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The Window of Opportunity NATO Saw for Its Missile Shield

"The breakup of the USSR convinced the US that it was their time, giving them an opportunity to show everyone who was running the world, once and for all."

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<figcaption>Russia has been quietly updating and developing its own shield</figcaption>
Russia has been quietly updating and developing its own shield

What do these radars really have in common, other than their names?

This is the "Voronezh-VM" radar in the Irkutsk region.

And this is "the same" two-unit "Voronezh-DM" radar-station near Armavir.

Have you found most things in common? Why are they so different from each other, and why do they call the stations by one and the same name everywhere, saying that they perform the same tasks? As always, we need to blame secrecy. However, this secrecy is rather strange. Because as soon as we look at the history of the design of Soviet over-the-horizon radars, then at the map of their location with fields of view, the secrets become an open book.

First, a recent report:

The Ministry of Defense will restore the ‘Dnepr’ missile warning system radar station, near Sevastopol. According to Izvestia’s source, the new system will be able to record launches either of ballistic, cruise, or hypersonic missiles from the waters of the Black and Mediterranean Seas, defending Russia from the south and south-east. 

They have been talked about since 2014. And those who are familiar with the subject remember how the media reported that the "Voronezh" radar station near Armavir was going to replace not only "Daryal" in Azerbaijan, but also "Dnepr" in Sevastopol. So why do we need to restore it?

Here is a location map of Russia’s modern over-the-horizon radars with fields of view:

This story began long ago.

In 1972, an agreement was concluded on limiting the anti missile defense systems of the US and USSR. According to the agreement, the countries could deploy not more than two (one since 1974) blocks of antimissile defense systems on their territory: either to cover the capital, the launch site of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The USSR chose the option "covering the capital", and created an anti-missile defense system for Moscow. The US deployed their block to cover the intercontinental ballistic missile launch site.

Both sides tried to deceive each other, more or less successfully. The US could deploy the Pave Paws system on its territory, which quickly turned into an element of the anti-missile defense system; but the USSR failed to do so in due time.

The breakup of the USSR convinced the US that it was their time, giving them an opportunity to show everyone who was running the world, once and for all.

At the beginning of the 1990’s, a series of anti-missile tests showed the capacity of this combat method, and on July 23, 1999, President Bill Clinton signed a bill approved by the Senate on deployment of a national anti-missile defense system. In 2001 the US used the option specified in the 1972 agreement to withdraw from it on a unilateral basis.

The gauntlet was thrown down.

At this very time, the US was destroying the remains of the antimissile defense shield of the former major enemy in the territory of the former USSR, wherever possible. 

At the beginning of May 1995, the "Daryal-UM" receiving radar station in the town of Scrunda (Latvia) was blown up. In 1998 the station was completely shut down.

At the beginning of the century, Americans silenced forever the station in Mukachevo. That was also when the stations in Sevastopol and Azerbaijan practically stopped operating for Russia. The united field of long-range ground radar stations of the USSR broke up.

A few experts paid attention to the fact that in 1997, construction of the "Volga" radar station was restarted. Do you recognize it?

No, it’s not another "Voronezh-DM" radar but its prototype "Volga" radar station that we began constructing in 1986 as a response to deployment of American mid-range "Pershing-2" missiles in Europe.  

There isn’t much detail on the "Voronezh-DM" station – it’s a state secret. However, people in Russia can’t keep secrets, which is why it has a Wikipedia page available to the public.

Reading about the "Volga" station on Wikipedia, we learn many interesting things. It turns out that this station (from Wikipedia with a reference to some very recognized work) is not just another radar launch detection station:

Development of air assault weapons demanded improving of elements of the Soviet missile warning system. High-potential VHF "Daryal" radar stations, designated to a big range vision, were decided to complement with mid-potential UHF radar stations, which due to a high resolving power would provide precise pointing of anti-missiles. The development was delegated to the experts of the Scientific and Research Institute for Long-Distance Radio Communications, who had an experience of creating UHF radar stations of the "Dunai" family.

In 1984, as a result of the deployment of American mid-range ballistic missiles ‘Pershing-2’ in the Federal Republic of Germany, it was decided to construct the leading "Volga" radar station near the town of Baranovichi for missile-threats from the west.

The construction, begun in 1986, was the USSR’s first experience with prefabricated radar equipment, that was further developed when the "Voronezh" radar station was constructed…

Remember the words in bold. They will be useful.

High-potential VHF radar stations, which should have detected the enemy’s missiles and warheads at a distance of 6,000 kms, were complemented not with lesser-range radar stations, but with those whose antimissiles could be pointed at the detected warheads. The ‘Volga’ station was constructed  by the experts of the Scientific and Research Institute for Long-Distance Radio Communications as the first station in the fight against the enemy’s missiles.

And what about this: do you recognize it?

No, it’s neither the "Volga" radar station nor the "Voronezh" UHF station. It’s the "Dunai-3M" radar station, the eyes and ears of Moscow’s defense system (A-35M) deployed in the 1970’s. This station should have detected the enemy’s missiles and their operating units at a distance of 2500 kms, and pointed anti-missiles at them. And it was this station that in 1994 detected 10cm little balls together with the DON-2H and the American COBRA DANE…

The "Dunai-3M" radar station was the basis for the design of the "Volga" radar station – a simplified prefabricated anti-missile defense system.

If we look at the developers of the "Voronezh-M/VM" and "Voronezh-DM" radar stations, we won’t be surprised. The first was designed by the Academician Alexander Mints Radiotechnical Institute, the developer of a unique "Daryal" VHF complex, and the second one was developed by the Research Institute for Long-Distance Radio Communications, the developer of UHF radar stations for the "Dunai" and "Volga" anti-missile defense systems.

This is no longer a version, but an almost proven hypothesis.

To eliminate all doubts, let’s see how the anti-missile idea worked in the US. At the end of the 1970’s they started to deploy their anti-ballistic missiles launch warning system (PAVE PAWS).

By the way, here it is:

But no, it wasn’t long-range and couldn’t distinguish warheads beyond 3,000 kms. The station operated within the UHF range (like the "Voronezh-DM" radar station). Then its range was extended, and today these stations are the basis for the anti-missile defense system of the US, aiming Ground-Based Mid-course Defense long-range anti-missiles at the target. However, Russia constantly emphasizes that the "Voronezh-DM" stations have nothing to do with an anti-missile defense system.  

Never mind. What do we care? Of course we believe them.

We seemed to be sorting it all out, but there was something left. "Voronezh" stations have another twin brother – the mysterious and elusive "Voronezh-CM".

However, if we look through old magazines and study the genius of Western thought, we can learn something about this mysterious brother.  

There was a phrase in the description of the "Volga" radar station:

In 1981, Alexander Musatov was appointed the principal designer of the new radar station. In 1982, a draft design of ‘Volga’ was developed, in 1983 it was approved by the client. It was expected that the designing of a series of radio detectors with digital processing of information, constructed with the use of the technology of solid-state modules, and having a choice of two range scales. It was expected to install four ‘Volga-M’ radar stations with a little potential on the directions, uncontrolled by the above-the-horizon radar means.  

Back then, it was about the station working alternately in VHF and UHF range, which wasn’t used in the late USSR!

There is a lot of information on the Internet claiming that the "Voronezh-CM" radar station was developed to operate in the VHF range. What for? To precisely shoot anti-missiles at the target. It could be that the choice to operate in two range scales could be based on the "Voronezh-DM" radar station.  

By the way, Americans did the same thing, according to a 2007 article:  

“The US Defense Ministry consider BMEWS and Pave Paws radar stations of nuclear missile attack warning systems, as well as Space track and SPASUR space tracking systems as the most important means for surveillance over launches of ballistic missiles of the enemy. The development of radar stations of these systems aimed at improving radar means and technologies: creating two range ones (3- and 10-cm).

You may laugh again, but the expert who designed radar stations for anti-missile defense systems in the centimeter range in the USSR was at the same Academician Mints Radiotechnical Institute, who put into combat a well-known "Don-2N" radar station that today is the best detector, protecting the peace of European Russia.   

Perhaps it was this very design office that co-developed the "Voronezh-DM" radar station together with the Scientific and Research Institute for Long-Distance Radio Communications. If this is the case, and there are many reasons to think it is, today Russia is completing deployment of not only circular systems of missile launch long-range warning systems, but also a very high level national anti-missile defense system. It only remained to re-equip/modernize the "Daryal" station in the town of Pechora (mentioned above) into a station operating in a decimeter-centimeter range.

This will probably be a completely new station. So why do we need to have two radar stations of a one meter range aimed in the same direction? And also, to "modernize/restore the" "Dnepr" radar station in the Crimea that we started our story with?

Conclusion and afterword

The new national anti-missile defense system of Russia, designed according to Soviet best practice, will soon be constructed. Quietly. The radar station in the Crimea will probably work in a one-meter range, and will perhaps be another "Voronezh" with two sections.

Personally, I find no sense in reanimating the "Dnepr" radar station, although anything is possible.   

Instead of "Daryal", its twin brother, operating in a decimeter-centimeter range, would be more logical in the town of Pechora.  

Completion of the "Voronezh-CM" project will be the last stage in the deployment of tracking and guidance stations for anti-missile defense systems created today in Russia.

Next time we’ll see how all this will operate, and how it will defeat the enemy…

To be continued

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