ADATS Revisited

I discussed the ADATS system before. At the time, I equivocated on it, mostly for want of more information. But now, thanks to discovering some more data, I have that information. Time to give this program the up or down resurrection vote it deserves. But first, some more on the system.

To recap, ADATS is a SAM/ATGM with a speed of Mach 3, laser beam riding guidance and a big shaped charge/fragmentation warhead. Range is about 10 km. The turret for it holds eight missiles, has a 3D air search radar with a 25 km range as well as day and thermal imagers for target engagement. The Canadians mounted ADATS on the ubiquitous M113; the Americans planned to mount it on an M3A1 Bradley hull.

The US Army planned for ADATS to fit in between modernized HAWK missiles and Avenger Stinger systems. So in terms of tiers, from most coverage to least coverage, you’d have Patriot, Hawk, ADATS, Stinger/Avenger. ADATS batteries would have eight vehicles a piece. They would also be capable of sharing information with other ADATS vehicles or receiving targeting information from other air defense assets via a datalink.

The ADATS itself, although promoted by Canada, wasn’t chosen in a vacuum. In 1987, the US Army evaluated four different western short-range air defense systems: ADATS; a Crotale derivative called Liberty; Roland 3 mounted on an MLRS chassis, known under the name ‘Paladin’; and (Tracked) Rapier. This was a shoot-off: competitors had to acquire targets and fire multiple missiles in cluttered/degraded environments. ADATS won the evaluation. The US Army liked its performance and the laser beam riding guidance, which was very resistant to jamming. The extensive provision for passive operation of the ADATS was also seen as a positive, as this made it much harder to engage as part of a SEAD mission.

There was also an ADATS variant trialed that added a 25 mm M242 autocannon to the turret. It had a ready supply of 600 rounds. Missile capacity on the gun-equipped ADATS was unchanged.

Previously, I mentioned that early tests showed some question as to the reliability of the system. This was resolved during the development cycle. In 1,014 hours at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, two Martin Marietta ADATS fire units averaged more than 92 hours between mission-related hardware failures, exceeding by 70 percent the 54-hour test requirements.

Okay, now let’s get to our verdict. I really like this system. I like the jam resistance. I like the missile speed. I also kinda like the dual-purpose warhead, which would be more broadly useful, even in a low-intensity conflict. There’d be some question of not running out of them before planes, but that’s the sort of thing one can mitigate with good doctrine.

Verdict: Funding Approved by Borgundy Army Ordnance Board

4 thoughts on “ADATS Revisited

  1. Chris Bradshaw

    ADATS always seemed too good to be true. A high performance SHORAD SAM, a decent ATGM, and good reliability, all on a Bradley/M113 chassis? If there weren’t meaningful tradeoffs between having excellent anti-air and solid anti-tank capability, you’d think everyone would be on top of this, and the Russians, and now the ChiComs would have fielded tens of thousands of ’em.

    1. parvusimperator Post author

      Well, decent ATGM for the era, but the lack of tandem warheads would get problematic. Anyway, cost is a classic problem for such a system.

      Other than the antitank capability, it’s not too far off from Tor.

      Besides, the Russians and the Chinese I always expected to optimize for antiair given the lack of a proper western horde of tanks.

  2. Chris Bradshaw

    Well, the Rooskies and ChiComs also have to optimize for potentially fighting each other. Plus, having a two-in-one system seems like a clear winner in the export market for all of their client states.

    I wonder if it would be possible to refit the ADATS missile with a tandem-charge warhead for today’s hard targets.Seems like it might be worth looking into.


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