NSS translation and commentary
On April 11, 2018, Business Insider posted an analysis of Russian air defences in an article ominously titled “Russia's newest anti-air defences are in Syria — and the US should be worried.”
The author states “Russia's air defences are significantly more capable than American counterparts, especially when working together.”
It is clear that the authors of the article appearing in our translation below are eager to see how Russian air defences measure up against US cruise missiles. Far from discouraging them, Trump has in fact given them a rare testing ground for their new defences and an opportunity to attract arms buyers if things work out well for the Russians.
An article from RIA Novosti of April 9 reported that Russia has sent 40 Pantsir air defence systems to Syria ahead of the planned US attack that Trump has promised.
Below is our translation of an article from Vzglyad showing what we can expect of Trump’s attack on Syria should it materialize.
The S-400 and Pantsir are preparing for a grandiose test in Syria
The battle in the Syrian sky will show the extent to which our missile defence system has learned to shoot down the notorious "Tomahawks."
April 11, 2018, 21:35
By Yuri Zainashev and Mikhail Moshkin
Syria, before our very eyes, is turning into a stage on which a grand military performance will be held - deflection of the mass attack with American cruise missiles by Russian air defence systems. Who will eventually be the winner – the Tomahawks or S-400 and Pantsir-S1 systems? What will be considered a success for each of the parties? The reputation of Russian weapons is at stake, but not only that.
Combat test drive on a world scale
"Russian air defence systems in Syria have an opportunity to show everything they are capable of," a source close to the Russian Defence Ministry commented to the newspaper VZGLYAD. This kind of test is worth a lot, the source notes.
"For the military all over the world, this will be an extremely important lesson - the analysis of this strike and its deflection will long be handled by the headquarters of all the leading military powers of the world," the general believes. Another subject of analysis will be how the electronic warfare complexes (EW) work when deflecting missile strikes.
The general points out that the amount of resources and time the enemy spends on countering air defences is important. In his view, Russia has brought to the Arab Republic "a lot of different air defence systems, from the most remote acting to close-up acting." And for modern air defence systems, non-manoeuvring cruise missiles do not pose a particular problem. "As I understand, they also brought a sufficient number of the electronic warfare (EW) complexes there," he says. According to his forecast, our air defences should as a result perform at a rating of "four".
It is worth noting that the battle in Syria in the next few days and hours will be the first battle in the history of the world in which a mass attack with cruise missiles is deflected. Everything that military experience has encountered at the moment is either tests or single launches of air defence systems. It can be said that Soviet air defence experts have been preparing for this for more than 60 years - since the first anti-aircraft missile systems appeared after World War II. The military doctrine of the USSR placed a special bet on them for understandable reasons, and the most famous success of Soviet anti-aircraft gunners was the destruction of an American U-2 aircraft in the 60s of the last century. After that, the Americans could no longer enter Soviet airspace with impunity. And let’s not forget about the thousands of American aircraft destroyed by Soviet anti-aircraft systems in Vietnam. Soviet and then Russian air defence systems deserve to be considered the best in the world, but they have never had a chance to test their capabilities with a real (non-training) missile strikes of this magnitude.
And now, it seems, the moment of the decisive test has come - not only for specific officers, Russian and Syrian, but for the entire Russian school of air defence.
Success will be a "coefficient of 0.9-"
The number of downed enemy missiles is not an end in itself, Lieutenant-General Alexander Gorkov, head of the air defence missile forces in 2000-2008, remarked in conversation with the newspaper VZGLYAD. He stressed: "The air defence forces are designed to completely preserve the object. Therefore, if only one of the 100 rockets is shot down, but the one that flew exactly to the target, and thanks to this the object survived, this is considered a success. "
But there are objective criteria for anti-aircraft gunners.
"In the case of cruise missiles travelling at extremely low altitudes, the efficiency should be at least 0.85-0.90, noted Gorkov. This indicator means the probability of a target being hit by one missile. The number of intercepted targets is divided by the total number of missiles fired. For example, lieutenant-general Aitech Bizhev, former deputy commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force on issues of the CIS Joint Air Defence System, explained earlier to the portal "Economy Today" that less than 0.7 means low efficiency; 0.8 and above - good, 0.9 (https://rueconomics.ru/).
As an example, Bizhev cited the result of the Syrian air defence forces, which recently repulsed the attack of Israeli aircraft. The F-15 planes fired eight missiles and the Syrians intercepted five of them. Thus, the coefficient was 0.6, that is 60% of the missiles shot down. This result is not very gratifying, lamented Bizhev.
However, the expert of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (ACT) Vasily Kashin believes that the destruction of 50-60% of US missiles would be a huge success for Russian weapons. In fact, he added, even the destruction of 30% can be considered a great success, if we bear in mind both Russian and Syrian air defence forces.
It should be taken into account that the Syrians used old systems, notes Bizhev [NSS note: the msm reported that the obsolete S-200 system was usedto defend against Israeli missiles]. And the newest S-400 air defence systems are located at Russian facilities - the Khmeimim base and in Tartus. According to the Lieutenant-General, the efficiency of the S-400 for high speed targets that are hard to pinpoint is 0.9, that is excellent, at 90%.
Kashin recalls: in addition to our ground-based air defence in Syria there will be two Russian frigates with the "Shtil-1" complex, which is anchored off the coast of Syria. "Each of them has a vertical launch pad for 24 anti-aircraft missiles," the expert reminded VZGLYAD.
The problem is that modern Russian air defence systems cover only Russian facilities in Syria, and the Syrian air defence itself is rather weak, Kashin points out. In his opinion, air defence provide cover with a total of only a few dozen systems in Syria, and the rest of the country is defenceless.
They are fighting not with a number, but with a very large number.
Potential buyers of weapons following the outcome of this conflict will draw conclusions about which weapon systems are more effective - American cruise missiles or Russian air defence systems. For a correct assessment, it is important to consider how many missiles are fired at the covered targets. "If the enemy uses a huge number of missiles, for example, more than 200, then you cannot know exactly how many missiles will be on the target. Miracles do not happen, "Kashin said. He adds that it is impossible to completely deflect such a strike.
"For example, let’s say there are 100 air targets, and for each we fire two anti-missiles. With this amount you need to have a very large amount of munitions. Is there such a large number of missiles in the arsenal of the grouping deployed in Syria? "Asks General Alexander Gorkov.
"The combat component of the S-300 division is 32 missiles (and eight launchers) or 48 missiles, if 12 units are available," the general points out. "If two rockets are used for each launch, the missiles will be sufficient for 16 or 24 launches, respectively." If the coefficient of 0.9 is observed in these launches, this will be evaluated as a success, including by potential buyers of Russian weapons.
Meanwhile, it is necessary to calculate the nearest probable future - how the American operation in Syria can develop.
The script as a whole is understandable, believes Vzglyad’s source close to the Ministry of Defence. He predicts that the first waves of cruise missiles will be released in the near future by two destroyers, which are already in the Eastern Mediterranean. "They can fire their old Tomahawks, and after that the US they use smart missiles, as promised by Donald Trump," the expert notes.
The goal is clear - it is necessary that the defending side expend the munitions of anti-aircraft guided missiles (SAMs). After that, apparently, the Americans expect to "fire from other ships with impunity, including from an aircraft carrier," but that's not until early May, when it arrives in the region. As the newspaper Vzglyad reported, on Wednesday a shock group led by the aircraft carrier Harry Truman sailed from the base of Norfolk for the Persian Gulf.
"If we proceed from the fact that there will be a strike several times more powerful than the strike at the Shayrat base (where 60 rockets were fired), then, apparently, it will be hundreds of cruise missiles," suggested Kashin. In addition, it must be taken into account that the US can use a blockade of Syrian ports, in order, for example, to stop the supply of munitions, the same cruise missiles - to reload anti-aircraft complexes.
"Now it is clear that there will be a strike. There is time to prepare for deflection,” sums up the general. “The flight time of the rockets is known. The sites of the strikes are also fairly well known. There is time to rearrange air defence assets, mark out and designate cover zones, prepare munitions for firing, and deploy personnel."
Link to this article in Russian: