Data for an M113A2 chassis with an ADATS
Country of origin
Dimensions and weight
Height (in combat order)
HEAT / FRAG
Semi-active laser guidance
Range of fire
Altitude of fire
Number of missiles
Detroit Diesel 6V53 diesel
Maximum road speed
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.
development of the ADATS was serendipitous, as in the early 1980s,
the US Army had established a requirement for two new Short-Range
Air Defense (SHORAD) 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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Abrams chassis, twin 35 mm cannons, and ADATS missiles. Did not
LAV III MMEV:
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
The ADATS has been demonstrated on several additional
chassis', including the
Bradley CFV, LAV-300, the MOWAG Shark, and the FLVS (the chassis
used for the
MLRS). None of these ADATS vehicles entered service.
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