Air and missile defense systems are typically used for short to medium range interception of targets and provide deterrence against aircrafts and missiles. Surface to Air missile defense systems (SAM) are the most widely used air defense systems in the world. SAMs use radar information for guidance towards the target. Modern air defense systems can detect and track multiple target simultaneously and engage more than one target at a time. The systems uses long range radars to detect threat and sends the information to command vehicle where friend or foe identification is done. Then the information is sent to the engagement radar which helps in guiding the missile towards the target. Some missile defense systems are capable of destroying targets that fly very close to the ground.
Modern requirement of air missile defense systems include resilience against jamming, multiple missile launching capability and anti-ballistic missile capability. Advanced systems like the S-400 is believed to have the ability to detect and engage stealth aircrafts. Due to development of hypersonic missiles by select countries, future missile defense systems are expected to have anti- hypersonic cruise missiles.
Sea based air and missile defense systems are considers to be crucial for survivability of high valued targets such as aircraft carriers. Air missile defense systems are also deployed to protect strategic asset such as military installation, strategic government infrastructure and residences of heads of states.
Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) are typically operated by one or two soldiers. They are set up in less than 60 seconds and have IR guidance system. Some MANPADS missiles have IR as well as UV to evade flare countermeasures. MANPADS are typically used against helicopters and aircrafts in a contested battle space. MANPADS give the soldiers shoot and scoot ability so that soldiers can engage the next target without giving away their location.
The types of fuses used in Air Defense Missiles are proximity fuse and contact fuse. Proximity fuses trigger detonation of the warhead when the missile is at a particular distance to the target. Contact fuses are fuses that trigger the warhead when contact is made with the target. Missiles use these combinations depending on the requirement and the type of adversary. Coastal air defense systems have the ability to intercept targets over the horizon. Some air defense systems use modified air to air missiles such as AMRAAM. For example the Norwegian advanced SAM system user AMRAAM ER which is an extended range version of the AMRAAM missile. These systems that uses existing missiles significantly reduces the development cost of the system and facilitates quick upgradation.
MANPADS and smaller air defense systems such as Jeep mounted ones are considered the best option to use against drones and small UAVs. But still the cost per shot can be significantly higher that the cost of the target it destroys. Hence there is need for drone and UAV specific low cost air defense systems. These systems can be deployed to secure assets such as airports which face serious threats from rogue drones. Recent threat of Houthi rebels has also pressed the need for low cost air defense options specifically made to intercept drones, small UAVs and rockets.
With border tension looming across different parts of the world, the market for air missile defense systems is set to see significant growth. Versatility and scalability of the system to intercept future threats will be the two critical factors that air defense systems will have to fulfil.