Air Defense:
30 Years of Confrontation.
Victory in a Nuclear War Is Impossible, But Winning a Missile Confrontation Is Perfectly Possible

Moscow Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye
17-23 Oct 97 (signed to press 16 Oct) pp 1, 3
by Ilya Kedrov

The package of measures to reform the Russian army provides for the transformation of the country's air defense system. The Missile-Space Defense Forces are to be integrated with the Strategic Missile Forces [SMF], while air defense will become part of the Air Force structure. The official story is that these actions will produce a significant saving in the money allocated to the army and will in no way weaken the country's defense capability. However, before reorganizing our air defenses it is necessary carefully to study the history of these forces and to take into account the experience of recent large-scale military conflicts. Otherwise the hasty reform of air defenses could considerably reduce Russia's defense potential. That is the view held by retired Colonel General Yuriy Vsevolodovich Votintsev, who was the first commander of the Missile-Space Defense Forces.

There is a well-known axiom in physics -- every action has a reaction. In the wake of the emergence of each offensive weapon, man has quickly devised a defensive adaptation.

It is not surprising that the emergence, after World War II, of offensive nuclear weapons and new delivery vehicles -- ballistic missiles -- demanded the speedy development of means of combating them. The rapid increase in the quantity of nuclear strike forces in the United States, in the context of the Cold War, created a direct threat to the USSR.

USSR and United States: The Beginning of Confrontation

Let us recall that by 1967, in accordance with the doctrine of "flexible response," the United States had a powerful triad consisting of 1,054 ground-based ICBM's, 41 nuclear submarines with 656 missiles (and 20 of these boats were permanently on combat patrol), and 570 strategic bombers, some of which could also carry nuclear weapons. In response to the insistent urging of Marshal Pavel Batitskiy, commander of the Air Defense Forces, with the support of Dmitriy Ustinov, CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet Union] Central Committee secretary for the defense industry, the CPSU Central Committee and the Soviet Government adopted a decision to set up the antimissile and antispace defense forces. On 30 March 1967 the General Staff issued a directive on the creation of these forces within the Air Defense Forces. Yuriy Votintsev was appointed commander of the Antimissile and Antispace Defense Forces.

Research institutes, design bureaus, defense industry enterprises, military construction workers, and troops were set the task of creating in the shortest possible time a strategic system capable of warning the country's military and political leadership of a missile attack with guaranteed reliability and in sufficient time to take countermeasures. It must be said that this work did not start from zero. The decision to cretae the Antimissile and Antispace Defense Forces was preceded by fundamental scientific and technical research and experimental and design work and by the creation of the first combat facilities. Work on the antimissile defense system had been most successful. On 4 March 1961 for the first time in the world a V- 1000 antimissile [missile] developed by General Designer Petr Grushin destroyed the reentry vehicle of an R-12 ballistic missile. This experience enabled General Designer Grigoriy Kisunko to embark on the planning of a combat system of antimissile defense.

In 1963 under the leadership of General Designer Academician Aleksandr Mints the deployment of over-the- horizon ballistic missile detection facilities equipped with powerful Dnepr radar stations began. These made it possible to detect ballistic missiles on launch from U.S. territory or from submarines in the Norwegian Sea or the North Sea. In all, eight such facilities were built, forming the basis of a missile attack warning system.

The nuclear confrontation between the USSR and the United States required much effort from both states. Clearly, both the American and the Soviet military attached the very greatest significance to the creation and development of protection against missile attack. In the seventies and eighties annual expenditure on the series production of arms for the Antimissile and Antispace Defense Forces totaled around 1.5 billion rubles [R], while expenditure on the construction of combat facilities and the equipping of military camps was around R2 billion. And at that time a dollar was worth 60 kopeks in the defense industry, but two or three rubles in construction.

By 1973 the A-35 Moscow ABM system had been created. It was fully in compliance with the 1972 ABM Treaty with the United States, but it had limited combat potential. The system could not combat American ballistic missiles equipped with the means of overcoming ABM systems through the use of decoys and electronic countermeasures. Furthermore the A-35 was designed to combat single-warhead ballistic missiles and could not counteract MIRVed missiles. Therefore the antimissile defense forces did not adopt the system and demanded that the industry modernize it. By 1976 the A-35 system (which had begun to be called the A-35M) had been perfected and put on alert status.

Confrontation Reaches Cosmic Heights

In the seventies the missile attack warning system was supplemented by space devices in elliptical and geostationary orbits which could detect the launch of ICBM's from any point on the planet. In general the comprehensive missile attack warning system was supposed to detect the launch of missiles and confirm their detection on the flight trajectory in sufficient time for a decision on countermeasures. It gave the SMF the opportunity to make a retaliatory counterstrike before the warheads fell on the SMF's positions and in the missile-carrying submarines' patrol regions. This effectively ruled out the possibility of the use of nuclear missiles by the United States, Britain, or France even at the gravest moments of deterioration in the Cold War. The two opposing sides realized that the start of a nuclear war would lead to their mutual destruction.

In 1970 a space interceptor device developed by General Designer Anatoliy Savin was tested. The interceptor hit a target satellite. It must be said that by that time the United States had already created and had in constant operation military space systems capable of detecting the launch of ballistic missiles, recording nuclear explosions, and carrying out intelligence and communications functions and navigational, topographical, and meteorological support functions. There were 30-40 space devices constantly operating in space as part of these systems; during 14 orbits of the earth they passed over the Soviet Union's territory eight or nine times. It should be noted that the experience of operation Desert Storm showed that the use of military space devices increases the efficiency of combat operations two- to threefold.

Given further improvement, the Soviet antispace defense system should have been able, if necessary, to destroy American space systems in a short space of time; however, in 1983, on the instructions of the then CPSU Central Committee General Secretary Yuriy Andropov, work on it was stopped. In the United States, however, the ASAT antispace defense system, based on the F-15 fighter, was created and tested.

Soviet specialists were, however, able to achieve more significant successes in the sphere of defensive space systems. The point is that while the American missile attack warning, outer space monitoring, and antispace defense systems sent fragmented information to their command post, in our country, under the leadership of missile attack warning system chief designer Vladislav Repin, by the end of the seventies a fully automated system of command and control of all antimissile and antispace defense facilities had been developed and put into operation.

The A-35M Moscow ABM system, which we have already mentioned, was still inadequate, and was not on alert status [na boyevom dezhurtsve] for long. Operational experience demonstrated its potential and its shortcomings, and this made it possible to formulate the tactical and technical requirements for a fundamentally new Moscow ABM system, which was created and is now on [alert] status [na dezhurtsve]. It is capable of destroying the warheads of any ballistic missiles, including the Peacekeeper (MX) and Trident, and is the only system of its class in the world.

The question of the need for this extremely expensive system was repeatedly raised in the Soviet Union and now in Russia too. In Yuriy Votintsev's view, it must be retained because it is not long now until 2003, when the United States intends to withdraw from the 1972 ABM Treaty. Since 1983 the United States has been conducting fundamental research and development work under the SDI program, on which approaching $3 billion is spent every year. The results are already enabling America to deploy a so-called territorial tactical anti-missile system which can ultimately be upgraded to a strategic system capable of repulsing a nuclear missile attack with losses deemed acceptable by the United States. There is therefore also a need to further improve the Russian anti-missile complex.

We Might Still Not Lose

The political and economic disintegration of the Soviet Union left its mark on both the entire Russian army as a whole and the Missile and Space Defense Troops. The most painful blow was inflicted on the missile attack warning system. The point is that, under the 1972 ABM Treaty, the most important part of this system -- the over-the-horizon ballistic missile detection stations -- had to be built in the vicinity of state borders. So after the disintegration of the USSR five out of eight such stations ended up on the territory the newly independent states.

In the 1980's the CPSU Central Committee and the government adopted a decision to replace the obsolete "Dnepr" radar stations, which had already been in service for 25 years, with brand-new "Daryal" type stations. To save money, construction of these stations was begun on the sites of already existing facilities. It was planned to allocate around R3 billion to set up these stations, and by January 1990 half of this sum had been used.

Following the disintegration of the USSR, construction of the Skrunde station in Latvia was stopped on the demand of that country's government, supported by the United States, and on 4 May 1995 the station's incomplete facilities were blown up. Unfortunately the Russian Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry did not make every effort to retain this missile attack warning system facility's status as a Russian military base on the territory of a foreign state. Yet you can easily imagine the reaction in the United States to a Russian demand to destroy, for example, the American IMEWS system radar station in Greenland.

Construction of a new station in Mukhachevo in Ukraine was also halted, and in 1995 construction of a 95 percent ready "Daryal" station was frozen in Kazakhstan. Only two CIS states -- Belarus and Azerbaijan -- are continuing to display loyalty to Russian military facilities on their territory. In Belarus a fundamentally new "Volga" type over-the-horizon detection station is being built near Baranovicha. In Azerbaijan the "Daryal" station near Mingechaur is still in combat service as a military base.

But even on Russia's own territory the missile attack warning system has incurred irreparable damage: Back in 1987 construction of a radar station near Krasnoyarsk was halted on the demand of the United States, with its already complete installations being converted into a furniture factory. And to this day the northeastern sector of the missile attack warning system is not monitored by radar stations.

A large proportion of the missile attack warning system's observation facilities are based on obsolete and worn out "Dnepr-M" stations, plus the Skrunde station is set to be dismantled next year. The situation is not hopeless, however. A space-based system for detecting ballistic missile launches -- a system whose combat potential and reliability are constantly improving -- has assumed priority significance in recent years. The design bureaus of the Vympel and Kometa interstate corporations (former Ministry of the Radio Engineering Industry enterprises) and the Fakel design bureau (which used to be part of the Ministry of the Aviation Industry) are conducting research and development work to develop new facilities for the missile attack warning system. But completing them requires designated appropriations and time, of which there is less and less left. It is possible that work on these systems will be completed after all Russia's missile and space forces are amalgamated in a single structure.

The United States and Russia: Dialogue Must be Conducted on an Equal Footing

It must be said that the question of amalgamating the Missile and Space Forces, the SMF, and the Military-Space Forces has already been raised many times. Army General Vladimir Tolubko, who was appointed SMF commander in chief in 1972, was particularly insistent about this.

Admittedly he was mainly raising the question of getting the missile attack warning system, as the SMF's main information system, under his jurisdiction. By that time the Anti- Missile and Anti-Satellite Defense Forces were already a unified and fully automated complex with centralized command and control and a settled system for training officer personnel. They had an optimum organizational structure which from subunit to formation level matched the characteristics of the combat operation and application of automated weapon systems in conditions of continuous alert duty.

The different components of the country's missile and space forces operated in parallel. The SMF in conjunction with the space forces launched and continue to launch satellites, some of which are intended for the detection of ballistic missile launches in the interests of the Missile and Space Defense forces. These spacecraft are controlled from the missile attack warning system command center. In addition the SMF Central Command Center has a "Krokus" system display wall which automatically shows missile status information from the missile attack warning system. Missile attack warning system experts also track training launches of ballistic missiles and determine where their warhead sections will fall to earth at the Novaya Zemlya and Kamchatka test sites. During rogue launches, which sometimes happen, the missile attack warning system has calculated [tense as published] where outside the test sites the warhead sections are expected to fall to earth.

Thus, the SMF, the Missile and Space Defense Forces, and the Military-Space Forces have been operating in close contact for a long time now, and there should be no difficulties in creating amalgamated forces. The main condition for amalgamation, in Yuriy Votintsev's view, is that the Missile and Space Defense Forces, which are armed with unique fully automated systems and perform a strategic task in defending Russia, should retain their status and their tested system of centralized combat command and control and should become part of the SMF only in their current configuration [sostav]. It should be recalled that the United States has on alert status 50 Peacekeeper ICBM's, 332 Minuteman-3M's, and 200 Minuteman- 3's, plus a minimum of 10 missile-armed nuclear submarines on combat patrol. This factor must be taken into account when further improving the Missile and Space Defense Troops.

The situation in terms of Air Defense and Air Force formations is more complex. In Yuriy Votintsev's view, the country's military- political leadership did not draw the requisite conclusions from recent local conflicts. The experience of operation Desert Storm is particularly interesting in this respect. In the course of the coalition forces' war against Iraq the U.S. military leadership carefully planned and implemented for the first time ever a ground, air, and space operation of the kind that might become a reality in the 21st century. The Iraqi air defense system had Soviet-produced radio-engineering and missile complexes which proved incapable of resting airborne attacks primarily because of a lack of precise centralized command and control of all the air defense forces. A unified system of command and control for all air defense forces and systems was created in the USSR, and it is very important not to disrupt it in the process of reforming the air defense forces. Attempts to place air defense formations and combined units under the jurisdiction of military district commanders have been made before, in 1978 and 1987. These changes set the Air Defense Forces back years and substantially reduced their effectiveness. So a definitive solution to the problem of amalgamating air defense and Air Force formations requires a particularly close examination of the history of the development of the air defense troops and consideration of the experience of recent military conflicts, particularly operation Desert Storm.

And so long as the Strategic Missile Forces remain the most important guarantor of Russia's security, after amalgamation they will perform the role of not just a means of attack but also a means of protection and warning against a nuclear missile attack. In the new blueprint for the organizational development of the Armed Forces nuclear war is deemed to be a hypothetical threat, and Russian ballistic missiles do not have specific targets at this time. The explanation for this is that Russia currently does not have a likely enemy, and we have established permanent friendly contacts with the United States and NATO. But it must not be forgotten that you can only have an equal military-partnership relationship with a state which has equal potential; the weak get spoken to in the language of force.