The German Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer Gepard SPAAG

The German Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer Gepard SPAAG is one of the most famous Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns in the World. Development started in the former Federal Republic of Germany (aka West Germany) for the Bundeswehr (West German Army) to replace their US M42 Duster SPAAG’s in 1966.

The German Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer Gepard SPAAG Development

The hull

The new SPAAG was to comprise a turret housing the tracking/fire control systems and main armaments on a hull. The Leopard (as it was known then, but is now designated as the Leopard 1) Medium Battle Tank production was in full swing at this stage, so its hull and automotive components were selected for this new SPAAG system.

The turret

In 1966 the Bundeswehr was not fully committed to either of the available Anti-Aircraft guns which could be mounted on this new vehicle, either a pair of 3cm/1.18inch or a pair of 3.5cm/1.38inch, so as part of the development a total of 4 prototypes were built, 2 with the 3cm guns and another 2 with the 3.5cm guns. Eventually the 3.5cm guns were selected and the vehicle entered German service in 1976.

The German Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer Gepard SPAAG System

The turret is manned by the Commander (left) and the Gunner (right). They have hatches in the roof. Both have fully stabilised panoramic telescopic sights, which are mounted on the roof of the turret. They have laser range finders and are linked to the radars.

The system uses two radars. The search radar, which has a range of 15km’s and can identify friend from foe, which is mounted at the rear of the turret on the roof. When it detects a foe it passes this information to the tracking radar which is mounted on the front of the turret between the two main guns. This information is passed to the Fire Control System which can calculate the fire solution for the guns to engage the foe.

The telescopic sights allow the crew to engage airborne targets and land based targets.

The two main guns are a pair of Swiss Oerlikon 35mm KDA’s. Each gun has a fire-rate-of 550 rounds per/min. a total of 660 rounds per gun are carried. This includes 40 rounds of armour piercing.

The system operates at an optimum range of 3000 to 4000m’s, making it ideal for engaging low altitude anti-tank helicopters, so the vehicle is deployed amongst armoured formations, and the Leopard 1 hull and its automotive components allow the Gepard to keep pace with them.

The German Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer Gepard SPAAG Operators

Belgium – 55 vehicles ordered, delivered from 1977 to 1980.

Netherlands – the Dutch Army ordered 95 Gepard which were delivered around the same times as those to Belgium.

West German Army – 420 vehicles.

1996 Upgrades

The Gepard received upgrades to its fire control system and ammunition, with the German and Dutch vehicles receiving data link capabilities. German upgrade vehicles (totalling 147) were designated the Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer Gepard 1A2 and the Dutch upgraded (totalling 60) the PRTL (PantserRupsTegenLuchtdoelen or “Armoured Tracked Anti-Aircraft”).

Stinger Upgrade

Krauss-Maffei Wegmann have developed an upgrade which allows the US Stinger SAM system to be mounted on the turret. Other than the demonstration vehicle, the system was not adopted with the German Army due to budgeting issues.

The German Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer Gepard SPAAG Further Operators

Chile – In 2008 the nation took delivery of 5 of the 30 ordered A1 version from German surplus stock. In 2011 these systems were returned to Germany following the decision it would cost to much money to upgrade the vehicles with SAM.

Romania – 43 delivered, all ex-Bundeswehr stocks in 1999.