Air Defense: Chinese C-RAM Gets No Takers


July 6, 2011: A Chinese firm has been unsuccessful in obtaining export sales for its land based version of its LD-2000 multi-barrel CIWS (Close In Weapons System). Normally used by ships for knocking down anti-ship missiles, the land based version is for defending against mortar shells and rockets. The LD-2000 includes the AK-730 has seven 30mm barrel autocannon, along with its radar and fire control system. In addition, there is a container carrying six TY-90s (a modified version of a shoulder fired anti-aircraft missile). The TY-90 was designed specifically to be carried by helicopters, for use against enemy helicopters. Each missile weighs 20 kg (44 pounds) and has a range of 6,000 meters. It has a relatively large, three kg (6.6 pound) warhead designed to bring down helicopter gunships.

The 30mm shells have an effective range of 4-6 kilometers. The LD-2000 is similar to the older American 20mm Phalanx, which has a max range of 2-3 kilometers. LD-2000, like, Phalanx, and all other CIWS, have their own radar and fire control system and, once turned on, will automatically fire at any incoming missiles.

The LD-2000 is competing with a similar American system called C-RAM (Counter-Rockets And Missiles) anti-rocket system. This land-based Phalanx was first created to defend American bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several foreign nations have since bought C-RAM, and users are satisfied with its performance. C-RAM works 24/7, and needs a lot of maintenance.

C-RAM is basically the American Phalanx naval gun system with new software that enables it to take data from its own, or other radar systems, and shoot down just about any kind of artillery shell or rocket within range. It uses high explosive 20mm shells, that detonate near the target, spraying it with fragments. By the time these fragments reach the ground, they are generally too small to injure anyone.

The original Phalanx used 20mm depleted uranium shells, to slice through incoming missiles. Phalanx fires shells at the rate of 75 per second. Another advantage of C-RAM, is that it makes a distinctive noise when firing, warning people nearby that a mortar or rocket attack is underway, giving people an opportunity to duck inside if they are out and about.

The first C-RAM was sent to Iraq in late 2006, to protect the Green Zone (the large area in Baghdad turned into an American base). It was found that C-RAM could knock down 70-80 percent of the rockets and mortar shells fired within range of its cannon. C-RAM systems in Iraq intercepted several hundred rockets or mortar shells aimed at the Green Zone and other bases. Not bad, since C-RAM only took about a year to develop. A C-RAM system, which can cover an area about four kilometers wide, costs $15 million. There is also a mobile version, mounted on a flatbed trailer, and hauled by a tractor.

The Chinese LD-2000 is also mobile, but so far, only the Chinese army has bought a few systems. This may be on account of the system also being able to handle non-stealthy cruise missiles. But since neither the naval or land based versions of the AK-730 have any combat experience, the C-RAM has the land market all to itself. However, a German firm has a built a 35mm version, which might get some sales from the German army for use in Afghanistan. Then again, maybe not.




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