Austria is turning Pandur vehicles into air defense systems with the Sky Ranger

Austria awarded the German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall a major air defense contract in the order of three million euros for 36 Oerlikon Sky Ranger gun systems.

The Dusseldorf-based supplier will serve as a subcontractor as part of a much larger €1.8 billion ($1.9 billion) contract with General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS), awarded several days earlier, for 225 wheeled vehicles Pandur EVO 6×6 vehicles. According to leading intelligence consultancy, GlobalData, this deal is based on the 34 existing Pandur vehicles it acquired in 2019-2020.

Austria now intends to integrate the 30mm gun turrets into its newly acquired armored vehicles.

The entire project falls under the Austrian government’s modernization initiative, which aims to increase its defense spending from 0.74 percent of its gross domestic product to 1 percent, according to GlobalData.

Despite its historical neutrality, Austria’s decision to modernize its air defense capabilities will help strengthen its commitments to the European Sky Shield Initiative, which it recently joined in July 2023.

Pandur in text image
Austrian troops stand next to a Pandur 6×6 armored vehicle, 2019. Credit: Austrian Bundesheer/Robert Giessauf.

Sky Ranger and Pandur systems

The Skyranger is a light multipurpose air defense system that can be mounted on wheeled or tracked vehicle platforms such as the Boxer and Lynx KF41 as well as the Pandur.

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From GlobalData

It uses a 30mm x 173 caliber KCE Revolver Cannon, which fires at a rate of 1,200 rounds per minute, reaching an effective range of three kilometers. It offers high firepower and accuracy against small targets, including micro and nano drones and can also rapidly fire single shots at a rate of 200 rounds per minute.

Combined with air burst ammunition technology (projectiles exploding in the air), the gun is 2.9 meters (m) long with a 2.1 meter barrel.

It has a remote-controlled gun or missile turret, weighing 1,500 kilograms (kg) to 2,000 kg without ammunition or 1,800 kg to 2,300 kg with ammunition. The turret has a scanning radius of 3.6 meters and an elevation of -10 to 85 degrees.

According to Rheinmetall, the Austrian configuration will host Mistral guided missiles manufactured by MBDA.

The systems have proven increasingly popular across the continent, winning the hearts of Denmark, Germany and Hungary.

Meanwhile, the Pandur serves as an amphibious armored personnel carrier designed by Austrian manufacturer and GDELS subsidiary, Steyr-Daimler-Puch.

Other versions of the Pandur family are in 6×6 and 8×8 configurations and include a platoon command vehicle, a company or battalion command vehicle, a fully amphibious armored vehicle, an anti-tank guided weapons carrier, a forward observer vehicle, a battlefield ambulance and a driver training vehicle.

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