Voronezh instead of Balkhash: why Russia abandoned its radar in Kazakhstan

Voronezh instead of Balkhash: why Russia abandoned its radar in Kazakhstan
Voronezh instead of Balkhash: why Russia abandoned its radar in Kazakhstan
26 June 2020, 17:01Technology
The missile attack warning system in our country is already capable of dispensing with stations located in other states.

The Prime Minister of the Russian government, Mikhail Mishustin, supported the decision to denounce the agreement with the Republic of Kazakhstan on the use of the Balkhash radar in the Russian Missile Attack Warning System. The idea of this was made by the Russian military, who considered further spending on the maintenance of this facility inappropriate.

Victor Kuzovkov

Of course, many conspiracy theological versions immediately appeared that explained this event. Someone started talking about worsening relations between Russia and Kazakhstan, someone went even further and said that Russia continues to lose influence in the post-Soviet space, someone hinted that they “asked” us from there... And at first glance, these the versions are not so unfounded: the missile attack warning system is one of the key elements of national defense, and any changes in it inevitably give rise to rumors of treason or critical incompetence of those who are at the helm. In addition, the agreement now denounced by Kazakhstan was signed by Putin not so long ago, in 2015, and then its signing was recognized as a serious success of the Russian Federation in the post-Soviet space. So why, indeed, now we are abandoning this object?

Strictly speaking, there is one comprehensive answer - Russia has built on its territory a duplicating new-generation radar station “Voronezh”, which completely covers the object in Kazakhstan in terms of coverage and range. Moreover, Voronezh high-readiness radars are much more comfortable in terms of operational characteristics than the outdated Kazakh counterpart - it consumes significantly less energy, is much easier to maintain, and more durable. That is, having spent the money on their facility, Russia simply thought about the feasibility of further financing the outdated Dnepr radar. An economy, even a military one, should be economical - here Comrade Brezhnev was right after all...

Let's talk a little more about the missile attack warning system, because without it it will be difficult to understand what is going on in this area, where we are and what we are going to come to. And to begin with, we will determine that there are two main components of the SPRN - ground and space.

The ground component is represented by powerful radars, the development of which began literally immediately after the appearance of ballistic missiles. The signal power, as well as the characteristics of the emitted wave, provide such radars with a very large viewing range. So, at the most modern radar "Voronezh" it reaches six thousand kilometers. To achieve these characteristics, a meter band signal is used. Its advantages are not delayed by the atmosphere (clouds, clouds, aurora borealis, etc.), does not respond to small objects, spreads directly well and easily detects large enough objects at great distances. But there are also disadvantages - for example, low information content, the inability to accurately determine the distance to the target and, as a result, problems with constructing the trajectory of a noticed object.

In order to mitigate the shortcomings of the meter range, decimeter and centimeter antennas are used. They are already much more informative, in particular, with their help you can accurately determine the distance to the target, build its trajectory and even carry out anti-missile guidance. But they are more sensitive to the state of the atmosphere, capricious, and also do not provide such a range as meter waves.

At present, Russian industry can offer the military several modifications of high-readiness complexes "Voronezh" at once. These are Voronezh-M and Voronezh-VP of the meter range, Voronezh-DM of the decimeter and Voronezh-SM centimeter ranges. As mentioned above, they are not only more perfect, but also significantly cheaper than the huge old complexes like the Dniester or the later Darial. In addition, they are much easier to manufacture, install and maintain, which leads to a very significant reduction in operating costs.

It should also be noted the appearance in the arsenal of our military over-the-horizon radars (“over-the-horizon detection”) 29B6 “Container”. Its principle of operation is based on scanning certain spaces with a signal reflected from the ionosphere. Further, the complex’s antennas pick up the signal reflected from air targets, in turn, once again reflected by the ionosphere. Such a triple reflection ... This complex does not belong to the SPRN, but in modern conditions it is an excellent addition to it, since it allows you to scan airspace in the threatened direction at large distances (up to 3,000 km) and more or less well imagine what is happening there . Thus, one can detect a cluster of aircraft, cruise missiles flying to our borders and other low-altitude targets that are almost impossible to “detect” in other ways.

In principle, in both cases an important feature of the missile warning system is manifested - they were created not for battle, but for detecting a threat. When the flight time of a potential enemy’s intercontinental ballistic missiles does not exceed forty minutes, it is extremely important to learn about their mass launch as early as possible in order to have at least half an hour to launch a counter-strike. Otherwise, the accuracy of the hit of modern warheads ensures the sure destruction of even mine missile systems. Also, in places of constant basing, all mobile soil complexes of the Topol-M or Yars type, which do not carry combat duty, can be destroyed. And taking into account the perfection of modern means of satellite reconnaissance, those who are on alert outside the permanent deployment points may be struck.

Of course, we must recall the space component of the SPRN. In theory, it should provide comprehensive information on the ballistic missile launches of a potential enemy, while being, at the same time, much cheaper in production and operation. But…

In Soviet times, the Eye system was developed and put on combat alert. The maximum grouping reached nine US-K satellites and one US-KS satellite. She somehow managed to control the territory of the United States, but there were problems with some parts of the world's oceans from where they could strike an enemy nuclear submarine. Therefore, in 1991, the Oko system was replaced by the Oko-1 system - more advanced and efficient. True, instead of the planned eleven satellites, only eight or nineties were put into orbit, the crisis, money was not enough even for such important objects.

Unfortunately, by 2015 all the Oko-1 satellites were out of order and Russia was left without the space component of the SPRN. They were to be replaced by the Tundra system - even more advanced, able to cover literally the entire globe with its watchful eye. In addition, the satellites of this series could themselves build the trajectories of detected objects, which significantly increased their efficiency. It was planned to launch ten satellites 14F112 CEN Tundra, and the entire system was to be fully deployed by 2020. But the sanctions, the refusal to supply some components, the import substitution is not fast enough ... In general, it somehow happened that the implementation of this project was stalled, and now we actually do not have a worthy mention of the space component of the SPRN.

Now, I hope, the reader has become a little clearer of the fundamental importance for us of the ground component of the SPRN. The concern expressed by many experts and commentators regarding the termination of our agreement with Kazakhstan is also becoming clearer.

The Voronezh-M radar, which replaced the obsolete Dnipro radar located in Kazakhstan, was built in the Orenburg Region, near the city of Orsk. Its pilot operation began back in 2015, and it began to be fully operational in 2017. That is, it is already a fully-fledged object, the characteristics of which are known not only “on paper”, but also in practice.

As already mentioned above, the range of this complex for high-altitude targets is about six thousand kilometers. Its coverage is approximately 110 degrees, and it is able to see targets from the western part of China and Mongolia to the Persian Gulf. This applies to viewing angles. As for the range, there is a significant part of the Indian Ocean, and India, and Pakistan, and other parts of this troubled (and for some time, rocket-hazardous) direction. In fact, together with similar radars in Armavir, Barnaul and Irkutsk, they fully provide control of the southern direction, along its entire rather considerable extent.

In this situation, the need for the old, built back in 1974, Dnepr radar in Central Kazakhstan simply disappears.

It should also be noted that this development of events indirectly confirms that at least everything is in order with the ground component of the missile warning system. And soon, we’ll put it on, and the import substitution will arrive in time, and the Tundra satellites will be put into orbit. Unless, of course, someone’s trampoline breaks...

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