Russian News and Information Military Commentator Viktor Litovkin pays tribute to the technical skill and strategic cunning of Veniamin Yefremov, general designer of the Almaz-Antei Air Defense Concern, who passed away September 16th.
Working at R&D Institute No. 20 (NII-20), renamed the Electrical Mechanical R&D Institute (NIEMI) and (after 1983) known as NPO Antei, Efremov was the General Designer of a number of highly effective mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems for the Sovet Army’s air-defense forces.
The list of such weapons includes the world-famous Osa-AKM SAM system with an effective horizontal range between 1,500 meters and 10 km. This system, which can hit targets at an altitude of 6 km, was supplied to 25 countries.
Yefremov also developed the self-contained army-level Tor-M1 SAM system with a horizontal range of 1-12 km and a vertical range from 100 meters to six km. Apart from Russia, the Tor-M1 system is used by China and Greece.
One should also mention the Krug medium-range SAM system and its modified versions with a horizontal range of four to 50 km and a vertical range from 150 meters to 25 km, the S-300V long-range SAM system (horizontal range: 7-100 km; vertical range: from 250 meters to 25 km).
Yefremov’s greatest achievement is the Antei-2500 theater-level anti-ballistic missile (ABM), which (as Litovkin takes great satisfaction in noting) far surpasses the capabilities of the US Raytheon-manufactured Patriot Missile System.
His latest invention was the little-known Antei-2500 theater-level anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system, which can destroy aircraft and ballistic missiles at a range of up to 200 km and 40 km, respectively. The system’s vertical range is 250 meters to 30 km.
Most importantly, the Antei-2500’s range considerably exceeds that of its predecessor. This is the world’s only defensive SAM system which can destroy aircraft and helicopters, including AWACS surveillance planes, Stealth-type fighters and bombers, as well as non-strategic medium-range and short-range ballistic missiles. The Antei-2500 has a horizontal and vertical range of 200 km and 30 km, while the corresponding ranges for the S-300V were only 100 and 25 km, respectively.
In addition, the Antei-2500 can destroy ballistic missiles with a range of up to 2,500 km flying at 4,500 meters per second, and this explains the system’s official name.
These missiles are China’s Dunfen-3, Dunfen-15 and Dunfen-25, the United States’ ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) and Pershing, France’s Ades, the Iraqi Scud-S and Israel’s Jericho-2. Incidentally, obsolete Scuds and Pershings are still in service all over the world.
The S-300V could destroy ballistic missiles with a range of 1,000 km and a speed of 3,000 meters per second, whereas the Patriot PAC-2 missile, which was widely advertised during both Gulf Wars, has a maximum horizontal and vertical range of just 40 km and 24 km. The defense company Raytheon estimates that the PAC-3 missile’s horizontal and vertical ranges were increased to 150 km and 25 km after an upgrade last year. The PAC-3 can destroy missiles with a 1,000-km range.
But it is unclear whether U.S. designers will manage to cope with the Patriot system’s main drawback. Patriot missiles usually hit enemy-missile bodies and sustainer engines, rather than their warheads, which usually reach preset targets. Ninety percent of the 65 Scud missiles launched by Iraq in the first Gulf War hit their targets. However, during the second Gulf War Iraqi air-defense units missed numerous U.S. missiles that were launched from the sea.
In addition, Patriot missiles are launched at a certain angle to the horizon and cannot therefore hit targets approaching from the opposite direction. Consequently, at least four Patriot launchers are needed to cover a 360-degree sector, whereas only one Antei-2500 system is needed to do the same. Its vertically launched missiles streak in the direction of the target at 60-100-meter altitudes.
Most importantly, the highly accurate Antei-2500 and S-300V warheads can hit any missile warhead with a 100% success rate. Each Antei-2500 system can simultaneously fire at 16 ballistic missiles, including even those with small Stealth-type echo areas. This makes it unique in the world.
Ironically, as Litovkin gloatingly recounts, Yefremov successfully overcame the Russian military’s bankrupty and inability to fund his development efforts in the aftermath of the collapse of Communism, with US funding (!). He managed to arrange the sale of a less-than-complete version of the S-300V system to Washington.
The S-300V system was officially removed from a factory in the presence of officials from the FSB, other export-control agencies and The S-300V system was officially removed from a factory in the presence of officials from the FSB, other export-control agencies and Rosvooruzheniye (State Company for the Export and Import of Armaments and Military Equipment) . The United States received only two batteries, including an all-round radar, a command center, two Gigant launchers and two Gladiator launchers with 23 missiles, rather than the standard 144-missile reserve, for $90 million.
True, NPO Antei received only $45 million because the Pentagon and Rosvooruzheniye were playing some mysterious game apparently involving the Russian and U.S. secret services.
Anyway, Rosvooruzheniye never sold the system’s core element, the sector-scanning radar, to Washington. But Yefremov did not care because he had received enough money to streamline the Antei-2500 system, which has now been tested and placed on combat duty.
May the earth lie lightly upon a worthy adversary.