This is a quick guide to Russian air defense systems. It is by no means a complete list. Also the descriptions are only intended as short introductions. The purpose is to provide a fast way to get the general idea of a particular weapon.
- Ground based systems:
- Ship based systems:
Tor (Russian: Тор, NATO: SA-15 Gauntlet) is a short range air defense missile system. It has been in service since 1986.
Tor is a highly mobile system which is based on a tracked vehicle. It is capable of intercepting high-precision missiles under difficult weather and jamming conditions. Tor can detect targets while the vehicle is moving, but it must stop intermittently when firing. The improved Tor M-2 missiles have a range up to 16 kilometers and a maximum altitude up to 10 kilometers.
Pantsir-S1 (Russian: Панцирь-С1, NATO reporting name SA-22 Greyhound) is a short to medium range ground based air defense system. It consists of both anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles. The maximum range is about 20 kilometers, and the maximum altitude is around 15 kilometers.
Pantsir-S1 is a modern air defense system which has been in production since 2008. It is intended as a point defense system around high-value targets. It can function in a fully automatic mode.
A maritime version has been developed under the name of Pantsir-M. It is intended to replace Kashtan-M as Russia’s preferred close-in weapon system (CIWS).
S-75 (Russian: С-75; NATO: SA-2 Guideline) is an older medium range high-altitude air defence system. It was developed in the 1950s, and it is no longer operated by Russia. Is is, however, still in service in other countries like Syria.
S-200 Angara/Vega/Dubna (Russian С-200; NATO: SA-5 Gammon) is an older Russian long range, medium-to-high altitude air defense system. It was designed in the 1960s and is no longer in service in Russia. It is still operated by other countries, for example Syria.
The missiles from S-200 can be integrated into the S-300 or S-400 control systems. This means that legacy systems can work together with more modern systems.
S-300 is a modern long-range air defense system. It is a predecessor to the even more capable S-400. S-300 was originally developed in the 1970s and has since evolved into an entire family of different versions for different purposes.
The ground based version is S-300P (Russian: С-300П, NATO name SA-10 Grumble). It includes radar surveillance sites that can be positioned up to 40 kilometers from the central command post. This makes it possible to place radars up to 80 kilometers apart to create a large area of surveillance. The latest version of this system is the S-300PMU-2 Favourite (Russian: С-300ПМУ-2 Фаворит, NATO: SA-20B) which has a range up to almost 200 kilometers.
A more mobile ground based version is the S-300V Antey-300 (Russian: 9К81 С-300В Антей-300, NATO: SA-12 Gladiator/Giant). It is built on a tracked vehicle and has more passive sensors. This makes S-300V more useful for the protection of mobile forces.
A maritime version is the S-300F Fort (Russian: С-300Ф Форт, NATO designation SA-N-6). It has a range up to 90 kilometers. An improved maritime version is the S-300 *Fort-M (Russian С-300ФМ, NATO designation SA-N-20), which has a range up to 150 kilometers.
S-400 Triumf (Russian: C-400 Триумф, NATO: SA-21 Growler) is a long-range ground based air defense system. It is an improved development of the S-300. S-400 uses different missiles for different purposes, but the very-long-range 40N6 missile gives a range up to an impressive 400 kilometers.
S-400 has been in service in the Russian military since 2007, and it is generally acknowledged as one of the best long-range air defense systems in the world.
Different very capable sensor packages can be integrated into S-400 to make a multi-layered surveillance envelope. Other air defense systems like Tor, Pantsir-S, and S-300 can be integrated into the control system of S-400.
Buk (Russian: “Бук”) is a family of medium range air defense missile systems. It has been in service since 1979, and it is still an important part of Russia’s air defense. The newer Buk-M1-2 and Buk-M2 versions go under the NATO name SA-17 Grizzly. An even more modern Buk-M3 is still in production.
Kashtan (Russian: Каштан, English: Chestnut) is a maritime close-in weapon system (CIWS). It combines a gun and a missile system and can function in a fully automatic mode. Kashtan has been used in the Russian navy since 1989.
The improved Kashtan-M is a more modern version of the system. It has a missile range of around 10 kilometers and an engagement altitude of up to 6 kilometers. Kashtan-M will gradually be replaced by Pantsir-M as Russia’s preferred CIWS.