Approaches to the development of anti-air artillery systems should take into account the capabilities of domestic enterprises and dynamics of the development of air attack weapons.
Restoration of military potential of the 2K22 anti-aircraft missile system Tunguska for Armed Forces of Ukraine is particularly urgent. Since the reliable air defence forces are a deterrent and a sobering argument for the enemy, that constrains his ability to use aviation attacks. But the anti-aircraft shield is not only built with medium-range air defence missile systems of the Air Force. The peculiarity of military operations in the east of Ukraine demonstrated extremely high importance of air defence systems with the short firing range, that would be capable to act efficiently at the forefront, in the contact area, where reaction to the air threat should be almost instantaneous. As result, military leadership of Ukraine intensified reparations of the series of short-range air defence systems. These includes Osa-AKM, Strela-10, ZSU-23-4 Shilka anti-aircraft missile systems, as well as the 2K22 Tunguska anti-aircraft missile and autocannon complex.
New threats – old means
In the current situation in the east of Ukraine, not only fire support helicopters, precision-guided weapons, army and tactical aircraft, but also unmanned aerial vehicles of various classes (drones) have become priority targets for the front-line air defence. In the Anti-Terrorist Operation Zone, enemy actively uses the UAVs both for reconnaissance and for correcting the tracking of the artillery. The increasing saturation of military formations with various unmanned means — both for solving technical reconnaissance tasks and performing hitting tasks — this trend is quite obvious. Predicted threat of swarm use of UAVs increases requirements for air defence systems much higher. But the appearance of new targets did not at all diminish the importance of the phrase that “it is better to have ten tanks reliably covered from the air attacks than a hundred without backup”. This axiom is particularly relevant for Ukrainian mechanized forces and tank units.
In solving the tasks of destroying small-sized air targets, including UAVs, guided missiles, shells and other high-precision weapons, Ukrainian army managing on the forefront can only rely on the capabilities of short-range air defence systems, which were developed and mass-produced in the USSR. The Osa-AKM, Strela-10 anti-aircraft missile systems, Tunguska anti-aircraft missile and autocannon complex, Shilka ZSU-23-4 – they all are really capable for likelihood to hit airborne targets on the battlefield, providing protection and cover for their troops. Certainly, it requires an appropriate level of personnel training, but it’s another issue.
But there is the thing… There are still not enough combat-ready complexes in this segment to cover even the regular needs of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, not to mention the further compaction by means of the first line defence. Despite the existence of a number of state-owned enterprises specializing in the repair of large and small air defence systems, the Ministry of Defence and the General Headquarters are not satisfied with the actual situation, because repair and upgrading of these systems are progressing very slow. Also very acute is the issue of the costs and the quality of work. This situation is on the whole objective. It is a consequence of the brain-drain from the defence industry over the past years, the obsolescence of production and repair facilities, the lack of spare parts and repair-kits for the Soviet-made equipment. But to describe a challenge in current environment is not enough, the State needs a solution. And a big plus of the Ukrainian reality is that domestic private defence companies are also ready to be involved in solving state-important and technologically challenging repair tasks, and further – into upgrading process of air defence systems and complexes.
Potential of our company
“Defence Technology” LLC is the domestic enterprise which is considered by the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine as the main contractor, responsible for repairing Tunguska anti-aircraft missile and autocannon complex. Tunguska complex entered into service in 1982. In the second half of 1990, there was developed a customized version, which received the name “Tunguska-M” (also known as 2K22M), but the Ukrainian Armed Forces do not have this modification.
Tunguska short-range air defence missile system has quite unique capabilities, which in the current format of the hybrid war in the east of Ukraine are extremely the best both economically and militarily. It is a mobile, manually operating complex with a high maneuverability due to the tracked chassis. Anti-aircraft self-propelled installation has a sufficiently high performance both in detection and in hitting of a typical target, for the destruction of which it was once developed. In fact, this is the first Soviet serial complex, which combines the capabilities of missile and cannon weapons. The Tunguska 2K22 provides shooting of anti-aircraft guns from position, during short stops and in the movement at any time of the day and in all weather conditions (missile launch is possible just in conditions of high visibility).
Modernization of the Tunguska by “Defence Technology” LLC has already begun. We received the agreed number of these systems for the repair from the Armed Forces. Dmitry Usenko, CEO of “Defence Technology” LLC, reporting the current tasks of the company to the “Defence Express”: “We rely on the technical conditions and requirements that the customer provided to us. We must ensure the middle renovation of this complex. This includes the restoration of the serviceability and partial restoration of the life of equipment with the replacement or repair of the spare parts and nomenclatures of the Tunguska air defence system. This also applies both to the gun and artillery anatomy, and the undercarriage of the complex. Considering that the complex is going to be repaired, not upgraded, we do not yet have the right to change the existing units and spare parts to modern ones. We must make either the exact same unit or block, or purchase a new one and deliver it. We must also ensure that the technical condition of the components is monitored and is carried out in accordance with the regulatory and technical documentation. We will also need to work out the technical and repair documentation that the customer must accept ”.
According to Dmitry Usenko, modern equipment, production base and benches of his enterprise allow to run a diagnostic of all the elements and components of anti-aircraft missile systems, including the most urgent and “failed” elements, to ensure troubleshooting, to eliminate problems and make all necessary adjustments.
After working out the entire repair cycle of the 2K22 complex – both for equipment and documentation – and evaluating the results by the interdepartmental commission, the company plans to repair the other complexes that are available in the arsenal of the Ukrainian army.
Attend today, achieve tomorrow!
One of the main advantages of the Tunguska air defence missile system is that it can be adapted to new techniques and methods of air attacks, it is suitable for technical updates and for deep modernization. But this way requires a common understanding of the task both by the customer represented by the State Defence department and by the executors – public and private companies interested in such projects and having the potential and equipment for their successful implementation. That should be resolved in the foreseeable, rather in the short term.
The company “Defenсe Technology” argue that after performing all the points of a high-quality repair, the company’s specialists intend to suggest a number of improvements for this complex. In particular, this concerns the development of modular solutions for its electronics, ergonomic and functional updating of the control cabin, installation of modern monitors, reduction in the number of indicators, installation of new communication tools. And this process can be started in the near future, based on the requirements and wishes of the customer represented by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence.
The first, most obvious decisions in this area, of course, should concern the transition of domestic 2K22 complexes to the new element base. The “Defence Technology” enterprise, in particular, has been performed the development of individual units and parts on the new elemental base, which can ensure the service of Tunguska with a reduced energy consumption, with less setting points. This can also guarantee the maximum reliability of equipment with minimal human intervention. In particular, we are talking about the widespread use of universal modules or so-called “cells” in the electronic circuits of an air defence missile system. Such a module is suited to recording any information and processing it according to the required algorithms. The “modular” development path is optimal when upgrading both the Tunguska and such anti-aircraft missile systems like the Buk, S-300P and S-300V1.
Also there are new indicator systems developed by the team of “Defence Technology”. An operator of the air defence system would use a VGA displays, instead of vacuum tubes, which are outdated both morally and physically, just exhausted all possible lifetimes. All this will increase the reliability and maintainability of the complex.
A further step in the modernization of the Tunguska could be the introduction of EOS, an electro-optical system for surveillance tracking of air targets, using video processing equipment. This will enable, independently or according to target designation, to detect and automatically accompany modern air targets at any time of the day and in unstable weather conditions, to hit them with a high degree of probability. Especially when it comes to firing missiles.
In its present form, the “Tunguska” when firing with cannons provides automatic tracking of the target through the tracking radar. Since artillery shelling does not require the highest precision of guidance, radar errors are minor for a cloud of shells dispersion near the target. Another thing – missile guidance. It should reach the air target with a deviation of no more than 5 meters. The lack of precision of the locator set on the Tunguska at the maximum range of up to 8 km do not fit this requirement. Only the use of optical sight allows to direct a missile at the target with an accuracy of 2-3 meters. But such a task requires a higher qualification from operators, and to perform successful launches they have to train constantly.
Mounting an electro-optical system for missile launches for the automatic tracking of an airborne object is expected to increase the efficiency of the complex even with a lower qualification level of the operator. What is very important taking into account the enormous psycho-physiological load that falls on the crew of the “Tunguska” in a fleetly passing fight with a large number of small targets.
But only the use of new missile types, instead of present ones, can provide the most significant increase in combat capabilities of the 2K22 complex. Surely, Ukraine still has a certain stock of 9M311 anti-aircraft guided missiles, which were produced in Soviet Union. The time margin of their strength, more precisely – of their reliability, is not at all limitless. Moreover, these missiles have limitations that currently cannot be ignored, and even more so in future battles.
The 9M311 missiles of the Tunguska complex are equipped with non-contact optical target sensors, built on the basis of an 8-beam laser. This sensors have good performance, they were reliable – but just for the time and for those basic typical goals against which they were created. Namely – the fight against fighter and assault aircraft, especially helicopter gunships, equipped with ever more long-range anti-tank complexes and represented a serious threat to tanks and other important armored targets. The non-contact optical sensor of the missile is guaranteed to detect and hit the large target, but a small aircraft could slip through the laser beams unnoticed.
For this reason and in order to give the complex the ability to destroy small-sized targets, the Tunguska complex was modified and became the Tunguska-M1. The task was implemented by upgrading the missile to version 9M311-1M. In particular, instead of the optical sensor there were mounted a radar-based one. The onboard equipment was also modified. All this made it possible to increase the maximal effective range of the Tunguska system up 10 km, improve the jamming immunity of the optical control line of the missile, and increase the probability of destroying small targets.
Ukraine has already raised the question of development a domestic variant of a missile for short-range air defence systems. The initiator was the Design Bureau “Luch” (“Ray”) in association with the Central Design Bureau“Arsenal”. We are talking about a new bicaliber rocket, the development of which is possible in a short time using the both executors’ technical and technological reserve. The key components and solutions have already been tested on serial products. This reserve will significantly reduce the time and save money for a real upgrade of the short-range air defence system. The Ministry of Defence became acquainted with these proposals. So it is quite possible that the new version of the “Tunguska” will be performed in close collaboration of domestic state design bureaus with private enterprises.