Why is Russia expanding short-range air defenses around Moscow?
Drago Bosnic, independent geopolitical and military analyst
Air defense is one of the key modern military capabilities that provide adequate protection for ground units, helping them retain their combat capabilities. In recent decades, these systems have become increasingly networked and multilayered, giving the defenders a plethora of options to shoot down hostile jets, missiles, drones, etc. More recently, modern militaries have started relying on swarms of well-coordinated drones designed to saturate an area and overwhelm existing air defenses. Only a handful of countries have developed and battle-tested systems against such new offensive weapons.
For well over half a century, Russia has been at the forefront of the development of various SAM (surface-to-air missile) systems and other types of air defenses. What started out as an effort to nullify Western long-range bomber advantage in the aftermath of the Second World War soon turned into a key area of defense strategy without which it’s impossible to imagine modern warfare. By the 1970s, air defenses were no longer only focused on enemy fighter jets or bombers, but also on ballistic missiles and even space assets, both civilian and military (although this divide seems to be blurring by the day, especially when taking into account projects such as the SpaceX’s “Starlink”).
In recent days, the footage taken in Russia shows that short-range air defenses, particularly the now legendary “Pantsir” hybrid SAM-AAA (anti-aircraft artillery) system, are being deployed to protect crucial areas in the capital city of Moscow. Dozens of sources have published both video and photo evidence that a number of “Pantsir-S1” SAM-AAA systems have been placed on top of certain key buildings in Moscow, triggering speculation that Russia is expecting renewed attacks by the Kiev regime forces. It’s quite possible that this also includes defending from long-range Soviet-made drones such as the now infamous Tu-141 “Strizh” that flew nearly 600 km through NATO’s air defenses in Romania, Hungary and Croatia in early March last year.
The 1970s-era jet-powered drone was also used during December attacks against Russian airbases housing strategic bombers/missile carriers. Initial reports suggested that the Kiev regime forces launched the Tu-141, but more recent findings indicate that this isn’t necessarily true for all attacks deep within Russia, with some security experts warning about sabotage attacks (apparently, coordinated by the CIA), including with small drones operated by infiltration teams or even a single sleeper agent. Whichever of the two possibilities is true, the “Pantsir” SAM-AAA system has been proven against both types of attacks, shooting down thousands of drones, missiles, rockets and other weapons in the Middle East and more recently in Ukraine, including the infamous HIMARS.
All this might be the reason behind ramping up Russian air defenses in critically important areas, particularly in the capital city. In addition, the number of exercises involving advanced SAM systems just outside Moscow has also increased dramatically. Over the weekend, the Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed this in an official statement:
“In the Moscow oblast [region], a training session was held with the personnel of the anti-aircraft missile brigade of the Western Military District on repelling air attacks on important military, industrial and administrative facilities. The combat exercise was centered on the operation of a S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. As they marched, soldiers repelled an attack by a mock enemy sabotage group on a military convoy. Under the cover of a smoke screen, the air defense convoy was able to get out of the attack and continue fulfilling its tasks.”
Russia’s capital is protected by one of the most extensive air defense networks in the world and it also includes systems capable of shooting down ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles), incoming MIRV (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle) warheads, satellites and other space-based assets used by its adversaries. However, this doesn’t make Moscow immune to sabotage attacks involving the aforementioned drones and drone swarms. Sleeper agents operating small drones (military or even commercial) might be able to jeopardize critically important targets, particularly in Moscow, which has an extremely high concentration of institutions of vital significance for Russia, be it the state itself, its military, industrial capacity, etc.
While the country’s capital still hasn’t seen such attacks, this possibility should never be excluded, especially now when the Kiev regime is desperate to gain at least some propaganda wins and get more weapons from the political West to have a chance against Russia’s upcoming offensive. This is particularly true as the Russian military is steadily advancing in the Donbass and more recently in the Zaporozhye oblast (region), in addition to weeks of breakthroughs around the city of Bakhmut/Artyomovsk in the DNR. The Neo-Nazi junta will hopelessly try to respond to any new large-scale operation by Russia and it appears that Moscow is simply preparing for this contingency, especially at the time when the US-led political West is expanding its comprehensive aggression against Russia.
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