NASAMS, or the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, is the world’s first Network-Centric short-to-medium-range ground-based air defense system. It features numerous simultaneous engagements and Beyond Visual Range capabilities that are tightly integrated and tailored to a nation’s integrated air and missile defense.
NASAMS’ network widens the protected area and improves the Armed Forces‘ overall combat capacity. It has been evolving continuously since its inception in Norway. NASAMS is a highly transportable system developed with operational flexibility in mind to guard air bases, seaports, populated areas, other high-value assets, and army forces.
Built on a modular, distributed open hardware and software architecture, NASAMS is designed to accept new technologies, capabilities, and features. NASAMS’ flexible mission configuration has demonstrated compatibility with higher echelon units, as well as longer-range systems like Patriot. This is because its modular architecture allows for a mission-oriented task force structure, enabling operators to optimize the effect of the components and adjust the system to the job at hand.
The Sentinel radar and Kongsberg’s fire distribution center comprise the system. However, the most current capabilities showcasing NASAMS’ pattern of progression are the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile Extended Range variant (AMRAAM ER) and the AIM-9X2.
The AMRAAM ER greatly increases NASAMS’ engagement volume, while the AIM-9X2 is suited for shorter ranges. Adding numerous missiles demonstrates the architecture’s flexibility and capacity of NASAMS to offer new capabilities to counter current and future threats.
More specifically, a standard NASAMS system has a modular architecture that includes a command post called the FDC, an active 3D radar called the Raytheon MPQ-64F1 Sentinel, a passive Electro-Optical and Infrared sensor, and a number of missile canister launchers loaded with AMRAAM missiles. NASAMS uses the Raytheon AMRAAM as the baseline missile, which is similar to the AMRAAMs deployed on fighter aircraft. This dual-use approach provides operational benefits and lowers logistical costs.
Normally, a number of NASAMS firing units are networked together in a specially developed, complete, hard real-time communication network for the Kongsberg communication system. This is to provide low latency over long distances for optimal system performance while leveraging the unique characteristics of the AMRAAM missile.
On the other hand, the radar and launcher elements can be deployed across a vast region, separated by more than 12.4 miles from the FDC, giving extensive coverage with minimal pieces. The FDC itself is a real multi-domain command and control component that can support a broad range of activities, including G-BAD (Ground-Based Air Defense) Army counterfire operations, coastal defense, air surveillance, airspace management, and others, depending on the required configuration.
NASAMS has three different variants. The first generation of NASAMS is equipped with AMRAAM missiles, which are launched from a TOAD launcher that contains six missile canisters. These AMRAAM missiles have a horizontal range of up to 15.5 miles. There is also a NASAMS 2 battery that has up to four firing units, each with three missile launchers holding six AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles; one MPQ-64F1 improved Sentinel radar, one fire distribution center vehicle, and one Electro-Optical camera vehicle (the MSP-500).
NASAMS 3 has an improved fire distribution center station, an ADX console with ergonomic control surfaces, and three 30-inch flat-panel displays. As mentioned earlier, the modified Mark II canister launcher of the new NASAMS can fire AIM-9X Sidewinder Block 2 short-range missiles and AMRAAM ER missiles from its launching rails, in addition to AIM-120 AMRAAM.
AMRAAM ER is an extended-range upgrade based on an evolved Sea Sparrow missile rocket engine mated with a two-stage AMRAAM guidance head, which expands its engagement radius by 50 percent in maximum range and 70 percent in maximum altitude. This results in increased NASAMS’ effective firing range. The longer-range missile will be more capable of taking down fast-moving and difficult-to-maneuver targets.
In brief, NASAMS 2’s engagement radius for each 12 missile launchers per battery is 18.6 miles, while NASAMS 3 is 31 miles. For radar detection and engagement range, NASAMS 3 reaches 74.5 miles. In terms of flight altitude, NASAMS 2 and NASAMS 3 can reach the altitude of 13 miles and 22 miles, respectively.
NASAMS has been proving great dependability and is available in military missions around the globe. Twelve countries own it, and it has been incorporated into the air defense system of the U.S. National Capital Region, defending Washington D.C. around the clock since 2005.
In addition, Norway, Finland, Spain, the Netherlands, Oman, Lithuania, Indonesia, Australia, Qatar, Hungary, and one unnamed country have chosen NASAMS for both their homeland defense and critical asset defense. This is because NASAMS is suitably intended for use in Arctic, subtropical, and desert environments, capable of protecting several locations and high-value assets isolated by long distances.
NASAMS’ features, such as unprecedented firepower, minimal personnel needs, redundancy, and adaptability, are allowed by the system’s comparatively tiny and nimble components. Therefore, the flexibility of NASAMS to guard both static and mobile assets opens the door to a variety of roles and missions. As the NASAMS user community expands, continual improvement will provide the most technologically advanced and combat-ready system in the world.
Even in October 2021, Raytheon Missiles and Defense introduced Ghost Eye MR, a new highly adaptable medium-range air and missile defense radar for NASAMS. Ghost Eye MR is a 360-degree surveillance and fire control sensor used to detect, track, and identify a wide range of threats. This radar will give enhanced range and altitude coverage, allowing NASAMS to expand its defended area capabilities. The Ghost Eye MR’s expanded range also improves the capabilities of NASAMS’ Raytheon Missiles and Defense effectors, such as the AMRAAM ER.
Overall, NASAMS is built to adapt to technology and can interface with or use future technologies as they become available. Future active or passive radars and sensors, advanced capabilities, and a broad range of effectors, such as CRAM (Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar), C-UAS (Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems), and the Raytheon family of missiles, including the AIM-9X Sidewinder Block 2 and AIM-120 AMRAAM, can all be examples of this.
The open architecture of the FDC enables development. NASAMS offers air defense with a tailorable cutting-edge defensive system that may enhance its capability to identify, engage, and destroy present and evolving enemy aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and upcoming cruise missile threats.”