Discover the Best of the RBS 15 Gungnir Missile System

Saab Bofors Dynamics, a renowned Swedish defence company, successfully engineered an advanced anti-ship missile in the 1980s. Let’s Discover the Best of the RBS 15 Gungnir Missile System. This cutting-edge weapon serves as a long-range fire-and-forget solution designed for both surface-to-surface and air-to-surface anti-ship engagements, thereby establishing Swedish maritime dominance.

A Swedish Gripen is equipped with two RBS-15 missiles, as well as AMRAAM and IRIS-T missiles.

The system has been designed to showcase a sea-skimming missile with an extended range and a sophisticated targeting system, allowing it to accurately engage naval targets. Its modular design enables integration with diverse platforms, including ships, submarines, and aircraft, enhancing its versatility across various operational scenarios. With advanced sensors and communication systems, the missile can autonomously recognize targets and engage multiple threats simultaneously.

As a cutting-edge solution, the RBS 15 Gungnir meets the requirements of naval forces seeking dependable and adaptable anti-ship capabilities in contemporary naval warfare. Its combination of advanced technology and operational flexibility provides a strategic edge.

The system boasts meticulously optimized ground strike capability, strategically enhancing its effectiveness in navigating complex conflict scenarios. Notably, the Mk. III iterations of this missile system extend its versatility by enabling the targeting of land-based objectives as well.

Discover the Best of the RBS 15 Gungnir Missile System
Photo Credit: Sea Forces / Discover the Best of the RBS 15 Gungnir Missile System

The Story of RBS 15 Development

In the early 1960s, the Swedish Navy developed the RB 08 anti-ship missile, utilized with destroyers of the Halland class. However, the deployability of the RB 08 missile system posed challenges as it required space in destroyers for launch rails and a missile magazine, rendering it impractical for smaller ships or fuel boats. Moreover, only one missile could be on the launch rails at a time, exacerbating operational difficulties.

Manual preparation was necessary for each missile launch. Despite numerous trials in the late 1960s involving a single bow-mounted RB 08 on Plejad class FACs (fast attack craft), the experiments yielded no positive results. Faced with these challenges, the Swedish navy contemplated transitioning to the American Harpoon missile as a potential replacement for the Swedish weapon.

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Despite the challenges, the Swedish armed forces were highly optimized and focused on indigenous development once again, under the leadership of Hans Ahlinder. The goal was to create a missile with greater capabilities than the Harpoon. Hence, a new weapons project was initiated with the name Robotsystem, abbreviated as RBS.

Photo Credit: Sea Forces / 2 x 2 launching canisters

RBS 15 Mk. I 

Even though the Swedish government initially leaned towards the Harpoon missile, they ultimately opted for the indigenous project. The first RBS weapon contract was officially signed in 1979, and the initial naval version missiles were successfully delivered to the Navy in June 1984. Simultaneously, efforts were made to develop a coastal defence version of the RBS 15F, which became operational with the Navy in 1985. After a few years, the Swedish Air Force also received their versions of the missile.

Photo Credit: Sea Forces

RBS 15 Mk. II

In the early 1980s, the groundwork commenced for an enhanced iteration, namely the RBS 15 Mk. II; however, it wasn’t until 1994 that the upgraded anti-ship missile secured a development contract. The Mk. II boasts an extended range of approximately 75 km, featuring improved radar and infrared signatures, along with advanced mid-course and terminal guidance systems. Manufacturing of the Mk. II has started since 1998.

Photo Credit: Sea Forces / An RBS 15 Mk.3 was fired from a Swedish Navy Visby class Corvette

RBS 15 Mk. III

The development of the RBS 15 Mk. III commenced in the mid-1990s, and it was manufactured through a collaboration between Saab and Diehl Defence of Germany. The focus was on augmenting the range through internal design changes for larger fuel capacity, incorporating a new turbojet engine, the “Microturbo TRI 60-5,” generating 4.4 kN (990 lbf) of thrust. Consequently, the range has been extended to approximately 200 km, accompanied by added land attack capability.

The inclusion of improved accuracy, integrated GPS, and selectable priority targeting enhances the weapon system’s flexibility. A new 200 kg HE (high order explosives) warhead not only increases penetration but also attains insensitive munitions qualification from the TDW manufacturer. Notably, the Mk. III was chosen for the German Navy’s Braunschweig-class corvettes, while Finnish truck maker Sisu opted to produce missile launch trucks for RBS 15 land versions. Production of the Mk. III has been ongoing since 2004.

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Photo Credit: SAAB AB / A Swedish Gripen is armed with four potent RBS-15 missiles, complemented by two Meteor missiles under its centre pylons and IRIS-T missiles on its wingtips.

RBS 15 Mk. IV

In March 2017, Saab secured an order valued at 3.2 billion SEK for a novel anti-ship missile, designed to replace the older RBS 15. Considering both current and future scenario requirements, Saab introduced the RBS 15 Mk. IV Gungnir, once again in partnership with Diehl Defence of Germany. The Mk. IV Gungnir exhibits the capability to be launched from a truck, making it adaptable for deployment from air, sea, or land.

Highlighting an extended range of 300+ km, it employs an inertial navigation system (INS) for precise guidance, an enhanced target seeker featuring J-band active radar, and anti-Jam GPS technology, all while maintaining a reduced missile weight. With the capacity to engage a diverse array of sea and land targets, it is designed for all-weather conditions, and its modular design facilitates potential future upgrades. Orders for Gungnir missiles have been placed for the Swedish Navy, with the initial deliveries scheduled for the mid-2020s.

Photo Credit: SAAB
Photo Credit: SAAB AB / The mighty sea-skimming RBS 15 flies just a couple of meters above sea level
Specifications of the RBS 15 Gungnir
  • Weight:  650 – 660 kg ( with boosters 810-820 kg )
  • Length:  14.27 ft (4.35 m)
  • Diameter:  20 in (50 cm)
  • Wing Span:  4.59 ft (1.40 m)
  • Warhead:  200 kg
  • Detonation:  Impact or Proximity
  • Engine:  Turbojet
  • Range:  Mk. I & II 70km, Mk. III 200 km, Mk. IV 300 km
  • Altitude:  Sea skimming
  • Speed:  Mach 0.9 subsonic
  • Guidance:  Inertial, GPS, Active radar homing ( J-band )
  • Launch Platform:  Aircraft, Ship & Land-based Truck mounted Missile launchers
Photo Credit: Sea Forces
International Operators of the RBS 15 as of 2023

Currently, an impressive roster of 8 countries, including Sweden, Croatia, Algeria, Finland, Germany, Poland, and Thailand, operates the formidable RBS-15. This proliferation underscores the widespread recognition of its power and effectiveness in modern warfare. In the near future, Bulgaria is also set to acquire it; in August 2022, the Bulgarian government decided to purchase the RBS 15 Mk. III.

Its deployment spans across nations, showcasing its versatility and adaptability in diverse operational contexts. The missile’s impact is felt on multiple continents, with operators leveraging its capabilities to project force, neutralize threats, and safeguard national security interests.

Photo Credit: Sea Forces / Finnish truck maker Sisu opted to produce missile launch trucks for RBS 15 land versions

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In conclusion, the RBS 15 Gungnir stands as a testament to Saab Group’s commitment to advancing naval capabilities. Its cutting-edge features, including precision targeting, modular adaptability, and autonomous functionality, position it as a cornerstone in the arsenals of nations at the forefront of maritime defence. The missile’s deployment by foreign countries underscores its international recognition and trust.

As naval warfare dynamics continue to evolve, the RBS 15 Gungnir remains a pivotal asset, offering a strategic edge through its technological prowess. In an era where maritime security is paramount, this missile system not only exemplifies state-of-the-art engineering but also symbolizes collaborative efforts toward ensuring the safety and defence of nations on the high seas.

Photo Credit: Sea Forces

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