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Aug 8, 2022
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About the battle between Buk-M3 and HIMARS firsthand, as well as about the unusual strike of the RF Armed Forces

The recent pinpoint missile-air and missile-artillery strikes of the Russian Aerospace Forces and MFA of Russia on the command and staff infrastructure and fortifications of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Konstantinovka (DPR), Merefa and Chuguev (in the vicinity of Kharkov) and Nikolaev received close attention from domestic expert and observer circles.

The integration of aerial optical/electronic reconnaissance of the Russian Aerospace Forces and multi-purpose attack platforms of the Aerospace Forces and MFA into a single “information field” has borne fruit in the Donbass theater of operations (TVD). And such a reaction does not cause absolutely no surprise, because literally five to seven pinpoint strikes on the above objects were enough to eliminate more than 630 Ukrainian militants from the 92nd MBR and the 16th battalion of the 58th MBR of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as well as 250 mercenaries from the Ukrainian “foreign legion”. Obviously, in order to suppress enemy targets, Kh-101 low-observable strategic cruise missiles with an image intensifier tube of no more than 0.04 square meters were used. m, LMUR tactical missiles, as well as long-range 300-mm guided missiles 9M544 / 549 from the Tornado-S multiple launch rocket systems. They were able to easily overcome the gaps in the weakened anti-missile umbrella of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, represented by dispersed and nomadic self-propelled firing systems 9A310M1 Buk-M1 and Strela-10M3.

Nevertheless, numerous subscribers of military-technical TG channels and military-analytical publications were interested in the principle of target distribution and the choice of time windows that ensured such high enemy losses during this strike.

Target distribution between carriers of Kh-101 cruise missiles (Tu-160M ​​and Tu-95MS missile carriers), LMUR multi-purpose missiles (Su-30SM and Su-34) and Tornado-S MLRS platoons could be carried out through secure asynchronous data exchange channels used by automated the control system for military units at the tactical level (ACS TK) “Constellation”. With regard to the Su-30SM½ and Su-34, we can talk about telecode radio channels for data exchange K-DlI and K-DlUE, which run mainly in the frequency range from 960 to 1,215 MHz and require the use of ground-based air communication systems NKVS-27 as repeaters and frequency converters. Similar channels are used by the network-centric data exchange terminals of the Tu-95MS and Tu-160M/2 strategic missile carriers.

The strike in the most verified time window was achieved thanks to the continuous optoelectronic and electronic reconnaissance of the target infrastructure of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, carried out by UAVs of the Orion family, container systems UKR-OE / RT installed on Su-34 fighter-bombers and intelligence officers . In particular, the blow was delivered at the moment when the maximum possible number of AFU personnel and mercenaries were present at the facilities. Infrared modules with long-focus lenses and an optical zoom of more than 50X, integrated into the UKR-OE systems together with daytime TV and low-level TV sensors, provide detection of a large group of people at a distance of more than 25–30 km at night.

The conclusion is as follows: the command of the Aerospace Forces, as well as the Russian Missile Forces and Artillery, has focused on the integration of network-centric linkage between ground and air tactical reconnaissance platforms, as well as the widest list of high-precision strike weapons.

Also, the long-awaited acquisition by the personnel of the Air Defense Forces of the Russian Ground Forces of the skill to counter the M31A1 GMLRS high-precision guided missiles used by the HIMARS, MARS-II and M270B1 MLRS systems was recorded.

So, on July 25, following the statement made a week and a half earlier by the official representative of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation Igor Konashenkov about the interception of these shells by Russian air defense systems, the type of anti-aircraft missile was also made public, confirming the highest potential in the fight against M31A1 shells. It turned out to be a promising Buk-M3 military anti-aircraft missile system, the first batteries of which began to enter the combat units of the military air defense in 2016.

In practice, the combat crew of one of the front-line Buk-M3 air defense systems of the Russian military air defense managed to get acquainted with the potential of countering small-sized rockets M31A1 in the course of repelling another recent massive missile and artillery strike by HIMARS systems on our rear logistics hubs in the South Ukrainian theater of operations.

This was stated in an interview with RIA Novosti by the operator of the Buk-M3 combat crew and an officer of the air defense forces of the Russian Ground Forces, who wished to remain anonymous. The interlocutor of the agency noted that the difficulty of countering these projectiles is due to their small effective reflective surface and high cruising speed, which limit the range and altitude of their interception to 22 km, and the time window for destruction is only 10 seconds.

We conducted our own brief analysis of the capabilities of the Buk-M3 in countering the M31A1 projectiles, starting from the known parameters of the radars and the features of the anti-aircraft missile guidance system of this air defense system, as well as from the flight performance and electrodynamic characteristics of the M31A1 GMLRS guided missiles to be intercepted.

M31A1 guided missiles with ultra-low EPR did not stop the Buk-M3. 227-mm guided projectiles of the HIMARS system are distinguished by an extremely small effective reflective surface – about 0.05-0.07 square meters. m (comparable to the EPR of the 220-mm RS 9M27F of the Uragan systems), which reduces the range of their detection by the 9S36M radars of the Buk-M3 self-propelled firing systems from standard 130 to 35 km.

After detecting shells at a distance of 30 km, the computing facilities of the combat control center of the Buk-M3 complexes need another 12-second period of time to accurately plot the routes of attacking objects with further target designation for 9M317MA anti-aircraft missiles. During this time, projectiles flying at a speed of 750 m / s manage to overcome another 9 km in the direction of the target, as a result of which the range is reduced to about 21 km.

It is at this moment that anti-aircraft missiles are launched, which shoot down attacking HIMARS projectiles at a distance of 13-15 km from the Buk-M3 anti-aircraft missile batteries. What are the advantages of the Buk-M3 complexes in comparison with the S-300PM when repelling strikes with small-sized rockets?

First of all, this is the ability of one Buk-M3 battery to simultaneously intercept 36 complex enemy targets attacking from various air directions, which is achieved by equipping 9M317MA anti-aircraft missiles with active radar homing heads of the Slanets family and the presence of an individual 6-channel target designation radar on each from 6 firing installations of the battery. Against this background, one S-300PM2 division can simultaneously intercept no more than 6 enemy targets, which is due to the presence of only one 30N6E target illumination radar and the semi-active guidance of 48N6E2 anti-aircraft missiles, which requires continuous illumination of the intercepted object until the moment the radar fuse is activated.

Consequently, at the time of the massed classic strike by the formations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with two HIMARS installations and distracting “Hurricanes”, only the Buk-M3 complexes are capable of simultaneously intercepting 28 attacking rockets.

Separate divisions / regiments of the promising medium and long-range S-400 and S-350 Vityaz air defense systems, equipped with super-maneuverable 9M96D / DM anti-aircraft guided missiles with active radar seekers of the same Slanets family, can boast of a similar potential.

Possessing an autonomous receiving-transmitting path that provides the “fire-and-forget” mode, these homing heads carry out autonomous target acquisition, unloading the target channel and firing performance of the 92N6E and 50N6A illumination / target designation radars and freeing up updated channels for processing new targets. As a result, the fire performance of the S-400 and Vityaz also makes it possible to repel massive strikes with M31A1 shells.

Meanwhile, the number of more scarce S-350 Vityaz air defense systems delivered to combat units (unlike the larger-scale production of Buk-M3 air defense systems) today does not allow them to be freely distributed to the Ukrainian theater. As for the regimental kits of the C-400 Triumph air defense system, TPKs with 9M96DM interceptors were integrated into the ammunition of only a limited number of combatant regiments and divisions of these complexes, while most of the complexes still have 48N6DM anti-aircraft guided missiles with semi-active radar seeker, limiting the channel of the division to six simultaneously intercepted enemy air targets.

Evgeny Damantsev

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