Air Defense: Something Odd Is Happening Outside Moscow



May 14, 2010: Three years after the first foreign customer (Syria) received the Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft systems, the Russian Air Force is getting some. The Russian Air Force recently received the S1E version, with an improved radar (36 kilometer range) and missile (more reliable). Curiously, the air force is using their first ten Pantsir-S1s to guard S-300 anti-aircraft missile bases located around Moscow. There was no explanation from the Russians as to why they felt a mobile, low level anti-aircraft system was needed to guard a larger, high altitude one. Perhaps additional protection against cruise missiles. The Russians aren't saying.

These ten vehicles were supposed to arrive two years ago, but there were more technical problems. There's been a pattern of that with Pantsir-S1. Development began in the 1990s, but was sporadic for nearly a decade because there was no money. Meanwhile. several Arab nations have been persuaded to order a total of 150-200 Pantsir-S1 vehicles.

Pantsir-S1 is a mobile system, each vehicle carries radar, two 30mm cannon and twelve Tunguska missiles. The 90 kg (198 pound) missiles have a twenty kilometer range, the radar a 30 kilometer range. The missile can hit targets at up to 8,400 meters (26,000 feet). The 30mm cannon is effective up to 3,200 meters (10,000 feet). The vehicle can vary, but the most common one carrying all this weighs 20 tons, and has a crew of three. Each Pantsir-S1 vehicle costs about $15 million.

Two months after Syria received Pantsir-S1s in 2007, Israel bombed a Syrian nuclear weapons development facility. The Syrians were very dismayed at how ineffective the new Russian anti-aircraft systems were during the Israeli strike. Syria and Iran have both bought billions of dollars worth of the latest Russian anti-aircraft missile systems. Apparently the Israelis were able to blind these systems electronically.



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