Russian Surface-to-Air Missiles Flow To Middle East

Dubai Air Show » 2013
The Middle East region has a long-standing association with Russian-built anti-aircraft systems, dating back to the Soviet Union days.
November 17, 2013, 8:45 AM

The Middle East is rich with all sorts of Russian-made anti-aircraft systems. Most of them were delivered to the Arab countries opposing Israel and, in the time of the Soviet Union, to other clients on a political pretext.

The flow of modern anti-aircraft systems to the area continues, although in lesser quantities. Russia is often viewed as a preferable supplier for that sort of weaponry due to the long story of success of its anti-aircraft systems. It has been estimated that anti-aircraft missiles made in the Soviet Union and now Russia have seen more launches than such weapons made in all other countries combined.

Although UAE and Jordan are among those nations that have historically bought the bulk of their military equipment in the West, these countries have procured certain air defense systems from Russia. In particular, the UAE was the launch customer for the Pantsyr SAM.

Speaking to AIN, a high-flying manager at the Rosoboronexport governmental arms vendor said that the Arab customers tend to buy the same systems the Russian defense ministry is acquiring.

The Russian air defense units have already received a number of S-400 and Pantsyr SAMs as well as Nebo-M radar sets. The rearmament of the Russian air force’s SAM units with the S-400s will proceed at a rate of two to three regiments annually, the defense ministry announced earlier this year. It was also announced that, on completion of state trials on the Vityaz SAM and the Container beyond-horizon radar, these systems will also be added to the inventory. The S-500 development is due to be completed in 2015, extending the reach of anti-missile ranges into the near space.

Sadly for foreign clients looking for highly effective long-range SAMs, the S-400 production line at the Almaz-Antey facility has been overloaded with domestic orders, so deliverable sets are not expected to be available for a new customer for seven to eight years. Because of the high demand, the earlier S-300P family, which used to be manufactured on the same line, is no longer available new from the factory.

But the demand for advanced long-range SAMs is strong, with many customers with the money not prepared to wait eight years for the S-400. Seeing this, Rosoboronexport is trying to urge some of them to choose the S-300V, whose production is set up at another location. This system was developed in the late years of the Soviet Union and supplied in limited numbers to the Russian air defense units in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before production ceased. The Russian defense ministry preferred to focus its then-limited funds on the improved S-300P and develop that system further on the account of the S-300V.

For a while the S-300V looked like a discontinued product but recently it has come to life again with deliveries to Venezuela. Iran, which ordered the S-300PMU but denied deliveries due to the newly imposed international sanctions, is now offered the Antey-2500, an improved version of the S-300V. This system is also on offer in India.

Vympel’s RZV-MD

At the MAKS 2013 show this past August, the Almaz-Antey Concern exhibited for the first time the S-350E Vityaz SAM, consisting of 50P6A launcher loaded with twelve 6M96/6M96E missiles featuring active radar seekers, 50N6A multi-functional radar, 50K6A control post, all on a BAZ 8-by-8 wheeled chassis. Development of that system commenced in 2007. In production at the Obukhov Plant, the S-350E has just started fire trials in preparation for EIS in 2015. The Vityaz will replace the ageing S-300PS and S-300PM/PMU. Its availability for export is not clear.

Another new missile demonstrated to the public for the first time at MAKS was the RZV-MD from Vympel, a member in the Tactical Missile Corp. (Russian acronym TRV)–an integrated structure encompassing 25 enterprises with a total workforce of 40,000. Speaking to journalists at a MAKS press conference, Boris Obnosov, TRV general manager, described the RZV-MD as a surface-to-air derivative of the R-77 (RVV-AE being the exportable version) air-to-air missile. “There have been a number of foreign customers repeatedly asking us for this application of the missile,” Obnosov commented.

In appearance, the RZV-MD bears little resemblance to the R-77. Vympel’s description for the RZV-MD on the placard next to the missile, and on its container, was the following: “The anti-aircraft guided missile of the short range is intended for air cover of the land forces in all kinds of battle and on the march, and provides protection from the air strikes with precision guidance munitions, tactical airplanes, helicopters, UCAV and strategic cruise missiles flying at middle, low and extremely low altitudes, in the conditions of severe jamming, in any weathers, day or night.”

The RZV-MD can accelerate at up to 1,000 meters-per-second and employs command guidance. Weighing 163 kg (around 360 lb) (containerized), the weapon has a firing range in excess of 16 km (10 miles) and a ceiling of 10 km (6 miles). The missile is 2.94 m (9.6 ft) long, with a diameter of 24 cm (9.5 in). It is developed jointly with Almaz-Antey Concern for use in surface-to-air systems.

With a broad line of legacy and newly developed assets, Russia continues to hold a leading position in the international market for air defense systems.

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