TechCanada boosts defense with $227M purchase of Swedish anti-aircraft system effective against KA-52 helicopters

Canada boosts defense with $227M purchase of Swedish anti-aircraft system effective against KA‑52 helicopters

RBS-70.
RBS-70.
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons
1:38 AM EST, February 16, 2024

On February 14, 2024, Canadian Defense Minister Bill Blair announced that Canada would purchase the Swedish anti-aircraft system, the Saab RBS-70 NG, to 227 million dollars. This purchase would mark the first instance in over a decade where the Canadian armed forces have procured anti-aircraft weapons.

Following the order for anti-drone systems worth 46 million dollars, acquiring the Saab RBS-70 NG system becomes the second significant defense procurement for the Canadian contingent in Latvia, numbering over 1,000 soldiers.

Saab RBS-70 NG - Reputation as the Scourge of Russian Ka-52 Alligator helicopters

The RBS-70 system's inception dates back to the 1970s. During that period, the Swedish defense industry, the de facto maintainers of the country's neutrality, devised this advanced technology. The system, after many years of development, was launched in 1979.

Quite uniquely, their invention was a system that utilized a simple and cost-effective guidance procedure deploying an indigenous laser beam. This method was distinct from that most NATO and Warsaw Pact countries adopted, who favored guidance systems that relied on sensors operating in the infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) spectrums or semi-active radar heads.

The laser beam guidance has its merits and demerits. The major disadvantage is the need for continuous missile guidance toward the target until it strikes, which is particularly difficult when targeting high-speed objects. Another drawback is the likelihood of the target's defense systems detecting the laser beam.

The system has lower operating costs and is resilient to electronic warfare systems or self-defense mechanisms. These may interfere with the operation of the missile's radar or launcher and often involve devices such as thermal flares, towed decoys, or advanced DIRCM systems that can disable thermal heads using a laser.

Over several decades, the Swedish engineers refined this system, striving to eliminate its shortcomings. For instance, since 2011, the system has been equipped with a thermal imaging sight and targeting aid, facilitating the tracking and neutralizing of swift-moving targets. This approach aligns with that adopted by the British in developing their Starstreak and Martlet systems.

The efficacy of the RBS-70 system is largely attributable to its missiles, which, in their latest iterations, can engage aerial targets at a distance of up to 5.6 miles and at an altitude of up to 3.1 miles. This significant range capability has allowed the system to conduct successful engagements with KA-52 Alligator helicopters at the border range in Ukraine.

The missiles used in the RBS-70 NG fly at approximately Mach 2 (1491 mph), and the warhead, weighing 2.4 lbs, is cumulative fragmentary. In addition to combating aerial threats, this configuration neutralizes lightly armored land-based targets.

By reviving its anti-aircraft capabilities, Canada has selected one of the most acclaimed systems available. It is anticipated that further contracts for these systems will be inked.

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