On Nov. 19, Russia celebrated the Day of Missile Forces and Artillery, honoring one branch of its army. Today, the Grad, Uragan, Smerch, and Tornado multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) are their main attack weapons that ensure superiority on the battlefield. The MSTA-S, Gvozdika, and Nona self-propelled artillery systems, plus the MSTA-B and PAT-B, which are towed, are an important addition to the ground forces’ firepower. The tactical Iskander-M that replaces the obsolete Tochka ground-to-ground systems are precision-guided weapons with great potential for modernization, making them able to meet contemporary challenges until at least 2030. There are seven different missiles the system can be armed with, depending on the mission.
The 152mm 2С35 Koalitsiya-SV “Sniper” howitzer will complete its state tests in 2020. That weapon is designed to knock out armored vehicles, weapons systems, and critical infrastructure sites. It has a range of 70 km with precision guided rounds and 40 km with standard ammunition. Its maximum rate of fire is 20 rounds per minute, which is without parallel anywhere in the world. For comparison, the US M109A6 Paladin’s maximum rate of fire is 4 rounds per minute. The Russian system can fire a wide range of munitions, including standard and rocket-assisted HE-FRAG projectiles, cluster projectiles with anti-tank submunitions, and jamming ammunition.
Commander of the Russian Missile and Artillery Forces Lt. Gen. Mikhail Matveevsky said at the Army-2018 forum in August that "The Koalitsiya-SV multi-service force artillery system features our first step to introducing robotics in practice. It has an unmanned combat compartment and the process of loading and preparing for fire excludes any operations by an individual: everything is done automatically."
2018 is the year that the first steps were taken to add the 2S33 MSTA-SM self-propelled howitzer and Tornado-G MLRS with automatic guidance to the Russian arsenal. The MSTA-SM is equipped with an automated fire-control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers, and satellite navigation systems. The long-range 300-mm Tornado-S is being adopted to replace the Smerch systems. Its maximum range is 120 km, compared to the 90 km range of the Smerch, and it can hit an area of over 60 hectares. The system features a new automated guidance and fire-control capability that can coordinate the combat activities of an entire artillery battalion. The Tornado-S can automatically calculate target data.
Deployed in the Eastern Military District in Buryatia, the self-propelled all-weather Khrisantema-S anti-tank system became operational this year. It can engage low flying helicopters. Its ability to be guided by either laser or radar makes it a standout among other anti-tank systems. Two targets can be fired on simultaneously: either one air and one ground target or two ground targets. A thermobaric warhead can be installed to engage soft-skinned targets, fortifications, and enemy troops. Russian Army Commander-in-Chief Colonel-General Oleg Salyukov said the new Nabrosok artillery system is under development.
Russia is upgrading its “big guns”: the 2S4 Tyulpan (Tulip) 240-millimeter mortar and the 2S7 Pion 203-millimeter howitzer. These are old warhorses that are immune to electronic warfare and well suited for specific missions, making it possible to save high-precision munitions.
The army is receiving state-of-the-art radars: the Aistyonok and Zoopark-1M, the AZK-7M acoustic detection system, and the PRP-4A electro-optical surveillance system, as well as unmanned aerial systems used for reconnaissance and guidance. New communications and data networks with a low probability of intercept are also being introduced.
According to Colonel-General Oleg Salyukov, all army units will receive contemporary rocket and artillery systems as well as auxiliary equipment by 2020. The ultimate goal is to create an integrated reconnaissance and combat network. The army missile and artillery troops are expected to have three types of highly mobile brigades: missile, rocket artillery, and artillery units, increasing their combat capabilities by 50-100%.
The army’s 2018 missile and artillery arm is quite a different force compared to the one that began the process of transformation a few years ago. The rocket artillery systems being added to the arsenal in 2018 offer a much greater range than their foreign equivalents, providing the option of mounting artillery bombardments without concern over counter-battery fire. There is a wide choice of available munitions for specific missions, thus making its shelling more lethal in any given situation. Today, Russian army units can strike at ranges in excess of 300km.
Russia is making strides toward developing the capability to engage in a new generation of warfare. Army units would rely on massive salvoes of precision rocket and artillery fire, assisted by UAVs and cyber and electronic warfare equipment, making Russia’ Missile Forces and Artillery second to none.