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Countries upgrading Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar systems to counter threats like drones, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and cruise missiles

As the threat for Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (RAM) increases around the world, the need for a system to detect
and alert Soldiers of incoming rounds for military locations becomes vital to mission success and force survivability. Military installations such as forward operating bases are vulnerable to rocket, artillery and mortar (RAM) attacks – a threat that also extends to civilian infrastructure in many parts of the world. Indeed, such weapons have become tools of choice in asymmetric conflicts, with militants carrying out attacks with ever-smaller, ever-more effective projectiles – with little or no warning and often launched from built-up areas


The C-RAM capability (which comprises of multiple sensors, C2 nodes and warning systems) is an essential capability to protect friendly forces from hostile fire by detecting and warning against small, mobile and hard-to-find threats such as rockets, artillery and mortar fire. Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar, abbreviated C-RAM or Counter-RAM, is a set of systems used to detect and/or destroy incoming artillery, rockets and mortar rounds in the air before they hit their ground targets, or simply provide early warning. C-RAM is made up of variety of systems which provide the ability to sense, warn, respond, intercept, command and control, shape, and protect deployed forces.


US’s  Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) / Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) system was developed early during Operation Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom in order to protect ground forces and forward operating bases from the threat of rockets, artillery, and mortars. C-RAM was operationally deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, where its sense and warn capabilities provided timely warning of more than 2,500 rocket and mortar attacks against C-RAM equipped forward operating bases. C-RAM was also purchased by Australia and the United Kingdom. The system has been credited with saving thousands of soldiers’ lives.


Iron dome is an Israeli missile system featuring multiple-target tracking and self-guided missile interceptors. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the teams operating the Iron Dome missile defense system in Nov 2019, saying they had set a new standard by intercepting more than 90% of rockets launched from Gaza towards Israeli civlian population centers.


The summer of 2014 saw Hamas’s armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades carrying out its deepest rocket strike, reaching about 160 km from the Gaza Strip. Israel launched its military offensive Operation Protective Edge with the declared objectives of stopping Hamas firing rockets from Gaza into Israel, find and destroy Hamas’s rocket stores.  Israel’s Iron Dome system had intercepted over 400 rockets fired into Israel by Gaza Strip militants. Based on operational success, defense reporter Mark Thompson estimates that Iron Dome is currently the most-effective and most-tested counter missile system in existence.


In Russia, considerable development effort has been invested since 1992 to develop Counter Precision Guided Munition (C-PGM) weapon systems aiming to shoot them down using short range SAM-fire or gunfire.


C-RAM systems are now being upgraded to handle other threats including enemy drones, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and cruise missiles. The future trend is to upgrade laser directed energy weapons for counter -RAM role. Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has secured a new $29m contract to support the US Army’s Directed Energy (DE) systems. The company will commit to developing prototype technologies, components and subsystems to support the advancement and upgrade of the existing or new DE systems. It will help expand the DE system capabilities of counter rocket, artillery and mortar (C-RAM), counter unmanned aircraft systems (C-UAS), and / or counter intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (C-ISR) missions.


Laser weapons, especially electrically pumped lasers, that offer exceptionally low cost per shot, and almost unlimited ‘magazine depth’, are attractive solution for  C-RAM  application. This advantage must be balanced against higher procurement costs and the need to ‘dwell’ the weapon on a target until burn-through of the skin or casing can be effected. The latter will be an issue for defeating saturation attacks. The inability of lasers to penetrate cloud, haze, dust and fog is another unavoidable limitation.



Counter RAMS systems

For a typical C-RAM system the target is a subsonic or supersonic unguided projectile flying a simple ballistic trajectory. It is a relatively low signature target in the infrared and upper microwave radar bands. More than often only small numbers or single shots will be fired allowing reattack by the C-RAM weapon if the first attempt fails. The target is relatively slow and predictable in flightpath but physically small, making it hard to track accurately and hard to hit. They act autonomously with a short time and a high level of system automation.


For a typical C-PGM system, the target is a subsonic or supersonic guided projectile apt to be flying a complex guided trajectory, possibly designed to frustrate tracking by low altitude terrain following but certainly designed to impact the target with an optimal trajectory and impact angle.


The target’s signature is apt to be intentionally low, especially in the X- and Ku-bands used for engagement radars. Whether Western or Russian doctrine is followed, the weapon is apt to be used in concurrent multiple round salvoes, so a C-PGM system will be presented with multiple concurrent targets, but also with very short times to acquire, track and engage, denying time for reattack if an initial shot fails to kill. PGMs, especially missiles, typically being much larger than artillery and mortar rounds and comparable to Katyusha rockets in size will be easier to inflict damage upon.


The overall evaluation of the selection of a system is based on performance in a number of areas. Each system must successfully identify, track, and engage the incoming threat munition. The system must also demonstrate a capability to destroy the threat while minimizing collateral damage. In an urban area, if C-RAM is able to knock these mortars out and have them explode up in the air, the debris and the shrapnel from some of those rounds are going to fall. This can cause some civilian casualties.


Iron Dome

An Israeli missile system featuring multiple-target tracking and self-guided missile interceptors. Due to the ongoing increase of its engagement range and new missile and interception improvements, plus Surface-to-air missile capability, it has developed into a fully-fledged air defence system.


Iron Dome is the only multi mission system in the world that provides a combat-proven defense solution for countering rockets, artillery & mortars (C-RAM) as well as aircraft, helicopters, UAVs, and PGMs (VSHORAD) for land and sea. Iron Dome is an effective system for countering C-RAM threats with ranges of up to 70 km and for NG VSHORAD protection. The system operates day and night and in all weather conditions, including low clouds, rain, dust storms or fog. Iron Dome protects cities, towns & strategic assets, maneuvering forces as well as ships. Iron Dome can handle multiple threats simultaneously and efficiently. Dome is economical, as it enables effective selective handling of critical threats aimed at a pre-defined defended zone thus reducing unnecessary interceptor launches.


The system uses a unique interceptor with a special warhead that detonates the target warhead in the air. If the estimated trajectory of the airborne threat is headed towards the defended zone, a command is given and an interceptor is launched against the threat Iron Dome interceptor receives trajectory updates from the Battle Management Center via uplink communication. The interceptor approaches the target and uses its radar seeker to acquire the target and guide the interceptor. The target warhead is detonated in the air before it reaches the defended area, reducing collateral damage.


Iron Dome is highly mobile, and can be configured to defend an urban area, a Forward Operating Base (FOB), or troops on the move. Iron Dome can be integrated onto most Off-The-Shelf vehicles, and is roll-on-roll-off transportable on most transport aircraft.


It Features Detection & Tracking Radar, Missile Firing Unit,  and Battle Management & Control Iron Dome is in-service by the Israeli Air Force since 2011 and successfully intercepted over 1,500 rockets. Iron Dome has achieved over 90% success rate. The system has saved lives and prevented damage to property.


According to IDF “Approximately 985 rockets hit Israeli territory and 225 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile-defense system,” “with an overall success rate of 86 percent.”Israel deployed the first Iron Dome missile battery in 2011. Each battery consists of a command post, a radar array and several launchers, each with 20 missiles.


However, according to a detailed analysis carried out by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ted Postol, an expert in missiles and missile defenses, has found evidence that only about 5 percent of Iron Dome engagements result in the targeted rocket being destroyed or even sufficiently damaged to disable its explosive warhead. In the other 95 percent of cases, the interceptor either misses entirely or just lightly damages the enemy munition, allowing the rocket’s intact warhead to continue arcing toward the ground.



On 24 October 2005 the U.S. Army selected Northrop Grumman Corporation as the prime contractor for the Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) Integration and Fielding contract. C-RAM is effectively a land version of weapons such as the Phalanx CIWS radar-controlled rapid-fire gun for close in protection of vessels from missiles.


C-RAM components include the Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control (FAAD C2), Land-based Phalanx Weapon Systems (LPWS), Lightweight Counter Mortar Radars (LCMR), Firefinder radars, Ka-band Multi-Function Radio Frequency Systems (MFRFS), Air and Missile Defense Workstation (AMDWS), and several other components that contribute to system intercept and communications.


Main component of the C-RAM system is the LPWS, which is modified from the U.S. Navy MK-15 MOD 29 Block IB, Baseline 2 Close-In Weapon System, and mounted on a commercial 35-ton semi-trailer for land-based operations. The M61A1 20mm Gatling gun is capable of acquiring its target and firing at a rate of 4,500 rounds per minute. The Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control (FAAD C2) system integrates the sensors, weapons, and warning systems for C-RAM Intercept.


C-RAM is now being developed with “open architecture” and interoperable common IP protocols for integrating emerging technologies into existing systems. “Regardless of what is used to defeat the threat, we are looking at changing the sensors as technology evolves. You can also integrate new weapons as technology changes. In the future, we plan to have weapons talk to the interceptor,” said Sean Walsh, C-RAM project management, Northrop.


New  sensors and weapons are being integerated into CRAM. The AN/TPQ-37, engineered by ThalesRaytheon, has been completely redesigned, incorporating 12 modern air-cooled power amplifier modules, a high-power RF combiner and fully automated transmitter control unit, according to ThalesRaytheon information.


Made by Lockheed Martin, the Miniature Hit-to-Kill interceptor is less than 2.5 feet in length and weighs about 5 pounds at launch. It is designed to be small in size while retaining the range and lethality desired in a counter-RAM solution. As a kinetic energy interceptor destroying targets through a high-speed collision without explosives, the weapon is able to greatly reduce collateral damage often caused by the blast-fragmentation from explosions.



Nächstbereichschutzsystem MANTIS

35mm fully automated C-RAM system, produced by Rheinmetall based on Oerlikon’s Skyshield and ordered by the German Air Force in use from 2011. The NBS MANTIS is equipped with six 35mm automatic guns, two sensor units and a central command ground-control unit. The sensor system comprises of radar, effectors and electro-optical sensors installed on the base perimeter. The MANTIS protection system is totally automated and operates 24/7.


A radar sensor in the control system recognises missiles fired onto a base from about 3km. The automatic process enables the guns to fire on the threat instantly in the calculated flight path. The guns are capable of firing 1,000 rounds per minute. The firing of the guns is based on mission-specific programmable and air burst advanced hit efficiency and destruction (AHEAD) ammunition, a technology developed by Rheinmetall Weapons and Munitions, formerly Oerlikon Contraves Pyrotec. The ammunition has a payload of 152 tungsten projectiles, weighing 3.3g each.


The AHEAD technology enables the air defence gun’s capability to track and destroy the aerial targets. The MANTIS gun fires 24 round burst, high-velocity AHEAD rounds at the target’s intercept point. The projectiles from the gun are programmed through a muzzle-based electromagnetic inductor. The technology activates and separates the projectiles into 152 heavy tungsten metal spin-stabilised sub-projectiles as per an electronic timer.



A typical porcupine configuration for the Italian Army consists of four firing units, one central control post for target designation and weapon control and a 3D radar system “track while scan type” for surveillance and target tracking. Each remote firing unit consists of a 20 mm M61A1 Gatling cannon, its ammunition handling system and a stabilised optronic infra-red (IR) tracking system.



The DRACO is a multipurpose weapon station operating against Air, R.A.M. and Surface targets, designed for the Italian Army. The main armament consists of a high rate of fire 76/62mm gun with an automatic ammunition loading system; the 76/62mm gun is electrically controlled for elevation and traversing, and is stabilized in elevation.


DRACO can be installed on 8×8 wheeled platforms, for combat support operations or convoy defence, as well as on tracked vehicles or on shelters for point defence. The main 76/62mm gun and the automatic loading system are fully compatible with all in service 76mm rounds and also with 76mm DART guided ammunition. DRACO can be completely controlled by two Operators (the Commander and the Gunner) from a remote position, located inside the hull for mobile installation or inside a protected command shelter for fixed installation.



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