Ever since the WW2 the Soviet armed forces were after a reliable air defence system to protect their mobile units and strategically important objects. The lessons learned in 1941 taught them not to rely only on fighter aviation so all sorts of the AA guns and later on SAMs were developed over the years. The final stage in the recent development of such systems includes both guns and missiles and placing those systems on the mobile platforms has given the answer for the initial needs of the Soviet armed forces. That system is known as Tunguska and its further evolution resulted in a new, more potent and sophisticated system Pantsir S1.
The development of Pantsir S1 started in 1990 and it was meant to be the replacement for ageing Tunguska M systems. Still, due to the breakup of the Soviet Union and the deteriorating of the Russian financial system the entire project was halted after only one prototype was made in 1994.
Still, the UAE gave the new life to the concept as they were interested to include it in their armed forces. The redesign took place between 2000 and 2007 and that model is named Pantsir S1E. Since 2007 it is available for export.
The Russian armed forces have shown the interest to finally replace Tunguska M1 systems with Pantsir S1 and for that purpose a version on tracked chassis is being developed. Also, it will be integrated on various classes of Russian Navy ships.
Pantsir S1 has the ability to engage all sorts of aerial targets on short and medium distances. To defeat the aerial targets, it uses 57E6 and 57E6E missiles as well as 2A38M 30 mm cannons. The Cannons are effective on a short range and due to a very high speed of the shells it can also be used to engage all sorts of ground targets. Basically, these guns are capable of taking out almost anything on the battlefield. Only heavily fortified or heavily armoured targets can withstand the fire from Pantsir’s auto cannons.
As for the 57E6 and 57E6E missiles, they are able to tackle almost any aircraft, cruise missile or guided bomb on the distances of up to 20 kilometres. The rocket is able of withstanding very high G forces thus are pretty much impervious to evasive manoeuvres. The speed of 1300 m/s and the 20 kilograms warhead are the guarantee enough that almost any target will be intercepted and destroyed. The missiles have the probability of interception that is rated between 70% and 95% and in the normal mode when the two missiles are launched on each target; it provides the protection that no other system comparable to it has.
The guidance system is dual as the missiles can be guided both by the radar and by the super precise sensors integrated in the system. The very missiles have no autonomous guidance and for that is used a dual band radio link from the very vehicle so it becomes almost impossible to evade it through the usage of flares and decoys. Naturally, the ability to switch between the guidance options enables the Pantsir S1 to disengage its radar and avoid hits by the HARM and ALARM missiles. The radars used on this system are capable of tracking even the stealth aircraft.
All Pantsir S1 units from the same battery can interlink and exchange data and that gives great battlefield awareness to their crews. Also, there is a possibility to launch missiles from one vehicle and to guide it from another and that makes engaging Pantsir S1 from the air very difficult.
All in all, this is the best air defence system of this kind in the world today and it presents a serious threat to any air force that might encounter it. After the development of the new version which is due to be finished in 2017, the world of aviation will face even tougher challenge.