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Russian TOR-M2 air defense missile system shows high efficiency against Ukrainian drones

Citing information published by the Russian press agency TASS on July 8, 2022, the Russian air defense systems deployed in the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) have been effectively covering the airspace in their area of responsibility. Batteries of Tor-M2 (NATO reporting name: SA-15 Gauntlet) air defense missile systems are playing an important role in intercepting adversary unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), aircraft, and helicopters both in the daytime and at night. 
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Russian Tor-M2 air defense missile systems are used to counter Ukrainian drones. (Picture source Russian MoD)

Citing information from the Russian journalist Alexander Stepanov, the Russian military highly assesses the performance characteristics of the Tor-M2 air defense missile system. Battery commander in the LPR Vladislav called it “the best short-range system in the world”, highly appreciating its reliability, ease of operation, and combat effectiveness.

The battery has shot down more than 100 air targets. These are mainly UAVs, including Turkish-made Bayraktar strike drones. According to Vladislav, it is not difficult for the air defense servicemen to detect a Bayraktar drone due to its quite large size. The main task set to them is to destroy the Bayraktar at a maximum distance before it can launch a long-range missile.

As Vladislav said, adversary aerial targets are intercepted in conjunction with crews of other weapons, such as Buk-M2 (NATO code-named SA-17 Grizzly) and S-300 (NATO code-named SA-10 Grumble) air defense systems.

“If it [the drone] does not enter our engagement area, then we transmit information about the Bayraktar to nearby units for its further elimination… If we do not shoot it down, then more powerful systems, namely S-300 and Buk, get involved. Interaction has been established. There are moments when they assign their targets to us so as not to down drones with long-range missiles,” the officer said.

In addition to Bayraktar drones, the Ukrainian troops use Furia and Leleka reconnaissance UAVs, as well as quadrotors. “As for quadrotors, we try to intercept them not with a missile, but with small arms. Or we transfer them to crews of Pantsir (NATO Code named SA-22 Greyhound) complexes, which track and then down them with their guns,” Vladislav noted.

According to the Russian army battery commander, the reduction in the fleet of Ukrainian UAVs influenced the tactics of the Ukrainian troops. If at the beginning of the operation Ukrainian servicemen launched several drones at once, without masking them, now they are “trying to save their UAVs and are not using them over long distances.”

“They have started looking into what kind of air defense systems are covering our troops before launching Bayraktar drones,” the officer said, adding that Russian air defense servicemen had found ways to deceive these drones.

According to the Russian army officer, a low-flying helicopter is the most difficult target for Tor systems. “It is not easy to track the helicopter automatically, as it flies at very low altitudes with terrain following to remain unseen,” Vladislav explains. As the Russian officer said, enemy helicopters actively maneuver with terrain following. The air defense serviceman has literally a fraction of a second, when the helicopter appears on the radar, during which the fire decision must be taken. The battery of Vladislav has already shot down two Ukrainian helicopters.

The Tor-M2 is a close-range air defense missile system produced by the Kupol Electromechanical Plant in Izhevsk (part of the Almaz-Antey Group). The weapon protects the first echelons of ground formations against antiradar and cruise missiles, gliding air bombs, airplanes, helicopters, UAVs, including swarms of drones.

The system can monitor the airspace and automatically down all air targets unidentified by the friend-or-foe system. The complex has 16 vertically-launched missiles with a range of 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) and an altitude of up to 10 km (6.2 mi). The upgraded radar can detect stealth aircraft.

One of the latest versions, i.e. the Tor-M2U, simultaneously detects and tracks over 40 targets and attacks four of them with four missiles launched consecutively. The advanced version is the Tor-M2KM. Also, the system has an Arctic version, the Tor-M2DT, based on the DT-30 two-section tracked vehicle.

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