In the previous article, we examined the combat units that are most effective for manning the Navy and Air Force of Armenia from the point of view of confronting Azerbaijan and Turkey in the current conflict. Let me remind you that the consideration is being conducted only from the point of view of studying the possibility of an obviously weaker enemy to resist a stronger one without reference to who is morally or legally right in a given conflict and who is to blame.
To begin with, I would like to clarify where the “Armenian fleet without a sea” came from, which caused some excitement in the comments. On the one hand, the cost of creating it in the form indicated in the previous article is minimal. How much can it cost to purchase or rent a small used civilian vessel, install a set of electronic reconnaissance equipment on it and train 10-15 combat swimmers? By the way, training of combat swimmers can be carried out on Lake Sevan.
On the other hand, if they succeed in at least one sabotage to destroy the enemy's oil and gas infrastructure, this will recoup all costs, which, as mentioned earlier, will be relatively small. And the aforementioned Greece, although it does not have access to the Black Sea, has access to it through the Black Sea straits and can assist in the acquisition / lease of a ship (under a false flag), provide it with maintenance and help in training combat swimmers. Greece and Turkey have serious contradictions, it is possible that it is possible to agree on financial support in exchange, for example, for intelligence.
Moreover, it is not necessary to create a “sealess fleet” at all, you can only imitate its creation, and these “virtual” actions will force Azerbaijan to spend significant resources on countering a potential threat: to strengthen the fleet, increase the intensity of patrolling, purchase anti-sabotage equipment and weapons, since the oil and gas sector, which is the backbone of its economy, can be very painful. The resources of any country are not unlimited, and if you can spend 1 ruble in order for the enemy to spend 10 rubles, then this is already a good enough reason to think it over.
However, if “a fleet without a sea” is a rather specific thing for Armenia, then equipping the Armenian Air Force with a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) instead of the heavy S-30SM fighters they buy could significantly increase their defenses under the conditions of the actual air supremacy of Azerbaijan and Turkey. Again, in the comments to the previous material, it is noted that the Su-30SM have already been purchased, but the UAV is not. Well, this is so, and we are just talking about the mistakes made at the stage of preparing the Armenian armed forces for the outbreak of the conflict and about how to build arms purchases in the future. Now, of course, it is too late to drink Borjomi.
As for the reason for the ferrying of combat aircraft to another country, this is perhaps the only chance to keep them intact, since in case of an attempt to use them, they will most likely be shot down: the territory of the country and the theater of military operations are too small, Armenia is too tightly sandwiched between Azerbaijan and Turkey.If the Turks constantly keep at least one early warning aircraft (AWACS) near the border with Armenia, then the Su-30SM will be spotted immediately after takeoff, and they can be attacked even before the climb.
And how and to whom to ferry these planes is a problem for Armenia. Iran can probably be used as a transit country. Perhaps he will be able to sell them - it will be much more practical than if these combat aircraft are destroyed at the base airfield with Israeli operational-tactical ballistic missiles LORA, 300-mm multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) or UAVs.
The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh once again clearly demonstrated the capabilities of UAVs in modern warfare and their importance for the armed forces. In fact, we see practically unpunished shooting of the Armenian armed forces with precision weapons from the air. At the same time, the losses of the Azerbaijani Air Force in the UAV are clearly incomparable with the losses of the Armenian side from the strikes inflicted by the UAV. Earlier, Turkey effectively used UAVs in Turkey and Libya.
In fact, the UAVs provided Azerbaijan with air supremacy even without completely suppressing the air defense of Armenia and destroying its combat aircraft, which significantly increases the effectiveness of the actions of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, therefore, it will be difficult to achieve a turning point in the course of the conflict without interfering with the operation of the UAV.
Air defense and UAVs
We can say that the problem of countering the massive use of UAVs has not yet been resolved. Sometimes they say that the use of electronic warfare (EW) can completely disrupt the control of the UAV, but this assumption can be questioned. Even if it is possible to drown out the radio channel between the UAV and the ground repeater, the possibility of jamming satellite communication channels remains questionable, and it is not at all easy to drown out the global satellite positioning system. No, it is probably possible to do this, but only at a limited distance, in a limited area, and it is unlikely that it will be possible to "close" access to the global positioning system throughout the entire theater of military operations. At least so far, no one has seen dozens of UAVs that crashed as a result of the impact of electronic warfare. And the electronic warfare means themselves, an active radiation source, can be tracked and attacked by appropriate weapons. In other words, using electronic warfare as an element of an echeloned air defense system is one thing, but relying on them as a "wunderwaffe" is quite another.
When countering anti-aircraft missile systems (SAM) and UAVs, other problems arise. First, the small size of the UAV, the use of elements to reduce the radar signature, turboprop and piston engines with a low thermal signature significantly complicate the detection of UAVs, especially for small and ultra-small UAVs. With the advent of fully "electric" UAVs, this problem will become even more urgent.
Secondly, just as the cost of anti-aircraft guided missiles (SAMs) often exceeds the cost of weapons used by UAVs, the cost of the SAMs themselves is much higher than that of UAVs. This is especially true for small and ultra-small UAVs.
For example, the cost of the Turkish UAV Bayraktar TB2 is about $ 5 million, while the cost of the Pantsir-C1 anti-aircraft missile and gun system is about $ 14 million, i.e. to meet the cost / efficiency criterion, the ratio of the destroyed Bayraktar TB2 UAVs and Pantsir-S1 air defense missile systems should be three to one. The effectiveness of less sophisticated air defense systems, such as Strela, turned out to be completely minimal - in fact, they turned into targets for UAVs.
Air defense of Armenia now
In the structure of Armenia's air defense, there are air defense systems of all classes: relatively outdated long-range air defense systems S-300PS, more "fresh" medium-range air defense systems Buk M1-2, fairly modern short-range air defense systems "Tor-M2KM" and portable air defense systems (MANPADS) "Igla" and "Willow".There are also outdated air defense systems such as S-75, S-125, Kub and Osa, ZSU-23-4 Shilka and ZSU-23-2. They are practically useless against UAVs, but in the right hands they can pose a significant threat to manned combat aircraft and helicopters. There is no exact information on the number of available air defense systems and their technical condition.
The question arises: why are the Tor air defense systems not used, which should be able to effectively deal with UAVs? In the M2 modification, the Tor air defense missile system is capable of firing on the move, which reduces the likelihood of their being hit by some types of guided munitions
The number of Tor-M2KM air defense systems in service with the Armenian air defense is unknown, but presumably it is at least 2-4 vehicles. What's the point in hiding them? Wait for the enemy to find their location and destroy the UAV or OTRK? Or are they kept for the "last and decisive" battle?
Of course, the complete absence of an air defense system will completely untie the enemy's hands, making it possible to use not only unmanned, but also manned aviation, the effectiveness of which in supporting ground forces is still much higher than that of a UAV. But even with the loss of the Tor air defense system, Armenia will have enough other air defense systems to counter manned combat aircraft.
In general, based on the limited military budget of Armenia, one cannot say about any mistakes made when purchasing air defense systems. All available funds can be used in the current conflict with varying efficiency. Questions rather arise regarding the technical condition of the formally listed air defense systems and the professionalism of their crews.
Possible directions for the development of the air defense of Armenia
Currently, there are no air defense systems capable of cost-effectively countering UAVs. Perhaps, the Pantsir-SM air defense missile system equipped with specialized small-sized missiles designed to destroy UAVs will be able to get as close as possible to solving the problem of "cheap" destruction of UAVs. It should also be borne in mind that the Pantsir-S air defense missile system showed itself quite well in Libya. Despite the losses incurred, it is believed that they accounted for 28 downed Turkish UAVs.
Earlier, we considered the use of the Pantsir-SM air defense missile system in the context of solving the problem of breaking through the air defense by exceeding its capabilities to intercept targets, as well as ensuring the operation of the air defense missile system against low-flying targets without involving the Air Force aviation.
An important point is the potential for equipping the Pantsir-SM air defense missile system with 30-mm shells with remote detonation. If this opportunity is realized, then the effectiveness of destruction of small-sized UAVs will increase significantly, and the cost of their destruction will decrease by an order of magnitude. Currently, two 30-mm 2A38 cannons installed on the Pantsir series air defense missile systems are most often useless: they cannot hit either small-sized UAVs or guided munitions.
In the event that 30-mm shells with remote detonation will not be integrated into the ammunition load of the Pantsir-SM air defense missile system, then a purely rocket modification of the Pantsir-SM air defense system may become a more interesting acquisition option, which is also presumably being developed and the maximum ammunition load of which can be up to 96 missiles "Nail".
ZRPK / SAM "Pantsir-SM" can form the basis of the air defense of the armed forces of Armenia. Considering the importance of the problem being solved, they can be purchased in quantities of several tens of units within 5-10 years. At the same time, the purchase amount will amount to about $ 300-500 million.
The most effective weapon against small and ultra-small UAVs can be laser air defense systems - it is not for nothing that the United States is actively working on the installation of laser weapons on the Stryker armored personnel carrier specifically to counter the UAV.
Unfortunately, judging by the data of the open press, Russia is lagging behind in the creation of tactical-class lasers.At the same time, at the Army-2020 exhibition, a mobile laser complex to combat UAVs "Rat" was presented, which, according to the developers, is capable of electronic suppression of communication channels and physical destruction of UAVs with laser weapons.
I repeat, potentially laser weapons will be extremely effective against UAVs, but it is too early to talk specifically about the effectiveness of the Rat complex. It can be assumed that such complexes will show the maximum efficiency in conjunction with the same Pantsir-SM air defense missile systems or Tor-M2KM air defense missile systems.
The second main air defense system in Armenia will remain MANPADS, which have the highest possible survivability of all air defense systems. MANPADS will make it possible to limit the combat effectiveness of enemy manned aircraft in the event that all air defense systems are destroyed. To increase their efficiency, a developed network of observers, equipped with communication facilities, capable of acoustic and visual detection of UAVs and manned aircraft and the transmission of their coordinates and direction of movement is required in order to ensure their attack by MANPADS from the most effective distance and direction.
There is a possibility that existing heat-guided MANPADS may become practically useless as aircraft and helicopters are equipped with laser self-defense systems. However, such means are unlikely to be installed on small and ultra-small UAVs, and the high cost of introducing laser self-defense weapons will not allow Azerbaijan and Turkey to install them on all aircraft in the coming decades. In the future, it is possible that the development of MANPADS will follow the path of creating a laser-guided missile defense system - previously such complexes have already been developed.
All chances for the development of MANPADS of this type have the Russian enterprises KBP JSC, NPK KBM JSC and KBTM named after AE Nudelman ", who have experience in the development of both air defense systems and weapons guided by the" laser path ". Perhaps it will be some kind of simplified version of the Sosna air defense system.
As for the long and medium-range air defense systems, their purchase should be carried out only after the air defense of Armenia is equipped with a sufficient number of Pantsir-SM air defense systems and MANPADS. Complexes of the S-400 type have completely redundant characteristics for the Armed Forces of Armenia. A more interesting option is the S-350 Vityaz medium-range air defense missile system, equipped with missiles with active radar homing heads (ARLGSN) and small-sized missiles with infrared homing heads (IR homing heads).
If the military budget of Armenia will allow for their purchase, then in minimal quantities. Their importance can significantly increase in the case of the purchase by Turkey or Azerbaijan of modern fifth generation combat aircraft, made using the technology of reducing visibility and equipped with radar stations (radars) with an active phased antenna array (AFAR). The presence of the S-350 "Vityaz" air defense system of a radar with an AFAR and an air defense missile system with an ARLGSN will allow it to effectively counteract fifth-generation aircraft. It is unlikely that Turkey will have many of them, let alone Azerbaijan.
Another area should be the maximum modernization of all available air defense systems using modern element base. The experience of other countries shows that even "ancient" air defense systems such as the S-75 and S-125 can be extremely dangerous for the enemy, provided that they are qualitatively modernized.
All of the above measures can largely neutralize the superiority of Azerbaijan and Turkey in aviation weapons. Under existing conditions, it is advisable to use the existing Tor-M2KM air defense systems already now to inflict maximum damage on enemy UAVs and reduce their impact on the armed forces. Even in the event of the loss of the Tor-M2KM air defense system, Armenia will have enough air defense missile systems to counter manned aviation, but it is necessary to do something with the UAV now. MANPADS will remain the most "tenacious" air defense weapons.
In the future, the basis of the Armenian air defense system can be the Pantsir-SM air defense missile system (depending on whether the missile-cannon or purely missile modification will be purchased), possibly in combination with the Tor family air defense system, if they show themselves well according to the results real application.
The article practically does not touch upon the use of electronic warfare systems, since there is no reliable data on the effectiveness of this type of weapons in practice, perhaps we will return to this issue in other materials.