No Iron Dome – BARAK MX is supplied by Cyprus

From Savvas D. Vlassis

On August 19, a report in the CYPRUS DAILY (Apostolos Tomaras) reported that Nicosia has already signed the contract award with Israel for the supply of the Iron Dome anti-aircraft system, a news that was widely reproduced.

However, according to information from DOUREIUS IPPOU, the agreement does not concern the mentioned system but a long-range air-to-ground missile system with a performance missile of the order of 150 km. An affordable Israeli-origin system that meets this specification is the BARAK MX of Israel Aerospace Industries.

It should be noted that in the established annual press briefing by the Minister of Defense Charalambos Petridis on November 30, 2021, regarding the upcoming armament programs, the minister had spoken of the “procurement of a modern air defense system”. The designation “air defense system” and not the more common “anti-aircraft system”, referred to a system of high-performance sensors and missiles, while the Iron Dome is a specialized system for dealing with incoming munitions and is characterized as Anti-Rocket – Artillery – Ram (C-RAM).

BARAK MX (Mix) is a land version developed based on sensors and types of missiles of different classes, allowing the choice of a set configuration according to the operational requirements of the user. The composition of the system includes:

A mobile, manned or fixed Battle Command Center (BMC) that provides a unified tactical air picture from multiple sensors and coordinates operation and fire at a network level.

Fully Digital Integrated Phase Array Radar System, with a choice between various types – categories.

BARAK missiles, vertical launch and 360° coverage, of three different types: a) BARAK MRAD with a maximum range of 35 km. b) BARAK LRAD with a maximum range of 70 km. c) BARAK ER with a maximum range of 150 km. Each fire unit carries 8 missiles ready to launch and typical Squadron composition is 3-4 units of fire.

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BARAK MX is high performance, capable of engaging multiple threats simultaneously. Depending on the user’s options, it can combine different types of missiles while with the highest performance BARAK ER (range 150 km, engagement altitude 30,000 meters) it also has the ability to intercept tactical ballistic missiles (TBM). The ability to shoot all types of projectiles allows the system to be used more flexibly and to configure the total cost accordingly.

According to the IAI, the BARAK MX is characterized by increased tactical agility and action on the move. Specifically, the mobile BMC performs all Command & Control (C2) functions on the move, the mobile ELM 2138 radar system (one of the options) ensures “Detect on the Move” and the mobile fire units allow “ Stop and Launch” in less than 2 minutes. All items are carried on trucks of various categories.

The development of the BARAK ER missile was completed in the spring of 2021. With a length of 5.8 meters and a weight of 400 kg, it carries a warhead of 23 kg of fragments and in terms of performance it can perform loading maneuvers of up to 50 g. The missile has in-flight guidance capability via GPS/INS and data link.

It is clear that the National Guard General Staff prioritizes coverage of Area Air Defense and Anti-Ballistic Defense missions. The operational requirement became more pressing, due to the political developments that indicated that the future support – and much more the supply – of weapons systems from Russia became doubtful. As Air Defense is of prime importance to the National Guard, reliance on the medium-range BUK-M1 system in conjunction with the short-range TOR-M1 could not be continued for long. Of course, the case of the immediate withdrawal of the specific systems, and much more their granting to the embattled Ukraine, is out of the question due to the Turkish occupation of Cyprus. Moreover, such a prospect has been officially ruled out by the Cypriot government.

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This situation creates conditions for the creation of a serious gap in the air defense of Cyprus in the near future, making it necessary for elementary provision reasons to plan the procurement of a system that will more adequately cover the requirements. The Iron Dome is geared towards countering projectile weapons threats and has a limited range, so it falls short of the BUK-M1 in terms of coverage against high performance fighter aircraft. However, the receipt of the BARAK MX and its inclusion in operational use does not automatically imply the withdrawal of Russian weapon systems. These can theoretically be maintained, exhausting the margins of reliable service while finding solutions in the future in the supply of spare parts for their normal maintenance cannot be ruled out.

Thanks to the BARAK MX, the National Guard will gain expanded A/D Defense capabilities, comparable if not broader than the 1990’s design to procure the S-300PMU1! Thus, under a completely different and more favorable geopolitical-diplomatic environment, Nicosia is moving towards acquiring the ability to deal with the new threats posed by cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles, which exist in sufficient numbers in the Turkish arsenal.

At the beginning of the year it was known that a contract worth $500 million was signed between IAI and Morocco for BARAK MX, while Finland has also shown interest.

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