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Rheinmetall Air Defence AG is a division of German armament manufacturer Rheinmetall, created when the company's Oerlikon Contraves unit was renamed on 1 January 2009 and integrated with Rheinmetall's other air-defence products.[1] Oerlikon Contraves was a Swiss anti-aircraft artillery manufacturer famous for its adaptation of the 1916 20 mm Becker as the Oerlikon 20 mm autocannon design, which was used in the Second World Wars and still in use today. Copies and derivatives of these designs were made by German, French, British and Japanese weapon manufacturers. Oerlikon Contraves was purchased by Rheinmetall, a German armament manufacturer, in 1999.[2]

As of January 2014, Rheinmetall Air Defence had around 1,050 employees at locations in Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Canada. The group's sales in 2008 were about 380 million Euros.[1]


Oerlikon's earliest predecessor was Schweizerische Werkzeugmaschinenfabrik Oerlikon, founded in Switzerland in 1906.[3]

In 1923 it acquired a factory in Germany. It entered the anti-aircraft defence field in 1924. In 1936, it founded a purely anti-aircraft development company called Contraves (contra aves is Latin for "against birds", better translated as "anti-flying-objects") In 1989, the Werkzeugmaschinenfabrik Oerlikon-Bührle and Contraves merged to form the Oerlikon-Contraves Group, later renamed Oerlikon Contraves Defence.[4] Oerlikon Contraves was purchased by Rheinmetall, a German armament manufacturer, in 1999, and renamed Rheinmetall Air Defence AG on 1 January 2009.


Rheinmetall Air Defence specializes in ground-based and naval air defence. Their products include search-and-tracking sensors, 35 mm air-defence guns, command-and-control posts, battle management and ship-based combat systems.

Naval systems

  • Search and Acquisition Radar: Oerlikon X-TAR3D/M
  • Radar and Electro Optical Tracking Modules: Oerlikon TMX/EO NT and Oerlikon TMX/EO Mk2
  • Naval Gun Systems: Oerlikon Millennium 35 mm Naval Revolver Gun System
  • Command and Control: Oerlikon Seaguard Command and Control Console and Oerlikon Weapon Control Module

Ground-based air defence

Civilian products

Oerlikon Contraves subsidiary Oerlikon Transtec manufactured railcar and locomotive systems, including locomotive brakes, subway and electric train power conversion systems, and other subsidiary systems for mass-transit vehicles.[5]

As of October 2014, Rheinmetall's website no longer lists these products as part of the Air Defence group.[6]

Historic products

A ship-mounted Oerlikon 20 mm cannon.

American versions of the Oerlikon 20 mm cannon, such as the Mk 4, Mk 10, and Mk 24, were used extensively from World War II to the Vietnam War. Originally used as anti-aircraft weapons by the US Navy, they were frequently the last line of defence against kamikaze attacks. Most combat ships from aircraft carriers to PT boats were equipped with Oerlikon guns. During the Vietnam War they were widely employed by riverine forces as anti-personnel weapons. They remained in service until the 1970s, when they were replaced by the Mk 16 20 mm cannon.[7] The surface-to-air missiles: RSA Missile, RSD 58 and Kriens RSC Missile.

Corruption charges

Rheinmetall Air Defence (RAD) is one of six companies that were blacklisted by India's Ministry of Defence in March 2012 for their involvement in a bribery scandal.[8] The companies are accused of bribing the Director General of Ordnance Factories Board (OFB), Sudipta Ghosh. RAD and the other firms have been barred from any dealings with the OFB and all other Indian defence companies, as well as being blacklisted from participating in any Indian defence contract, for a period of 10 years.[9] RAD has claimed that the charges against it are without merit.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Rheinmetall Air Defence: the new name of air defence specialist Oerlikon Contraves". Rheinmetall. 27 January 2009. 
  2. "Rheinmetall unit Oerlikon Contraves to appeal Unaxis' name change". New York: Forbes. 18 September 2006. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  3. "Historical Milestones". Oerlikon Corporate Website. Pfäffikon, Switzerland: OC Oerlikon Management. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  4. Bryks, Jacqueline E.; Hausfeld, Michael D.; Abrahams, Charles Peter; Kerrigan, Robert G.; Fisher, Barry A. (11 November 2002). "Complaint: Khulumani et al. v. Barclays National Bank Ltd et al." (PDF). DomCLIC Project: South African Apartheid Litigation. The Hague Justice Portal. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  5. "Oerlikon Transtec Inc.". Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  6. "Rheinmetall Air Defence AG". Rheinmetall Defence. 2010. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  7. "Switzerland Oerlikon 20 mm/70 (0.79") Mark 1 / United States of America 20 mm/70 (0.79") Marks 2, 3 & 4 / Britain 20 mm/70 (0.79") Mark I and Mark II". NavWeaps.Com. 14 January 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  8. "Bribery scandal: Defence ministry blacklists six companies". The Times of India. 5 March 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  9. "India blacklists defense companies". United Press International. 7 March 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  10. "Rheinmetall Air Defence AG cries foul over blacklisting". SP's Land 23 March 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  • Air Force Center "Fliegermuseum Dübendorf"
  • Hugo Schneider: Armament and equipment of the Swiss Army since 1817: light and medium anti-aircraft air defence anti-aircraft missiles, Volume 12 of armament and equipment of the Swiss Army since 1817, Author Publisher Stocker-Schmidt, 1982

External links

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