Air Defense: Hawks Replaced By Sky Bow

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October 4, 2014: Taiwan recently announced the retirement (real soon) of its 19 Hawk anti-aircraft missile batteries and over 900 Hawk missiles. This is apparently a message to China to brace for more formidable air defense systems. Hawk is being replaced by the locally developed Sky Bow II system. For many countries, modern versions of Hawk get the job done for local threats and is an affordable (less than $300,000 per missile) solution for air-defense needs. But as the Chinese improve their ECM (Electronic Countermeasures), especially the ECM carried by their most modern fighters and bombers, Hawk has become less of an obstacle.  Sky Bow II, using a lot of licensed American technology has much better electronics and the missile weighs 1.2 tons and has a range of over 150 kilometers. There is also an anti-ballistic missile version (Sky Bow III) that is supposed to enter service in 2015. While there is a mobile version of Sky Bow II, many of the missiles are launched from underground silos, which are much better protected from attack. The mobile version uses a box like launcher containing four missiles in sealed containers. There is a radar and control system (in a truck or underground) for every four to eight launchers. Sky Bow I and II were introduced in the 1990s and Sky Bow I is being replaced by Sky Bow II.

Each Hawk battery has six towed launchers each carrying three of the 590 kg (1,290 pound) Hawk missiles plus a radar, control center and maintenance vehicles. In the last 60 year over 40,000 Hawk missiles were produced and bought by the nearly 30 countries that used (or still use) Hawk. While Hawk has been upgraded since it entered service in 1959, some countries have gone beyond that. Back in 2011, South Korea introduced a locally designed and produced Iron Hawk II anti-aircraft missile system. This replaced three existing U.S. Hawk missile battalions. Iron Hawk II is mobile, with the radar and launchers carried on trucks. Each launcher truck has six missiles in sealed storage/firing containers. The original Hawk did not use the container system. Hawk missiles have a max range of 40 kilometers and a max altitude of 15,000 meters (46,500 feet). The search radar (with a max range of 100 kilometers) guides missiles part of the way before the missiles' own guidance system takes over for the final approach. South Korea had help from Russia in developing the AESA search radar and the Iron Hawk missiles. Because the main military threat, North Korea, is right next to South Korea, Hawk range is not a big issue.

 

 


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