“Difficult to Penetrate”: Russia’s Military Figured out How to Shield Moscow Against Missiles

Hypersonic speed, interception of intercontinental ballistic missile warheads, and destruction of satellites in Earth’s orbit – the latest mobile missile defence complex А-235 “Nudol”, designed to protect Moscow, is being tested. The material of RIA Novosti looks into its peculiarities and possibilities.

Hypersonic interceptor

The А-235 “Nudol” missile is a further development of the А-135 “Amur” missile defence system, which now covers Moscow and the Central Industrial District. This project began in the late 1970s. But it was soon suspended. It was resumed only at the beginning of noughties.

“Nudol” still remains one of the most classified developments of Russian defence. According to information available in open sources, launch and flight tests of the missile started in 2014 at the Plesetsk test site. A total of about ten launches were made.

It is known that the complex is capable of hitting targets at a distance of 1,500 kilometers, and the speed of its interceptor missiles reaches mach 10 numbers. I.e., “Nudol” is a hypersonic missile system. The main task is to destroy the combat units of intercontinental ballistic missiles during flight paths.

Officially, the munition of the “Nudol” system is classified as a space missile. However, Western media, citing sources in the Pentagon, call “Nudol” no other than an anti-satellite interception system. According to experts, the system with the symbol PL-19 is aimed at communication satellites, orbital photography vehicles, and other space objects. In the West, it is believed that the “Nudol” system can severely limit the military capabilities of the Americans in space.

According to the US Space Command, the last test of the “Nudol” system was conducted on April 15th from the Plesetsk test site. The previous one took place on December 23rd 2018. Back then the missile launched from a mobile unit was in the air for 17 minutes and flew about 3,000 kilometers.

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Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov called the anti-satellite “Nudol” one of the latest types of Russian weapons along with the “Sarmat” missile, the fifth-generation Su-57 fighter, the Armata tank, the anti-aircraft S-500 system, and the Tirada-2S electronic communication suppression system. The West has nothing to answer all this yet.

Shield of the capital

The А-135 “Amur’ missile system, which was on combat duty in 1995, operates on a multi-stage principle. Firstly, space satellites pinpoint ballistic missile launches, then radar stations come to accompany the ICBMs, after which a decision is made to counter-strike interceptor missiles located in several dozen silo launchers.

“Amur” is completely automated: target detection, capture, issuance of permission for launch, and guidance of anti-missiles does not require human participation. At the same time, the system is able to clearly distinguish between real warheads and the false targets that are equipped with all modern ICBMs. During the years of operation “Amur” was repeatedly modernised. First of all, this affected the element base and its miniaturisation. However, the resource of the system is not unlimited.

The “Nudol” system developed to replace it is armed with several types of solid-propellant missiles – near, medium, as well as long-range interception, shooting down enemy ammunition at an altitude of up to several hundred kilometers, in near space and the stratosphere.

According to Viktor Murakhovsky, editor-in-chief of the magazine “Arsenal of the Fatherland”, “Nudol” does not differ from “Amur”.

“We are not going to build a missile defence system for the whole country,” explains the expert to RIA Novosti. “I.e., it is still about covering Moscow and the Central Industrial District from single strikes of intercontinental ballistic missiles, medium-range missiles, and other threats. And there is no need for fundamentally new ammunition. A modified and deeply upgraded missile of the A-135 system will be used.”

Downing without explosion

The main feature of the new missile is the so-called kinetic interception of targets without the use of special combat units. Simply put, the munition will destroy attacking missiles, colliding with them at excessive speeds. “Amur” has two types of warheads to intercept: fragmentation/high-explosive and nuclear warheads. Launching such weapons means nuclear war. The “Nudol” system won’t need that.

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“In addition, the system is capable of transatmospheric interception,” explains the expert. “In fact, it is capable of working on satellites in low orbits. Today this is very relevant for Russia, because the intentions of the United States to deploy promising weapons in space are of great concern. ‘Nudol’ parries such threats.”

Another important difference is mobility. Launchers are located on self-propelled high-speed transport vehicles, which allows them to be moved quickly and covertly to the required area.

“The fact is that the US has ambitions to create a Rapid Global Strike system,” says Murakhovsky. “The mobile launcher, in contrast to the stationary ones that are currently operating in the A-135 system, will be able to change positions and withdraw missiles from the strike zone.”

The battle for space

The Americans’ persistent desire to militarise space has been seen increasingly clearly in recent years. In late 2019, President Donald Trump announced the creation of a Space Force, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced his intention to recognise space as the alliance’s new operational sphere. Trump then stressed that the US Space Command would develop not only defence capabilities, but also offensive capabilities.

For example, the US Missile Defence Agency is about to start deploying ballistic missile tracking and interception systems in space in the near future. The development and implementation of a “sustainable space sensor architecture” should be completed by the end of 2022. Most likely, the Pentagon decided to do so in order to find ways to counter Russia’s latest strategic developments – “Sarmat” and “Avangard“.

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Another potential threat from the United States is the already mentioned concept of a Rapid Global Strike, involving the attack and destruction of critical enemy facilities by non-nuclear weapons anywhere in the globe within an hour of receiving the order. The strike is planned to be launched by hypersonic missiles from sea and air carriers, as well as from space platforms.


Nikolay Protopopov

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