It is dangerous and unprofitable to exchange guided missiles for drones


Short-range anti-aircraft guns are looking for a new ecological niche

Anti-aircraft artillery quite successfully served as a means of short-range air defense not only during the Second World War, but also for some time after it, when long- and medium-range anti-aircraft missile systems (SAMS) already appeared.

However, during the Vietnam War, medium-range air defense systems (Soviet S-75) drove American aircraft to low altitudes ( "Phantoms" against "MiGs", "HBO" from 03/24.23). There it was "met" and inflicted very heavy losses by the same anti-aircraft artillery.


Nevertheless, it turned out that to defeat modern jet aircraft, anti-aircraft guns often lack neither firing range, nor altitude reach, nor reaction speed.

There was a need to occupy an "ecological niche" in terms of ranges and heights between long- and medium-range air defense systems and anti-aircraft artillery. To do this, short-range anti-aircraft missile systems (SAMs) were needed, which could hit planes and helicopters at minimum altitudes. Moreover, such air defense systems could provide direct cover for "large" air defense systems with a significant "dead zone" around the standing point.

A separate most important category of short-range air defense systems became portable (MANPADS), providing the launch of an anti-aircraft guided missile (SAM) from the shoulder of a serviceman. This made it possible to provide air defense units from the battalion and even lower.

In addition, MANPADS could be used very effectively by partisan formations and special forces sabotage groups operating behind enemy lines. For the first time, the Egyptian armed forces successfully used Soviet Strela-2 MANPADS against the Israeli Air Force during the "War of Attrition" ( "Battle of Attrition", "HVO" from 01.03.19).

Of course, the most active short-range air defense systems were created by the Soviet Union ( "Military air defense in the XXI century", "HVO" from 31.05.19) and the United States ( "Sky Shield of America", "HVO" from 09.06.23); the latter had the Stinger MANPADS as the most effective weapon of this class. But other countries also worked on such air defense systems, first European, then Asian.

In Europe, several short-range air defense systems were developed in the 1960s and adopted in the 1970s. The Roland air defense system was a joint project of Germany and France. The missile system was aimed at the target according to the radar station (radar) or optical system, the flight range was about 6.5 km (in later versions – up to 8 km), the altitude reach was 5.5 km. The SAM included a detection radar, a guidance radar and two launchers (PU) (total ammunition – eight missiles). In the French Armed Forces, it was located on the chassis of the AMX-30 tank, in the German Armed Forces – on the chassis of the Marder BMP or car.

On the combat account of "Roland" two aircraft of the British Armed Forces: in June 1982 in the Falklands ( "The War for the Islands", "HBO" from 04/19/19), "Sea Harrier" was shot down by "Roland" of the Argentine Armed Forces, in January 1991, "Tornado" was shot down by "Roland" of the Iraqi Armed Forces. At the same time, perhaps, a US Air Force A-10 attack aircraft was shot down by Roland ( "Dictator's Paralysis", "HBO" from 05.03.21).

Almost simultaneously with Roland, the Krotal air defense system was created in France. On the wheeled chassis there are four missiles and a guidance radar. At the same time, the detection radar is located on a separate machine and is capable of servicing several SAMs (usually three). In the Krotal-NG variant, adopted in the 1990s, the detection radar is located on the SAM itself. The firing range for different variants is 10-16 km, the reach in height is 6-9 km.

In South Africa, the "Crotal" was called "Cactus", in Saudi Arabia – "Shaheen" (in this version, six missiles were placed on the chassis of the AMX-30 tank), in the Republic of Korea – K-SAM "Pegasus". An unlicensed copy of the "Krotal" HQ-7 still forms the basis of the air defense of the PLA ground forces ( "Evolution of the Chinese Umbrella", "HVO" from 03/25/12). In turn, an unlicensed copy of the HQ-7 "Ya-Zahra" entered service with the Iranian Armed Forces, while the SAM is placed on a car trailer.

Then a variant of this SAM was created in Iran under the name "Hertz-9" with placement already on a wheeled chassis. The next Iranian version of the Krotal was the Shehab Tekeb air defense system ( "Archaic technology, but absolutely indomitable spirit", "HBO" from 06/25.21). Neither the Krotal itself nor its foreign variants have any combat successes.

The third European short-range air defense system, created in the same years, was the British Rapier. On the car trailer there are four missiles, a detection radar and an optical guidance system. The battery, as a rule, includes four to eight SAMs. The firing range is up to 8.5 km, the reach in height is 3-5 km.

In the 1990s, an improved version of the Jernas air defense system appeared specifically for Malaysia. The only confirmed combat success of the Rapier was the Argentine Dagger fighter, shot down over the Falklands in May 1982. It is possible that the Iranian "Rapiers" shot down several Iraqi aircraft during the Iran-Iraq War ( "Battle for the Barrel", "HBO" from 05/28.21).


Also in the UK in the 1970s, the first European MANPADS "Bloupipe" with a firing range of 3.5 km was created. In the Falklands, it was used by both sides: the Argentines shot down the British "Harrier" GR.3, the British – the Argentine attack aircraft MV339. It was also used in Afghanistan against Soviet aviation, but without much success. In 1995, a Mi-17 helicopter of the Armed Forces of Peru was shot down by a "Bloupipe" of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces during the war between these countries ( "Simon Bolivar and his difficult legacy", "HBO" from 09.11.18). In the British Army, already in the mid-1880s, the "Bloupipe" was replaced by a Javelin MANPADS with with a firing range of up to 5.5 km and an altitude reach of up to 3 km .

The second European MANPADS was the Swedish RBS-70, which, however, was "not quite portable". The total weight of the anti-aircraft missile system was almost 90 kg, so a jeep was required for its transportation. The guidance of an anti-aircraft guided missile was carried out by a laser beam, while the SAM could be connected to the radar to receive target instructions. The firing range for different modifications of the RBS-70 is 5-8 km, the reach in height is 3-5 km. It is still in service with the Swedish Armed Forces and many other armies of the world.

In the early 1980s, the Italian Armed Forces received the Spada air defense system, in which the Aspid air-to-air missile was used as a missile system (created on the basis of the American AIM-7 Sparrow). The firing range is 15 km, the altitude reach is 6 km. The SAM consists of a command post (KP) with a detection radar and up to four firing sections, each of which includes an escort radar and three launchers (four missiles on each). In the "Spada-2000" variant, the number of missiles per PU has been increased to six.

In China, the HQ-6 air defense system was developed, also using the Asp as a missile defense system, but it was not a copy of the Spada.

At the same time, a very original anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile system (ATGM / SAM) ADATS was created in Switzerland, eight missiles (ATGM / SAM) and radar were placed on the chassis of the American M113 APC. The firing range was 10 km, the reach in height (as a missile defense system) was 7 km. Canada became the only buyer of ADATS.

In the early 1980s, the first domestic air defense system was received by the Armed Forces of Japan ( "Samurai Self-Defense Forces", "HVO" from 06/16.23). The Tour 81 Tansam air defense system had a firing range of 14 km and an altitude reach of 3 km, the missile system is equipped with an infrared homing head (IR GOS). There are two missiles on the launcher, each two PU is attached to a gearbox with a detection radar.

A significant number of new MANPADS were created and adopted in the 1990s. The French Mistral MANPADS have a firing range of 6-7 km. MANPADS have been delivered to almost 30 countries. At the same time, his only known success was the destruction of the attack aircraft "Hawk" of the Zimbabwe Air Force by the "Mistral" of the Rwandan Armed Forces during the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire) in 1999.

The British Army received the Starstrik MANPADS with laser beam guidance, a firing range of up to 7 km and an altitude reach of 5 km.

On the basis of the families of Soviet and Russian MANPADS with IR GSN "Strela" and "Igla", Polish MANPADS "Grom" and "Piorun" were created (four "Thunder" and/or "Piorun" on an automobile chassis represent the Poprad air defense system adopted by the Polish Armed Forces), as well as Chinese HN-5 and QW-1/2, North Korean HT-16PGJ (the latter in the Korean People's Army are also mounted on the MTLB chassis, that is, they are a local version of the Strela-10 SAM).

In turn, the just-mentioned Chinese MANPADS have become the basis for the creation of a series of Pakistani MANPADS "Anza" and Iranian MANPADS "Misazh".

The Japanese Ture 91 MANPADS (the range of missiles with IR GOS is up to 5.5 km) was also used in the Ture 93 version of the SAM (eight missiles and an optoelectronic detection system on a car chassis).

At the beginning of the XXI century, the first South Korean MANPADS KR-SAM "Shingun" (aka "Chiron") was created, its missile system with IR GOS has a flight range of up to 7 km and an altitude reach of up to 3.5 km.


In the mid-1990s, the Armed Forces of Taiwan ( "The Taiwan Army was created for one campaign", "HVO" from 04/28.23) received the domestic air defense system "Tianjin-1", in which the air-to-air missile of the same name with an IR GOS and a flight range of up to 8 km was used as a missile defense system. The SAM includes four such missiles and a detection radar on an automobile chassis.

In Japan, at the beginning of the XXI century, the Tour 81 was replaced by the Tour 11 SAM. On the car chassis there are four missiles with active radar guidance, a firing range of 15-18 km and an altitude reach of 3 km. Two SAMs can be attached to a detection radar.

The Israeli Spider air defense system is actually a "transitional" between short- and medium-range air defense systems. Air-to-air missiles are used as missiles: "Python" with IR GPS (flight range 20 km, altitude reach in the version of the missile system 9 km) and "Derby" with active radar GPS (50 km and 16 km, respectively). There are four missiles on the launcher, in offline mode, the launch is carried out according to the optical detection system. If the SAM operates as part of a battery of four PU, the data comes from the detection radar. In the "Spider-MR" variant, eight missiles are placed on the PU, there can be up to six SAMs in the battery.

Recently, the Turkish Armed Forces began to receive the domestic short-range air defense system "Hisar-A". The ACV-30 BMP chassis houses a radar, an electron-optical system and four missiles with a flight range of up to 15 km and an altitude reach of up to 8 km. In addition, the Turkish army is armed with the Atylgan and Zipkin air defense systems, which include eight American Stinger MANPADS on the chassis (in the first case – the M113 APC, in the second – the Hummer car).

To replace the Rapier, the British army receives the Sky Sabre air defense system, in which the AIM-132 ASRAAM air-to-air missile is used as a missile system, but with the replacement of the IR GOS with an active radar. The range can be up to 25 km. The SAM includes eight missiles and an optoelectronic guidance system. In the battery – KP, radar detection and six SAMs.


By now, short-range anti-aircraft missile systems have almost lost the ability to hit carriers (with the exception of MANPADS used by sabotage groups behind enemy lines) and have completely switched to fighting with means of destruction (missiles and guided aerial bombs (UAB), as well as unmanned aerial vehicles.

This creates an extremely serious problem of lack of ammunition for air defense. It is becoming easier for the enemy to achieve his complete exhaustion without serious losses of his own, after which his aircraft gets the opportunity to act almost freely. To solve these problems, it is necessary to "reincarnate" anti-aircraft artillery ( "From cannons to sparrows with unprecedented efficiency", "HBO" from 08/25.23), as well as the creation of combat lasers.

As for the short-range air defense systems, then, apparently, they will have a perspective as an integral part of anti-aircraft missile and gun systems (ZRPC). Of course, the replacement of MANPADS as a means of "small air defense" is not expected in any future.

The current Ukrainian campaign has a very strong influence on the development of air defense, but this is a big separate topic.

Alexander Khramchikhin

Alexander Anatolyevich Khramchikhin is an independent military expert.

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