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Pilots' Worst Enemies: Russia's Deadliest Anti-Aircraft Weapons

© Sputnik / Mikhail Fomichev / Go to the photo bankRocket launch by the Pantsir-S surface-to-air missile system during an exercise (air defense conference) of the Air Defense soldiers. Ashuluk firing ground, Astrakhan region
Rocket launch by the Pantsir-S surface-to-air missile system during an exercise (air defense conference) of the Air Defense soldiers. Ashuluk firing ground, Astrakhan region - Sputnik International
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While long-range missile systems are all the rage nowadays, good old cannons, which pose a deadly threat to low-flying aircraft and enemy morale, are still a force to be reckoned with.

Sputnik has put together a shortlist of the most time-tested and deadly Russian anti-aircraft weapons.

Four Barrels

Developed back in the 1960s, the ZSU-23-4 "Shilka" system still remains a much-feared anti-aircraft system for pilots of low-flying aircraft all over the world.

Anti-aircraft missile system S-400 during combat duty to ensure the safety of the Russian air group in Syria - Sputnik International
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These self-propelled artillery systems have fought in the Middle East, Africa, Vietnam, Afghanistan and many other places forcing enemy pilots to attack from high altitudes to avoid being hit by the walls of fire unleashed by the Shilkas and thus easily falling prey to air-defense missiles.

Trusty as a Kalashnikov, the Shilka features four 23 mm autocannons with a cyclic rate of 850-–1,000 rounds per minute for a combined rate of fire of 3,400-–4,000 rounds per minute capable of tearing apart anything within a 2.5 kilometer (2 miles) radius.

© Sputnik / Mikhail Voskresenskiy / Go to the photo bankThe Shilka self-propelled anti-aircraft system is seen here during a show of modern and prospective weaponry at the Army 2017 International Military-Technical Forum, Moscow Region
The Shilka self-propelled anti-aircraft system is seen here during a show of modern and prospective weaponry at the Army 2017 International Military-Technical Forum, Moscow Region - Sputnik International
The Shilka self-propelled anti-aircraft system is seen here during a show of modern and prospective weaponry at the Army 2017 International Military-Technical Forum, Moscow Region

“Pocket” Anti-Aircraft Gun

The ZU-23-2 towed system, also developed in the 1960s, is another Russian weapon that has stood the test of time and has since won international acclaim.

Its twin-barrel 2A14 autocannons fire 2,000 rounds a minute effectively shooting down low-flying planes and helicopters up to 2.5 kilometers (2 miles) away.

Modernized versions boast new targeting mechanisms, laser range scopes and infrared thermal imaging cameras.

5,000 Rounds  Per Minute

With 23 mm shells no longer able to ensure the guaranteed destruction of the US A-10 “Thunderbolt” ground attack planes, the 2K22 Tunguska tracked self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon armed with a surface-to-air gun and missile system came along during the 1980s.

© Sputnik / Igor Zarembo / Go to the photo bankTunguska self-propelled anti aircraft system
Tunguska self-propelled anti aircraft system - Sputnik International
Tunguska self-propelled anti aircraft system

The latest version of the Tunguska-M1 vehicle carries eight 9M311-M1 surface-to-air missiles.

Twin-barrel 30 mm anti-aircraft guns are mounted on the vehicle. These guns have a maximum firing rate of 5,000 rounds per minute and can literally rip apart low-flying aircraft.

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The missiles are able to effectively knock out planes, helicopters, drones and cruise missiles up to 10 kilometers (6.3 miles) away.

The system has a target acquisition radar and target tracking radar, optical sight, digital computing system, tilt angle measuring system and navigation equipment.

Pantsir-S1

The Pantsir-S1 is a combined short-to-medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon system, which is mounted either on a tracked or wheeled vehicle, or remains stationary.

CC BY-SA 4.0 / Vitaly V. Kuzmin / Pantsir-S1 Pantsir-S1 Weapon System with radar antenna
Pantsir-S1 Weapon System with radar antenna - Sputnik International
Pantsir-S1 Weapon System with radar antenna

It carries up to 12 two-stage solid fuel “fire and forget” radio-command-guided surface-to-air missiles, capable of destroying airborne targets up to 20 kilometers (12.7 miles) away and at altitudes up to 15 kilometers (9.5 miles), placed inside two sealed ready-to-launch containers.

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