Russia is developing a number of promising anti-aircraft, anti-missile and anti-space defense systems designed to protect the country as a whole and individual facilities from a possible attack. All these projects naturally attract the attention of foreign experts and the media. In recent days, in foreign, and then in domestic publications, there has been a whole wave of publications about one of the promising Russian developments. The topic of news and articles was the Nudol system, which is considered the latest anti-satellite weapon.
The current situation has an interesting peculiarity. The Nudol project attracts increased attention of foreign media, but the authors of official documents from other countries are not inclined to exaggerate its importance. Moreover, in some cases, touching upon the topic as a whole, they prefer not to specify and not indicate specific types of products of Russian design.
The alleged appearance of the launcher of the Nudol complex
For example, the Pentagon recently released a new missile defense review, the 2019 Missile Defense Review, which focused on current nuclear missile threats and responses to them. In one of the sections of the report, Russian developments in the field of anti-satellite weapons were mentioned, to which the Nudol complex is traditionally referred to abroad. The report noted that Russia is developing a ground-based anti-satellite weapon designed to destroy orbital targets with a direct hit. Also, the authors of the ABM review recalled the strange and suspicious Russian-made spacecraft. At the same time, the actual "Nudol" is not mentioned in the document.
New reports directly about the Nudol complex, also known as PL-19, were published on January 18 by the American television channel CNBC. The editors of the TV channel, through an unnamed intelligence officer, were able to get acquainted with some data from a secret report of one of the US intelligence agencies. This document contained extremely interesting information. American intelligence was able to establish that a few weeks ago, Russian specialists conducted regular tests of the Nudol product and obtained quite good results.
According to CNBC, another test launch took place on December 23 last year. An anti-satellite missile took off from a mobile soil launcher and went to a fictitious target. Its flight lasted 17 minutes, during which time the rocket was able to cover 1864 miles (3 thousand km). The interceptor missile then fell in the targeted area. The start-up was recognized as successful.
It should be recalled that this is not the first time the foreign press has published data on the tests of the Russian anti-satellite complex. Since 2014, foreign media have repeatedly written about the Nudoli tests, receiving the necessary data from their sources in the US intelligence or military department. In general, according to foreign data, from 2014 to 2018, Russia conducted seven tests of the promising complex, including two last year. Five launches are called successful; the status of another is unknown: intelligence spoke of a failure, while other sources consider it a success.
United States intelligence and media claim that two Nudol missile launches last year took place at the Plesetsk test site. Instead of the test stands used earlier, they used standard self-propelled launchers. Thus, the anti-satellite complex is already being tested in full configuration, which serves as a transparent hint at the current stage of testing.
On January 20, new interesting information about the Nudol project appeared on specialized resources and blogs. This time it was about the peculiarities of placing his funds at the Plesetsk landfill. Using the available satellite images of the Earth's surface, amateurs of military affairs were able to determine the most likely site for testing a promising complex.
It is assumed that for testing the Nudol system, a former launch site with a complex of means for the Cyclone launch vehicle is used. Several years ago, this site began to be rebuilt to meet the needs of advanced systems, and by now it has returned to operation in a new role. Apparently, during the restructuring, they abandoned the existing silo launcher, and new missiles are now launched from open areas.
New satellite images show a section of the Plesetsk cosmodrome, on which there are several parallel paths with entrances to them. Next to the two longitudinal tracks, a pair of side platforms of sufficient size are provided - apparently, these are the starting positions. The commercial satellite was able to capture not only the infrastructure of the landfill, but also the equipment located on it. At both starting positions there are long machines on the MZKT chassis. Their appearance suggests the presence of transport and launch containers and missiles.
Launch positions at the Plesetsk cosmodrome
It was the presence of characteristic vehicles on a couple of new starting positions that became almost the main argument in favor of using the converted platform with the PL-19 / Nudol complex. It should also be noted that a foreign commercial satellite managed to take photographs of real means of the latest anti-space defense complex. Previously, experts and amateurs of military equipment had to rely only on drawings and diagrams, allegedly related to the project.
For well-known reasons, Russian structures are in no hurry to publish all the most interesting data on the promising Nudol project. As a result, a significant part of the information - first of all, about the course of tests - comes from foreign sources. However, the Russian Ministry of Defense and the enterprises participating in the project from time to time mention the new complex. Data from various sources, both domestic and foreign, make it possible to draw up a fairly detailed picture. This, however, is not without controversy.
According to Russian data, the Nudol complex is being created as part of a larger program to modernize the missile defense system. The purpose of the development work with the code "Nudol" is to create a firing complex, a command post and other means of various purposes, made on mobile chassis. Also, the complex should include a new long-range intercept missile.
From domestic sources it follows that the Nudol complex is intended for use in anti-missile defense and should complement the existing assets from its composition. The ammunition of the complex is called a space rocket. According to foreign data, the complex has other purposes and is a system for the destruction of spacecraft in orbit. Similar conclusions were made, first of all, on the basis of the known performance characteristics of the new rocket.
ROC "Nudol" was launched at the end of the last decade. In 2010, this name was first mentioned in the official documents of one of the defense enterprises.In the future, new messages have repeatedly appeared about the performance of certain works. Since 2014, there have been regular reports of test launches. Interestingly, this kind of data was first published by the foreign press, citing their sources in the US military. Russian media outlets relied heavily on foreign sources to report the test launches.
The first launch of the Nudol missile complex, sometimes referred to as 14A042, according to foreign data, took place on August 12, 2014. According to some sources, it ended in an accident, according to other sources, it was a jump start with the desired results. On April 22, 2015, a new launch took place, which was recognized as unsuccessful. On November 18 of the same year, the testers performed the third launch - the first definitely successful. In the foreign press, it was assumed that the purpose of this launch was to work out the anti-satellite capabilities of the complex.
In November and December 2016, two new-type missiles were launched at Plesetsk; both launches were considered successful. The December launch was the last one to use an experimental launcher. In 2017, no launches were made or were not reported. The sixth start took place on March 26 last year. The rocket took off from the self-propelled launcher and hit the target. In December, the seventh test launch took place, which became the fifth unequivocally successful.
The Nudol firing complex should include several fixed assets built on special wheeled chassis. First of all, it is a launcher with interceptor missiles. A transport vehicle for its maintenance and a mobile command and computer center are also being developed. The question of radar systems remains open. According to past data, Nudol will work together with the existing radar and control facilities of the Moscow missile defense system. Whether this complex will receive its own car with a radar is unknown.
The characteristics of the rocket, known as 14A042, have not yet been published, but individual reports may be the basis for different estimates. So, during the last launch at the moment, the experimental rocket covered about 3 thousand km. Taking into account the specifics of the ground-to-ground flight, one can imagine the approximate capabilities of the rocket to intercept ballistic or orbital targets. In both cases, we can talk about a firing range of hundreds of kilometers and an altitude reach of at least 100-150 km.
Various models of vehicles at the starting positions
It is precisely because of such assessments that Nudol is considered abroad not as an anti-missile, but as an anti-satellite weapon. It is believed that performance at this level would allow an interceptor missile to attack spacecraft in low orbits. However, official Russian sources have not yet confirmed or denied the anti-satellite purpose of the new complex.
According to known data, while the PL-19 "Nudol" system remains in testing and therefore is used only at the Plesetsk test site. Previously, an experimental launcher was used to test new weapons, and by now launching positions for self-propelled combat vehicles have been equipped. How long the tests will last is unknown. Apparently, the complex will be adopted in the next few years.
The question of further deployment of new weapons also remains unanswered. If "Nudol" is indeed a missile defense system and is intended to work as part of the defense systems of Moscow and the central industrial region, then the serial complexes will serve in the corresponding regions of the country. The fact of the use of mobile chassis and the assumption of the anti-satellite role of the complex, in turn, led to the emergence of a version about the possibility of its deployment in any regions of the country, depending on the current needs of the army and current threats.
According to most Russian sources, the promising Nudol complex is being developed for use as part of a modernized missile defense system and is intended to increase its potential. Foreign experts tend to see the PL-19 as a promising weapon for fighting spacecraft. In such a role, a new Russian development may pose a particular threat to foreign armies. Probably, it is for this reason that Nudol receives close attention from various publications and specialists.
Modern armed forces are actively using satellites for various purposes; with the help of such a technique, a variety of tasks are solved - navigation, reconnaissance, communications, etc. Thus, a promising complex capable of destroying vehicles in orbit poses a serious threat to the army. According to the foreign press, such systems are being created in our country and in China. They can be considered an asymmetric response to the development of other areas and, at the beginning of an open armed conflict, equalize the chances of the armies. It is for this reason that each report on the tests of the Nudol system or its Chinese counterparts attracts attention and becomes a subject for discussion.
Apparently, the concern of American specialists and the military associated with the PL-19 "Nudol" complex will constantly increase. Seven test launches of prototype missiles have already been completed, which means that tests may be nearing completion. A ready-made anti-missile / anti-space complex will be able to enter service in the foreseeable future, and this fact will clearly not go unnoticed.