Spain boosts its NASAMS with 60 km-range MPQ-64 Sentinel radars

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The Council of Ministers in Spain has approved a budget allocation of 45.9 million euros [$49 million] for the modernization plan of the Nasams [Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System] weapon system. This approval will bring about an upgrade to the Sentinel radar system. 

Photo credit: Kongsberg

Yet, the mandate encompasses more than solely hardware updates. According to the Council, the funding will support “the procurement of additional equipment, availing technical assistance, and acquiring tools and additional machinery necessary for integration into the Nasams system. This scope also extends to providing training on its operation and routine maintenance.” 

In the Council’s assessment, this system upgrade is vital in equipping the Nasams weapon system with suitable command and control capabilities to deal with real-time aerial threats.

Photo credit: Twitter

A broader plan

This contract is part of a larger initiative aimed at upgrading the existing four batteries that have been in operation at the Army’s Air Defense Command for twenty years to Version 2+. It also aims to equip the Aerospace Force with a new battery to replace the Spada 2000 system, which was given to Ukraine. 

The overall program’s budget is likely to exceed 400 million euros. According to official sources, the total number of batteries set for purchase is five; with four of these dedicated to “revolutionizing the current military”, and the fifth dedicated to the Army Aerospace’s Air Deployment Support Squadron [EADA]. 

Photo credit: Blitz.bg

However, sources affirm that it’s a “transformation” initiative. These sources reveal that the move triggers “a revamping process for the four batteries to overcome system element obsoleteness and amplify the performance of the currently utilized materials”. They further clarified that the plan does not involve the procurement of new missiles for the batteries.

MPQ-64 Sentinel

The MPQ-64 Sentinel is a three-dimensional radar system developed by the United States. It’s primarily used for air defense and is part of the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense system. The Sentinel is designed to automatically detect, track, identify, and report airborne threats, including helicopters, high-speed attack aircraft, cruise missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles. 

Photo credit: Raytheon

The Sentinel radar system is quite compact, with dimensions that allow for rapid deployment. The antenna unit measures approximately 4.4 meters in height, 2.3 meters in width, and 2.1 meters in depth. The entire system, including the antenna, transceiver, and processor, is mounted on a towed platform that can be attached to a standard military vehicle. 

Technically, the MPQ-64 Sentinel operates in the X-band frequency range, providing high-resolution tracking data. It uses a phased array antenna, which allows for a 360-degree azimuth scan coverage. The system can perform multiple functions simultaneously, including surveillance, target detection, and tracking. 

40-60-80

The operational range of the Sentinel is quite impressive. It can detect rotary-wing aircraft at a range of up to 40 kilometers, fixed-wing aircraft at up to 80 kilometers, and tactical ballistic missiles at up to 60 kilometers. The system’s maximum altitude coverage is 10 kilometers. 

Regarding its tracking capabilities, the MPQ-64 Sentinel can track up to 60 targets simultaneously. This makes it an effective tool for air defense, as it can handle multiple threats at once. The system’s high resolution and fast update rate allow it to accurately track high-speed, low-altitude targets, making it a crucial component of modern air defense systems.

The NASAMS

The NASAMS [Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System] is a highly flexible mid-range solution for any operational air defense requirement. The system utilizes the AIM-120 AMRAAM [Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile] as its core weapon. NASAMS is manufactured by Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace of Norway and Raytheon of the United States. 

The measurements of the NASAMS system can fluctuate based on its specific configuration. Nevertheless, the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile it employs is approximately 3.7 meters in length and 18 centimeters in diameter, weighing around 157 kilograms. 

NASAMS prides itself on its high-resolution, 3D radar system that boasts the ability to detect and monitor multiple targets concurrently. The system also showcases its proficiency in engaging targets at altitudes up to 50,000 feet. The AIM-120 AMRAAM missile it contains can reach top speeds of Mach 4 and is fitted with an active radar boasting a range of up to 180 kilometers.

How it works?

The armament of the NASAMS includes the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile, which is a beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile capable of all-weather, day-and-night operations. The system can also be integrated with other missile systems for increased coverage and capability. 

The operational range of the NASAMS is largely dependent on the missile used. The AIM-120 AMRAAM missile has a range of up to 180 kilometers. However, the system can be integrated with other missile systems to extend this range. 

NASAMS operates by using a network-centric approach. The system’s radars detect potential threats, and the data is processed by the Fire Distribution Center [FDC] to determine the threat level. The FDC then assigns the target to a specific launcher, which fires the missile. The missile uses its onboard radar to guide itself towards the target.

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