ROME — The deployment in Ukraine of the Skynex air defense system built by Rheinmetall is raising the product’s profile and sparking new orders from around the world, the company has said.
Ukraine on Dec. 31 received a Skynex battery built in Italy by the firm’s subsidiary Rheinmetall Italia and is now operational, according to the division’s chief executive, Alessandro Ercolani.
Ukraine is to receive another battery in March, under a contract worth about €160 million (U.S. $174 million) and signed in December 2022..
Launched eight years ago, Skynex has previously been sold to Qatar, while last December Romania ordered two batteries and Austria bought seven.
“The signing of the Ukraine contract was an important factor in winning the Austrian and Romanian deals,” Ercolani said.
The claim puts the system on a list of defense products that have seen their profile raised by deployment in Ukraine, from Turkish Bayraktar drones to the American High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.
Ercolani told Defense News that new Skynex contracts would be finalized in the coming weeks with a Middle East state and a NATO member.
“We have been told Skynex is working well in Ukraine, and feedback to further improve the system will be really important,” he said. “The quality of the product had to be the best because you know it is going to be used.”
Skynex is an evolution of the firm’s Skyguard system, which has been sold to 60 countries. Skynex features a 31-mile-range radar, a command post and four guns, each equipped with electro-optical sensors and a tracking radar. The guns are able to fire 1,000 35mm rounds a minute, hitting a target 2.5 miles away.
“We started designing Skynex a decade ago to counter asymmetric threats like mortars, which meant it was ready to be used against more recently evolving threats like drones and loitering munitions,” Ercolani said. “Its advantage is that it was conceived to counter small, low and slow threats, and it is cost effective compared to using a missile worth millions to take out a drone.”
When they approach their target, the system’s 35mm shells open, disbursing hundreds of small tungsten cylinders that form a destructive cloud.
To ensure the shells open at the right moment, their speed is checked by a sensor as they leave the gun’s barrel, with electronics in the barrel programming the opening time of the shell accordingly.
Austria will be the first customer to order the fixed-face, active electronically scanned array radar Rheinmetall Italia is now offering with the system, while the Middle East customer is mulling whether to integrate missiles into the system for an extra layer of defense.
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.