MOSCOW, June 16 (RIA Novosti) — Russia is testing its Pantsir S-1 short-range air defense system in the Arctic to ensure security in the resource-rich region, which is soon expected to become the centre of oil and gas exploration for the country, Alexander Denisov, head of the High-Precision Systems holding told RIA Novosti Monday.
"We are proud that Pantsir S-1 has been entrusted with the role of a pioneering air defense system in the Arctic Circle. Today, a squad of several war vehicles is already undergoing a stage of experimental military testing in the extreme conditions of the North," he said.
The Pantsir S-1, produced by Russia’s KBP, is a gun-missile system combining a wheeled vehicle mounting a fire-control radar and electro-optical sensor, two 30-mm cannons and up to 12 57E6 radio-command guided short-range missiles. It is designed to take on a variety of targets flying at low altitudes, as well ground and water-surface threats.
The number of vehicles can grow in the North as infrastructure expands there, but "the decision will be made by the Defense Ministry depending on the complex evaluation of the situation," Denisov said.
The Arctic testing comes at the time of Russia's active resource exploration in the region. The Arctic's potential resources are evaluated at $30 trillion, and that is where Russia will shift its oil and gas exploration activities soon, specialists at Russia's Emergencies Ministry say, hence the need to protect the territory.
Russia regards Arctic exploration as one of its top priorities and economic growth drivers. The discovery of large hydrocarbon deposits in the Arctic has sparked international competition over the region’s resources. Last year, Moscow unveiled a strategy aimed at increasing its presence in the Arctic and boosting the region’s development by 2020.
A new version of the defense system Pantsir SM, currently under development, will be able to shoot at ballistic targets and will come out in 2017, Denisov said.
"The system will also allow destroying air threats flying at the speed of several thousand meters per second. Today, as you know, it is 1,000 meters per second. Its main difference from the existing air defense system is the ability to shoot at ballistic targets," he said.
The Pantsir system was developed in 1994 and has undergone significant modernization since then.