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Russia's New Formidable Buk-M3 Air Defense Weapon Enters Service

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The Russian new BUK-M3 short-medium range air defense system has entered service.

The system went through final tests in June. The M3 is a modernization of previous Buk systems with completely new hardware and greatly advanced capabilities. The highly mobile system is designed to strike air, ground and sea targets, including tactical and strategic aircraft, helicopters, short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, air-launched missiles, anti-radiation missiles, guided bombs and other aerodynamic vehicles. It can operate in heavy jamming conditions.

Its carrying capacity is six missiles – a significant improvement over older Buk systems that carry only 4 missiles. The Buk-M3 carries its payload in launch containers instead of external rails to greatly reduce the time between shots. Launched vertically, the missile adjusts its trajectory midair.

The new 9R31M missile radar-guided all-weather surface-to-air missile (SAM) is fitted with high-explosive fragmentation warhead able to destroy any types of air targets with a speed of 3,000 m/s at an altitude from 15 m to 35 km. To compare, the speed of a missile fired by a US-made MGM-140 ATACMS surface-to-air missile launcher doesn’t exceed 1.5 kilometers per hour.

The specifications include a maximum target speed of 3,000 m/s (11,000 km/h; 6,700 mph), altitude range of 0.015–35 km (49–114,829 ft) and distance of 2.5–70 km (1.6–43.5 mi). The new radar employed by the Buk-M3 allows it to detect airborne targets flying at extremely low altitudes (5 meters and higher). Its target-destruction probability has reached 0.9999. The operational range is from 2.5 to 70 km.

The missile can be fired from the 12 cylindrical containers 20 seconds after the system is set up. Probability of hitting a target with one missile: aircraft - 0.95; tactical ballistic missile - 0.7; cruise missile - 0.8. Reaction time is 10 seconds. The interval between shots is one second in any direction.

The missile requires a radar lock to initially steer the missile to the target until the missile's on-board radar system takes over to provide final course corrections. A proximity fuse aboard the missile determines when it will detonate, creating an expanding fragmentation pattern of missile components and warhead to intercept and destroy the target. The missile is targeted by commands or only active homing, or in combination.

The Buk-M3 boasts 36 target channels and features advanced electronic components, including a digital computer, high speed data exchange system and a tele-thermal target imaging designator able to detect and track targets regardless of the time of day and weather conditions.

A standard Buk battalion consists of a command vehicle, target acquisition radar (TAR) vehicle, six transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) vehicles and three transporter erector launcher (TEL) vehicles. A Buk missile battery consists of two TELAR and one TEL vehicle. A maximum speed on the road is 70 Km/h with a maximum road range of 500 km.

The TELAR is based on the GM-569 tracked armoured chassis, carries six ready to fire missiles mounted on a turntable that can traverse a full 360°. The turret of the Buk-M3 TELAR includes fire control radar at the front and a launcher with six ready-to-fire missiles on top.

The TEL uses the same tracked chassis as the TELAR Buk-M3 but the turret is fitted with two blocks of six missiles. The vehicle is protected against small arms and shell splinters. The crew of 4 is located at the front. The crew members enter and leave the vehicle via two large hatches located at the front of the armoured chassis.

The system can also support up to two additional 9A316M launchers vehicles loaded with 12 9M317M surface-to-air missiles. It also includes a 9T243M transport and loading vehicle.

It has been reported recently that Egypt is going to purchase the Buk-M3. The talks are underway.

The Russian armed forces have received an air defense system that in many areas is more capable than versions of S-300 family. The system is unrivalled among the world’s air defense missile systems of its class. According to defense officials, «The results of the state tests indicate that by a number of its characteristics the [Buk-3M] system has fully complied with the technical requirements and equaled the S-300, and by some of the parameters has even surpassed this system». The Buk-M3 in service is significant boost to Russia's already formidable anti-air capabilities.

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