Algeria as Export Show-case for Russian Air Defence Systems

By Akram Kharief 

Relationship between Algeria and the USSR started even before Algeria got independence. In 1959, when the war of independence was in its pride, Moscow made decision and trained some hundreds of young officers of the National Liberation Army. Other officers, at the same time, have been trained in military educational institutions of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and China. 


ADMGS Pantzyr-S1

On July 5, 1962, when independence was declared, several thousands of the officers formed a main body of the National People's Army, which included air defence consisting of MiG-15 fighters, the Navy with two ships, and ground troops, strong with soldiers who had had fighting experience.

During the liberation war, especially after 1958, Algerians used numerous air defence guns, and in 1959, the first units of antiaircraft artillery appeared in rebellion units. As a result, from 1800 aircrafts, which France used in the course of the war in Algeria, 450 were crashed, with almost half a number of the reconnaissance aircrafts lost.

Air defence development

In 1962–1970, the country air defence consisted, exclusively, of the antiaircraft artillery and several radars for air space control. Thanks to participation of Algeria in the “war of starvation” in Egypt in 1967–1970, and after that in the “Yom kippur war” in 1973, the nation's leadership made a decision to invest resources in the development of a modern air defence system by taking Soviet example as a basis. Starting from 1975, strain in relations between Morocco and Algeria, which developed to showdowns, increased risk of Morocco invasion into West Sahara. The first ADMSs S-75 Dvina appeared in the country on November 1, 1964. And the first supplies of ADMSs S-125 Pechora took place in 1969.

Starting from 1973, radars P-15 and ADMSs S-75 started to be delivered in Algeria in ample amounts together with missile guidance station SNR-75. A task to secure the border with Morocco along its entire length was set. Approach of the Algerian army was fully defensive, so that positions of the radars and batteries were stationary. But, after growth of conflict between the People's front for liberation of Sagia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) and the Moroccan army, the latter started to use air fleet to bombard POLISARIO positions including the refugee camps in Algeria territory.

The air war in the West Sahara was also carried indirectly by allies of Morocco – France and the USA, which used their air fleet in the conflict pin-point from the beginning of 1980s. Raid of Israeli air fleet to Tunisia on October 1, 1985 and lessons of war between Israel and Syria resulted in Algerian leadership’s move to the conclusion, that the eastern flank of the country was not protected, and stationary air defence carried great risks.

As a result, the country changed its strategy for air defence, by laying stress henceforth on mobility and long-range defence with setting ambushes. Starting from 1980, Algeria purchased 11 regiments of ADMS 2К12 Kvadrat and began to deploy radars P-35 and P-40. Apart from that, 48 combat vehicles of ADMS Osa-AK were purchased from the USSR.

In 1988, Algeria adopted the Soviet model and established the command of air defence troops of the country, independent from the air defence, which had its own air fleet, namely, 110-th fighter squadron, in the inventory of which there were fighters-interceptors MiG-25PD/PDS. This unit was established in 1979.

While forming its own version of air defence troops, the Algerian army has also created the air defence for ground troops, the inventory of which included mobile ADMSs. Its task was to protect the tank divisions in medium ranges. There were deployed such systems as air defence gun 23-4 Shilka, ADMGS Pantzyr-S1, ADMSs Kvadrat, Buk-M2, Strela-10, Osa-AK, as well as S-125 Pechora on mobile carriers and PADMSs Strela-1, Igla, and Igla-1. Recently, ADMSs Тор-М2 were purchased, which should be received in 2018.


Confrontation in air with Morocco, both directly and by means of POLISARIO, was over in 1992, after the cease-fire agreement has been signed. The result was very bad for Morocco, which lost 25 aircrafts in the air defence actions, while no Algerian aircrafts crashed.

In 1991, Algeria, which argued against the war in Persian Gulf, become a witness of the collapse of Iraq air defence system and took several lessons from that. A principle of redundancy and self-supportability become the main one including self-supportability for combat formations, as well as their mobility.

Consequences of the war in Persian Gulf resulted in growth of violence and terrorism in North Africa and Middle East regions, with Algeria, which went through an Islamic rebellion for the period from 1992 to 2002, to become the first victim. During this decade, which coincided with economic and political crisis in Russia, the military budget of Algeria was reconsidered for the benefit of forces for antiterrorism protection. Only small purchases in the interests of the air defence were made, except for the contract with the USA for purchase of radars Northrop Grumman AN/TPS-34, 70, 78, and 703.

XXI century

After the onset of peace and growth of petroleum prices, the military budget of the country began to grow continuously. In 2007, Russia and Algeria signed an agreement on transformation of the debt in amount of $7 billion into purchase of armaments. A program was very ambitious, as it included purchasing of ADMS S-300PMU-2, the first one in North Africa and Middle East regions. The agreement also included purchasing of Su-30MKI(A) fighters and operational trainers Yak-130. Up to the present moment, Algeria remains a regular and rather large customer of Russian weapons. With its military budget amounting to $10 bln, Algeria has become the ninth importer of armaments in the world, the first one in Africa, and is among five largest buyers of Russian armaments together with India, China, Vietnam.

Actually, the Algerian army did not face the necessity to protect or safeguard all of 2.3 million sq. km of their territory up to 2010. In fact, 90% of population, cities, and strategic targets are located in the northern part of the country, and the area of this section is 200 thousand of sq. km. Effective defence was only required for the border with Morocco. However, start of the war against terrorism in North Africa, then the air war against Libya have resulted in appearing of new players having new air stations not far from south borders of Algeria. France, thanks to operation Barkhane, has established its military bases in Mali, Niger, and Chad. The USA have created gigantic base of UAV, including strike ones, in Agadez in the north of Chad. That’s to say nothing of the reconnaissance aircrafts appearing in Mauritania, Libya, and Tunisia.

Set of measures was taken strategically to fend this presence at borders of Algeria. So, in station Tamanrasset, in the south of the country, there have been set permanent force groupings, which consist of Su-30MKI(A) fighters, front-line bombers Su-24M, reconnaissance means, combat helicopters Mi-24 and then also Mi-28NE, transport helicopters Mi-171Sh. These activities have been performed since 2011. In 2014, the second stage of border strengthening started – the radars for air space control and communication interception means were located. So, radars P-18 and P-38, as well as American radars AN/TPS of various modifications have been installed. Recently, in the same region, a regiment of surface-to-air missile systems S-300PMU-2, as well as regiment of ADMSs S-125, and a number of ADMGSs Pantcir-S1 have been placed.

One more “headache” of the Algerian army is protection against strikes of stealth aircrafts, such as strategic bomber Northrop V-2A and fighter-bomber Lockheed F-117. The raid to Libya, which took place in December, 2017, caused serious concerns in Algeria and was considered as a threat for strategic sites of infrastructure. To resist to the stealth aircrafts, serious efforts were undertaken including purchase of the over-the-horizon radars with phased array antenna Rezonans-NE, Nebo, and even use of modified radars P-18. Acquiring the systems of electromagnetic warfare and radio reconnaissance Avtobaza and Vega has become a result of analysis of conflicts in Iraq, Kosovo, along with Iranian experience in this field.

To protect position areas of surface-to-air missile systems S-300PMU-2, Algerian air defence has selected another scheme, different from the one used in Russia. In Algeria, the missile launchers are put into concrete shelters or in a rocky ground, they are inactive in the time of peace, but ready for launch in several minutes in the time of war. After the first war in Persian Gulf, Algeria came to a conclusion, that it should not depend on Soviet/Russian weapons only. After holding a tender, which continued for seven years and with France, Italy, and the USA participating, the Northrop Grumman company has received a contract with cost of $7 billion for delivery of radars AN/TPS 34, 70, 78, and 703. And the doctrine supposes the use of American radars along with Russian P-37s and P-40s.

The radars themselves, as a rule, depending on their value, are under protection of the antiaircraft systems ZU-23-2, ADMGS Pantzyr-S1, and they are always within the reach of ADMS Buk-M2 or surface-to-air missile systems S-300PMU-2. Implementation of automated system for combat operation control Polyana-D4 was intended to increase coordination between various radars and launchers, and this permitted to change over to mobile defence in depth by using the stand-by systems. Accordingly, this has made possible not to endanger such valuable objects as the launchers or fighting control radars.

In 2015, Algerian army purchased Redikom system, which allows performing of complete maintenance of surface-to-air missile systems S-300PMU-2 and S-400, that already takes place in regard to other types of radars and combat systems.

To increase detection range, Algerian party has decided to purchase radar Rezonans-NE as the main radar for detection of air targets. Along with Nebo-SVU radars, they form the basis of long-range detection of air targets.

For 2018, the first delivery of ADMSs Tor-M2 is planned. They will safeguard strategic sites and petroleum industry facilities.


Algerian army has become one of the first to show interest in ADMS S-400 and S-350. In the nearest five years, they can appear in the inventory. Besides, in the context of diversification policy, Algeria can purchase radars and ADMSs of China production, as well as electromagnetic warfare systems. Collaboration with the USA is probable in the field of radars, as operation experience with them was considered as a positive one.

Finally, it cannot be excluded that Algeria will become a buyer of new batches of ADMGS Pantzyr-S1 and even S-500, in case the latter system is offered for export in the nearest decade.


“Good prospects exist, and good results have been already achieved in the area of military-technical co-operation. Existing plans should be carried out, we are disposed to do this along with Algerian friends”

Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia



НОЗС-1-2019_Инфографика_ Алжир


©New defence order. Strategy | 01 | 2019  


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