Air defense cannon tank Gepard
On the west side of the Iron Curtain in the last century, the Flakpanzer Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft gun with a maximum firing range of 4km was a rare powerful anti-aircraft weapon. It opened a new era of self-propelled anti-aircraft gun by combining firepower, fire control and power supply in the vehicle. It’s based on the chassis of the Leopard 1 main battle tank. It’s lengthened by 80mm to place a Daimler Benz 4-cylinder auxiliary engine. It has two 35mm L/90 KDA autocannons, a search radar and a target tracking radar.
The development of such a combat vehicle began in 1965 and was carried out intermittently for 10 years. A number of prototypes were built, but none met the requirements of the military. Ultimately, on the modified chassis of the Leopard-1 main battle tank, the lead developer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, manufactured and tested two prototypes with turrets from two different companies. The Rheinmetall model, which received the designation ZLA, was armed with twin 30-mm cannons, and the Kontraves model 5PZF-A was armed with twin 35-mm cannons. Both machines were equipped with a radar, which made it possible to fire at air targets at any time of the day. After extensive testing, the Bundeswehr decided to continue development of the 5PZF-A model, resulting in the construction of the next six prototypes under the designation 5PZF-B.
In the early 1980s Dutch and West Germans introduced the GEPARD, a mobile and highly accurate, radar-guided, anti-aircraft gun system. In a conventional battlefield situation, this defensive strategy is applied successfully. If a coordinated raid from a pre-known direction is to be expected, medium-range air defense systems such as PATRIOT andHAWK massively deployed near the frontline provide forward protection. In the rear zone, short-range (SHORAD) Surface to Air Missile (SAM) systems such as ROLAND or gun-based systems such as the German GEPARD or the Russian ZSU-23 are deployed along the last line of defense.
The fundamental difference from the Russian ZSU-23 "Shilka" was "Gepard's" larger caliber of the gun (35 mm vs 23mm) which made it possible to have shells with a fuse and, accordingly, greater destruction efficiency - the target is hit by fragments. West German Gepard can hit targets at altitudes up to 3 kilometers, flying at speeds up to 350-400 m / s; its firing range is up to 4 kilometers. However, the "Gepard" has a lower rate of fire compared to the "Shilka" - 1100 rounds per minute against - 3400 ("Volcano" - up to 3000), it is more than twice as heavy - 45.6 tons. And the Gepard was put into service 11 years later than the Shilka, in 1973, this is a later generation machine.
The chassis of the Gepard is similar to that of the Leopard 1, but the hull has thinner armor. The place of the driver's mechanic is in front to the right, an auxiliary power unit is located to the left of him, the tower is in the center. MTO - in the stern. Suspension - torsion bar type, includes seven dual track rollers, a rear idler wheel and a rear drive wheel, there are two support rollers.
The high mobility in the terrain and the rapid swiveling of the turret enable the necessary extremely short reaction times to threats from the air. Whether combat helicopter, combat aircraft or drone, the targets are safely fought with the two 35 mm machine guns. Such self-propelled anti-aircraft guns rely on an active radar system for the purpose of acquisition and fire control. The vehicle is based on the hull of the Leopard 1 tank with a large fully rotating turret carrying the armament—a pair of 35 mm Oerlikon KDA autocannons and the two radar dishes—a general search radar at the rear of the turret and the tracking radar, and a laser rangefinder, at the front between the guns.
While the systems can be operated manually, the active radar provides far better and more accurate performance. Acquisition ranges on many of the systems is approximately fifteen kilometers. These systems normally can be linked electronically to increase the area of coverage and provide cueing information to other systems. Radars associated with modern self-propelled anti-aircraft guns are generally very advanced and very effective for tactical applications. The advanced radars these systems employ provide accurate and timely information for allaspects of acquisition. Individually, self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, such as the Russian 2S6 or German Gepard, have few limitations concerning target acquisition.
Since the eighties, Stinger teams have been accompanying the Gepard units to take advantage of their long-range scanning capacity. To combine this capacity in a single unit, a missile system upgrade that mounts the NATO ManPad Stinger surface-to-air missile (in twin packs) to the autocannons was developed. The system was tested by the German Bundeswehr but not bought due to budget restrictions and the fielding of the Ozelot Light Flak (leFla) System.
Some systems like the French Roland and the German Gepard use command signals to guide the SAM to target. These systems can be operated optically. The difference between the SAM and gun systems is that the SAM is still linked electronically for course correction guidance. The GSM/GSI telephones on the Gepard and Roland determine their positions based on built-in Global positioning system (GPS) receivers. The GSM/GSI telephones on the vehicles send short message service (SMS) messages containing the position and velocity of the vehicles to the telephone at NC3A. The most prominent laser device used in the German Army is of Nd-YAG type. It is installed in the anti-aircraft tank GEPARD, the battle tank LEOPARD 2 as well as the artillery tank and serves as a rangefinder.
US Army efforts to replace the Vulcan with a more advanced gun system ended in disaster. The Army’s concern over the Vulcan centered on its short range, its slow reaction times, and the absence of both crew protection and the ability to distinguish friend from foe. The success of the Soviet ZSU-23-4 23 mm guns mounted on a tank chassis in the Middle East wars and the rising threat of Soviet helicopter gunships were additional factors. In the early 1980s, the US Army sought a mobile, all-weather system that would overcome these shortcomings. After rejecting the German Gepard, the Army believed that it could get what it wanted quickly and cheaply by combining several bits of existing equipment. After competing with General Dynamics, Ford Aerospace won a contract in May 1981 for the Division Air Defense or M247 Sergeant York.
Problems with manufacturing, weight, reliability, and radar increased both time and cost. It also drew a host of critics, both from inside the Army (SAM and helicopter advocates) and outside (an unsympathetic media). Poor, or at least questionable, test results did not help. Most of all, the threat increased beyond what the system could handle. As a result, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger cancelled the project in August 1985. It cost the United States $1.8 billion.
The constant increase in capabilities since the system was introduced makes it possible to react appropriately to current threats. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Gepard was upgraded to the A2 version. A new cooling system is added to the rear of the turret. New muzzle brake and tracking radar are installed to replace the old ones to meet the operational needs in the new era.
To date, KMW has mass-produced 570 systems of this type as general contractor and has also been the main contractor for the technical and logistical support of the system since the start of use. GEPARDs were delivered to Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Romania. It’s the No.1 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun in terms of production quantity and quantity in service. The German Army ordered 450 Gepards, and the Belgians ordered 55. The Dutch version of the same system, known as Cheetah, is identical to Gepard except for the installation of a different radar. The Dutch Army ordered 95 Cheetahs.
In 2012, the German Army decided to abandon anti-aircraft artillery in favor of air defense systems due to a reduction in defense spending. However, the German government guaranteed support for weapons systems by the manufacturer until 2024. In December 2012, a delegation of the Brazilian Armed Forces visited Germany to assess the state of the proposed equipment and discuss the terms of delivery.
The contract for the supply of the Brazilian Armed Forces with 37 Gepard-1A2 ZSU decommissioned by the German Armed Forces manufactured by the German concern Krauss-Maffei Wegmann was signed in April 2013. This purchase was made as part of a strategic project to create an air defense system. The cost of the agreement is estimated at 37 million euros. The first batch of Gepard was delivered to Brazil in May 2013. The delivery package also included three vehicles that will be used as a source of spare parts, 50 containers with spare parts, tools, three simulators, 540 thousand 35-mm ammunition of five types, technical documentation. The contract also provides for the training of personnel and maintenance of equipment.
The last Cheetah ZSU from the presence of the Dutch army arrived in Jordan in 2016. The Dutch Cheetah were decommissioned in 2006. In 2013, the Netherlands agreed to sell 60 of this type to the Jordanian Air Force, in addition, the contract included 35,000 shells, 22 towed Bofors 40L70 caliber 40 mm, 11 Thales Flycatcher radars, five ARVs based on Leopard 1 and other equipment. The first 15 vehicles were delivered in 2014, in 2015 a batch of 20 units went, in 2016 the final 25 vehicles were shipped.
The current version of the GEPARD meets all the demands of the 21st century to defend against modern combat aircraft, combat helicopters, remote-controlled missiles and rockets. Drones are also reliably combated. The ballistic projectiles cannot be disrupted by electronic countermeasures, their shrapnel clouds reliably lead to the destruction of the target.
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