Is airspace armament a myth?


The consultation of members of the governmental military industrial commission chaired by Senior Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov was held in Moscow on February 27. This was conducted on the basis of the research and production association, Almaz. Participants of the consultation discussed issues of the creation of modern air defense missile systems using the basic and critical technologies in this field. For example, participants of the meeting touched on the prospects for developing a unified air defense missile system of the fifth generation. According to Ivanov, an airspace defense system should be built on the basis of this system later. The airspace defense system will unite information, firing and control capabilities of air defense, antimissile defense and space defense. Ivanov states that to complete tasks for the creation of airspace defense systems, it requires the joined efforts of practically all enterprises of the military industrial complex. He emphasizes that creation of the national airspace defense system will be under the permanent control of the governmental military industrial commission. During the visit to Almaz, Ivanov participated in a demonstration of the air defense missile system S-400 and visited the museum of the research and production association.

This system was promised to be adopted by the army in 2005. However, due to drawn-out tests of this system and bad financing, its operation was delayed. Ivanov states that the “supply of these systems to the troops will begin in the near future and in the near future they will constitute the basis of our air defense.” Meanwhile, it is clear that S-400 is intended mostly for interception of air targets and can fulfill tasks of missiles interception, that is to act in the near-earth space, only partially. That is why the Senior Deputy Prime Minister remarks that “already, we think about a more remote prospect, namely the development of a standardized air defense missile system of the fifth generation.”

What kind of armament is this? According to Ivanov, this is a very serious, expensive and unique project from the standpoint of innovations on which it is necessary to work. It is necessary to create an air defense missile system capable of the simultaneous fulfillment of air defense, antimissile defense and space defense functions. The press service of Almaz reported that air defense corporation Almaz-Antei was chosen as the head developer of the system of the fifth generation. The source said, “For complete this task, it was decided to create a unified developer uniting research and technological schools of the air defense units of the Air Force, air defense units of the Navy, air defense units of the Ground Forces, automated control systems and antimissile defense on the basis of Almaz – the head design bureau of air defense corporation Almaz-Antei.” According to the source, the relevant ministries and agencies were instructed to work out a comprehensive targeted program for development of a standardized air defense and antimissile defense system.

Meanwhile, no details are reported about the development of a new type of air defense missile armament. The entire meeting of the military industrial commission dedicated to this topic was held in a closed regime. However, in earlier talks to journalists, President Vladimir Putin spoke about a kind of asymmetric armament having hypersonic characteristics. Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, professor and chief researcher of the institute of international economy and international relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who was the head of the fourth central research institute of the Defense Ministry for a long time (this institute substantiates prospects for development of the strategic nuclear forces of Russia), believes that it will be very difficult to create such weapons.

Dvorkin explains: “Pumping up fears with examples of experimental hypersonic aircraft that can fly in outer space and the air is ungrounded due to a number of reasons. One of them is the most important. There may be very interesting and original inventions, but nobody will create an armament system on this basis. It is too expensive and inefficient.”

According to Dvorkin, “not a single country has or will have in the near future so-called airspace capabilities which can fulfill combat tasks in the atmosphere and in outer space.” Participants of the meeting of the military industrial commission said that the program for creating the air defense and antimissile defense system of the fifth generation was intended for the period until 2015, that is until the deadline of the state armament program approved in 2006. Dvorkin says that this period is too short for the creation of such weapons. He explains: “Airplanes, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles will remain means of “airspace attack” at least for 10-15 years. Along with this, work on the creation of airspace means is underway and is sufficiently successful. However, it is aimed not at the creation of an armament system for combat tasks in the air and in space, but at practical implementation of a combined scheme of launch, fulfillment of the target mission and the landing of aircraft.”

It turns out that some ephemeral projects have been discussed at the meeting of the military industrial commission. Or was Ivanov’s statement misunderstood due to a lack of information? Probably information about the airspace weapon of the fifth generation was revealed in connection with our response to deployment of the US antimissile defense system in Europe. This may be our asymmetric response.

There are many questions but there are no clear answers to them yet.