Gepard: “Predator” of the Ukrainian air defense

Gepard: “Predator” of the Ukrainian air defense

Тарас Сафронов Тарас Сафронов
Air Defense Germany Ukraine

Gepard anti-aircraft self-propelled guns have become an important component in Ukrainian air defense.

The military adapted the guns to perform tasks, for which the developers did not plan to use this equipment.

The first German Gepard anti-aircraft self-propelled guns arrived in Ukraine in early July 2022.

A year later, Ukrainian air defense was armed with 40 Gepard SPAAGs.

However, the supply of these German Flakpanzers is not completed.

Germany is to hand over 12 more of these installations to Ukraine, which it began to export from Qatar, where they defended the stadiums of the World Cup from possible terrorist attacks from the air.

The United States also joined the transfer of the Gepards, which signed a contract with Global Military Products to purchase and supply these air defense systems to Ukraine.

The contract will be executed in Amman. Presumably, Gepards, which have been in service with Jordan, will be prepared for Ukraine.

Developmental history of the Gepard

During the formation of the Bundeswehr, Germany received five hundred twin 40mm anti-aircraft guns of type М42 from the United States. Such a SPAAG proved a decent defeat distance, but it was aimed at the target through analog optical sights that did not meet the requirements of that time and did not allow the destruction of maneuverable air targets. That would require guns of increased range, intensity and density of fire.

Спарена 40-мм самохідна гармата M42 німецьких військових

At the end of the sixties, there were attempts to develop new effective systems, but none of them were massively supplied to the armed forces. In 1966, all contracts were signed for the development of the SPAAG on the platform of Leopard 1 tanks, which at that time appeared at the disposal of the Bundeswehr.

Following R&D work, which lasted from 1966 to 1969, four prototypes with 30mm and 35mm guns were tested. After testing the twin guns of 30 and 35 calibers, the choice was made in favor of the latter, and large-scale production began. The key creators of the new SPAAG were the German Wegmann and Krauss-Maffei firms, which subsequently merged (1999) and became known as Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. The companies worked together with the Blohm + Voss concern, responsible for the production of the armored hull and turret.

It is worth noting that in Germany, a Matador 30mm twin anti-aircraft self-propelled mount from Rheinmetall was developed before that. After the curtailment of the МВТ-70 project in the early 70s, the development of Rheinmetall was left without work: the German military preferred the 35mm Gepard SPAAG to the development of Krauss-Maffei and Wegmann.

30-мм спарена зенітна самохідна установка Matador від компанії Rheinmetall

Specialists from Siemens began to create radars (direction finding and target tracking stations). Swiss engineers from Oerlikon took up the creation of anti-aircraft guns, and Contraves – the development of fire control systems with an analog ballistic computing device on semiconductors. All cables, electrical circuits and insulation were created in the corridors of the German Huber + Suhner company.

After several prototypes with various modifications were created, the system was adopted by Bundeswehr, dubbing it a flakpanzer with the predatory name Gepard. Further, the combat vehicle was improved as part of the NATO military program, in which in addition to Germany, the defense concerns of three other countries participated: the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy.

The production was launched in 1973, and the first batch went to the disposal of German servicemen in three years. In total, 420 Gepard SPAAGs were made for the needs of the Bundeswehr, 55 units for the Belgian army, and 95 units for the military of the Netherlands. In the fall of 2004, 18 units were acquired by the Romanian authorities.

Перша передсерійна установка на випробуваннях для королівської армії Нідерландів у 1976 році

The final variation featured a much more productive advanced direction finding and target tracking radar, as well as a number of other minor nuances.

The Gepard SPAAG is based on a platform similar to the Leopard 1 tank, but its hull has a smaller thickness of armor. The driver takes a place in front, to the right of the additional power engine, the turret is installed ​​at the center of the platform. The engine compartment is located behind the vehicle. Torsion suspension has 7 strong double rollers.

The anti-aircraft self-propelled gun has a pair of radar stations for targeting the MPDR-12, which is located at the rear of the tower, and at the front of the Albis gun guidance radar.

Радіолокаці́йні системи ЗСУ Gepard

At the time, the search radar provided a detection range of air targets up to 15 km. In the second half of the 80s, a new MPDR-18 S-band search radar was created with a detection range of up to 18 km.

In addition to two radar devices, the Gepard has a ​​high-performance fire control system, an accurate navigation system, aiming systems for conducting dense fire against land and air targets, and a protective system.

On the right and left side of the massive turret of the machine 35-caliber Oerlikon guns are mounted, which are capable of firing at 550 RPM. Ammunition is supplied through fixed and movable chutes, which are hermetically closed from the fighting compartment.

The weight of the projectile is 550 grams. Muzzle velocity is 1,175 m/s. Each gun is loaded with 320 high explosive incendiary and 20 armor-piercing rounds. High explosives, Frangible Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot, and Semi-Armour Piercing High Explosive Incendiary rounds are used against air targets.

35-мм гармата Oerlikon KDA

The electrically driven turret is powered by a 40 kW generator activated by a 4-cylinder 3.8-liter diesel engine with a fuel consumption of about 10-20 l/h.

On both sides of the turret there are four 76mm smoke grenades launchers.

The anti-aircraft system has been constantly upgraded during operation. For example, in 1985, Gepard B2 variants were modified to the B2L level, with a laser rangefinder installed and SEM 25 on-board radios replaced by SEM 90 ones.

Зенітна самохідна установка Gepard українських військових та відмітки зі збитими цілями. Травень 2023. Україна. Фото: Генштаб

During the modernization of 147 SPAAGs to the Gepard 1A2 level, the developments from the closed Gepard 2 project were used: a new digital ballistic computer based on a 32-bit Motorola68020 microprocessor. Also, the combat control and reconnaissance system of the ground forces HflaAFüSys and SEM 93 radio were integrated.

Ukrainian realities

The Gepard anti-aircraft self-propelled gun was created to cover military convoys, but Ukrainian realities forced the installation to be used in a different way.

The Ukrainian Air Defense Command uses Gepard to cover strategic facilities. As it turned out, they also successfully perform this role.

German development of the last century in Ukraine even shoots down Russian cruise missiles now. And Shahed-type loitering munitions became a very easy target for this installation.

Thus, the Gepard anti-aircraft gun has become an extremely important element of the air defense of the Ukrainian army.

Зенітна самохідна установка Gepard українських військових та відмітки зі збитими цілями. Травень 2023. Україна. Фото: Генштаб

However, after receiving these installations, Ukraine encountered a problem – scarce 35mm ammunition, which was developed in Switzerland.

The problem of Swiss-made ammunition lies in the strict policy of neutrality of the country. This means that it is impossible to supply new ammunition for Ukrainian Gepard without Swiss permission.

However, the solution to this difficult situation was found – the German concern Rheinmetall itself began producing ammunition for the Ukrainian Gepard.

Rheinmetall will supply Ukraine with FAPDS frangible armour piercing discarding sabot and HEI-T high explosive incendiary rounds.

Although it is worth noting that due to its accuracy, Gepard spends little ammunition on its target.

Therefore, with the support of Rheinmetall, Ukrainian air defense over time should be fully saturated with 35mm ammunition for these “predators” that effectively hunt for Russian targets.

Air Defense Germany Ukraine


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