Analysis: Russian Navy Tests Tor-M2KM air defense missile system from Admiral Grigorovich Frigate

Naval Technology - Russia
Analysis: Russian Navy Tests Tor-M2KM air defense missile system from Admiral Grigorovich Frigate
The Russian Navy is testing the Tor (NATO reporting name: SA-15 Gauntlet) surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. The military is trying to plug the holes in ship air defense with the advanced small-size SAM system, expert Sergei Ishchenko writes in an article on the Svobodnaya Pressa news website.
Video: Russian Navy Tests Tor-M2KM air defense missile system from Admiral Grigorovich FrigateLaunch of a 9M331M surface to air missile from the self-contained combat module 9K331MKM short-range missile system Tor-M2KM, placed on the helicopter deck of the head frigate Admiral Grigorovich of Project 11356. Screenshot from "Russia 24" video (via
At the IDEX 2017 arms show, Russian corporation Almaz-Antei showed an interesting advert video. It turned out that it had been shot in October 2016 by the Black Sea Fleet that was testing a new weapon, the Tor-M2KM SAM system. The self-contained fighting module of the Tor-M2KM, manufactured by Kupol in the city of Izhevsk, was mounted on the helipad of the Admiral Grigorovich frigate, the Project 11356 lead ship (NATO reporting name: Admiral Grigorovich-class). It was loaded onto the deck by means of an ordinary wharf crane and then was fixed in position with steel chains like a helicopter. It launched SAMs at simulated cruise missiles, and the tests were a success, judging by the video.

Initially, the mobile Tor SAM system was being developed solely as a provider of air defense for army divisions on the march and in position in the 1980s. Since the transporter-erector-launcher-and-radar (TELAR) vehicle proved to be very good, soon the Navy wanted it too. Its ship-based short-range version, designated Kinzhal (SA-N-9 Gauntlet), was derived. It is able to deal with any up-to-date air threats at a range of 1.5-12 km and has been installed on all Project 1155 (Udaloy II) antisubmarine warfare destroyers, Admiral Kuznetsov (Kuznetsov-class) aircraft carrier and Pyotr Veliky (Kirov-class) nuclear-powered guided missile battlecruiser.

The Kinzhal SAM system is bulky enough (its on-deck segment alone measures 113 sq.m) and rather heavy (41.5 tons) and has a crew of 13. On the other hand, the Tor-M2KM’s fighting module weighs almost thrice as little - mere 15 tons. According to its manufacturer, one needs only any horizontal platform 2.5 m wide and at least 7.1 m long without any mechanical or hydraulic actuators to link the Tor-M2KM to the platform. The module has all it takes to fight - the special equipment, computer system, radar, optics, missiles, operator compartment, self-contained and backup systems with an organic fuel store, life support, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

In other words, the Tor-M2KM can be mounted in no time not only almost on any surface combatant of a rather modest displacement but on a truck as well, or, say, on the roof of a high-rise. This is granted by the module’s complete self-contained operating capability afforded by its organic power supply in the form of a gas-turbine power plant.
Russia 24 video
What is more, the SAM system is actually a very compact fighting robotic system, because the automation of its operation has been maximized. Only fancy, it goes from standby to full alert in 3 min., has an organic radar capable of acquiring 144 air targets and simultaneously tracking the 20 most dangerous ones, its crew of only two have only to mark one target as the priority for engagement as the module begins to autotrack three more within the field of fire and gives them the good news - a SAM each.

The maximum range of the Tor-M2KM’s missiles is 3 km longer than that of the Kinzhal’s SAMs. This is important in the lightning-fast battles against enemy aircraft and missiles. The kill probability featured by the Tor-M2KM’s SAMs is at least 0.98.

Thus, this is a radically sophisticated and up-to-date ship-borne AD weapon. However, what is it designed for? Presumably, the answer lies in the participants in the trials onboard the Admiral Grigorovich. According to an official news release, engineers and designers from the Severnoye and Zelenodolsk design bureaux are taking part in the tests along with personnel of Kupol and the Navy Shipbuilding and Armament Research Institute. Let us take a closer look at the fact.

Now, the Zelenodolsk Design Bureau’s priority is to build a large series of Project 21631 (Buyan-M-class) guided missile corvettes.

The Buyan-M was designed for the Black Sea Fleet and Caspian Flotilla. Its purpose initially was to guard and defend the country’s exclusive economic zones. Since it was believed that it would not have to operate too far away from the shore, the Buyan-M was made capable of navigating rivers as well. The ship’s narrow beam (11 m) and low draught (2.6 m) enable her to negotiate the locks of the Volga-Baltic Waterway easily. Her waterjets are not designed for high-seas operations either. In October 2016, Buyan-Ms headed for the Baltic Fleet around Europe. The cruise through the Atlantic highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses of the class. Their total vulnerability to air attack became obvious. Certainly, the designers who conceived the class for riverine and sea operations believed that strong air defense was unnecessary for it. Hence, to save room for the Kalibr (SS-N-27 Sizzler) missiles, they limited themselves to the fitting of the Buyan-M with a pair of pedestal-mounted launchers of the 3M47 Gibka system.

Hence, it is a natural that the advent of new missions for the Buyan-M fleet has made the designers rack their brains how to make the ships more capable in terms of air defense, and the Admiral Grigorovich-tested compact self-contained fighting module of the Tor-M2KM SAM system may well come in handy.

The assumption is bolstered by the Central Design Bureau of Apparatus Engineering having developed a cutting-edge active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar specifically for the Buyan-M. However, a combination of an AESA radar and the Gibka short-range SAM system would be nonsense onboard the Buyan-M corvette. However, the AESA radar providing air defense side by side with the Tor-M2KM would be quite another kettle of fish.

Severnoye’s interest in the Tor-M2KM should be noted too. The third Project 11356 frigate, named Admiral Makarov, has been unable to pass its official tests for the third year at a stretch. The principal cause is serious problems with its Shtil-1 (SA-N-12 Grizzly) SAM system. The problem has been publicly admitted by Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov the other day in the course of the Unified Military and Industry Materiel Delivery Reporting Day, expert Sergei Ishchenko reminds in his article published by the Svobodnaya Pressa news portal.

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