Air Defense: Pantsir Gets Patched

January 13, 2021



In November 2020, Odintsovo, the fifth of the new Russian Karakurt corvettes, completed sea trials and entered service. The navy was uneasy about this version of the Karakurt class because the Odintsovo was the first of four Karakurts armed with a Pantsir M air defense system, rather than the cheaper and less capable 57E6 Sosna-R. The one advantage of the Sosna-R is that it cannot be jammed. Sosna-R is basically an enlarged shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile that uses an electro-optical sensor to track the target, and a secure control signal plus a proximity fuse to get it close enough to destroy or disable the target. Systems like Sosna-R have been around for decades and are known to work.

Pantsir has not been known for its effectiveness. On paper the naval Pantsir is a superior system with a longer-range (20 kilometers) Hermes K missile, backed by twin-multi-barrel 30mm autocannon (range five kilometers) to deal with anti-ship targets that get past the missiles. Pantsir M replaced two systems: the Sosna-R missiles and the two AK-630 CIWS autocannon.

Pantsir M was deliberately designed to eliminate a design flaw in the land-based Pantsir-S1, that made it easy for some electronic and weapon systems to destroy or disable it. There were no official statements on how the Pantsir EW (Electronic Warfare) vulnerability was tested and verified as fixed. Apparently, those problems were fixed because there were no rumors about it being otherwise. This is important for the Pantsir M because it gives Russian warships better protection against incoming anti-ship missiles. Western warships have been using the RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) system since the early 1990s. German-developed and widely adopted, RAM has a range of ten kilometers and is a proven system that has already undergone several generations of upgrades. RAM uses a 21-missile launcher and the 75 kg (162 pound) missiles have a 85 percent success rate in test and training firings…


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