Russia’s ‘Special Military Operation’ and Its Impact on the European Land-Based Radar Market

MPQ-64 Sentinel. Image

The Russian “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine will result in the acceleration of certain trends that were already underway within the European land-based radar market.  For some European militaries, this will mean launching new requirements to shore up undercapitalized capabilities.  For others, it will mean expediting fulfillment of contests that were already in process.

Primary effects are expected to consist of European reinvestment in air defense and early warning radar capabilities. Note that many of today’s air defense radars are also tuned for the C-RAM mission, a mission that will also receive a boost in demand.

Air defense is an area that has already seen some improvement.  On NATO’s Eastern front, Romania has recently taken delivery of the U.S.’s leading air defense system, the MPQ-65-equipped Patriot.  Meanwhile, Poland is expected to deploy the Patriot by the end of 2022, but the U.S. could potentially accelerate this delivery due to the current regional instabilities.

In the wider European area, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, and Spain operate the Patriot.  Sweden became a user just last year, taking delivery of its first Patriot system in 2021.

The most impactful customer with an active requirement is Germany, which has been delaying its final TLVS award for nearly a decade.  With the German government recently announcing a substantial increase to its military budget, it is likely that the winner of its air defense renewal program will soon be announced.  Forecast International expects Germany to abandon an earlier selection of MEADS and instead invest in the next-generation Patriot system, which is powered by Raytheon Technologies’ in-development GhostEye (formerly known as LTAMDS).  (Recent Patriot customers have specified the last / current generation MPQ-65.)

Several other European nations could establish new or expanded air defense / early warning requirements.

Given questions by European countries over the level of military support that they can rely on from the United States in light of relatively recent U.S. politics, EU members may be more likely to invest in local solutions than they were in the past.  European radars that could benefit are the Saab Giraffe family, the Thales Ground Master family, the Leonardo Kronos family, the Thales SMART-L MM/F (an outlying European offering in the land-based early warning segment), the Hensoldt SPEXER family, and the Hensoldt TRML-4D.

In particular, the Giraffe is a primary component of Saab’s MSHORAD air defense system.  Meanwhile, models in Saab’s Giraffe and Hensoldt’s SPEXER lines can be utilized as sensors for Diehl Defence’s IRIS-T SLS air defense system.

There are some radar products from Elta, a division of Israel’s IAI, that could also prove to be viable solutions for European customers.  Examples include the ELM-2084 and ELM-2288, which can fulfill air defense missions.  The ELM-2080 and ELM-2090 radars could be attractive if European nations invest in sovereign land-based early warning capability.  In the past, Germany and Italy have been known to partner with Elta, but Elta products have also proven popular with some less affluent nations that still want to provide their armed services with robust, proven options at a somewhat more favorable price.

In many instances, the latest applicable U.S. systems  are just now coming online or will not be available for several years.  Some examples include the aforementioned GhostEye, the TPS-80 G/ATOR, the TPY-4 3DELRR, and the TPQ-53.  The TPQ-53, which is primarily a C-RAM radar, is the only one of these systems known to be readily available for the export market.  However, once system development is complete and U.S. deliveries are underway, the GhostEye is expected to be made available to certain NATO members, and potentially some highly NATO-aligned countries.

The latest generation of the MPQ-64 Sentinel series (former models were available in an export variant) may also see increased international interest, particularly as the radars apply to the NASAMS surface-to-air missile system, a co-product of Norway-based Kongsberg.  Raytheon Technologies, after recently losing the next-generation MPQ-64 contest to rival Lockheed Martin, has also announced its own NASAMS-compatible product, a downscaled variant of the Patriot’s GhostEye, dubbed the GhostEye MR.

The major question that remains is how much European support exists for fulfilling the early warning / ballistic missile defense (BMD) / air and missile defense (AMD) role through domestic programs.  Currently, the U.S. is providing the vast majority of land-based NATO early warning / BMD / AMD competency, with the AEGIS Ashore and TPY-2 THAAD doing the “heavy lifting.”

A land-based variant of the SPY-1 powers an AEGIS Ashore facility in Romania (declared operationally certified at a ceremony in May 2016).  Meanwhile, a SPY-1-equipped AEGIS Ashore facility in Poland – what a New York Times headline on February 16, 2022, called one of “Putin’s darkest fears” – is scheduled to come fully online in the middle of this year, only a handful of months following Russia’s “Special Military Operation.”

The U.S.’s preeminent transportable, land-based early warning / BMD / AMD asset, the TPY-2 THAAD is deployed to NATO’s southeast flank, in Turkey.  The system, though, is largely aimed at defending against threats from the Middle East / Western Asia.

Potential exists for a European-funded AEGIS Ashore facility, one updated to utilize a land-based variant of the next-generation Lockheed Martin SPY-7.  However, with the U.S. already performing most of the NATO Alliance’s land-based, eastward-facing early warning / BMD / AMD operations, there is likely little appetite for such an expensive domestic European capability in the short term.

Forecast International’s Radar Forecast covers the airborne, land-based, and sea-based radar systems currently in development and production to equip military platforms of all types. A diverse set of programs are covered, including the land-based 3DELRR air search radar; UAV-specific models like the ZPY-3 MFAS surveillance radar; the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s APG-81 fire control radar; IFF secondary radars such as the APX-125; the sea-based SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR); and large system of systems products like the Joint STARS early warning suite. Market drivers such as surface fleet renewal, the rise of the next-generation fighter jet, and the growing influence of AESA and GaN-based radar architectures are covered as well. Click here to learn more.


About C. Zachary Hofer

In his role as a Senior Defense Electronics Analyst at Forecast International, C. Zachary Hofer's studies focus primarily on air, land, and sea radar systems, as well as the airborne electronics segment.

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