Researching military hardware and systems- especially missiles- is a veritable nightmare of lists and statistics. Wading, sifting, and interpreting it all is not only frustrating, but ultimately terrifying. We all assume america is protected from nuclear attack, but is it? To what degree? And if there is no protection, what is the strategic balance of power today?
It is very inaccurate- even lopsided- to directly compare american and Russian military systems, as they developed so independently that the technologies are contradistinctive. While american technology is pathologically claimed to be superior, in reality corporate profits have complete control over defense contracts, and thereby, what weapons systems are developed and when. It can take decades for an idea to come to fruition, and by the time it happens it is obsolete by other nations' standards. An excellent example is the very profitable piece of junk known as the F-35. This jet is a very expensive lemon, slated to replace the time tested F-15s, F-16s, F-18s, and F-22s, while it snaps the necks of pilots and breaks down every whipstitch. This cash cow for Lockheed seems to be un-killable by the few politicians who oppose it, however. An even better- and much lesser known story- involves the refusal of army bigshots to place armor on humvees, or replace them with safer vehicles. See this story, posted on a conspiracy site because no one else will put it up! Impediments to progress like these undermine technological development in a huge way.
In the meantime, Russia decided to rebuild, re-equip, and modernize their military. Their progress is a wonderful example of how it could be done if only america would give the concept of defense priority over corporate profits. They have thus developed vastly superior technologies and systems in all areas of their military- especially missile and anti-missile systems, electronic warfare, and fighter jets. These areas are crucial as the theaters of land and sea warfare are lost causes for the West. On land, the Russian tank superiority and sheer numbers insure that Europe would be overrun in a matter of days in any ground conflict- by some estimates a matter of hours. American naval superiority is also fallacious. Most estimates predict its survival in a world war scenario at two to three days. These are subjects of different essays, which are forthcoming. Air superiority, however, is key. While most bemoan america's alleged air prowess, they fail to consider several key issues: a. american aircraft are dispersed amongst bases worldwide, and cannot strike as a large unit anywhere, b. american stealth technologies have been nullified by new types of radars- nothing is invisible, c. the oldest Russian military jets are faster, have longer ranges, and carry more weaponry than the newest american jets, d. all but one type of Russian fighter jet is "super-maneuverable" which means they will win any dogfight easily- while the american F-22 and F-35 supposedly are as well, they are nothing like the Sukhois they tried to copy, e. the F-35 debacle will seriously hurt Western air forces in many ways (see link earlier: 'piece of junk'). This all will come into play if there is a conflict because air power will determine if a lot of cruise missiles are launched or not, what will and will not be bombed, and what may be taken out as ground targets.
Defense against marauding jets is critical, to prevent all manner of targets from being decimated by everything from napalm to JDAMs (bunker busters). The air defenses against them are interesting- both in what there is and what there is not. To ward off enemy aircraft, america has stinger missiles, which are used as MANPADS (MAN Portable Air Defense Systems-- shoulder fired rockets), mounted onto land vehicles, helicopters and even jets.
The only other land based air defense missiles america has are the Patriot system- the well known hawk missiles are used by other countries still, but have been phased out and mothballed/sold by the american military. This leaves four different naval based missiles- the RIM66 Standard (medium range), RIM 67 Standard (extended range), RIM 174 Standard ERAM (anti-cruise missile), and RIM 161 Standard Missile 3- a naval based anti-ABM missile which has been adapted for land launches at two bases in Poland and Romania. Any of these could shoot down aircraft, as well as the naval AEGIS system designed for short range anti-ABM and aircraft defense. The RIM 161s have been placed on many american naval ships, which Russia has been complaining about lately. It is more of a threat to low-orbiting satellites than nuclear warheads though. Their main point of contention is that this deployment is a violation of the ABM treaty (what treaty has america not violated?). While all of this sounds impressive, especially considering that there are two other american air defense systems designed exclusively for anti-ballistic warhead defense, it is actually woefully lacking. All of these except the patriot and stingers are too big and overdesigned for small targets like aircraft. There needs to be an in between system, and there is not: going from stinger to patriot is quite a gray area and specialty jets and missiles will get through this chasm of extremes.
Comparatively, Russia has a multitude of air defense systems. Besides the manpads and smaller units (verbas, strelas and iglas), they have several naval based ones as well. These include the S300F, S300FM, S400F, CIWS Kashtan(chestnut) (similar to Phalanx), and M11 Shtorm (storm) missiles. Any of these can shoot down aircraft or missiles, and all but the CIWS and M11 are designed to take out ballistic targets as well. But does Russia have the happy medium that america lacks- something primarily designed to take out aircraft?
First, they have the ZU-32-2. It is a towable, dual barrel 23 mm cannon. Actually a giant twin machine gun that can shoot accurately for two miles, it is commonly bolted onto military vehicles and has been sold to dozens of countries. These are what the terrorists in Syria cram into the back of their Toyota pickups, and have shot down several aircraft with.
|ZU-32 in truck mount|
There are also S125 launch systems, with V600 type missiles. They can be ground, tracked vehicle, truck, or trailer mounted. Supposedly, they have been 'replaced' by the S300s, and now are only 'practice' rockets; however, they still dot the country and have also been spotted in the defensive ring around Hymeimim air base in Syria. They are mostly used to defend bases and strategic land targets such as factories. It was an S125 that shot down an american "stealth" fighter over Serbia.
|S125 ground mount|
|S-125 tracked mount|
The S-200 surface to air missiles are another formidable obstacle to anything entering Russian airspace. The massive 35 foot long missiles can fly at mach 8 and hit targets almost 200 miles away. There are over 2,000 of these on standby. The Syrian Arab Army recently shot down an israeli F-16 with one of these. They also destroyed 70 of 103 Tomahawk cruise missiles in a recent attack by nato with both the S125 and S200s. Their Pantsirs which were protecting government buildings, were not needed. The 32 enemy missiles that got through were headed for empty buildings and other defunct targets and were not bothered with. This incident proved that old systems can really defeat newer high tech ones.
|S200 on ground mounted launcher|
Then there is the 2K22 Tunguska, a tracked vehicle with antiaircraft cannons and 8 missiles apiece- designed specifically to shoot down american A-10s and other jets (250 in operation), and the larger and more modern TOR units with 16 missiles apiece- which can also shoot down cruise missiles (172 units in use), and the K300P Bastion systems- large truck based groups designed for coastal defense with supersonic anti-ship missiles, said to be able to shoot down aircraft, cruise, and even ballistic missiles if needed. There are only a handful of these in use, but more are being made (these were used to deter an american invasion of Crimea in 2014, and are stationed in the Kurils now). The TORs are used for short range defense and normally guard bases and permanent ground targets such as the Kirch bridge in Crimea. Osa (wasp) units are very similar to TOR but are a little smaller, amphibious, and more mobile. The Tunguskas are frequently mixed into military columns and other exercises/groupings. Both are usually operated in groups of four vehicles with a central radar unit to aid them. Pantsirs are mobile vehicles which can be tracked or wheeled, and have land, naval, and arctic versions. They carry 12 anti-aircraft missiles and two dual 30mm cannons each. There are 200 of these in use in Russia and a batch of 50 units with 300 spare missiles was just sent to the Syrian army. There are also the new Fowler being made now which is a smaller version of the Pantsir, so it can be airdropped with paratroops; and, the newly improved version of the Kornet missiles. Kornets are designed to take out tanks, but the new models also work well for helicopters and drones, and are being placed near S400 units. They also have the Archer- E units. These are small, light armored vehicles with 6-8 igla missiles mounted on top. They are designed for stealthy, fast, and independent defense uses against all non-ballistic air threats, though they can take out cruise missiles. They're commonly used to escort military columns.
|new Kornet vehicle|
Besides these, there is the venerable BUK (beech [tree]). BUKs are vehicles which can be wheeled or tracked, with usually four or six missiles apiece, and are designed to shoot down high flying aircraft and cruise missiles. There are 250 of these wandering the Russian countryside at any given time, travelling in groups of 2-3 launch vehicles with a radar truck as well. They are being replaced with newer models at this time- the BUK-M3- which holds six missiles per unit and has greatly increased range. They are scheduled to all be replaced by the end of 2016. The new models are said to be more effective than the S300s in some ways. The Syrian army has a large contingent of these as well, recently upgraded. The older ones' fates are as yet unknown, but may be given to ally CSTO nations. And, its manufacturer, Almaz-Antey, has announced that it is already working on a 5th generation model.
There are also five Russian air defense systems that are all designed for anti-aircraft, anti-cruise missile, and anti-ballistic missile defense. These units consist of groups of vehicles- with multiple/redundant radar trucks, a command vehicle, a scout vehicle, a reloading crane truck, and at least 4 launch trucks. When parked and set up, all are linked by direct cables, local telephone lines, and/or radio control. Each grouping may contain 4 to 8 launch truck units, and each launch tube contains either one or four missiles. These groups are also escorted by at least two Pantsir or TOR units as well, largely to set up perimeters and prevent drone or swarm attacks on the larger systems. Their command vehicle can integrate radar info with their escort units, and function up to 100 km from the launch trucks. It is widely acknowledged that only the F-22 Raptor could possibly attack these setups successfully, though recent Russian advances in technology with photon and shortwave radar systems nullifies all enemy stealth aspects, so the lightly armed Raptors would be easily spotted and dealt with.
The five multi-role defense missile systems are:
The five multi-role defense missile systems are:
Oldest of this series; these are being upgraded, with some adapted for and used on naval vessels, and some are being phased out in favor of ones listed below. After the recent nato attack on Syria, Russia is preparing to sell these to Syria and possibly other allies as well. Iran already has an upgraded battery of these. There are about 1,000 total launch trucks just in Russia, with 4-10 missiles apiece. They can be on tracked or wheeled vehicles. Their primary purpose is air defense, but can strike distant land and sea targets as well. The newest upgrade of these, called the S300V4, was set up recently in the Russian naval port of Tartus in Syria to protect the Syrian air force bases from impending cruise missile attacks.
The S300/Kalibr missiles are also mounted onto most of Russia's corvette and larger naval vessels, and soon into their submarines as well. They can accurately destroy sea targets 350 km (217.5 miles) away as well as land targets up to 3,500 km (2,174.8 miles) away. Their original design as air interceptors is assumed to be intact when fired from sea instead of land.
S350 : Vityaz (Warrior)
A new yet different system, these are made for medium range and supplemental defense, and are being emplaced near major cities and bases. Their main task is ballistic missile defense, but can engage any airborne targets. Each truck has 12 missiles, and 30 systems are scheduled to be made by 2020.
S400 : Triumf (Triumph)
Latest high tech system in wide use, with more on the way. Sold to China and a sale of 6 battalions to India is nearly complete. Much larger than the S300, it uses 5 types of missiles depending on the situation. It generally has 4 launch trucks with reloads (32+ missiles) per battalion, with 25 battalions being produced (800+ total missiles on standby). This is what was sent to Syria to protect the Hmeimin air base from more Turkish attacks. An interesting note about these is that certain strategy think tanks and others have posted vomit-quality nonsense videos on youtube about how easy it would be to defeat S400s (as well as the 300s, 500s, etc.) with saturation attacks utilizing several small cruise missiles or swarms of mini-drones. They conveniently fail to mention numerous reasons why it would never be so easy, as laid out in this video (turn down volume- robot voice is nerve racking..). [Basically they are guarded by Pantsir, BUK, and TOR batteries, and also watched closely by nearby air bases. See also entry below about the Morfey.]
S500 : Prometey (Prometheus)
The latest of this series, said to create a 100% shield that can detect and take out anything airborne, from drones to satellites. Increased range as well. Mostly electronic improvements, the appearance is very similar to the S400. It is designed for protection of specific high value targets such as major cities and military bases, as opposed to swaths of border regions. The warheads are nuclear and can destroy entire swarms of ICBM MIRVs before they re-enter the atmosphere. [Nice little video here which shows differences between S400 and S500]. Some units are in use as of 2016, and once more in place there are plans to include them in a nationwide integrated air defense system.
S600 : Like the story about Moscow's fallout shelter upgrades, it was there and then it wasn't...This was rumored to be under development and said to be entirely airborne. Whenever Russia admits to a military device existing, it usually means it is alot farther along than they let on, and could be in use already. This is meant to be the next generation of ultimate air defense, utilizing S500 technology in an airborne instead of ground based delivery. This researcher predicts it will be in a group of permanently airborne planes switched out in-flight as needed for maintenance. The likely air group for this could be the newly refurbished Tu-95 long range bombers as missile carriers/launchers, adapted as spy planes like the old Tu-95 MR versions, or perhaps accompanied by their AWACS style A-50 spy plane; and, either way escorted by a pair of MiG 31BM long range escort/fighter-interceptors. The group could fly randomly non-stop over Russia's vast expanses to be always-ready and virtually impossible to target. Launching these missiles from high elevations would give much longer ranges, and faster response. Very little is known yet about the 600; this is all guesswork at this point.
42S6 Morfey: (Morpheus)
This system was designed specifically to defend the S400 batteries from saturation- or last ditch- attacks, with a close in range of 5-10 km, or about 3-6 miles. It could also be used to defend any military unit, city, or building as well if needed. Effective against aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic warheads.
Mozyr : This system deserves an honorable mention. It is comprised of 100 or more artillery pieces synced together and arrayed in a circle around the land based ICBM silos. When an incoming object is detected, up to 6km out, they all fire at once creating a wall of ordnance. One could think of it as a Phalanx or CIWS unit on steroids, creating a curtain of lead around its silo...
Now Russia has let it be known that on top of all this, they are testing yet another entirely new system for long range air defense.
One more system that begs mention here is the Polyana command and control system. There are so many overlapping air defense systems in Russia they had to invent a universal mobile control station to synchronize them. These units are truck based and can park wherever they need to, each covering a region larger than France in area. More details are here. Short video below also illustrates it well.
What comparable systems does america have to any of the aforementioned systems? Absolutely nothing. The Patriot missiles are frequently compared to the S-300, though that is actually a laughable analogy. The old S-300- being upgraded, replaced, and/or phased out now with its measly (by Russian standards) 90% hit rate, is hardly comparable to the Patriot missiles, which have been rated at best to be 30-70%. They were once sent to israel, and after Hezbollah rained missiles onto them for weeks unabated, they were sent back with a Zero % rating. They now operate a few they upgraded themselves, and are replacing them with their own version soon. Despite ongoing upgrades, there is still little to no confidence in these lemons of the anti-missile world. They are designed to blow up next to their target, destroying its body shotgun style, like BUK missiles do. They do not directly hit incoming warheads, like the S series Russian missiles do, so how these would stop incoming nukes is completely unknown. They allegedly can shoot down aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles. On top of all this, the launchers raise at an angle- not all the way up vertically like the Russian S systems do. Therefore they have to be facing the incoming target to acquire it. This means that they only protect the area directly behind them, not 360 degree protection like the Russian systems. So 4 Patriot batteries would need to be placed in an outward facing circle to offer the same protection as any one Russian S series system...So far 1,106 units have been produced, though the number that are actually set up in U.S. territory is unclear, as they are known to be in use at most if not all 128 foreign american bases. [This video compares the patriot system to the S400.]
|patriot missile system|
As far as the S-400, 500, 600, or Tunguska, Tor, Osa, Pantsir, Archer, Fowler, Morfey, Mozyr, BUK-- there are no similar systems at all.
There are, on both sides, a few systems that are for anti-ballistic defenses only.
The american ones are the GDI(GMD) and the THAAD. The GDI (ground-based defense interceptors) are part of the GMD (ground-based mid-course defense) system. It is supposed to detect ballistic missiles and then destroy them at their apogee before the warheads separate. This system depends upon several failed ideas such as the sea based X band radar floating-lemon-debacle. One test of this system after another, for years now- and as recently as January 2016- have failed. The last test cost 250 million dollars (yes, 1/4 of a Billion dollars spent for a single test!) and was not only unsuccessful, they lied about it to the press. Coupling this with the fact that Russia's new Sarmat ballistic missiles utilize dummy warheads mixed with real ones- all using independently evasive maneuvers and sub-orbital flight paths, travelling at hypersonic speeds, and having such a long range they can be launched from and subsequently strike anywhere in the world (such as from southern Russia going south over Antarctica and coming up on Florida from below...), one wonders if these american defense units will hit any targets at all. Worse, there are only 30 of these in silos ready to fire. Thirty. All looking North. (Detailed, yet old, site on these missiles here.) There has also been recent talk of making 15 more of these missiles at a cost of 6 billion dollars, which would be placed at either Vandenburg or at a new facility on the East coast somewhere. Of course the difference between 30 and 45 of these is moot when 1,700 warheads are coming in...
The THAAD (similar to a simplistic/smaller version of the S350 system in purpose and range), has 48 missiles per battery and there are currently 5 total batteries, making 240 interceptor missiles available. Of the 5 batteries, there is known to be one in Japan, one in South Korea, and one in Qatar. Of course this gives the benefit of the doubt regarding the military's claim that they can be reloaded very quickly. Quick enough? If not, expect no more than 30 defensive shots to be fired. Sadly, this is the best hope for american air defense, as it still makes for sparse coverage from Russia's 1,700 nukes on ready-to-fire status. The recent Russian replacement for its warheads- hypersonic gliders capable of independent evasive maneuvering and speeds of mach 14, with a range of over 6,200 miles- makes THAAD obsolete, however. These gliders can also be fired 24 at a time encased into one Sarmat ICBM, with some being nukes, some EW devices, and some drones. This brief article explains how these hypersonic warheads will be mass produced within a couple years at most, and only Russia has this capability.
Russia's dedicated anti-ballistic missile systems are stationed in a circle around the Moscow region, and are known as the Moscow Ring. There are the older and shorter range A-135s, and the newer, long range A-235s. These missiles- 135s in land silos and 235s truck mounted- are an extra double-shield of defense for the capital city and its suburbs. There are 68 A-135 launchers with 16 missiles apiece (1,088 interceptor missiles), and an unknown number of the newer A-235s. Since the new A235s are truck based, it is believed they are also being placed at the new Arctic Aerodromes on their northernmost islands (such as Nagurskoye Air Base, Sredny Ostov Air Base, Temp Air Base, and Zvyozdny Air Base). More info on these here. The american military is complaining that these are anti-satellite missiles, and even though they probably can shoot down satellites their main role in the northern islands and around Moscow is to intercept nukes...They are also now testing a new "organic and short range interceptor missile", which is a modern replacement for the old A-135s.
Of course, this is not including the thirteen S300 batteries and one S400 already encircling Moscow.
|S300/400 locations w range overlays|
An intriguing possibility is what would be done in time of war with the obsolete missiles that Russia has. This is because they have several thousands of them. It is estimated that there are about 4,600 S-75 missiles, unknown numbers of S-125s, 2K11s and 2K12s, and at least 11,000 S25s. All of these are now used only for 'target practice'. It will be many years before all of these can be used up in target practice. If war broke out, it is a real possibility that all of these excess, obsolete- yet functioning- air defense missiles could be preliminarily fired in massive volleys towards an enemy's bases and flotillas to overwhelm them and cause massive random destruction. About 5,000 apiece could be placed in and fired from the areas of Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg, and Rostov-on-Don, to equally spread the mayhem. They also have 500 of the monstrous old Ganef units sitting around, awaiting 'target practice'. Usable and effective, but may miss modern small fighter jets; however, perfect for bombers and spy planes. The old behemoths may see their day yet...
Meanwhile, all of america's old missiles have been disassembled or sold to other countries, the best example of which is the Hawk system: in use in several nations but not by america anymore.
Without getting into the separate yet related subject of radar systems, keep in mind that Russia has a type of radar called Sunflower that can easily detect stealth jets including the F35s. They are also now installing a system to tap into their cell phone towers, which will detect the smallest of drones and low flying crafts with the 1/4 million cell tower relays across the country (see this or this). Of course, those are mere asides from their main long range systems: the new Voronezh and the older Don and Daryal types- all of which are extremely impressive.
This is all to say nothing of the newest Russian system to pop up- 6th generation fighter jets. They include manned and unmanned aircraft, with one pilot controlling a swarm of up to ten planes. It has a special engine which is a hypersonic jet engine and a rocket engine combined: it can go in and out of the atmosphere, travelling thousands of miles in almost no time, dropping atop enemy formations from high above without warning. They also will have an EM cannon to shut off enemy vehicles. The engine is already made, and the smaller parts are being tested now in the new PAK-FA T-50 5th generation jets. America can't even keep a space shuttle working or place its own satellites into orbit, so their formulation of a defense against these space glider swarms is hard to fathom.
In conclusion, Russia is extremely secure from enemy air attacks of all kinds, including nuclear warheads. They could shoot down at least 98 to 100% of all incoming threats... America is extremely vulnerable. They could shoot down a few incoming jets, cruise missiles, or nukes, but only a small percent, maybe 5-10%. This is terrifying, as stated at the beginning, for two reasons: 1. Russia knows this, and 2. america knows this too, and continues to try to start a war with them anyway.
(C) james platt. do not copy or repost without permission. link does not negate DMCA law.
-see also: Who would win a nuclear war?
-excellent article, in Russian but worth translating if needed: http://ostkraft.ru/ru/articles/1765
-detailed history and specs on S-300 and 400 systems here
S125 ground: Srđan Popović-https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21432478
S125 tracked: Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej- http://www.mon.gov.pl/en/artykul/2283
S200: George Chernilevsky- https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7008734
tunguska: By Пользователь -CC BY 3.0, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10907606
wheeled pantsir: wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cf/MAKS_Airshow
tracked pantsir: http://www.vitalykuzmin.net/?q=node/353
kornet: vitaly v. kuzmin
osa: KGG1951- https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8444244
wheeled buk: By Leonidl CC BY-SA 3.0, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15294627
S300: Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6740178
S400: Соколрус, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40082350
42S6 Morfey: militaryrussia.ru
patriot: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=894093
Moscow outer ring: google earth image with overlaid ranges
S25: Leonidl - CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15209749
S75: Tourbillon - , CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4215918