Roland (missile)

Type Surface-to-air missile
Production history
Manufacturer Euromissile
Weight 67 kg
Length 2.40 m
Diameter 16 cm
Warhead 6.5 kg (14.3 lb) pre-fragmented high-explosive


Dual-thrust solid-fueled rocket:

  • Booster: "Roubaix" rocket, 15.3 kN for 1.7 s
  • Sustainer: "Lampyre" rocket, 1.96 kN for 13.2 s
Wingspan 50 cm
8,000 m
Flight altitude 5,500 m
Speed Mach 1.6
tracking radar
White Sands Missile Range Museum Roland display

The Roland is a Franco-German mobile short-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. The Roland was also purchased by the U.S. Army as one of very few foreign SAM systems.

Roland was designed to a joint French and German requirement for a low-level mobile missile system to protect mobile field formations and fixed, high-value targets such as airfields. Development began in 1963 as a study by Nord Aviation of France and Bölkow of Germany with the system then called SABA in France and P-250 in Germany.[1] The two companies formed a joint development project in 1964 and later (as Aérospatiale of France and MBB of Germany) founded the Euromissile company for this and other missile programs. Aerospatiale took primary responsibility for the Roland 1 day/clear-weather system while MBB took primary responsibility for the Roland 2 all-weather system. Aerospatiale was also responsible for the rear and propulsion system of the missile while MBB developed the front end of the missile with warhead and guidance systems. The first guided launch of a Roland prototype took place in June 1968, destroying a CT-20 target drone and fielding of production systems was expected from January 1970. The test and evaluation phase took much longer than originally anticipated with the clear-weather Roland I finally entering operational service with the French Army in April 1977, while the all-weather Roland II was first fielded by the German Army in 1978 followed by the French Army in 1981.[2] The long delays and ever-increasing costs combined with inflation meant Roland was never procured in the numbers originally anticipated.


The Roland SAM system was designed to engage enemy air targets flying at speeds of up to Mach 1.3 at altitudes between 20 meters and 5,500 meters with a minimum effective range of 500 meters and a maximum of 6,300 meters. The system can operate in optical or radar mode and can switch between these modes during an engagement. A pulse-doppler search radar with a range of 15–18 km detects the target which can then be tracked either by the tracking radar or an optical tracker. The optical channel would normally be employed only in daylight against very low-level targets or in a heavy jamming environment.[3]

The Roland missile is a two-stage solid propellant unit 2.4 meters long with a weight of 66.5 kg including the 6.5 kg multiple hollow-charge fragmentation warhead which contains 3.5 kg of explosive detonated by impact or proximity fuses. The 65 projectile charges have a lethal radius of 6 meters. Cruising speed is Mach 1.6. The missile is delivered in a sealed container which is also the launch tube. Each launcher carries two launch tubes with 8 more inside the vehicle or shelter with automatic reloading in 10 seconds.

For defense of fixed sites such as airfields the shelter Roland can be integrated in the CORAD (Co-ordinated Roland Air Defense) system which can include a surveillance radar, a Roland Co-ordination Center, 8 Roland fire units and up to 8 guns.[4]

Current systems are capable of launching Roland 2, 3 or VT1 missiles. Roland's latest upgraded versions have limited ability to counter incoming low RCS munitions (large-caliber heavyweight rockets).


The Roland system has been installed on a variety of platforms, amongst them:


Roland 2 was proposed in the early 1980s for installation on the Leopard 1 tank chassis, probably to meet an expected Dutch army requirement but was never built. In configuration it would have been very similar to the AMX-30R.

American Roland on the M109 chassis was built in prototype form but production systems were rather hastily installed on 6×6 flatbed trucks.

An airliftable shelter named Roland CAROL has also been developed, which is a 7.8t container that can be deployed on the ground to protect fixed assets like airfields or depots or fitted on an ACMAT truck.


The Marder-Roland units bought by the Brazilian Army in the late '70s were retired in 2001 and are now on display at Museu Militar Conde de Linhares in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Combat use

On 1 June 1982, during the Falklands War, Sea Harrier nº XZ456 was shot down south of Stanley by members of the GADA 601, an Argentine antiaircraft unit deployed in the area.[15] The launcher, one of four examples delivered to Argentina, was captured in fairly intact condition by the British around Port Stanley after the surrender. It was taken back to Britain as a valuable prize and studied in detail. It is believed that an Iraqi Roland missile succeeded in shooting down an American A-10 Thunderbolt II at the beginning of the Iraq War, during the battle of Baghdad.[16]


In October 2003, controversy erupted between Poland and France when Polish forces from the Multinational force in Iraq found four French Roland surface-to-air missiles.[17][18] Polish and international press reported that Polish officers claimed these missiles had been manufactured in 2003.[18] France pointed out that it had never sold weapons to Iraq after July 1990 in violation of the embargo.[18] Polish authorities would later remark that the four missiles were manufactured in 1984, and that the 2003 date was the last time when Iraqi personnel had serviced them.[17] Investigations by the Polish authorities came to the conclusion that the persons responsible for the scandal were low level commanders. Wojskowe Służby Informacyjne, the Polish Army's intelligence unit, had not verified their claims before they were leaked to the press. Poland apologized to France for the scandal, but these allegations against France worsened the already somewhat strained relationships between the two countries. The entire incident was sarcastically called "Rolandgate" by the Polish media, using the unofficial naming conventions of US political scandals after Watergate.


See also


  1. Gunston
  2. Gunston
  3. Jane's Armour and Artillery
  4. Jane's Armour and Artillery
  5. Jane's Armour and Artillery
  6. Gunston
  7. Jane's Land Based Air Defense
  8. Jane's Land Based Air Defense
  9. Jane's Land Based Air Defense
  10. Jane's Land Based Air Defense
  11. Gunston
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Jane's Land Based Air Defense
  13. Army Technology
  15. Smith, Gordon: Battle Atlas of the Falklands War 1982., 2006, page 97. ISBN 1-84753-950-5. (Spanish)
  16. Washington Times - French connection armed Saddam
  17. 1 2 Stylinski, Andrzej (16 October 2003). "Poland says French missiles found in Iraq were made in 1984". Associated Press. Retrieved 22 August 2015 via HighBeam Research. (subscription required (help)).
  18. 1 2 3 Pasek, Beata (4 October 2003). "Poland retracts charge that new French missiles found in Iraq after French denials". Associated Press via HighBeam Research. (subscription required (help)).


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