Russia’s New Arctic Missile System
Highlights Growing Interest in Arctic Gas and Oil Reserves
The Arctic is becoming an increasingly vital asset for Russia. With that in mind, the Russian defense forces have been designing weaponry that can accommodate for a Russian occupation of the Arctic.
Unveiled during the rehearsal for the 2017 Russian Victory Day Parade in April, the Pantsir-SA is a new Russian-made short-range air defense missile system using the Pantsir-S1 weapon station, the descendant of the more lethal Tunguska anti-aircraft system.
The station is designed for short and medium-range point defense of military and industrial installations against a variety of threats such as aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles, and other projectiles.
What separates this weapon system from the others in the Pantsir Series is that the Pantsir-SA is specifically designed for Arctic conditions, being able to operate at temperatures below −50 °C (−58 °F).
Two Pantsir-SA surface-to-air missile system are seen during the 72nd anniversary of the end of World War II on the Red Square in Moscow.
The Pantsir-SA is based on the chassis of the DT-30PM-T1 tracked articulated tractor (DT stands for ‘articulated tractor’ in Russian), an all-terrain vehicle which consists of two connected tracked vehicles.
The first of the connected vehicles is the crew cab, with room for 4 to 7 people and several life-support systems. The Pantsir-S1 weapon system is mounted on the tracked second vehicle. The DT-30PM has a curb weight of 31,500 kg and a payload of 30,000 kg.
Unlike its predecessor, the Pantsir-S1, the Pantsir-SA is not fitted with a 30mm cannon, but is instead equipped with the extremely lethal 57E6 surface-to-air guided missiles with a range of 20,000 meters at an altitude of 15,000 meters.
With 18 launchers in 3 rows on the weapon system, the Pantsir-SA has the quantity and quality of missiles to handle any incoming threat.
It is able to defend against two different threats simultaneously, while also attacking up to 12 targets within a minute.
Furthermore, because the Pantsir-SA is equipped with a multiple-mode adaptive radar/optical weapons control system operating in the UHF, EHF and IR regions of the spectrum, it is highly resistant to jamming.
There are several features of the Pantsir-SA that make it a worrying weapon system for NATO allies.
For one, Russian claims about the assessed probability of destruction of targets and the radar capabilities exceed the capabilities of many NATO systems, such as Crotale NG (France), Roland-3 (France + USA), Rapier 2000 (UK), SeaRAM (Germany + USA).
Not only are its radar capabilities worrisome, but its missiles are also cause for concern. The Pantsir-SA can launch a missile every second, which is a world record for analogue systems. Combined with its jamming resistant systems, the Pantsir-SA is a significant threat to airpower.
The development of an Arctic specific, anti-air system by the Russians has alarmed the NATO countries, as it is one prong of the revision of Russian Military Doctrine.
In December 2014, Russia unveiled its new plans that prioritize the protection of its national interests in the Arctic, piqued by the large oil and natural gas deposits found in the Arctic.
This prioritization meant that Russia has increased its presence in the Arctic with new fleets of icebreakers, and a new Arctic base.
Russia needs to expand its country’s reserves, as a 2012 Kremlin budget that was made public showed a nearly 90% reliance on petroleum cash flow for the Russian government’s budget.
Will a war break out over these oil reserves that Russia so desperately needs or will the West acquiesce to the needs of this superpower? An outbreak of a war is unlikely as the relative value of the Arctic to Russia greatly exceeds its value to any other country.
As Russia looks to arm and settle the Arctic immediately, it looks as if they will have the important first mover advantage.
Written by Ramsay Bader
Edited by Rohan Mehta, Pavan Nagaraj, Jason Kauppila, Jack Argiro, Kevin Ma, Gihyen Eom & Calvin Ma