Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound)

Pantsir 3

Whilst the S-300 and S-400 get most of the headlines the KBP Instrument Design Bureau manufactured Pantsir-S1 air defence system is equally effective.

It is a self-propelled short to medium range air defence system that combines guns and missiles on the same chassis to counter aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and other precision stand-off weapons. The gun and missile combination allows the most appropriate weapon to be selected depending upon the target type and range.

One of its key roles is to protect friendly long range air defence systems, like the S-300, from precision stand-off weapons in a layered engagement zone.

Pantsir-S1 comprises three broad components; gun, missile and fire control system.

Twin 30mm cannons; between them they have a very high rate of fire (up to 5,000 rpm) and would normally expend between 150 and 200 rounds per target engagement. With an on-board ammunition supply of 1,400 rounds, the magazine is good for approximately 8 targets before before needing reloading.

Its 2A38M guns are used for targets between 200m and 4,000m range at altitudes between 0m and 3,000m.

In addition to the guns, Pantsir-S1 carries 12, ready to fire, two stage 57E6 missiles, 6 on either side. Each missile has a maximum range of 20km and 3,000m altitude, with short flight and high levels of maneuverability, a 20kg blast fragmentation warhead and launch weight of 75kg.

Finally, the fire control system can detect aircraft at 36km and track them from 28km, engaging two targets simultaneously, using radar and optical systems.

One of the best features of the Pantsir-S1 is its carrying vehicle diversity; it can use a heavy truck chassis or a tracked armoured vehicle and even a naval mount. It can fire whilst on the move or from static locations. Although they can operate in singles, the usual configuration is to cluster them in a 6 vehicle battery, supported by a mobile command post and replenishment vehicles. Each vehicle has a crew of three.

Pantsir 3

Pantsir 1

Customers include the Algeria, Iran, Oman, UAE, Jordan, Russia, and no doubt there are some on their way to Syria, or already there. Syria is an existing user of the Pantsir but it is thought a newer version has been sent recently. By placing such systems in Syria, Russia is placing a significant barrier to any NATO air attacks on Assad and because the new systems are likely to be manned by Russian ‘advisors’ the difficult position of an attack on Syria means an attack on Russia.

Brazil also has plans to purchase the system.

Pantsir-1 is actually a family of systems that have continually evolved over the years, going back to the mid-nineties.

Pantsir 2

The latest systems use phased array radars and modern computing and display systems. The Latest E variant of the missile has greater boost range and improved lethality. A follow on system is also in development, although details remain uncertain, and reportedly, there is also a version that extended the range of the missiles even further and is optimised for use in Arctic conditions.

The Pantsir-M has a slightly different configuration but uses many of the same components with the major exception of gun system, instead of two single barrel cannons it uses twin GSh-6-30K 6 barrel cannons as found on the Kashtan CIWS.


At DSEi this year there were many systems designed to counter small unmanned aircraft,. Whilst many of these use ECM to attack data links a gun system remains just as effective. For the British Army, and to some extent, the Royal Navy, a key question remains.

How will it counter small unmanned systems, LEAP, Land Ceptor and HVM may be part of the answer but the cost differential between target and missile could be hugely diferent.

Is it time the British Army looked at gun systems again for counter air generally, and counter small UAS specifically?

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24 Responses

  1. For certain classes of UAV you are 100% right. I think the MALE types will justify a Land Ceptor, particularly given their stand-off range could be well outside guns.

    To small and too close and you may as well use a shot gun. But there is a highly populate class of UAV between these too. In-expensive numerous and well able to sit at 2-8km + transmitting data.

    Phalanx might be a bit overkill, and you do have an issue over where the shells fall dependant on their type.

    I personally think we will be seeing firstly passive jammers detectors, and secondly anti air UAV, probably in the shape of shot gun shells hand grenades.

  2. A British company have launched their anti UAV product at DSEI this year amongst their other range. Its non-kinetic ( have I just made that up?) as it uses electromagnetic interference to disrupt and therefore hopefully crash the target.
    P.S they claim its a world first to market too!
    I do like the idea though of making all our RWS on vehicle’s being capable of and crew trained to deal with downing UAV’s.

  3. In that category, it may well be. Only a couple of months the Russians claimed a 10 km range for their directed high frequency sound solution
    – as Russia claims many things, I just noted the headline without reading the details
    – Rostech Corporation… does it exist?

    Anyway, LM makes a laser for the purpose that is no bigger than the tripod for Starstreak

    Three different approaches there

  4. Is there any actual combat history regarding its capability? They’re flogging it hard.

    Still, looks formidable regardless – typically Russian!

    We really should have gone for the Marksman, add a few star-streak ‘tubes/some IR missiles and bingo! (not that easy…) at least now we have spare Challenger 2 hulls to mess around with…

  5. I think people forget about just how expensive high end SAM systems are. Everyone harps on the cost structure for fighters anymore but I see a half billion dollars of targets that now you need to buy another defensive system to protect.

    This is something that will face swarms of JASSM, Storm Shadow, MALD and eventually things like CHAMP.

    You can move a lot of stuff around but for the system to work you have to run the big radars and they don’t move fast or operate while moving. Your capability is drastically cut down if you lose the big search radar and it will be a prime target.

    The problems faced by the other side are not generally as simple as many make them out to be. And SAM systems are rather brittle instruments. If you can punch a hole into the interior of it the targets aren’t all the hard to find or kill in short order.

  6. @JMH
    The Coalition in GW1 and 2 , otherwise known as the USAF/USN did a proper job on one of the world’s most comprehensive and capable air defence systems in the world at large at those times. Have we learned from what Saddam’s operators, planners and suppliers fell short on? You have as much to learn from your enemy in his defeat as from his successes against you. From the attack on the Harrier force in Afghanistan whilst on the ground another lesson again. The RAF Regiment is tasked with defending RAF assets but do they have the tools i.e. sensors, Intel feeds from their own drones , command and control , point defence systems against land and air threats , probably not .

  7. LEAPP is a big ‘leap’ forward (cough)- the ‘effectors’ (whether they are guns, missiles, directed energy or ESMs) are only part of the equation, maybe the smallest part – LEAPP provides situational awareness through giraffe and a battle management system that can tell these weapons what to fire at and when, which is about 70% of the problem solved (1940 and all that). If all your weapons are being used optimally to defeat the most pressing threats, then numbers of weapons systems are less important. There has been a recent order for more Starstreak too, methinks. Cyber should be a part of the ‘effector’ suite too – especially for internet reliant systems like surveillance UAVs.

  8. Once again, I have to throw an anchor to windward and warn that cost of ammunition should *not* be considered when deciding effectiveness of weapons. Sure, a shotgun shell may be cheaper than a Starstreak, but would it not be penny wise but extremely pound foolish if due to “cost efficiency” that “cheap UAV” got away with the coordinated of your Brigade/Division Command Post? How much would you lose if someone called in a GRAD rocket strike on your CP just because you did not want to use a thousand pound missile?

    If something has to be stopped, it has to be stopped regardless of the cost of ammunition and regardless of the cost of the target, lest you lose your entire army due to penny pinching. Spend a thousand pound missile, save a 100 million pound tank. Or save the thousand pounds and put your millions of pounds of equipment and the lives of your people at risk.

    Talk about effectiveness, then cost. Not cost first.

  9. what about the C Ram system we used to shoot down mortars?

    Another factor to consider is some of the UAV we may well come across might be too small to intercept with a Mach 3 missile. But I still think ECM is likely to be the most effective tool.

  10. @ Mike

    Ah, Marksman, that’s what the generals said circa 1981, then the scientists enlightened them with a bit of arithmetic, the result was Starstreak. Basically guns are not cost effective because they have shorter effective ranges than missiles, which means you need a lot more fire units, which means more manpower, which means more cost. Its incredibly simple really. Of course cheap conscripts change the whole equation. You also need a fairly chunky platform to have any hope of accuracy without outriggers and the like, hence Marksman being on a expensive MBT hull with all the associated maintenance cots as well.

    UAVs area challenge, the big ones may be an engageable target, but I’m most unsure about the real tactical ones with a wingspan of about 1 meter and a very small radar signature (not a lot of metal) which means they are difficult to acquire and proximity fuzes probably won’t work. These are incredibly difficult to hit despite their slow speed, not sure if its still the case but a/c of this sort of size were used for AAAD training (GPMGs at a very few hundred metres range). Actual hits on a/c were very rare.

  11. “Have we learned from what Saddam’s operators, planners and suppliers fell short on? You have as much to learn from your enemy in his defeat as from his successes against you.”

    Cracking Sadams air defence was pretty quick, its how long it took to get in to Yugoslavia that should be keeping people up at night.

    “But I still think ECM is likely to be the most effective tool.”
    It depends on the UAV I think
    Jamming that is easy, but what if it isnt controlled? What if it just zig zags a mile forward along a programmable route, then comes back and downloads the footage over USB?

  12. @ACC

    Actually I think the Israelis had a model of UAV that was a suicide drone. The Heron? Or one of its contemporaries.


    Very true on the UAV hits. A long, long time ago, back in basic, we were taught to “fire 2 aircraft lengths ahead”. With the understanding that “you are trying to scare him away, don’t expect any hits.”.

    Come to think of it, actually, the best way to deal with a micro-UAV is to follow it back and kill the user. And since it is very likely that *I’m* going to be one of the users, giving out that piece of advice fills me with “great joy”. Sarcasm intended. But honestly, see a UAV, get one or two of your new 8x8s to follow it with an infantry squad, then sweep the area. More than likely you’ll turn up a recon team or 2 there.

  13. The give away to SA-22s vulnerabilites is that you have a massive truck with an equally massive weapons system able to engage ‘2’ targets simultaneously – also all of the tracking data feeds back to that rather limited capability – so you will need hundreds of these huge systems to engage hundreds of targets (and one gun or one missile hanging off a well targeted system is as good as twenty hanging off one that might well miss first time). Rather like Sea Slug in in 1964. I have no idea what LEAPP can do, but surely able to identify, classify, track and provide targeting data for hundreds if not thousands of targets, I suspect. As Obsv points out – don’t fret about the cost of the target, fret about the cost-benefit of the target completing its mission, and classify accordingly. Then tell whatever is around to kill the priorities (and provide it with all the targeting data it needs to do that with one shot), or, as Observer says, track it back to source and take out the whole system with exactor, MLRS, Ajax or whatever is lurking in the stratosphere. The missing factor with a closed system like Pantsir is its inability to see the big picture: yes it will have a high probaility of destroying the two most visible targets, but who knows if those are the best tactical options to be shooting at?

  14. @TrT

    The Serbs were very cagey about operating their equipment. While this extends its life span and allows you to preserve assets it basically results in a virtual kill so long as you aren’t using it.

    Depending on the nature of an air campaign that may or may not be practical. If the other side is just hunting your military forces hiding things is very much an option. If you are a developed nation and the other side is gunning for your electric infrastructure you are going to have to fight and radiate.

  15. Well and good talking about the effectivity and lethality of weapon systems, but what is the logistics load and has it been funded by HMG. Too often we forget that HMG does double dealing book keeping in order to appease the electorate and we fail to challenge them.

  16. @ JF @10:58,

    You are giving an ack (as opposed to the negative nack)nowledgement to the the Obs guys, v good comments, as your own were, too.

    What the discussion has lost is the setting for the need to introduce Pantsyr.
    – the 3-digit SAMs providing AAD, including their radars identifying what needs to be dealt with (possibly by other means)
    – Pantsyr was introduced to deal with the leakers, most specifically tree-top hugging cruise missiles (which most probably would have evaded those radars)
    – missiles may be fast, but in their acceleration stage they can’t be guided/ manoeuvre effectively
    – hence the “last kilometer in” – not the famous last mile that still gives BT a monopoly despite all the regulation, needed a gun added to the combo
    – Russians are not stupid, and they had fully recognised the quantity quandrum that you mention
    – hence the number of systems to be introduced was clearly specified as they would be there to protect divisional level (and higher) command posts and key logistics nodes, ie. exactly the kind of targets that would warrant a stealth cruise missile (or two)

  17. @Geoff

    And how much of that double book dealing is due to an electorate that demands to have their cake and eat it too? (Spend on defence but cut the defence budget)

  18. I recently came to the conclusion there was a need for a CIWS as part of FLAADS. Seems the Russians are there first… again.

    Observer mentioned a shotgun (as a joke) but strangely this sounds like the right concept for anti-UAV (other than ECM and high-powered fiber lasers).

    What is the current plan for defence of our new land-based air defence capability (from things like lang-range guided artillery and Semtex smothered UAVs)?

  19. @Simon

    I won’t recommend manual gun based systems for anti-UAV work, human eyes actually have trouble judging distances against the sky. It is difficult in the extreme to actually generate a hit on a flying target. Obsvr pointed out also that UAVs were used for target practice in the past, and actual hits on them were very rare, which dovetails with my understanding. You need a missile or something computerized to kill it efficiently. Makes you wonder if the AA crews in WWII were really aiming. :)

  20. Observer,

    Makes you wonder if the AA crews in WWII were really aiming.

    …creating the ultimate game of chicken ;-)

    Anyway I was suggesting a computer controlled CIWS shotgun. Probably EO/IR tracking of the target. If the UAV is coming straight at the CIWS protected SAM site it must be simple (ish) to track. Move gun into (rough) position and fire off a couple of hundred supersonic ball bearings to rip an entire swarm of nano-UAVs to bits.

    Okay, it doesn’t work with shells or cruise/ballistic missiles but at least it mitigates against a swarm of cheap quad(c)opters each carrying ~250g of C4.

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