Edited by Desi Tzoneva
The Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 ‘Greyhound’) is a unique weapons system, which is able to deliver firepower against both air and surface targets. This Russian warfare system provides an airtight defence around the guarded object, which corresponds to its name (the Russian word ‘Pantsir’, which means ‘Armour’). Russian TV Channel, Zvezda, has shown footage inside the tactical control unit.
The control unit of the Pantsir-S1 looks cozy: soft chairs, large monitors and air conditioning. It feels like an office if it were not for the noise from the machinery on the other side of the wall, the armoured door and the staff wearing military uniforms. Pantsir-S1 operators can observe everything in a 30 kilometre (km) radius from the control unit. Located in the city of Tula, the Pantsir-S1 was tracking planes landing in Moscow.
The Pantsir-S1 does not simply see the target, it is also able to identify its type, state affiliation and flight characteristics. The system operator is offered an optimal weapon to hit the target. It takes four seconds for the Pantsir-S1 to open fire after it identifies the target.
The weapons system possesses three radars. The first radar is an optical one with a thermal imager, which allows it to function at night. The second one controls the situation within a 36 km radius. Finally, the third one is meant to follow acquired targets and guide the missiles. The radars work in millimetre and centimetre ranges. Therefore, they are capable of discovering stealth technology targets.
The Pantsir-S1 is armed with 12 anti-aircraft missiles and four auto-cannon guns. The missiles fly at hypersonic speed and explode near the target creating a cloud of destructive agents. The target (a jet or a missile) pierces into this cloud, increasing the damage done to it. This technology is the know-how of the KBP Instrument Design Bureau based in Tula.
The Chief Designer of the project, Valery Slugin, describes the operating principle: “The missile meets a cloud of swinging knives, which makes sure that even small objects (like jet projectiles) are destroyed.” Slugin chose the missile as an example, since the Pantsir-S1 is meant to protect large air defence systems like the S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler). Both systems are deployed in the Russian military air base, Khmeimim, in Syria: the S-400 protects the air base and the Pantsir-S1 protects the S-400.
The Pantsir-S1 is also equipped with four auto-cannons. They lack the firing distance but are much more flexible and accurate than the missiles. No electronic jamming can misdirect a cannon projectile. Two dual 2A38M 30 mm auto-cannon guns can shoot 5 000 rounds per minute. Every Russian fighter jet is equipped with the same weaponry. The cannons can also shoot a surface target – a tank, for example.
The optical systems of the Pantsir-S1 allow for acquiring of targets that cannot be identified by any radar – a group of enemy paratroopers, for instance. Each separate Pantsir-S1 can act as an independent combat unit and seek and destroy targets. The weapons system can also be used as a standalone fire unit, which receives target detection data from a different source. Besides this, the Pantsir-S1 can transfer the target’s information to five similar combat units. The Pantsir-S1 uses digital communications which are protected from jamming and interference. The weapons system can move and shoot, for example, while defending a convoy on a march. The cannons and missiles will not lose the acquired target, even if the vehicle with the Pantsir-S1 jumbles and vibrates while moving.
The Pantsir-S1 weapons system is a module and can be deployed on different chassis – wheeled or crawler, ships and rail platforms. Soon, the Russian arctic military forces will also be equipped with the arctic version of this weapons system, both for ground forces and for the navy.