAM combat module covers an area of only 400 by 400 m, which is not enough for our conditions. In addition, this system never got out of the prototype stage.
Formally, the 76-mm self-propelled anti-aircraft gun Draco, from the same Italian OTO Melara, belongs to C-RAM.The larger caliber allows you to hit targets at a distance of up to 8 km, but again, unfortunately, Draco also remained only a prototype.
That is, with all the wealth of choice, there is no alternative to the American Centurion C-RAM, but, here’s the trouble, to cover at least key energy facilities, Ukraine needs more C-RAM than the armies of the whole world have. Not counting, of course, the Iron Dome, but in the last case, Israel lacks understanding of what is happening in the world and political will.
Well, we hope that the USA will send at least a few Centurion C-RAMs to Ukraine. I wouldn’t count on more than a couple. But I’ll be glad to be wrong.