Oman is located on the eastern Arabian peninsula, controlling the Strait of Hormuz’s western bank, and providing an overwatch position for both the entrance to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean near Africa. The frequent effects of postings to one notoriously hot and bleak island off of its coast were the origin for the British expression “driven around the bend.”
Oman has traditionally had strong defense and foreign policy relationships with Britain, and its military equipment reflects this. In recent years, Oman has been considering its options, as it moves to modernize its fighter force of Jaguars and F-16s. It’s also taking wide-ranging, complementary steps to modernize its air defense systems, and an October 2011 DSCA request seems to place American equipment at the center of that effort.
A Layered Air Defense System
Oman’s current air defense system does have a larger command and control network, backed by radars. Public sources are fuzzy, and the last major update, by BAE Insyte, appears to have taken place in 1999.
The sharp end of their ground-based air defenses uses Oerlikon’s Skyguard combination of twin 35mm guns, paired with Aspide medium-range missiles. Shorter range air defense uses British Rapier and French Crotale missiles, and very short range air defense involves portable MANPADS options like British Blowpipe and French Mistral.
The new system appears to involve layered defense, using mobile Avenger short-range systems, and medium-range SL-AMRAAM systems that may also be able to work with some legacy weapons. It’s not certain whether SLAMRAAM fire units will be fixed or mobile. Both options are available on the market, and the October 2011 DSCA request notes that Oman’s final air defense system will also include a number of Direct Commercial Sale components. Those will be bought direct from the manufacturer, subject to US state Department approval, and aren’t announced by the DSCA.
The new systems will be useful for protecting national infrastructure, as well as key military bases. For instance, Oman has begun building the new Adam air base, about 100 miles SW of Muscat within the country’s interior, shielded from the Gulf approaches by a spine of mountains. It’s an excellently protected location that would still allow strong air patrols along Oman’s north and the Straits. Modern air defense could turn it into a very hard target.
The Avenger System
Raytheon’s FIM-92 Stinger is one of the world’s best-known shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, and its combination IR/UV seeker makes it more accurate and harder to decoy. Its engagement range is limited to about 3 miles/ 5 km, but dispersing the firing units and networking them with longer-range sensors can improve overall coverage.
Boeing’s Avenger system mounts 8 Stinger missiles on a Humvee jeep, along with an FN M3P .50 cal machine gun, and automated systems that include optical sights, infrared, a laser rangefinder, and an IFF (Identification Friend-Or-Foe) system. Modern units include “slew-to-cue,” which automatically slews the turret to place the sights on targets received from FAAD (Forward Area Air Defense) Command and Control systems.
In 2006, Egypt’s Avenger buy re-started the production line, to the benefit of other interested customers like Chile – and now, Oman. Boeing also revisited system development, and subsequent Avenger AFPS modifications now offer a system that can trade a box of 4 Stingers for a laser weapon, or for Hellfire anti-armor missiles.
The SL-AMRAAM System
SLAMRAAM includes 4 sub-systems:
IFCS. The Integrated Fire Control Station is a vehicle-mounted shelter with 2 workstations, and is used to control the system. It’s mounted on FMTV trucks, and may also fit onto other medium patrol vehicles.
Fire Unit. The launcher. Oman has picked Kongsberg’s NASAMS, which uses a fixed launcher. Mobile units are envisioned as being mounted on an FMTV truck. Configurations range from 4-8 missiles.
The missiles. The same AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles used in air-air engagements. Other countries like France or Israel who converted shorter-range MICA and Derby missiles for the surface-air role have added fast-burn rocket boosters, in order to boost range and engagement speed. Using the same AMRAAM missile simplifies logistics, at the price of a booster’s benefits.
The Sentinel Radar. The ThalesRaytheon joint venture manufactures the MPQ-64 radar and its derivatives. Described by the manufacturer as “a highly mobile, three-dimensional, phased-array, ground-based air defense radar system that operates in the X-band. It automatically detects, tracks, identifies, classifies and reports airborne threats, including helicopters, high-speed attack aircraft, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.” Effective range can be up to 120 km for the latest AN/MPQ-64F1 variants. Product Page | First delivery: April 2006.
Overall, the command and control systems are designed to be extended to other weapons and back-end systems, with additional integration work. This allows them to become the tactical center of a larger air defense command and control network.
Contracts & Key Events
January 11/16: The Sultanate of Oman has submitted a request for the purchase of 400 TOW 2B missiles, related equipment, and support. The foreign military sale was approved by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on Thursday. The $51 million sale includes 400 tube-launched optically tracked wire-guided (TOW) 2B Aero, Radio Frequency Missiles, and 7 TOW 2B Aero, RF Missile Fly-to-Buy Missiles aimed at advancing Oman’s efforts to develop an integrated ground defense capability.
Jan 20/14: NASAMS Contract. Oman News Agency:
“In response to the royal directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and the royal car accorded to provide the armed forces with their needs and enhance their capabilities, Sayyid Badr bin Saud bin Harib al-Busaidi, Minister Responsible for Defence Affairs, signed in his office on Monday a contract for the purchase of air defence system from Raytheon of USA,”
Raytheon doesn’t make the Avenger systems, so this is the NASAMS contract, a fact confirmed a few days later in a Raytheon release that pegs the total value at $1.28 billion including ground support equipment, a full training package, and technical assistance. Kongsberg posts a release of its own, noting that NASAMS is marketed internationally by Raytheon as prime in cooperation with US government, but adding that Kongsberg’s share as a sub-contractor is worth NOK 3.7 billion (about $603 million, or roughly half). Sources: Times of Oman, “Oman to purchase air defence system from Raytheon” | Kongsberg, “KONGSBERG signs contract worth NOK 3,7 billion for NASAMS”.
July 25/13: A Reuters report describes Raytheon as being in “final negotiations” with Oman, and values a deal at around $1.5 billion, which is a bit higher than the DSCA request for both Avenger and NASAMS systems. Sources: Reuters, “Raytheon in final talks to sell air-defense system to Oman”.
June 16/13: Raytheon’s VP of Integrated Air and Missile Defense, Sanjay Kapoor describes negotiations with Oman as “advancing,” and refers to the system under discussion as their NASAMS collaboration with Kongsberg.
NASAMS has effectively become the “official” SL-AMRAAM implementation, with the ability to include other missiles (AIM-9X, IRIS-T, RIM-162 ESSM) and serve as a command center that works with other deployed systems. Bloomberg.
Nov 13/11: VL-MICA. MBDA hints that it has an export customer for its truck-mounted VL-MICA system, which uses the same missiles that equip French fighters. The difference for MBDA’s MICA is that it comes in radar-guided and infrared-guided versions, and VL-MICA can use both. In operational terms, that means the system can shut its radars down to avoid detection, while using optical cueing to remain dangerous to enemy aircraft:
“While the first VL MICA naval surface-to-air defence systems are being delivered to customers, the production of VL MICA land sy stems for an export customer is in full swing ready for deliveries starting in 2012. In this respect, the equipment produced and assembled in MBDA’s facilities in France has been deployed at a French Air Force airbase, where the various vehicles will be networked to validate a standard operational configuration. The French Air Force has already taken part in the VL MICA land programme in 2009 which carried out the technical and operational assessment of the VL MICA demonstrator.”
VL-MICA is already in naval use, but there are rumors that the land-based customer in question is Oman. Sources: MBDA, “MBDA prepares VL MICA land systems for delivery”.
VL-MICA for Oman?
Oct 19/11: The US DSCA announces [PDF] Oman’s official request for equipment to create a layered air defense capability, as part of a larger hybrid Foreign Military Sale/ Direct Commercial Sale effort. This modern multi-layered air defense system will be integrated into Oman’s national command and control system, to protect strategic locations in Oman and its nearest vicinity. Total cost for these requested items could be as high as $1.248 billion.
This is not a sale, yet, just an announcement that will allow negotiations to begin, if Congress does not move to block the sale. Oman’s Foreign Military Sale request includes:
* 18 Avenger Fire Units
* 18 AN/VRC-92E exportable Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS)
* 266 FIM-92 Stinger Reprogrammable Micro-Processor (RMP) Block 1 Anti-Aircraft missiles
* 6 FIM-92 Stinger Block 1 Production Verification Flight Test missiles
* 24 Captive Flight Trainers. Sensors and electronics, but missile can’t fire.
* 20 S250 Shelters
* 20 High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs)
* 1 lot AN/MPQ-64F1 Improved SENTINEL Radar software
* 290 AIM-120C7 Surface-Launched AMRAAM missiles
* 6 Guidance Sections
* Surface-Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (SL-AMRAAM) software to support Oman’s Ground Based Air defense System
* Plus training missiles, missile components, warranties, containers, weapon support equipment, repair and return, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and various forms of U.S. Government and contractor support services.
The prime contractors will be Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, AZ (SLAMRAAM prime contractor), and Boeing of Huntsville, AL (Avenger prime, though Stinger is a Raytheon product). Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips to Oman involving many U.S. Government or contractor representatives over a period of up to or over 15 years for program and technical support, equipment checkout, and training.
The purchaser typically requests industrial offsets. Any offset agreements will be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and the contractor.
DSCA: Avenger, SL-AMRAAM
* DID – Oman Looks to Replace Its Jaguar Jets. Also covers Oman’s history.
* DID – Gulf States Requesting ABM-Capable Systems. But not Oman, yet.
* Boeing – Avenger Air Defense System.
* Kongsberg – NASAMS – Surface Launched AMRAAM.
* Raytheon – National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System.
* MBDA – VL MICA.