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ADATS Short-range dual purpose missile system

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ADATS  Short-range dual purpose missile system


Date: 2015-11-12
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The ADATS was the first guided missile system expressly designed to engage both aircraft and armored vehicles. The name itself is an allusion to this mission, being short for "Air Defense Anti Tank System". It was developed in the mid-1970s by Oerlikon-Bührle (later Oerlikon Aerospace, then Oerlikon-Contraves, and now part of Rheinmetall Air Defence AG), with Martin Marietta (now part of Lockheed Martin) becoming a partner in the project in 1979. The first test launch of an ADATS missile was conducted in 1981.

The development of the ADATS was serendipitous, as in the early 1980s, the US Army had established a requirement for two new SHORAD (SHOrt-Range Air Defense) weapons. Dubbed "FAAD" (Forward Area Air Defense), this program was intended to produce replacements for the M167 Vulcan and MIM-72 Chaparral, which in fact had both only been meant as interim systems in the first place. The ADATS had fierce competition, being pitted against the Liberty (a Crotale variant), the Paladin (a Roland variant), and the Rapier, but the ADATS was nonetheless declared the winner in November of 1987.

However, development of the ADATS was long and troubled, with numerous problems and substantial program costs that were not only significant. Two consecutive GAO reports (AD-A267 344 on December 10th 1990, and NSIAD-91-222 in May of 1991) highlighted a litany of problems that not only jeopardized the program on their own, but were also rapidly escalating. These findings included an MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) of only 9 hours, compared to the Congressionally-mandated qualifier for operational service of 60 hours; a 39% readiness rate, compared to the minimum qualifier of 71%; an average of 1.5 maintenance hours to correct failures, compared to the requirement of no more than 0.62 hours; a maintenance level that exceeded the qualifier by 500%; numerous operational failures of the radar, rangefinder, and optics; mission-critical tests that had been pushed-back by years, or even cancelled entirely; and numerous examples of data manipulation by the US Army.

These and other problems formed a powder keg that threatened to destroy the entire FAAD program, and the end of the Cold War was effectively the spark that lit that powder. In January of 1992, the ADATS program was formally cancelled, ending 5 years and $5 billion of US government involvement in the project.

The ADATS program also suffered additional serious setbacks throughout the 1980s and 1990s as it was rejected by several other nations, in favor of more conventional, single-purpose SAM systems. After having sunk more than 1 Billion Swiss Franks into the ADATS program, Oerlikon sold less than 50 launchers to just two nations (see below). The ADATS program was thus as much a failure commercially, as it was operationally.

The ADATS` launcher could be mounted to a wide variety of chassis` (see below), but the only one it was operationally installed on was the M113A2 Gavin. The M113`s mobility is affected by the size and weight of the launcher, but otherwise the qualities of the chassis remain the same. It carries a crew of 3; a track commander, a driver, and a system operator who controls the launcher.

Protection is 5083 aluminum armor backed by spall liners. This armor is thick enough to defeat small arms fire, shell splinters, blast overpressure, and even 12.7-mm (.50 caliber) machine gun fire over the frontal arc and sides, but is insufficient to defeat automatic cannon fire and most shaped charges. The launcher has less protection, and is vulnerable to 12.7-mm (.50 caliber) ammunition. A collective NBC system allows the ADATS to operate in a contaminated battlefield, but its unwieldiness increases the crew`s fatigue.

The turret for the ADATS is aimed via an electro-optical sight with a FLIR capability. A rotating X-band search radar is mounted at the back end on the roof, and has a detection range against a fighter-sized aircraft of 25 km. A laser rangefinder and laser designator are standard equipment, and are used to range targets and guide the missiles, respectively, and an IFF system is also standard. The launcher traverses 360 degrees, with a full 360 degree slew in about 6 seconds. The elevation and depression are unknown, but are presumably from -10 to +90 degrees. The launcher lacks a secondary weapon, such as a coaxial machine gun.

The missile`s propulsion is a Hercules low-smoke solid-fueled rocket, giving it a top speed of Mach 3 and a maximum effective range of 10 km. Range against high-speed targets is reduced to 8 km. It is rated for a ceiling of 7 000 m. The warhead of the ADATS is a shaped charge, claimed by the manufacturers to be able to penetrate 900 mm of RHA steel. It is usually detonated short of actual impact by a laser proximity fuse (which would increase its effectiveness against hard and soft targets alike), though an impact fuse is installed as a backup. To increase its effectiveness against aircraft, a fragmentation capability was designed into the casing. To simplify logistics and minimize maintenance, the container that the ADATS missile is shipped in also doubles as its launch tube; the missiles are reloaded onto the launcher by a reloading vehicle, which simply replaces the tubes.

The ADATS is highly unusual among SAM systems in using semi-active laser guidance, instead of the more typical radio command, infrared, or radar guidance systems. The system`s advantages are that its guidance is extremely precise, it won`t trigger a radar warning receiver on board an enemy aircraft, and traditional countermeasures such as chaff, flares, and self-protection jammers have no effect against this guidance method. The ADATS has more than 80% hit probability of a target with a single missile at a maximum range.

However, as laser guidance is rapidly becoming dated, it also has numerous disadvantages. For example, the advent of laser detectors means the ADATS` famed element of surprise no longer exists, and the rapid evolution, proliferation, and application of laser dazzler technology means the ADATS` guidance (along with all of the optics and most of the sensors on the launch vehicle) are now easily defeated. As such, lasing the target could result in an immediate dazzler counterattack, destroying the optics and laser designator of the vehicle along with the seeker heads of any missiles in flight. Another issue is that keeping a fast-moving (and possibly evasive) airborne target illuminated with a laser spot is exceedingly difficult, even with 21st century technology.

Another issue was that the warhead was a compromise between a shaped charge warhead and a fragmentation warhead. Given that the ADATS had such high armor penetration performance, its doubtful that it would have produced a fragmentation effect approaching the full effectiveness of a pure HE-FRAG warhead of the same size and mass. Similar problems were experienced in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, when US tank crews employing the M830A1 MPAT round (a projectile with a dual-purpose, HEAT/FRAG warhead) against enemy troops were astonished to witness a failure to inflict any noticeable casualties from the fragmentation (as detailed in "The M1A1 Tank and Fragmentary Ammunition" by USMC Gunnery Sergeant William J. Orr, in the March-April 2004 issue of Armor Magazine). Though the MPAT and ADATS were given a fragmentation capability for use against aircraft and helicopters, the inability of the MPAT to defeat even exposed personnel brings the effectiveness of the dual-purpose warhead’s fragmentation into question.

Besides problems with the guidance system and the warhead, the use of a single platform as both a SAM and ATGM launcher is contradictory, as these weapons are only effective when sited in different locations relative to the front lines, and in different terrain. Moreover, against an enemy that launches a combined arms offensive (with both armored vehicles and aircraft attacking the same locations simultaneously), the workload of the ADATS is dangerously high; while SAM and ATGM batteries can concentrate on their respective targets, a dual-purpose missile system would be torn between engaging targets in the air and on the ground. Additionally, the employment of SAMs against aircraft and ATGMs against tanks are both very different and extremely complex tasks, that require extensive training and specialization on the part of the operator in order to be effective; in combining both missions into one missile, making ADATS crews proficient enough in both missions to be effective in combat is almost impossible.

The only combat deployment of the ADATS was by the Canadian Army during the Persian Gulf War, though it never had the opportunity to engage Iraqi forces. The Thai Army`s ADATS launchers have never been actively deployed, except for training missions and exercises. Later proposals in the Canadian government to deploy the ADATS to Afghanistan were deferred in favor of other resources. As such, the ADATS has never seen combat.

The ADATS system is unusually expensive, even for an air defense vehicle. The unit cost of the vehicle is $16.6 Million. The unit cost of the missile itself is unavailable, but likely in excess of $150 000, if comparable missiles like the AGM-114 Hellfire and FGM-148 Javelin are any indication. By contrast, an M730A2 Chaparral costs $1.5 Million, and its MIM-72G missiles cost $80 000. Because of these costs (to say nothing of maintenance expenses), the Canadian Forces ended up relegating the ADATS entirely to the air defense role (see the above dilemma of operating dual-purpose missiles). In fact, if all the money spent on the development of the ADATS was divided by the number of launchers manufactured, the unit cost would exceed $100 Million per-vehicle.

Owing to rising costs and seemingly little value, utility, or demand on the battlefield, the Canadian Forces announced in 2006 that they would retire the ADATS system, and by the end of 2007, no Canadian ADATS` were still operational. The Thai Army followed suit, albeit at an uncertain date, and retired their own ADATS launchers as well. To date, neither Canada nor Thailand have announced an intended successor for the ADATS.

The aforementioned past operators of the ADATS --- Canada (36 launch vehicles) and Thailand (about 12 static launchers) --- were the only nations that used this system. It was also evaluated by Greece, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, the UK, and the US (as previously mentioned), but none of these nations acquired the ADATS.

The ADATS is no longer in production or service, and is no longer offered for sale.


M113A2 chassis: Primary demonstration platform for the ADATS, based on an M113A2 Gavin chassis. Used only by Canada; no longer in service.

MIM-146A: Variant developed by Lockheed Martin for the US Army. Did not enter service.

DMTM-146A: Inert version of the MIM-146A, used for training and display purposes. Did not enter service.

Panther: Leopard 1 chassis outfitted with a high-elevation launcher for various missile systems, one of which was to be the ADATS. Did not enter service.

M1 AGDS: Proposed air defense vehicle with an M1 Abrams chassis, twin 35 mm cannons, and ADATS missiles. Did not enter development.

LAV III MMEV: LAV III based ADATS air defense vehicle. Did not enter service.

Stationary launcher: Relocatable ground-based launcher, usually operated by remote control. Used only by Thailand; no longer in service.

The ADATS has been demonstrated on several additional chassis`, including the LAV I, M3 Bradley CFV, LAV-300, the MOWAG Shark, and the FLVS (the chassis used for the M270 MLRS). None of these ADATS vehicles entered service.

Data for an M113A2 chassis with an ADATS launcher

Entered service 1989
Crew 3 men
Dimensions and weight
Weight 15.8 t
Length 4.86 m
Width 2.69 m
Height (in combat order) 3.8 m


Missile length 2.05 m
Missile diameter 0.15 m
Missile weight 51 kg
Warhead weight 12.5 kg
Warhead type HEAT / FRAG
Guidance Semi-active laser guidance
Range of fire 10 km
Altitude of fire 7 km
Number of missiles 8


Engine Detroit Diesel 6V53 diesel
Engine power 212 hp
Maximum road speed 58 km/h
Range 400 km


Gradient 60%
Side slope 30%
Vertical step 0.6 m
Trench 1.7 m
Fording Amphibious

ADATS  Short-range dual purpose missile system ADATS  Short-range dual purpose missile system ADATS  Short-range dual purpose missile system ADATS  Short-range dual purpose missile system ADATS  Short-range dual purpose missile system

Date: 2015-11-12
The Source:

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