Falcon Air Defence System Unveiled at IDEX 2019
On Monday, a team comprised of Lockheed Martin, Germany’s Diehl Defence and Sweden’s Saab AB jointly unveiled the Falcon Air Defence System at the International Defence Exhibition & Conference (IDEX) 2019 in Abu Dhabi.
Originally developed at the request of the United Arab Emirates government to replace its aging arsenal of MIM-23 Hawk surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), the Falcon is able to fill the critical niche of a medium-range air defense system for customers around the world which lack such capability. The team has placed emphasis on the system’s ability to counter “current and emerging threats” at the designated ranges, including unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) and cruise missiles, in addition to more conventional fixed-wing and rotary-wing threats. Other countries with such a capability gap include the United States, which currently possesses no medium-range SAMs, having itself phased out the MIM-23 Hawk in 1994 in favor of the longer-ranged but somewhat less flexible MIM-104 Patriot missile.
Falcon is comprised of three major components, one from each of the three contributors. 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 aforementioned 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. It is combined with Saab’s Giraffe 4A Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system, which is able to provide 360°, simultaneous tracking of multiple targets. This data is fed through Lockheed’s SkyKeeper command and control (C2) system, which keeps track of the battlefield and directs the Falcon system overall.
The UAE signed an agreement to procure Falcon at the week-long IDEX military exhibition which was held from the 17th to the 21st of February 2019. Scott Arnold, vice-president, and deputy of Integrated Air and Missile Defence at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control has stated that Lockheed is “currently in discussions to offer our solution to the UAE customer, [but that] it is not unique to that requirement.” Arnold envisions “a broader roadmap for this type of solution, with numerous areas of interest globally” and plans to position Falcon accordingly.