Perspective Russian Air Defense Missile Systems

By Pavel Rumyantsev 

Russia traditionally pays great attention to the creation and development of air defense missile systems (ADMS), which are a key element of the Russian air defense system. At the moment, Russia has the largest range of various air defense systems for different purposes, which is explained by the need to confidently counteract all types of airborne threats. Works on the development of air defense systems of a new generation are being actively carried out, and this is one of the top priorities in the construction of the Russian armed forces.

C-350E Vityaz launcher 50P6E


Let us consider some potential Russian air defense systems, which will come into service in the near future.


S-350E Vityaz air defense missile system

S-350E Vityaz is an advanced medium-range air defense missile system designed to replace outdated S-300PS systems. The system is designed to combat a wide range of air attack weapons – tactical aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, various types of guided air-delivered munitions etc.

It is expected that the S-350 air defense missile system will consist of the following components:

  • battle management system 50K6;
  • 1–2 general-purpose radars 50N6, providing detection, tracking air targets and targeting surface-to-air missiles (SAM);
  • up to 8 launchers 50P6; each launcher houses 12 launching transporting containers with surface-to-air missiles of the new generation 9M96 or 9M96D.

Each radar 50N6 is capable of providing simultaneous guidance of 16 surface-to-air missiles at eight targets (two missiles for each target). Therefore, the system in full force is able to provide simultaneous firing at 16 targets with two missiles aimed at each of them.

The high combat capabilities of the system are provided by means of surface-to-air missiles of the new generation 9M96 and 9M96D. Missiles of this group have an inertial reference system with radio correction on the main flight section and an active homing head, providing a “stand-alone” guidance on a target, without “support” of the radar. A key feature of the missiles of this family is the combination of aerodynamic control surfaces with a gas-dynamic divert and attitude control system (DACS), which ensures transverse torque control. This engine is a “ring” of miniature solid-fueled engines, triggered by commands issued by the missile homing guidance system. DACS is capable of providing the possibility of inertia-free missile deviation by commands of the guidance system, which is impossible for missiles with aerodynamic control surfaces only. Therefore, the DACS provides arrival of a missile on a lateral load of 20 units in just 0.025 second. 9M96 is made according to the tail-first configuration with the front arrangement of aerodynamic controllers, which eliminates the impact of jet flows of the DACS on them. At low altitudes, 9M96 is capable of developing an enormous overload of 60 units, and at an altitude of even 30 kilometers – 20 units. Maneuvering potential of 9M96 exceeds the capabilities of foreign analogues.

The American surface-to-air missile ERINT used in the Patriot RAS-3 air defense missile system and equipped with the jet reaction control system in the form of a cluster impulse engine unit (located in the fore body) can develop an overload of 50 units on the deck, and at a height of 15 kilometers the maximum overload of the missile is reduced to 15 units. The European Aster-15 and Aster-30 surface-to-air missiles used as part of SAMP-T SAM and ship-to-air missile system PAAMS are equipped with a transverse proportional control system. Surface-to-air missiles have a gas-dynamic engine with 4-slotted nozzles, which are controlled by special valves that are adjustable depending on the control commands. Aster, like the Russian 9M96, can develop an overload of 60 units on the deck, and at an altitude of 15 kilometers the maximum missile overload is 22 units.

9M96 and 9M96D missiles differ only in the size of the power system. The range capability for the export version of 9M96 (9M96E) missile is estimated at 30 kilometers. The range of the export version of 9M96D (9M96E2) missile is estimated at 120 kilometers, but according to open sources, the range of 9M96D performed by the Russian armed forces can reach 150 kilometers.

Stupendous maneuvering potential of the missile allows to confidently hit even the most complex existing targets, such as intensely maneuvering supersonic cruise missiles. 9M96 can hit most targets, such as subsonic cruise missiles or tactical aircraft, as well as ballistic missiles, with a direct hit – on the “hit to kill” principle. In addition, the probability to kill typical targets for 9M96 is 90%. This, in turn, allows to abandon the usual bombardment of air targets with two missiles, which allows to significantly save ammunition and increase the already considerable fire performance of the system. Equipping 9M96 missiles with active homing heads allows the system radar to be “unloaded” at the final flight segment, which also provides an increase in the fire power potential of the system, and in the long term – interception of targets outside the radar horizon when using external sources of target indicating for air defense missile systems (other radars, both airborne and ground-based).

The appearance of S-350 in the field provides the following: 

  • Increasing the efficiency of combating against the enemy's tactical aviation; 
  • Defeat of even massive strikes by means of cruise missiles and other air attack weapons, taking into account the high firing capabilities of the system, the highest maneuvering potential of the missile, as well as the huge ammunition load on the SAM launchers; 
  • Effective protection of other SAMs of air defense force against anti-radar missile strikes. 

In general, S-350 systems will form a “layer” in the country's air defense between the long-range S-400 SAMs and short-range SAMs, such as Pantzyr or Tor.

At the moment, as it follows from open source information, the S-350 is undergoing state tests and shall be put into service by 2020, following which its purchases will begin.

The S-350 system is largely unified with the Polyment-Redut ship-to-air missile system, which is installed on the newest frigate of the Russian Navy of the project 22350 “Admiral Gorshkov”. After a long period of testing, primarily related to the tests and modifications of Polyment-Redut, on July 28, 2018, “Admiral Gorshkov” joined the Russian Navy, and in October 2018, at the verification fires at the Northern Fleet training ground, the Poliment-Redut complex successfully hit all targets imitating air targets of different classes and fully confirmed the declared characteristics.


Pantzyr-SM air defense missile system 

Pantzyr-SM is an advanced air defense missile system, which is a further development of the famous Pantzyr-S1 anti-aircraft missile and gun system (ZRPK). However, if the Pantzyr-S1 is a short-range air defense system designed primarily to protect the objects they cover against attacks by cruise missiles and various high-precision aviation weapons, then the Pantzyr-SM will, apparently, have become a medium-range air defense system, while having lost automatic anti-aircraft guns.

Pantzyr-SM in the assembly shop

Pantzyr-SM in the assembly shop


Despite the fact that prototypes of the Pantzyr-SM system, which are being tested, have already been manufactured, very little is known about it. The system will receive a new radar with an active phased array antenna that has an airborne target detection range of up to 70 kilometers, and, according to some data, it will also receive a new target tracking radar.

Pantzyr-SM will have missiles with much more power than 9M335 SAM of the Pantzyr-S1 system. The Pantzyr-S1 missile has the maximum range of target destruction of 20 kilometers in range and 10 kilometers in height, while the Pantzyr-SM missiles can hit aerodynamic targets at a range of up to 40 kilometers. The method of targeting the surface-to-air missiles used in the Pantzyr-SM, however, as well as their appearance, are unknown. However, it will most likely change. In the Pantzyr-S1 missiles have a radio command guidance, and the Pantzyr-SM missiles are supposed to have a target seeking device.

Due to increased capabilities of the new surface-to-air missiles, the Pantzyr-SM, unlike its predecessor, will be able to more confidently fight airplanes, including actively maneuvering ones. In addition, ballistic targets (tactical and short-range attack missiles) can be included in the range of reached targets for the Pantzyr-SM.

According to some reports, number of simultaneously guided SAMs at the Pantzyr-SM will be doubled compared to the Pantzyr-S1 – from four to eight.

The system facilities will be located on the newest protected chassis K-53958 Tornado manufactured by the JSC “Remdizel” (Naberezhnye Chelny).

The start of batch production of the Pantzyr-SM is expected by the beginning of 2020.


Strela-10ML air defense missile system 

Strela-10ML (previously the operating name Bagulnik was used) is an advanced ADMS of the air defense system of the ground forces designed to replace the short-range air defense system Strela-10M3, which no longer meets modern requirements and cannot effectively cover ground forces against modern air attack weapons.

Strela-10ML has a number of unique features. Target detection is carried out using a special optical-electronic module supplemented by a thermal imaging channel. This module is able to detect enemy aircraft at a distance of up to 30 kilometers, a helicopter at a distance of up to 14 kilometers, and a cruise missile up to 12 kilometers and is able to quickly survey the space at any time of the day and in all weather conditions. This method of detecting targets provides the highest concealment of the system and eliminates its detection by communications surveillance means.

The system is armed with 12 surface-to-air missiles 9M337. The missile configuration is similar to the surface-to-air missile 9M335 of the Pantzyr-S1 system. The missile is a two-stage one, with a detachable accelerator that accelerates it to a speed of 875 meters per second, following which at the cruise flight stage the main missile continues its flight to the target by inertia. This configuration greatly simplifies the missile and reduces its cost.

9M337 uses an unusual guidance system – remote guidance on the laser beam with radio command guidance at the launch site. The principle of operation of the missile guidance system is as follows. The optical-electronic module detects the target, takes it to the tracking and begins illumination with a laser beam. After launch, a separate thermal imaging channel of the optical-electronic module sights the missile and determines its angular coordinates. Then, using radio commands, the missile is put into the laser beam, which is modulated in a certain way. The laser receiver located in the missile tail determines the missile position relative to the beam center, and the autopilot issues commands that ensure the missile is kept in its center until it hits the target.

This method of targeting is completely insensitive to electronic jamming and optical-electronic countermeasures.

The 9M337 missile engagement zone is 10 kilometers in range and five kilometers in height. The system capabilities allow to successfully hit helicopters and attack aircraft, cruise missiles, smart bombs, anti-tank missiles and other air precision-guided munitions.

At the moment, the Strela-10ML has passed state tests, and will be put into service in the near future. The system is offered for export under the name Sosna-R.


©New defence order. Strategy | 01 | 2019