In connection with the winter missile attacks on the territory of Ukraine, the topic of air defense is again becoming relevant.
The information is in the public domain and is not secret.
The first thing you need to know is that nothing happens by chance in air defense combat work. Missiles fly ONLY where they are aimed. If in January 2020 a Ukrainian UIA flight was shot down over Tehran, then it was this plane that was shot at. Dot. All talk about an accidental hit indicates either a deliberate lie, or ignorance, a complete misunderstanding of the principles of operation of anti-aircraft missile systems.
In order for a missile to hit an air target, several sequential operations must be performed.
- Detect an air target (the radar scans the airspace).
- Take it for escort, that is, indicate to the missile where to fly (this can be compared to aiming).
- Perform startup.
The missile launch is impossible until the target is tracked, that is, the implementation of step 3 depends on the completion of step 2. This sequence works the same for both MANPADS operated by an individual fighter and for the S-300 or Patriot air defense systems. The only difference is that in modern air defense systems this sequence is performed automatically, while in older systems this is done by human combat crews. But in any case, launching a rocket is a completely conscious and calibrated action.
There are different principles for guiding missiles.
- Active (fire and forget). The missile has equipment on board that operates autonomously and is aimed at the target independently. The main disadvantage is the high cost for one-time use. In fact, a separate radar is launched into the air, which costs a million bucks and disappears forever after hitting an air target. In particular, the PAC-3 Patriot anti-aircraft missile uses an active homing head. This largely determines its high cost.
- Semi-active. The radar scans the space, detects an air target, after which it is taken for tracking. The missile is launched, but the radar continues to irradiate the target. In this case, the reflected signal no longer hits the radar, as during scanning of space, but to the receiver of the missile itself, which thus pursues the target, following its signal. A semi-active guidance system is installed, in particular, on missiles of the S-300 and Buk M1 complexes. It can be “confused” by placing passive interference. For example, an airplane or rocket may release a cloud of cut pieces of shiny foil. Then there is a possibility that the radar will either take pieces of this foil for tracking, or the anti-aircraft missile will switch to this shiny cloud already in the air.
- Passive. I also shot and forgot. The best example is infrared RGSN, which are aimed at a heat spot. The hotter the engine, the brighter the spot. The less hot the engine is, the more difficult it is to lock on a target. That is why MANPADS may not be seen by the notorious “mopeds”, whose engines generate minimal heat. On the other hand, it is quite possible to use a MANPADS to destroy a cruise missile that has a “hot” jet engine. You can knock down the sight of an infrared seeker by releasing heat traps. The principle is somewhat similar to foil. Everyone has seen what heat traps look like.
Modern anti-aircraft missiles cannot necessarily use only one of the listed guidance systems. They can be combined. For example, the PAC-3 missile uses an inertial guidance system that calculates the location of the missile in airspace using gyroscopes and accelerometers, and turns on an active seeker at a certain part of the trajectory.
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But in any case, all these systems operate only when the rocket takes off into the air. That is, after completing the entire sequence that precedes the launch of the rocket. Accordingly, anti-aircraft missiles operate ONLY against air targets. If a missile loses its target, for example due to the passive interference I described above, it self-destructs in the air. This is a required algorithm.
Now you know why stories about Ukrainian air defense supposedly shooting down ground targets and hitting residential areas are all Russian fakes. The principles and sequences that I outlined above a priori do not allow an anti-aircraft missile aimed at an air target to hit ground targets. Dot!
But here you ask: how, in this case, do the missiles that the enemy launches from the S-300/S-400 specifically at ground targets work? To do this, they are redesigned and equipped with a radio command guidance unit, which guides the missile according to signals received from the radar. With radio command guidance using the complex’s radar, the range in this case is limited to 35-40 km, the actual zone where the radar itself can “reach”. The use of the S-300 in surface-to-surface mode using its own radar makes it vulnerable to drones and artillery. The radio command guidance method does not provide great accuracy, but in the case of missiles of the 5V55 family for the S300 air defense system, this is not necessary. The warhead of this missile, when triggered, releases a cloud of damaging elements. This shrapnel is absolutely fatal for people who are not in reliable shelter, and is extremely dangerous for unarmored vehicles, residential buildings, and unprotected civilian infrastructure. In fact, it is an indiscriminate weapon.
For radio command guidance, any other radar can be used, which is capable of seeing over much longer distances than the standard radar of the complex. For example, such guidance and target designation can be carried out from a long-range radar command and control aircraft. Such aircraft are at the disposal of the Russian Armed Forces. Consequently, the enemy can use other converted missiles for the S-400 air defense system of the 48N6 family, which fly over a much greater distance. In fact, such missiles can be launched from the territory of the Russian Federation and fly to Kyiv. Similar cases have already occurred.
The author expresses his personal opinion, which may not coincide with the position of the editors. The author is responsible for the published data in the “Opinions” section.
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