Infantrymen and anti-aircraft gunners will be protected from drones by special “machine guns”. The promising Ptitselov short-range air defense system will receive a unique intelligent combat control system. The novelty will be able to distinguish by optical image aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and drones of the enemy and attack them. The only thing left for the calculation is to bring the equipment into position. Further, the complex will perform a combat mission on its own. The experience of the recent hostilities in Karabakh has demonstrated the need for urgent renewal of short-range air defense systems, experts say.
On the near line
Sources in the military-industrial complex and in the military department told Izvestia that a fundamental decision to equip the Ptitselov with a new intelligent combat control system has already been made. Moreover, within the framework of this project, a competition was announced for the development of a promising appearance of optical-electronic means of combat vehicles (the technical task is at the disposal of Izvestia). It provides for extensive automation of the complex and the creation of algorithms for processing target images. The work under the contract is expected to be completed by the end of next year.
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It is assumed that after entering the position, the combat vehicle will be assigned an observation sector and an altitude range, the sources said. The complex will be able to independently detect, identify targets and open fire with the help of an optoelectronic system (OES), if it was not possible to confirm the belonging of the object as friendly. The only thing left for the calculation is to bring the “Birds” to the position. After that, the complex goes into combat mode. The capabilities allow the ECO to find and confidently work with detected targets day and night in any weather conditions. And even when the enemy is trying to “blind” the optics using a laser or false interference.
A family of short- and short-range missile systems for the Ground Forces and the Airborne Forces is being developed under the designation “Birds”. They will occupy an intermediate position between the portable anti-aircraft missile systems (MANPADS) and the Pantsir and Buk heavy combat vehicles.
It is planned to complete the development work on the creation of the land-based “Ptitselov” and its tests are planned by the end of 2022. The Ground Forces and the Airborne Forces will receive different versions of it. A variant is being created both on the BMP-3 chassis and on the airborne BMD-4M.
“The Strela-10 anti-aircraft missile system has long been in need of replacement,” military expert Viktor Murakhovsky told Izvestia. – It no longer meets modern requirements either in guidance or in a rocket. A system with new means of reconnaissance and target designation, as well as algorithms is required. The tasks of recognizing objects and determining priority targets will be entrusted to the technology. At the old complexes, it was done by a person. The Ptitselov has a more powerful rocket. And most importantly, Strela-10 did not have any means of integration into the air defense system, except for a conventional radio station. The new air defense system will receive such funds. This complex will demonstrate several times higher efficiency.
By laser beam
Initially, a promising air defense system for the Airborne Forces was known under the designation “Birds”. It was planned that it would be airborne and would be twice as effective as the Strela-10M3 air defense systems currently in service. According to media reports, the development of new weapons was supposed to be completed in 2020. But, as Izvestia previously reported, it was decided to unify the air defense system for paratroopers and the Ground Forces and expand its functions so that it could replace several of the complexes currently in service at once.
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The contract for the new development work of “Poultry” was signed by the Ministry of Defense and NPK KBM in May 2018. According to the plan, it is planned to complete it at the end of 2021. After that, it will be possible to organize the serial production of new machines to replace the existing air defense missile system in the army.
The technical appearance of the novelty has not yet been officially presented. It is known that the stage of conceptual design of “Birdcatcher” was completed only at the beginning of last year. It is on it that the main characteristics of weapons are determined.
Several candidates claimed the role of a new air defense complex for the battlefield. Among the most prepared was the project “Pine” from the same NPK “KBM”. According to the developers, due to the use of a new missile, the range of this air defense system reached 10 km. He could shoot down targets at an altitude of 5 km. The developments came in handy for the “Birdman”, which will be made in short and short range versions.
Earlier it became known that the “Birdcatcher” missiles will be guided at the target by a laser beam, and for self-defense combat vehicles will receive a remote-controlled machine-gun mount. For target detection, both a high-tech optoelectronic system with a night thermal imaging channel and a radar will be used.
In the last decade in Russia, the most intensive rearmament was not short-range air defense systems, but long-range anti-aircraft missile systems and complexes. The Aerospace Forces received the S-400 Triumph and S-350 Vityaz air defense systems, and the new Pantsir-S air defense systems. They cover an area with a radius of 400 to 20 km.
Viktor Murakhovsky recalled that during the Karabakh conflict, where unmanned aircraft were actively used, it was the short-range air defense systems that showed extremely low efficiency.
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“The struggle for air superiority was reduced to a confrontation between unmanned aerial vehicles, loitering ammunition and outdated military air defense systems that the Nagorno-Karabakh defense army had,” the expert said. “Strela-10, S-125, Shilka and Osa were used there. But when these complexes are not integrated into a single system and are not integrated with reconnaissance means, then they are not able to reach many types of drones at an altitude of more than five kilometers.
This proves that it is necessary to have modern complexes at all levels and in each air defense echelon. We now have long-range and medium-range systems, but there have not yet been new short-range systems in the troops. I hope the “Birdcatcher” will take its rightful place in the air defense system, – the expert concluded.
Russian army short-range air defense systems are equipped mainly with Soviet-style equipment, developed before the mass appearance of combat drones. Among them are Tunguska-M1, Strela-10, Tor-M2 and Osa. The Strela-10M3 air defense missile systems in service with the Airborne Forces have a maximum range of five and an altitude reach of 3.5 km, which does not allow them to fight modern attack drones.
Now, to cover ground forces from air threats of this type, the development of a ground version of the Pantsir-SM-SV on a tracked chassis and the Ptitselov air defense system is already underway. To combat targets at even shorter ranges, the Ministry of Defense intends to use the newest Verba MANPADS. It is also expected that the “Gibka-S” complexes based on the “Tiger” vehicles will soon enter service.