The Ukrainian Armed Forces recently published a video showing German-made Flakpanzer Gepard taking down a Russian cruise missile in two series of shots.
This video does not indicate the precise time when this attack happened. But is it really possible to hit something flying as fast as a cruise missile?
Yes, it is possible to take down missiles using relatively simple measures. Theoretically, a rocket could be eliminated even with a handheld rifle, if only the shooter fires extremely accurately and the missile flies at a low altitude.
In practice, accomplishing this task is a particularly complicated feat. For a human shooter, it would be not easy to estimate the range of the target accurately, plus it would be nearly impossible to assess the target’s velocity in order to predict its trajectory using just a human guess. Furthermore, the penetration power of a hand-held rifle is much lower.
The Gepard (also known as Cheetah) anti-aircraft self-propelled artillery systems are a bit another story. They fire 35 mm caliber twin autocannons, which are of a similar type to machine guns but significantly more powerful. The projectile muzzle velocity is 1,440 m/s (4,700 ft/s). This anti-aircraft platform achieves an effective firing range of 5.5 km (3.4 mi).
Plus, this German air defense platform is equipped with its own independent radars capable of detecting and tracking potential targets at a maximum range of up to 15-16 km (10 miles). Both radars provide 360-degree scanning, with clutter suppression capabilities. The vehicle can also operate in search mode while moving.
The system prepares for the encounter before the target enters the effective shooting range. The targeting is adjusted according to the radar’s data, and a human operator acts just to confirm and engage the enemy object. This way, Gepard becomes an inexpensive but quite effective defensive platform against missiles.
Defense Express notes that it takes on average 6-10 rounds to take down a Shahed kamikaze drone. In the video, we see that a comparable number of shots was needed to shoot the cruise missile.