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.
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.
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?