German arms maker Diehl Defence aims to significantly ramp up the production of its IRIS-T air defence system to satisfy growing demand due to Russia's war on Ukraine, Chief Program Officer Harald Buschek said on Tuesday.
In 2025, the privately owned company plans to build at least eight systems, up from three to four systems this year, he told reporters at an air base in Todendorf in northern Germany.
He added that missile production was being tripled this year and would be further doubled next year, with an expected output of some 400 to 500 missiles from 2024.
Germany so far has supplied two IRIS-T units to Ukraine, where they are mainly used to guard Kyiv against Russian missile attacks.
Berlin has pledged to supply another six IRIS-T units to Kyiv, and expects to take delivery of the first of six systems for its own air force in October 2024.
Buschek said Ukraine had shot down more than 110 targets, most of these cruise missiles such as the Kalibr, with a hit rate of almost 100%.
The system successfully countered an attack on Kyiv by a swarm of 13 Russian cruise missiles at the start of the year, intercepting all missiles, Buschek said.
In the small town of Todendorf, Berlin will host the training of partner nations on the modern IRIS-T air defence system, one of the most coveted weapons that Kyiv has received from the West.
Boasting a range of some 40 kilometres (25 miles) and a 360 degree view, the IRIS-T SLM system has been used to shoot down cruise missiles that Moscow has attacked power stations with, and aircraft including Iranian-made Shahed drones.
Before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, only a few Western nations had purchased the system, reflecting a common trend after the Cold War to scale down air defences as the main threat from Russia was deemed to have gone.
Now, NATO allies are scrambling to order IRIS-T for their own militaries, with several countries on NATO's eastern flank such as Estonia and Latvia expected to sign contracts in the coming weeks.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, writing by Friederike Heine; editing by Miranda Murray and Jason Neely)