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UAE interested to acquire Falcon air defense system to counter Houthi aerial threats.

| 2022

According to Tactical Report, in the wake of recent ballistic missiles and suicide drones attacks by Yemeni Houthi rebels on Abu Dhabi, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is emphasizing the need to close gaps in the UAE air defenses, especially in the domain of short-range air defense (SHORAD) systems.
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Saab Giraffe 4A radar. Lockheed Martin is partnering with Saab and Diehl on the Falcon air defense system, which is effective against small- and medium-range air threats (Picture source: Saab)

Hence, the UAE is said to be interested in the Falcon short and medium-range air defense system unveiled at IDEX 2019 (Abu Dhabi) by an industry team consisting of Lockheed Martin, Saab, and Diehl Defence. The three companies were then aiming for the Falcon to replace the UAE’s aging MIM-23 Hawk air defense systems, Defense News reported then. The open architecture of the Falcon weapon system supports easy integration into any air operations center. Let us recall that the U.S. had phased out its MIM-23 Hawk system in 1994 in favor of the longer-ranged but somewhat less flexible MIM-104 Patriot missile.

Falcon uses Lockheed Martin’s SkyKeeper command and control battle manager, with an integrated 40km range Infrared Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled (IRIS-T) SLM interceptor and vertical launcher developed by Diehl Defence, and Saab’s 360° AESA Giraffe 4A radar.

Diehl’s IRIS-T-SLM (Infrared Imaging System - Tail/Thrust Vector Controlled - Surface-Launched, Medium-Range), derived from the IRIS-T air-to-air missile, is the system’s active component. With a 40km range and 20km altitude ceiling, a high-explosive fragmentation (HE-F) warhead and an impact/radar proximity fuze, the missile sits between longer-ranged systems such as the MIM-104 Patriot (70-160km range depending on the version; 24km altitude ceiling) and short-range missiles such as the FIM-92 Stinger (under 8km range) in terms of capability.

The Giraffe 4A radar provides the Tactical Operations Centre with continuous updates on the location of all tracked targets. Being a multifunctional radar means it provides a simultaneous picture of airborne tracks, “sense and warn” of incoming rockets and mortars and targeting data for the SkyKeeper missile system C2. In addition, the G4A is capable (one of the few sensors in its class to do so) of precisely tracking the target-bound interceptor in flight, as well as the target.

The three companies began working together in 2016, specifically targeting the UAE’s need to replace their Hawk systems. A typical unit of the Falcon would be one command and control vehicle, one radar vehicle and three launchers for the IRIS-T interceptors, the missiles that are at the core of the new system: they are a modified version of the air-to-air variant in use by the German Air Force, specifically designed to be launched from the ground, with a range of up to 40 kilometers.

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Falcon short and medium-range air defense solution (Picture source: Lockheed Martin)


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