Russia Unveils New and Upgraded SAM Systems

 - September 12, 2018, 6:07 AM
The Viking combat vehicle has six canister-launched missiles and its own radar. (photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

While the issue of the controversial S-400 sales to Turkey continues to be on top of the political news, Russia has unveiled a number of other advanced surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems in versions available for export. Among SAMs making their public debut at the Army 18 exhibition in late August were the 9K317M Viking and the Sosna. The Strela-10MN, a recent modernization of the Soviet-era Strela-10M3 was also on show.

The Viking is a new addition to the family of medium-range SAMs that Tikhomirov’s Scientific-Research Institute (now a member of the Almaz-Antey corporation) began developing 50 years ago. All family members are based on a tracked chassis to provide anti-aircraft protection for advancing armor and mechanized infantry. The Viking represents an exportable variant of the Buk-M3 that completed fire trials in 2011 and entered service in 2016 with Russian air defense brigades. The M3 differs from its predecessors by using containerized 9M317M missiles instead of the rail-launched 9M38 for the M1 and 9M317 for the M1-2 and M2.

Viking was displayed at Army 18 with a 9S36M target-illumination and guidance radar on a 9A317M combat vehicle, complete with its own radar. Typically, a complete SAM battery comprises a 9S510М command vehicle, a 9S36M radar, a pair of 9A317M combat vehicles, two 9А316М transporter-erector-launchers (TEL), and a number of 9Т243 reloading trucks. The TEL is not equipped with radar but carries 12 missiles instead of the six on the 9A317M combat vehicle.

Although the 9M317M missile is sometimes described as a modernization of the older 9M317, in fact, it represents a new design, with weight decreased by 500 pounds, to 1,716 pounds, and length decreased by 16 inches. Firing range rises to 70 km (43.5 statute miles) from the previous 45 to 50 km. It has been in production for more than 10 years for the Shtil-1.1 naval anti-aircraft system employed by the Russian navy’s Project 11356R and Chinese frigates. More recently, a version with a shorter fuselage has been developed to fit into the limited space on Project 22160 corvettes. It seems that the Viking comes with shortened (and, thus, shorter-range) missiles compared with the non-exportable Buk-M3.

Viking was announced in March, at which time the Rosoboronexport state arms-trade agency stated that the new SAM was cleared for export. Deputy general manager Sergei Lodygin gave the maximum firing range at 65 km, while stressing the system’s ability to engage six targets simultaneously with a single combat vehicle.

The mobile Sosna system can fire 12 laser-guided anti-aircraft missiles. (photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Meanwhile, the new Sosna SAM was represented by a combat vehicle loaded with 12 containerized Sosna-R missiles able to hit aerial targets flying at altitudes of up to 5,000 meters (16,404 feet) at a distance of 10 km. The laser-guided Sosna-R missiles are already in service on the Vietnamese navy Project 11661 Gepard 3.9 corvettes armed with the Palma anti-aircraft missile-artillery system. Firing trials ran from 2013 to 2017.

The Sosna concept is that of a 'round-the-clock system mounted on tracked or wheeled chassis (3.5-ton payload) with cross-country capabilities. It uses electro-optics for target detection, classification, and acquisition. The combat vehicle does not emit radio signals, which—as its developers from Nudelman’s Tochmash design house believe—considerably increases its survivability. The system can work in an automated mode, managing target detection, classification, and firing without input from the crew, apart from taking corrective action should it be needed.

Strela-10MN system seen during a mobility demonstration. (photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Sosna follows the Strela-10 series that employs multispectral (thermal and imaging infrared) “fire-and-forget” missiles. Initially, it was developed under the Strela-10ML designation, with the letter “L” denoting use of laser-beam guidance until impact instead of the “fire-and-forget” principle. The previous version, Strela-10MN (“N” for night capability), entered service in 2014. It is produced by adding a modern thermal imager to the older Strela-10M3 while retaining the older missiles. Even though there is no information concerning whether the Strela-10M systems of the Syrian army underwent modification into the “MN” version, the Russian defense ministry claimed that five missiles fired by the Strela-10 system downed three cruise missiles of the U.S.-led coalition on the night of April 14, 2018.