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Hermes will help Russia make Israel more compliant on the Syrian issue
14 September 2020, 13:41
Hermes will help Russia make Israel more compliant on the Syrian issue
Russian tactical anti-tank complex may become strategic for the Middle East region.

Victor Kuzovkov

No sooner had the Army 2020 exhibition finished than analysts from various countries rushed to give their opinion on the new products planned to enter the Russian army. And this, in general, is absolutely normal, that is why they are analysts in order to evaluate. It is gratifying that one of the highest international ratings was given to the newest Russian anti-tank complex of large action "Hermes", about which Novye Izvestia wrote even before the opening of the exhibition, and was also very highly appreciated.

But what is not very typical is the information received literally the other day. According to a number of foreign publications, Russia has sent the latest Hermes ATGM to Syria for testing in a real combat situation. At the same time, many openly say that this is a direct allusion to Turkey - now any Turkish adventure in Idlib will become even more risky.

Although our Ministry of Defense is in no hurry to share the details of the likely dispatch of the Hermes to Syria, we would venture to agree that this news is very similar to the truth. The fact is that for several years of the Syrian epic, many modern Russian weapons have been tested there, literally dozens of samples of new, or even only planned for production, promising technology. Yes, Hermes is still a secret system in terms of many of its characteristics. But even the newest Su-57s were sent to Syria - stealth fighters of the fifth generation, the level of secrecy of which is a priori an order of magnitude higher than that of the ATGM.

Less pretentious, but more expected and useful weapons systems in such a conflict, including, for example, Mi-28 and Ka-52 combat helicopters, were tested there. Incidentally, the latter included an aviation version of the Hermes complex, namely Hermes-A. And it's no secret that the military's good reviews about the Ka-52 are associated, among other things, with the successful combat use of its radio-electronic means and weapons.

And now, it seems, the time has come for the ground version of the newest ATGM. Moreover, its differences from the aviation one are very serious, if you wish, you can say that this is a completely different complex, in which, among other things, missiles from the aviation version are integrated.

First of all, let's pay attention to the range. The air version installed on the Ka-52 is designed for use in line-of-sight conditions and has a range of about 20 kilometers. This is enough to attack the enemy without entering the zone of action of short-range air defense systems, and often without crossing the front line at all. But the ground-based mobile ATGM is also armed with missiles with a range of up to 100 kilometers, capable of acting both autonomously (independent search for targets after entering the calculated zone), and by external target designation.

It is also worth noting that the ground-based complex can fire salvo at several targets at once (up to 6 targets, 2 missiles for each). The aviation option is simpler in this respect.

Common is the type of warhead - high-explosive fragmentation. It weighs about 28 kilograms, has at least 12 kilograms of explosives, and is capable, if hit, almost guaranteed to disable any modern main battle tank. And this choice is not accidental - the shaped charge is too specific, modern passive tank protection systems have learned to cope well with it, and it is simply not suitable for hitting many targets. It makes no sense to use armor-piercing b / h at all because of the relatively low speed of the rocket in the final segment of the flight - even with a relatively large mass, it will not be able to penetrate the MBT armor, especially in the frontal projection.

The use of high-explosive fragmentation b / h made Hermes truly versatile - in addition to tanks, it can effectively fight any other armored vehicles, cannon and rocket artillery, vehicles, ships, field fortifications, air defense systems, warehouses, and so on. And in the presence of external target designation, it can effectively hit the accumulation of enemy manpower, for example, a foot column on the march, etc.

Sending this complex to Syria looks absolutely logical. First of all, due to the nature of the existing threats, it is easier and more profitable to destroy the transport and field fortifications of militants with a relatively inexpensive Hermes missile than with expensive high-precision aviation ammunition. In addition, in this case, the risk to combat aviation is excluded, except, perhaps, unmanned reconnaissance vehicles. But this, in general, is a fully justified price for the effective use of the latest ATGM and preserved manned combat vehicles.

Separately, it should be said about the risks associated with a possible escalation of the conflict and direct intervention of Turkey in it. The presence in the region of weapons capable of destroying columns of enemy armored vehicles on the march, without external target designation, dramatically changes the balance of power in a conflict. With the aircraft we have in the region, the Russian side is unlikely to be able to ensure full control of the airspace in the conflict zone, and the presence of the Hermes can be very useful precisely in the event that the Turkish aircraft cover their columns from the air.

The geography of the proposed theater of military operations is quite favorable. A range of 100 km will be quite enough to cover almost all of Idlib with fire of the new ATGM. That is, without even approaching the contact line and minimizing the risk, ATGM crews will be able to quickly respond to any threats and work out on the detected accumulations of enemy equipment.

In general, it is precisely because of the limited space of the conflict that Hermes in Syria acquires an almost strategic importance. A high-precision attack almost at any time, at any point, without the participation of aviation and with a reaction time of a maximum of several minutes - such a permanent threat is unlikely to please even the most courageous and motivated military. In addition, this unties Russia a little in a possible conflict - it is much more difficult to identify such a strike than an air attack, which means that Russian units will be able to take an active part in the confrontation, while Moscow will be able to make surprised eyes and say that the Russian parts of the the deployment did not leave.

Another aspect, somewhat less relevant, but requiring close attention, is Israel's neighborhood. It is no secret that this state periodically attacks the positions of the Syrian army. Syrian air defense suffers the most, and sometimes strikes fall on air bases, warehouses with weapons and ammunition. At the same time, Israel is a very small state. For example, from the border with Syria to the Mediterranean Sea is less than a hundred kilometers anywhere, and the range of the "Hermes" with a margin overlaps this space.

No, this is not a hint that Russia is attacking Israel - Moscow has something to do without "Hermes", and if its weapons do not shoot in the direction of Israel, then this is hardly included in the operational plans of the Russian leadership and military command. But it is not at all excluded that Damascus will become one of the first buyers of the export version of the Hermes ATGM. And this may already make Israel think - is it worth attacking the Syrian positions if, in response, a dozen F-16i or F-35i are burned down at some airbase near Haifa?

Yes, Israel has a powerful and highly sophisticated air defense system. In particular, the Iron Dome system has proven itself well in intercepting various types of rockets launched from Gaza or the West Bank. But the fact is that until now the Israelis have had to destroy unguided ballistic targets, the trajectory of which is easy to calculate. In the case of "Hermes" everything will be much more serious - the ballistic segment of the missile's flight is not so great, and then it is able to actively maneuver, which makes the defeat of such a missile extremely problematic. And with a salvo attack, it is very likely that several missiles will break through to the target at once.

The likelihood of such a development of events will certainly be taken into account in Tel Aviv. This means that this will at least give Moscow additional trump cards in negotiations with Israel. It is possible that we will see the results of such negotiations very soon, and Israeli air raids on Damascus will finally stop.

That is, it turns out that a tactical anti-tank complex can become strategic for this region. It is clear that we will be able to talk about this seriously only on the basis of the test results, if the declared characteristics of the accuracy of the Hermes missile homing systems are achieved. But the fact of the matter is that in Syria these tests can pass very quickly - the situation is still very difficult, and real peace on Syrian soil is still far away...