Russia beefs up Pantsir-S1 anti-drone capabilities

Russia continues shoring up the anti-drone capacities of the export-oriented Pantsir-S1 (NATO name: SA-22 Greyhound) self-propelled anti-aircraft gun-missile (SPAAGM) system, a defense industrial source told TASS on June 8.
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Pantsir-SM air defense system displayed at Army-2019. This variant of the S1 has been optimized to shoot down also new-generation small and fast drones (Picture source: Army Recognition)

"The modernization of the [Pantsir-S1] SPAAGM is being conducted, with an improvement of its anti-drone capacity being in sight," said the source. According to him, the current variants of the Pantsir-S1 are effective against both large and small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including quadcopters.

In January, Designer General of the Pantsir-S1-family SPAAGMs Valery Slugin told TASS that the system had been modified to engage compact UAVs. The updated modification of the SPAAGM was capable of engaging even the DJI Phantom drone. According to him, the Pantsir-S1 had some 100 destroyed UAVs in its combat record.

The initial variant of the Pantsir-S1 was unveiled in the mid-2000s, and even at that moment, the system was capable of engaging UAVs. However, the drones of that period were large medium-to-high-speed targets with large radar cross-sections. The Greyhound was good at shooting down such unmanned vehicles, posing a substantial threat to reconnaissance drones. Since the early 2000s, the development of UAVs has received a large impetus. The drones have turned into compact (and even sub-compact) aerial platforms that are capable of carrying both intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) subsystems and small weapons.

However, the Pantsir-S1 has not stood idle: the system has passed through three large upgrades at least. In 2008, the SPAAGM’s developer, the Tula-based Instrument Design Bureau (KBP, a subsidiary of Rostec’s High-Precision Systems), unveiled the basic KAMAZ-6560-based Pantsir-S1 with a rotating search radar. By 2015, the Greyhound’s sensor suite was updated - the SPAAGM has received a pyramidic radar with two inclined arrays. Therefore, the system’s scanning area was doubled.

At the Army 2019 defense exhibition held near Kubinka, KBP presented a new kid on the Greyhound’s block - the Pantsir-S1M (or SM) SPAAGM. The system received a fully rebuilt sensor suite and a more powerful radar. The KAMAZ-6560 was replaced by Remdizel’s Tornado K-53958 8x8 wheeled chassis with a heavily protected crew cabin. In 2019. Russia also unveiled a tracked modification of the Pantsir-S1 that retains the baseline model’s armament suite.

The Pantsir-S1 is widely reported to be a combat-effective air defense system: in April 2018, Syrian Greyhounds shot down 23 of 25 cruise missiles launched by the combat aircraft of the US-led coalition. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD), the Pantsir-S SPAAGM deployed at Humaymim airbase (Latakia province, Syria) had destroyed 16 improvised unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) by late December 2017.

Several MAN SX45-based export-oriented Pantsir-S1Es are reported to have been destroyed in Libya by Baykar Makina Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs. Several Turkish media claim that at least nine Greyhounds have been destroyed; however, the released footages show the reliable destruction of four to five systems, of which three were inactive or stayed in travel position on tank transporters. These vehicles appear to have been the earliest variant of the Pantsir-S1E; moreover, they must have been used by poorly trained crews. Being a sophisticated air defense weapon, the Greyhound requires skillful operators.

It should be mentioned that Russia now offers only modernized Pantsir-S1s- according to the official portfolio of the country’s arms exporter, JSC Rosoboronexport (a subsidiary of Rostec), the second variant of the SPAAGM -the Pantsir-S1 with a pyramidal two-array search radar - is the baseline model. Russia has also integrated the Greyhound into the hard-kill component of its new counter-UAV system.

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