Russia’s Missile Attack Warning System Celebrates 50 Years Of Continuous Operation

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Russia's Missile Attack Warning System Celebrates 50 Years Of Continuous Operation

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February 15th marked the 50th anniversary of the first intercession of the Russian forces and means of over-the-horizon detection of the Missile Attack Warning System.

For over a half-century history, combat alert hasn’t stopped for a minute, and the Missile Attack Warning System was always ready to fulfill its main task – to warn Russia’s political and military leadership of a possible missile attack.

he head of the Main Center for Missile Attack Warning of the Space Forces of the Aerospace Forces, Colonel Andrei Revenok gave an interview to Russia’s Ministry of Defense outlet Red Star.

The creation of the Missile Attack Warning System was caused by the military-political situation that developed in the late 50s – early 60s. The Soviet Union had a powerful air defense system, but the development of nuclear missile systems of the USA, France and Great Britain proceeded rapidly. In the Strategic Missile Forces, which appeared in 1959, the question arose:

“Who will issue information to assist in making decisions on responsive actions?”

He then explained that air defense had been done for a while at that point. Just not at that height or range.

The task of creating a complex for detecting a ballistic missile was extremely difficult.

Firstly, the radar should have a detection range of the head units of a ballistic missile at ranges of about 2500 kilometers. Until that time, there was no experience in creating such radar stations.

Secondly, it was necessary to detect targets with a small reflective surface and moving at high speed. Such targets were in the radar coverage area for two or three minutes. And in order to detect such targets, a new principle of detection and generation of detection information was needed.

Thirdly, at such target speeds and lack of time for detection, the target detection process should only be automatic. This meant that completely new algorithms for processing radar information were required.

Fourthly, after the target is detected, data about it must be transmitted to the command post several thousand kilometers away, and this information must be transmitted continuously as the target moves.

Finally, it was necessary to organize the combat service of personnel in a special way. At the same time, the organization of combat duty in other branches of the military was not suitable for the warning system.

A completely new problem turned out to be the influence of auroras on the operation of the radar station – the auroras completely “jammed” the radar station with interference, which threatened to miss the target.

He said that the development of nuclear weapons by the adversary led to the need to reinforce one’s own arsenal.

“The development of the nuclear missile potential of foreign states caused new threats, and they had to be feared, including by increasing the combat capabilities of the strategic defensive forces, which include an early warning system.”

In December 1976, the Missile Attack Warning System was put on alert as part of the command post of the early warning system and radar station in Murmansk, Riga, Sevastopol, Balkhash and Irkutsk.

Portable warning consoles – “nuclear suitcases” in December 1976 were transferred to the General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, Defense Minister, Chief of the General Staff and Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Andrei Pavlovich Kirilenko.

Thus, the first stage early warning system was created.

“Considering the importance of the tasks solved by the early warning system, and the location of the radar station throughout the country, in 1977, by the decision of the USSR Defense Council, the 3rd separate army of the special purpose anti-missile missile system was formed. Major General Vladimir Strelnikov was appointed commander. In 1979, the Dnepr radar station in Mukachevo (Ukraine) was put on alert, and in 1982 a space-based system for detecting launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) from the United States was connected to the early warning system, where 1000 Minuteman ICBMs were on alert.”

The second stage included the space warning system, with a command post at Serpukhov and a constellation of nine spacecraft in highly elliptical orbits and one spacecraft in geostationary orbit.

Thus, the early warning system became two-echelon. The first echelon was a space warning system, which detected the launch of an ICBM, the second echelon was a radar for over-the-horizon detection of ballistic missiles on flight paths.

The third stage was an increase in the combat capabilities of the early warning system in the 80s of the last century, when two super-powerful Daryal radar stations with phased antenna arrays in Pechora and Kutkashen (Azerbaijan) and a remote receiving position of the Daugava at the Murmansk hub were created and put on alert , which together with the radar station “Dnepr” made up the active-passive complex “Dnepr-Daugava”, which significantly increased the stability of work in conditions of exposure to aurora borealis.

By the end of the 80s, the early warning system was capable of detecting both the launch of ballistic missiles from the territory of the United States, and the raid of ballistic missiles from almost any direction.

At the fourth stage, work began to improve the created radar systems of the PRN system and the development of a new generation of these means by the RTI Systems Concern, which united the research and production enterprises of the domestic military-industrial complex in the field of creating new generation radio-electronic and information systems. The high level of progress in the development of microwave microelectronics and digital computing technology has made it possible to radically change the approaches to the design and creation of a new generation of high factory readiness radar systems (VZG) of the Voronezh type.

Currently, a ground echelon of the early warning missile system consisting of 10 radar stations forms a continuous peripheral radar field and ensures guaranteed detection of attacking ballistic missiles in all strategic aerospace directions along all types of flight paths.

The military units of the Main Warning Center are located throughout the country from Kaliningrad to Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Such a geographical scope of the extraterritorial formation of the battle formation is associated with the specifics of the tasks being solved. First of all, with the need to provide the required warning time for a missile attack, which will be enough for the military-political leadership of the country to make a decision on retaliatory actions.

At present, a new generation radar network has been deployed on the territory of the Russian Federation, created using high factory readiness technology. The new Voronezh radar stations are on alert in the Leningrad, Kaliningrad, Irkutsk, Orenburg regions, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk and Altai territories.

“The creation of new facilities of the PRN System is proceeding at a high pace. For comparison, the previous generation radars were built for more than ten years. Now the construction of new stations, from laying the foundation to putting them on alert, takes about three years.”

At present, control of the positional areas of the launch of ballistic missiles from the territory of any state in real time is carried out using a constellation of spacecraft. The development of the first echelon of the space system PRN continues with the creation of the Unified Space System.

As part of improving the space echelon of the Russian PRN System, the orbital constellation of the Unified Space System is being actively built up. In May 2020, the fourth spacecraft of this system was launched. Thus, the stage of deployment of the EKS orbital group was completed, the completion of the formation of which is envisaged by 2024.

The deployment of the Unified Space System will ensure the fulfillment of tasks for the global control of the earth’s surface.

The spacecraft has become multipurpose, and the ground control complex has become more reliable, multiple redundancy of its systems, based on the use of modern domestic element base, provides information processing in real time. The likely aggressor has no chance of a sudden unpunished missile strike.

“To detect the launch of ballistic missiles, the Unified Space System is used with an orbital constellation of spacecraft in high elliptical orbits, providing control of all missile-hazardous regions of the Northern Hemisphere. At launch, the propulsion systems of ballistic missiles create a powerful torch, which is recorded in the infrared wavelength range by special on-board spacecraft detection equipment from an altitude of about 40 thousand kilometers.

Information about the detected launch and the direction of movement of the rocket from the spacecraft is relayed to the ground command post of the space system and, after assessing the reliability, is transmitted to the command posts of the early warning system, where the warning information “ATTENTION. START. 1st echelon “. At the same time, an “Alarm” signal is issued to the domestic missile defense system.

Further, when a ballistic missile approaches a distance of 4000-6000 kilometers, ground-based radar detects it, then follows it with the determination of the main trajectory characteristics and their delivery to the command posts of the early warning system. Based on the results of automatic processing of the received data, the information of the warning “ROCKET ATTACK” is generated, which is issued to the higher points of state and military administration.”

According to the commander, the achievement of 50 years of continuous combat readiness is a significant feat.

“But I believe that the main achievement is that for 50 years of continuous combat duty, the combat readiness of the early warning system has never been violated, and unreliable warning information about a missile attack has never been issued to the notified points of military and state administration.”


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