Russia to build own missile defense system. From nothing?

43216.jpegRussia is developing its own missile defense system. This was announced on Wednesday by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. The statement was the Minister's response to a question from a Duma deputy regarding Russia's intentions in the event that the U.S. withdraws from the START-3.

Yet, is this feasible? The Soviet Union used to zealously promote any successful initiatives. Maybe at times the official propaganda was too much, but these days we are accustomed to the fact that all of our achievements are almost exclusively referred to in the future tense. But maybe this time it will be a different story.

The construction of missile defense system in Moscow and Moscow region designed to "reflect a limited nuclear strike on the capital and the central industrial region" was commenced in 1958. It went through the first successful tests on March 4, 1961 at Sary-Shagan testing ground, where the missile B-1000 intercepted a ballistic missile.

However, the development of this system called A-35 lasted nearly 20 years. The modified missile defense system A-35M was created only in 1978. However, its capabilities were also limited: it could reflect a guaranteed two consecutive volleys, eight intercontinental ballistic missiles each, and even then with one warhead.

In 1994-1995 missile defense system A-135 was adopted. Skeptics said that it was largely obsolete since its development began in 1971. Besides, its capabilities were also limited and it was not able to reflect the massive launch of ICBM.

Meanwhile, today the fighting capacity of the system remains questionable. Judging by the fact that photographs of abandoned destroyed and looted missile facilities in the Moscow region periodically appear on the Internet, the situation leaves much to be desired.

While the warning system is more or less functioning through the operation of such radars as Don-2NN, Voronezh-DM, Voronezh-M, Dnepr, Daryal, and Volga, the situation with the elements of defeat ICBM is much worse.

The previous system was equipped with antimissiles T6 and 53T6 Azov (Gorgon) with a nuclear warhead with the capacity from 10kt to 2 megatons. Yet, there are reports that by 2004 they were removed from the silos due to the expiration of their term of service.

It is significant that in 2004 - 2006 modernized missiles 53T6 were repeatedly tested at the old testing ground Sary-Shagan that is now becoming increasingly more desolate. Based on the tests the conclusions were drawn about the possibility of extending their service life.

As a result, the development of Russian missile defense system may advance in such areas as the creation of non-nuclear missiles, missile on a mobile basis, and the deployment of space groups.

However, there are certain concerns about the creation of mobile missile complexes. In the mid 1990's, the United States obtained radar reconnaissance satellites Lacrosse, and as a result, darkness and clouds ceased to be a hindrance in the detection of targets.

It is no coincidence that the States at the time refused to create a mobile strategic missile system Midgetman in favor of solving the problem of survival of their ground-based nuclear facilities by improving the security of missile silos.

Earlier, former Commander of the Air Force and Air Defense Forces Anatoly Kornukov assessed the state of Russia's missile defense as deplorable. He expressed doubts that Russia is able to handle even an attack of operational missiles. According to him, "the resources of both air defenses (including space and missile defense - SMD), are fit to ensure the security of the country with limitations. New models of the required weapons are created at an extremely slow pace, and plants for the production of high-precision equipment are in poor condition. We are lagging behind our, if not potential, then virtual opponents by 30 - 35 years. Today we do have SMD but at the same time we do not."

According to the President of the Academy of Geopolitical Issues Leonid Ivashov, the weapons of Moscow defense system are already worn out, since they have not been updated in the last 20 years.

There are questions regarding training of missile defense specialists. The only institution that prepared such specialists up until 2010 was the Military Academy of Aerospace Defense named after Marshal of the Soviet Union K. Zhukov, located in the city of Tver. However, now messages appear in the media on a regular basis that this Academy will be shut down. There are serious reasons for concern. In 2010 the system for training specialists was transferred to the Military Space Academy named after A. F. Mozhaisky, where these trainings have never been offered before.

An old, typical during a transition or dissolution of the military academy problem, has resurfaced: professors refused to move from familiar places, complaining that they are not provided with the necessary conditions for work and life. Accordingly, there are doubts that Russia will have any SMD specialists left.

Despite all this, recently a loud statement was made to the effect that the existing "5th Brigade of aerospace defense can knock down all the available means of air attack of a potential enemy." However, many experts have doubts about the real state of affairs because while the unit allegedly exists, the aerospace defense exists only on paper.

Experts Vladislav Shurygin, Anatoly Khramchikhin, Konstantin Sivkov and Viktor Litovkin shared their thoughts with

Vladislav Shurygin, a military expert: "The statement made by Serdyukov is untrue. There are no new developments in the field of missile defense we are conducting. At best, he is talking about some theoretical things that have so far not been reflected in metal and relevant tests. Additionally, the projects of laser weapons left from the Soviet era are out of date.

With regard to the training of personnel for missile defense, the situation is generally alarming. The same concerns the training of all technical staff. Due to the so-called reforms, the issue is very acute everywhere. Everyone is asking: "Where and how will they be trained?"

Viktor Litovkin, executive editor of the newspaper "Independent Military Review:" "First, the existing missile defense system is primarily intended to protect Moscow only. They had a nuclear warhead and there was a risk that an explosion of our missiles aimed at the enemy's ICBM would hit the capital.

But in any case it must be considered that it is simply impossible to create a missile defense system with a guaranteed defeat of the enemy's ICBM at a mass start in the foreseeable future.

As for the problems of our missile defense, it generally reflects a strange situation with the weapons system as a whole. On the one hand, in a few months it should become a reality. However, we see that it has not even been decided yet whom it will report to, and the Space Forces, Strategic Rocket Forces, and Air Force are fighting for it."

Konstantin Sivkov, first vice-president of the Academy of Geopolitical Issues: "The situation is lamentable not only with the striking elements, but with the warning systems as well. Krasnoyarsk radar has been ruined, and our south-western and northern areas are generally open. Before it was somewhat compensated by a large number of satellites, but now our orbital group is significantly reduced and cannot perform the necessary tasks. The development of U.S. and Chinese anti-satellite weapons should also be taken into account.

Now we are only capable of hitting a few ICBMs. To address the existing deficiencies, we need long-range missiles, development of space groups and military lasers. However, we are not able in the foreseeable future to solve this problem, because the scientific potential is virtually destroyed, and the production base will be finished off with a new wave of privatization. As a panacea we are offered C-500complex. However, it will appear no earlier than in five years and will be able to destroy only the tactical missiles, not ICBMs."

Alexander Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis: "We all have long been accustomed to, mildly put, bizarre statements of Serdyukov, and this one is not an exception. The existing missile defense base is drastically outdated. When we are talking about being ready to build a joint missile defense with the Americans, it makes me laugh. S-300 and C-400 can destroy tactical missiles only, but not an ICBM.

What can we offer them? Our developments from 1980's? It is no accident there were publications in the press earlier saying that our existing missiles have been sent to warehouses as they have already exhausted their resource. Therefore, we cannot seriously talk about having the missile defense system, and it is unable to reflect the massive launch of an enemy's ICBM.

Sergei Balmasov

Read the original in Russian

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov