You can't figure it out without the war... Why do Poles consider their Perun MANPADS to be the best in the world?

You can't figure it out without the war... Why do Poles consider their Perun MANPADS to be the best in the world?
You can't figure it out without the war... Why do Poles consider their Perun MANPADS to be the best in the world?
27 October 2021, 13:26TechnologyPhoto: Фото:
Only combat tests will be able to prove that a portable anti-aircraft missile system made in Poland is superior to all others in its class.

Victor Kuzovkov

Portable anti-aircraft missile systems have always been the subject of rivalry between the two main geopolitical players - the United States and Russia (USSR). The Americans are known, first of all, for the Stinger family of MANPADS, which at one time created a lot of problems for Soviet aviation in Afghanistan. Somewhat earlier, the USSR tested its Strela MANPADS in one of the Arab-Israeli wars. Over time, Great Britain and France joined the battle - the first created Blowpipe MANPADS, and the second Mistrale MANPADS. There were practically no other major players on this market before the beginning of the 2000s.

All the more surprising is the news from Poland. Military observer Maximilian Dura (this is the name) on the pages of Defense24 said that the newest Polish MANPADS "Perun" surpasses the latest (from the serial) development of the Russian military-industrial complex, MANPADS "Verba". So, according to the expert, it is Poland that currently owns the world's best portable anti-aircraft missile system. Well, for Moscow, as usual, check and checkmate ...

Before trying to make sure that the conclusions of our Polish colleague are correct, let's delve a little deeper into the topic of MANPADS. As the name implies, this is an anti-aircraft missile system adapted to be moved and used in battle by just one person. Hence its small dimensions, relatively low weight and equally small target hitting radius. For example, the average length of different types of MANPADS fluctuates around one and a half meters, and the weight of the entire installation is in the range of 15-20 kilograms. At the same time, the height of target destruction for a long time fluctuated in the range of 1500-3000 meters with a range of about 4-6 kilometers.

Of course, the military all over the world were very interested in increasing the range and height of destruction of targets as much as possible. But it is very difficult to do this within the framework of the existing mass-dimensional restrictions, and so far no radical progress has been achieved in this matter. Competition is literally for every 500 meters in height and range, and

the current figures, and this is an average of 4,000 meters in altitude and 6,000 meters in range, are, in general, almost critical.

At the same time, despite the apparent weakness of the combat capabilities of MANPADS, this is a very important tool with which it is possible, under certain conditions, to achieve a decisive advantage. Yes, modern jet aircraft prefer to fly at altitudes inaccessible to MANPADS, namely at an altitude of 8-10 kilometers, or even higher. But they can only afford such a luxury where there is no modern enemy air defense system. Otherwise, strike aviation is trying to cuddle up to the ground in order to hide from medium and long-range air defense systems under the radio horizon. In such a situation, it is the melee anti-aircraft weapons, especially MANPADS, that are capable of raising enemy aircraft to echelons available for effective fire from more powerful weapons. That is, even without inflicting large losses on the enemy, but only by threatening them and creating threats at the lower echelons, MANPADS are able to bring great benefit to their units.

In addition, there are a number of targets, literally created for MANPADS. These are, first of all, combat helicopters, medium-sized drones, cruise missiles and, in a certain situation, enemy attack aircraft. At one time, the "Stingers" created a lot of problems for the Soviet Air Force, over and over again "landing" our Mi-24, Mi-8 and Su-25. The situation was aggravated by the mountainous relief of Afghanistan, when helicopters, often, even moving at their maximum altitude, found themselves within the reach of American MANPADS. The use of gorges, mountain valleys, river channels and other similar routes for the covert transfer of troops and aviation suddenly became very dangerous, and for quite a long time the actions of our aviation in Afghanistan were shackled hand and foot.

In recent decades, marked by a sharp increase in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles by the armies of different countries, the price of MANPADS, as a possible means of defense against UAVs, has grown even more. Therefore, the question of who and to what extent modern short-range air defense systems produces is far from idle.

At first glance, Poland's ambitions look rather strange compared to other players. Indeed, this country has never been a serious producer of high-tech weapons. The appearance near Warsaw of MANPADS of its own design, and even "the best in the world", can be called a very big surprise. But if you familiarize yourself a little with the history of the issue, the bewilderment gradually disappears.

During the existence of the Warsaw Pact, of which Poland was an active member, the armed forces of this country were supplied with Soviet-made MANPADS - "Strela", and then "Igla". But after the collapse of this military bloc, the question arose before Warsaw, first about maintaining the combat readiness of its portable anti-aircraft missile systems, and then about replacing them. And in 1992 it was decided to develop its own MANPADS "Thunder". The existing Soviet developments were taken as a basis, and Russia, up to 2004, provided assistance to Polish specialists both in the development and in the assembly of the manufactured complexes.

As a result, in a very short time, already in 1995, the Polish-made Grom MANPADS complex was put into service. Yes, evil tongues say that it differed little from the Russian Igla MANPADS. Actually, it was a licensed copy of the Russian "Igla", or rather, MANPADS "Igla-1" with a modified 9M313 missile. But a start was made, and it wasn't so bad. Then there was the Grom-2 MANPADS, which had a maximum range of 5500 meters and a maximum target hitting height of 3500 meters. Its serial production began in 2000. At that time, cooperation between Moscow and Warsaw on this issue was quite effective, both technologies and components came from Russia. For example, the LOMO concern supplied the homing heads for the new missile, and only in 2004 their production was localized in Poland itself.

MANPADS "Piorun" (or "Perun") is a further development of MANPADS "Grom-2". Perhaps its main difference is the new engine, which allowed

to increase the range and height of destruction to 6 and 4 thousand meters, respectively. Also, the rocket received a new seeker with digital signal processing and a proximity fuse. The warhead of the rocket received 2 kilograms of new CL-20 explosives, which accordingly increased its power.

It would seem that everything looks pretty good. But according to the available information, the Perun MANPADS had very big problems with passing the tests. On paper, everything was fine, but ... About 15% of the missiles had defects, leading to a rocket explosion either immediately after starting the main engine, or a few seconds after it.

For those who are at least a little versed in the topic, the reasons for this behavior of the rocket engines are clear. The fact is that solid rocket fuel, although it has many advantages over liquid propellant, also has one huge disadvantage. The fact is that liquid rocket fuel can be burned in a compact combustion chamber. At the same time, it can be made of high-strength heat-resistant alloys, and this will not greatly affect the total weight of the product.

And you can't do that with solid rocket fuel. When used as a combustion chamber, the entire body of the rocket engine acts. And the designers are faced with an eternal dilemma - to limit the gas pressure (and hence the characteristics of the rocket), or to make the hull stronger. The second option is very difficult, because it is almost always associated with being overweight. This means that we again lose range, speed and altitude (due to the extra weight of the entire marching stage), and we also get extra weight that falls on the shoulders of the shooter. Both are very unpleasant and are usually not welcomed by the military.

It is clear that the Polish designers decided to take the simplest path, giving the new rocket a more powerful and energy-intensive fuel. But “something went wrong,” and the product, which looked very promising on paper, turned out to be very moody and explosive.

Nevertheless, it seems that in recent years the "Perun" MANPADS has nevertheless defeated its childhood ailments. Unfortunately, we have no information about what exactly the Polish designers and engineers came up with - either they nevertheless reduced the pressure in the rocket engine, or somehow miraculously achieved a significant increase in the strength of its hull while maintaining approximate weight characteristics. True, such an option is also very likely - the rocket still turned out to be crude, a compromise, and its main advantage for Warsaw is the "Made in Poland" label. But here, as they say, you can't figure it out without a good war, so we won't even insist.

And the funniest thing in this whole story is that the Polish expert drew his conclusions based on the tactical and technical characteristics obtained from the media. That is, in some newspaper or magazine they wrote that the "Verba" flies 6 km, and the Polish "Perun", as the author also knows from the media, as much as 6.4 km, and immediately followed the conclusion that "the student surpassed the teacher".

In fact, who has surpassed whom here, we are unlikely to ever find out, and we would not want to, to be honest, because such knowledge is always paid for in human sacrifice. Moreover, the Poles themselves admit that the "Verba" has a more advanced, three-band homing head, and the accuracy of guidance and resistance to interference is probably the most important characteristic of MANPADS.

And then there's the new Russian Metka MANPADS on the way ... And so far even the most inveterate dreamers from the media have no idea about its characteristics...

So let's make an amendment to the well-known noble arrogance and credit the Poles as a good attempt. But on this, perhaps, we will stop...

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