Russia’s Pantsir air defenses second-to-none


Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week touted the system as the weapon that is being “snapped up like hotcakes” on international defense markets. What is the Pantsir and why does it attract foreign customers? Sputnik found out.

The Pantsir-S1 air defense system has been upgraded several times since entering service in 2010, which added significantly to its characteristics.

State-run arms manufacturer Rostec said in a statement late last year that the S1’s new modification is based on the experiences gained by air defense troops operating in the Russian special military operation zone.

The Pantsir (lit. carapace, shell) is a self-propelled surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery system, designed to provide point air defense of military, industrial and administrative installations against enemy warplanes, helicopters, precision munitions, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

The system also provides additional protection to air defense units against enemy air attacks employing precision munitions, especially at low to extremely low altitudes.

“The Pantsir is equipped with two twin 30 mm cannons and 12 missiles, which can fly at a range of up to 20 kilometers and shoot down air targets at a height of 15 kilometers,” Russian Army colonel and veteran military analyst Viktor Litovkintold Sputnik.

The 12 two-stage solid fuel missiles accelerate to up to 1,300 meters per second to engage targets flying up to 1,000 meters/second, and feature a 20 kg warhead designed to blast large enemy projectiles like fixed wing aircraft, missiles and large drones from the sky.

The 30 mm guns are modernized 2A38M remote automatic cannon, a tried-and-tested short-range weapon that is also installed in the 2K22 Tunguska self-propelled anti-aircraft gun and missile system.

The uniqueness of the Russian gun and missile system Pantsir-S1 pertains to its capability to “defend itself on its own,” with the help of its supersonic missiles and 30 mm cannons, Viktor Litovkin pointed out.

“This system’s great achievement is that its radar is capable of detecting targets at a distance of over 20 kilometers. Moreover, the S1’s target detection altitude and target destruction altitude are at zero meter,” Litovkin added.

According to him, another of the Pantsir’s advantages is the fact that its missiles are in a container, which is “closed like a tin can.” He explained that “the missiles can remain in this container for 15 years without maintenance or inspection,” something that Litovkin said doesn’t affect the weapon’s performance characteristics.

On top of that, he went on, the S1 can be based on a tracked or wheeled platform and it is even capable of being installed on a warship.

Better Than US Patriot

When it comes to target detection, the Pantsir outperforms the US­-made Patriot air defense system, which cannot track the targets flying at an altitude lower than 60 meters, per Litovkin.

“The Patriot actually ‘does not see’ the targets that fly at an altitude of up to 60-100 meters. Therefore, if a drone flies at a lower altitude, the Patriot fails to detect it, allowing the UAV to reach a target, hit it and cause serious damage,” he concluded.