Lithuania purchases Swedish RBS-70 Short-range air defense system

The Lithuanian government has officially entered into an agreement with the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration for the joint purchase of an unspecified number of RBS 70 NG mobile short-range air defense systems (MSHORAD). Notably designed for enhanced flexibility and modularity, the RBS 70 NG can be integrated into various vehicle platforms. This adaptability was showcased at DSEI 2023 in London, where the RBS 70 NG was mounted on a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

Based on RBS 70 NG and Giraffe 1X multi-mission 3D radar respectively, MSHORAD’s vehicle-based Mobile Firing Unit (MFU) and Mobile Radar Unit (MRU), combined with a Saab command and control (C2) system, are designed and available from Saab as its MSHORAD air defense system (Picture source: Army Recognition)

Based on RBS 70 NG and Giraffe 1X multi-mission 3D radar respectively, MSHORAD’s vehicle-based Mobile Firing Unit (MFU) and Mobile Radar Unit (MRU), combined with a Saab command and control (C2) system, are designed and available from Saab as its MSHORAD air defense system. MSHORAD’s rapid mobility provides a tactical advantage to be exploited on the battlefield or to avoid enemy fire. It delivers a 360°, 75 km situational awareness and the capability to target the most challenging UAV threats thanks to Giraffe’s Drone Tracker, enhanced functionality for low, slow, and small objects.

The components of the RBS 70 NG mobile short-range air defense system (MSHORAD), designed and manufactured in Sweden, are expected to arrive in Lithuania by 2025, with full production anticipated by 2027. According to the Norwegian Ministry of Defense, this system is designed for rapid detection of aerial targets and effective response to various air threats. This agreement marks a significant defense collaboration between the two countries, aimed at enhancing Lithuania’s air defense capabilities against potential Russian aerial threats. However, the financial details of this agreement have not yet been disclosed as discussions are ongoing.

Norwegian Deputy Defense Minister, Greta Monika Tuckute, emphasized the importance of this purchase for air defense, stating, “The acquisition of the short-range air defense system RBS 70 will significantly increase our air defense.” She also mentioned active collaboration with the Swedish Defense Materiel Administration to finalize project details, including cost, scope, and other technical aspects.

Lithuania has been using the RBS 70 air defense system since 2004, and this new acquisition will focus on the latest variant, the RBS 70 NG, which offers significant technological advancements. Negotiations with Saab, the Swedish manufacturer of the RBS 70 NG, are expected to commence soon.

The RBS 70, developed by Saab Bofors Dynamics, is fundamentally a man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) offering a wide array of capabilities for effective air defense. Its portability enables rapid deployment and repositioning, rendering it highly versatile in different combat situations. This mobility presents a substantial advantage in countering evolving aerial threats.

The RBS 70 NG is known for its “unjammable” laser guidance and precision over a range of more than 9 kilometers, with the capability to engage targets at altitudes up to 5 kilometers thanks to its BOLIDE missile. Its modular and scalable design, compatible with networked and remote-control operations, allows for easy integration onto various ground vehicles, thus enhancing its operational versatility.

In addition to RBS 70 Man-Portable Air Defence System (MANPAD) benefits, RBS 70 New Generation’s sight has been specially designed for even greater flexibility and modularity. The system’s cutting-edge design also means that it can integrate with various vehicles, and has networked and remote-control compatibility.

Operating the RBS 70 NG involves a crew of typically two operators: one for targeting and launching the Bolide missile, and the other for surveillance and target acquisition. The straightforward targeting and firing process, combined with a short reaction time, allows for rapid engagement of threats.

The RBS 70 NG air defense is designed to engage a wide range of aerial threats, including helicopters, drones, and fixed-wing aircraft, thanks to its all-target capability. This versatility is crucial in modern warfare, where the nature of aerial threats can vary significantly. Furthermore, the system boasts a short reaction time, allowing for rapid engagement once a target is identified. This capability is essential for defending against sudden aerial attacks and protecting high-value assets and ground forces.

Since its deployment in Ukraine, the man-portable RBS 70 air defense system, supplied by Sweden in November 2022, has proven effective and versatile on the battlefield. According to Ukrainian military sources, the RBS 70 has played a crucial role in strengthening the country’s air defense capabilities. This system has been credited with destroying a Russian Ka-52 helicopter, as well as neutralizing cruise and patrol missiles, highlighting its precision and ability to engage various types of targets. These successful engagements underline the strategic value of the RBS 70 in the current conflict. Its ease of operation, combined with its effective range and ability to engage diverse threats, makes it an essential element in Ukraine’s defense arsenal. The system’s performance in combat situations has not only proven its capabilities but also reinforced Sweden’s role in supporting Ukraine during this conflict.

The deployment of weapons like the RBS 70 NG MSHORAD from Sweden in Lithuania is of major strategic importance in the context of rising tensions between NATO and Russia, particularly around the Suwalki Corridor, located between Lithuania and Poland. This passageway is considered a critical security point for the Baltic states, representing a potential route for Russian troop invasion, which would isolate these countries from NATO. In light of this vulnerability, strengthening the air defense capabilities of the Baltic states with systems such as the RBS 70 NG is crucial to increase their resilience against aerial threats and to strengthen NATO’s weak link on its eastern flank. Thus, the presence of advanced air defense systems plays a key role in deterring military aggression, ensuring a strong defensive cover for the Suwalki Corridor, a vital Achilles’ heel in the regional security landscape.

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