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Types and Ranges of Air Defense System Around the World

In addition to advancing in electronic warfare and technological advancement in defense strategies, military forces around the globe are equally…

By Ronald Snow , in Defense , at November 15, 2019 5:40 AM EST Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

In addition to advancing in electronic warfare and technological advancement in defense strategies, military forces around the globe are equally focusing on conventional and impactful defense strategy – Air defense system or missile defense system. These days, it is impossible for a country to go on war against its enemy country without having missiles in its defense plan.

Missile defense is an approach or weapon used in the detection, tracking and interception, and damage of striking missiles. The system was initially, implemented as a defense against nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Today its application has widened to include mid and short-ranged non-nuclear tactical and theater (range less than 3,500kms) missiles.

During a decade from 1950, missile defense meant counter to strategic missiles. The system was focused around detecting obstructive launches and tracking inbound ballistic missiles; however, with limited force to defend against the missile attack. Today, along with Russia and the U.S., countries like China, India, Israel, France, and Taiwan are also following such air defense systems.

Ranges of Air Defense Systems

There are three ranges in which, the air or missile defense system can be categorized – 1) Long Range Air-Defense (LRAD) System, 2) Medium Range Air Defense (MRAD) system and 3) Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) system.

  • Long-Range Air Defense (LRAD):
    Long Range
    Long Range

    Long-range or strategic missiles travel 7km/sec (15,700 mph). The geographic range of such missiles is regional as well as national. A-135 of Russia and Ground-based Midcourse Defense system of the U.S. are two noted and most destructive long-range air defense systems in use.

Midium Range
Midium Range
  • Medium Range Air Defense (MRAD): Such missiles travel 3km/sec (6,700 mph) and target mid-range missiles. MRAD is also called theatre system since it covers a radius of some hundred kilometers. THAAD, S-400, and Arrow missile are well-known MRADs in use by the U.S., Russia, and Israel respectively.




  • Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD):
    Short Range
    Short Range

    This system attacks tactical ballistic missiles and usually travels less than 1.5 km/sec (3,400 mph). Tactical anti-ballistic weapons have short ranges of 20-80 km. Russia and the United States use S-300v and MIM- 104 Patriot SHORAD systems, respectively.

Types of Missiles

Surface to Air Missiles
Surface to Air Missiles

1) Surface-to-air Missile (SAM): A surface to air missile can be both land and shipborne. SAM is a missile engineered to launch from the surface to destroy an aircraft or attacking missiles. Beginning of World War II saw a severe development of SAMs. Every major adversary, including Europe, the U.K, and the U.S. have the most advanced surface to air missiles. Raytheon Standard Missile 2, Raytheon Standard Missile 6 of the U.S. and MBDA Aster Missile at British Royal Navy ships are some of the SAMs in use today. Anti-ballistic missiles (ABM) also come under surface to air missiles.

2) Air-to-Air Missiles (AAM):

Air to Air Missile
Air to Air Missile

Air to air anti-aircraft missiles (AAM) are utilized in air missions. Such missiles are launched from an aircraft to defend against other attacking missiles or aircraft. AAMs are triggered by multiple rocket motors, typically solid fuelled or liquid propellant. Manufacturers are developing Ramjet motors for future missile launches. These missiles are further bifurcated into two groups – a) short-range or “within visual range” missiles, and they travel less than 30km and b) medium or long-range missiles or beyond visual range depend upon radar guidance. Brazil’s MAA-1A Piranha Shor Range, France’s AA.20A and AA.25, IRIS-T of Germany, AAM-1 Type 69 of Japan, and PL-1 are a few most used missiles by respective countries among others.

Air to Surface Missile
Air to Surface Missile

3) Air to Surface Missile (ASM): As the name suggests, these missiles are designed to hit grounds through military aircraft. ASMs are also called unpowered guided glide bombs. For air to surface strikes, militaries use short-range missiles. These missiles are further sub-categorized into four groups – air-launch anti-tank guided missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, air-launched anti-ship missiles, and anti-radiation missiles. Countries like Argentina (MP-1000 Martin Pescador), China (C-101, C-601, 602), Greece (HSC-1 Makedon), India (BrahMos), Israel (Popeye), Russia (R-82, S-5) and the United States (AGM-12 Bullpup, AGM-22) are a few among having a wide fleet of ASMs.

4) Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM):

Anti Tank Guided Missile
Anti Tank Guided Missile

Anti-tank guided missiles are also called Anti-tank guided weapons (ATGW) due to its destructive capabilities. ATGMs are used to destroy enemy tanks or any heavily armed enemy military vehicle, Modern STGMs designed by manufacturers can be carried by a single soldier on his shoulder. These missiles have the ability to destroy light and medium weight vehicles through vast distances.

Recent Air defense system developments

• 27 September 2019 – Following North Korea’s arsenal expansion, Japan’s air defense system suffers from unforeseen costs.

• 23 September 2019 – Iraq learns the pressing need to develop an air defense system to stop the violation of its airspace and attacks on its Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). It may take the form an alliance from Russia and buy Russian S-300 and S-400 Missiles.

• 13 August 2019 – Bahrain signs a deal to purchase the Patriot air defense system manufactured by Raytheon from the U.S. Army. The agreement is worth $2.478 billion; includes 60 Patriot Advanced Capability-3, 36 Patriot MIM- 104E Guidance Enhanced Missiles and nine M903.

• 3 July 2019 – Russia confirms to deliver S-400 air defense systems to India by late next year.

Leading Air Defense System Manufacturers

• Saab AB (Sweden)

• Isreal Aerospace Industries LTD (Israel)

• Lockheed Martin Corp. (U.S)

• BAE Systems PLc (U.K)

Air Defense System Future

Our market experts say although the United States is leading the military spending across the world, the Asia Pacific region will be on top in terms of investment in air/missile defense system by 2024. The market is projected to grow from $34.19 billion to $46 billion in 2024 at a CAGR of 5.76%. Based on utilization, the land segment is forecasted to lead the air defense system market. The ongoing technological advancements in short-range, medium-range and long-range guided missiles are fuelling the growth of the land segment of the market.


1. What is advanced air defense missile system?

Advanced Air Defence (AAD) is an anti-ballistic missile engineered to destroy incoming ballistic missiles in the endo-atmosphere at an altitude of 30 km (19 mi).

2. How do air defense systems work?

Ground-based missile defense uses a superior system of radar, satellites, and interceptors to damage incoming missiles. The process starts with infrared sensors on satellites, which track known launch locations for the tell-tale heat generated by launching rockets. Once a launch is executed, tracking is shifted to radar systems, which then verify the missile’s trajectory.

3. What countries have the most lethal missiles?

• M51 – SLBM (France)
• DF-31/31A – ICBM (China)
• RT-2UTTKh Topol-M – ICBM (Russia)
• RS-24 Yars – ICBM (Russia)
• LGM-30G Minuteman III – ICBM (USA)
• RSM-56 Bulava – SLBM (Russia)
• R29RMU2 Layner – SLBM (Russia)
• UGM-133 Trident II – SLBM (USA/UK)