A ring-net for precision weapons

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kislyakov) - The Topol strategic missile launchers that rolled through Red Square on May 9 were impressive to the eye, though I hope there is no intention to use these weapons.

Meanwhile the 'density' of armed conflicts across the world keeps growing, and the main role in these conflicts is played by conventional, yet precision, weapons.

The missile defense system being set up by the Americans, incorporating ground, naval and space components tightly integrated with Air Defense systems, is an effort to protect themselves not only against strategic nuclear missiles, but against the whole spectrum of precision weapons. While the pragmatic Americans, who figured out early that to integrate all aerospace defense would mean putting it in one bundle, have been working on this program for a long time already, Russia's government only developed a similar program and started its implementation as late as the end of April.

As Sergei Ivanov, until this week First Deputy Prime Minister, pointed out, the range of measures involves creating a multi-service system of defenses against precision weapons, including unified control and information systems, to protect Russia's Armed Forces, economy and infrastructure. Sergei Ivanov stressed that today's Army and Navy are equipped with air defense missile systems developed in the 1960's and 70's.

Mr Ivanov's comments imply a quick re-tooling of the armed forces with modern air defense weapons capable of repulsing airspace attacks. This mainly concerns the S-400 Triumph air-defense and theater anti-missile weapon (NATO reporting name SA-21 Growler), which proved highly capable in tests last July.

This system is a really good one. Unlike its predecessor, the S-300, it is capable of engaging targets not only in the air, but also in outer space. It could potentially become the backbone of both Russia's unified aerospace defense system and a European non-strategic missile defense.

Unfortunately, however, the new weapons are being deployed far too slowly, and in too small numbers, to have any effect. The sole S-400 battalion is deployed in the vicinity of the Moscow Region town of Elektrostal.

Speaking on the creation of an integral air defense missile system and preparations for its serial production, Sergei Ivanov noted a number of problems impeding the process, primarily inadequate financing and coordination, lack of manufacturing capacities for mass production and poor quality of component parts produced.

These problems are not only hampering defense production but are also a scourge of the entire national economy. In addition, the defense industry has lately developed a harmful habit of exporting the bulk of its latest and most sophisticated hardware, ignoring the requirements of the national Armed Forces. The S-400 is no exception, and its export record is predetermined.

In other words, we are still a long way from deploying a dependable air defense system capable of reliably protecting all vital infrastructures within the Russian territory. By that time Triumph would be obsolete and helpless against new modernized guided precision weapons, and its capability would not match its name.

Yet missiles are not the only means of countering modern precision weapons.

Precision weapons are means of destruction comprising guidance or automatic homing devices. So it is possible to defend a location either by destroying the bomb or missile, or by hindering its homing mechanisms. The latter option envisages creating effective counter measures.

Modern foreign precision weapons use automatic homing devices operating within the visible, infrared and radar spectra. With its homing system "blinded", a cruise missile is virtually useless.

The Russian military have already developed a relatively cheap way of protecting a large area without deploying air-defense missile systems. The idea is to use remote-detonated munitions to build up a high-altitude barrage, lowering the target contrast in all three spectra and disorientating the incoming precision weapon.

It's clear that one shouldn't rely solely upon this method of countering precision-guided munitions. But any means of protection are good in today's world with its avalanche-like pace of developing new weapons systems.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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