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Russia armed S-300 and S-400 with different missiles for better defense flexibility

WARSAW, (BM) – The S-300 and S-400 systems launchers in service with the Russian armed forces are being modernized to use both short and long-range missiles simultaneously, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing the Polish news agency Defence24.

As the daily Izvestia writes, the goal is “not to waste the most expensive ammunition for less important purposes”. The tests were carried out at the 185th Training and Combat Use Center of the Russian Air Force using the basic 48N6 missiles, long-range 40N6 missiles and 9M96 short-range missiles with active radar guidance.

The work was probably carried out for a long time, but the impetus for the “controlled leak” to the Izvestia journal was the photo of the Turkish 51P6A type S-400 launcher, armed with two 48N6E2 missile launch containers and a module of four much smaller 9M96E or 9M96E2 missiles with active radar guidance. It was already known that the Russian S-400 launchers can be armed with three basic missiles and their variants:

  • 40N6E semi-active guided missiles with a range of up to 400 km;
  • 48N6DM / 48N6E3 / 48N6E2 rockets with a range of 200-250 km with semi-active radar guidance;
  • 9M96E1 with a range of 60 km and 9M96E2 with a range of 120 km, both with active guidance.

However, according to the photo of the Turkish launcher and information published by the Russian daily, now the S-400 launchers can be equipped with various types of missiles simultaneously, thanks to changes in software and instrumentation, and the S-300PMU2 launchers can be adapted as part of repairs to launch a mixed set of missiles . Such launcher configuration was tested on the training grounds of the 185th Training and Combat Use Center of the Russian Air Force in the Astrakhan Oblast.

The goal is to officially increase the flexibility of anti-aircraft units equipped with the S-300 and S-400 systems. In fact, however, it is a method of filling a certain gap. Anti-aircraft regiments equipped with the S-400 are equipped with Pancyr-S1 systems artillery and missile batteries, which provide defense primarily against helicopters and drones and other targets at a minimum distance. Meanwhile, most units equipped with the S-300 do not have such assigned shield units.

Thanks to the 9M96 missiles, the S-300 and S-400 launchers will be able to fight maneuvering targets at a minimum distance in the “fire and forget” mode, because, unlike the 48N6, the 9M96 missiles have a homing system with their own radar and do not require target highlighting. However, it is unlikely that different types of rockets will be loaded simultaneously on one launcher, as it complicates the operation of the launcher and replenishing ammunition.

Rather, it can be expected that the selected launchers instead of the 4 48N6 or 40N6 missiles will be armed with four quadruple 9M96 missile containers, becoming a substitute for the S-350 Vityaz launcher.

Turkey already has the latest generation missiles for its S-400 anti-aircraft systems

As we already reported on October 10, Ankara is the first foreign recipient to receive 9M96E2 missiles, according to a photo posted on social media from the Turkish S-400 battery exercise over the Black Sea.

These are missiles with a range of up to 120 km, developed for the latest Russian medium-range system S-350 Vityaz, launched in December 2019.

Turkey already has the last generation missiles for its S-400 anti-aircraft systems
Photo credit: Twitter

The photo of Turkish soldiers standing in front of two 51P6A launchers of the S-400 system most probably comes from the training ground in the Sinop area on the Turkish Black Sea coast. According to the Turkish media on October 6, 2020, one of the two S-400 batteries is to carry out the first combat exercises at the local training ground, including sharp shooting. A typical propaganda photo from this event, showing a row of soldiers in front of the launchers, would not have aroused much interest were it not for the configuration of the vehicles.

The photo shows two 51P6A launcher vehicles on the MZKT-7930 chassis. The one on the left is armed with 4 semi-active guided 48N6E2 missile containers as standard. The launcher visible on the right, in addition to two 48N6E2 missiles, is also equipped with a module of four much smaller launch containers for the 9M96E or 9M96E2 missiles with active radar guidance.

This means that Turkey not only acquired the S-400 system in the latest configuration, typical for Russian units, but also became the first foreign user of the 9M96E2 missiles. Rockets of this type, along with the much lighter 9M100, constitute the basic armament of the S-350 Witjaź system, introduced in December 2019.

The 9M96E1 missiles have an active radar guidance and have a range of 60 km (the damage height of aerodynamic targets is from 10 meters to 20 km). The 9M96E2 missiles have similar parameters, but their range is 120 km and the effective ceiling is 30 km. Thanks to the use of active radar guidance and higher maneuverability than the 9M48E2, their use significantly increases the effectiveness of fighting high maneuvering targets flying at low altitude.

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