Sky defender: Russia unveils S-300 SAM replacement (VIDEO)

Russia has for the first time demonstrated the short-to-mid-range air defense platform ‘Vityaz,’ which will replace older variants of the S-300 system due to be scrapped soon. The army will begin testing the new hardware later this year.

The new surface-to-air missile system is made by Russian weapons manufacturer Almaz-Antey. The company demonstrated the system at the Obukhov State Plant in St. Petersburg, home to its branch that manufactures the Vityaz launchers.

Vityaz SAM launcher (RIA Novosti / Michael Klimentyev)

The system boasts advanced all-aspect phased array radar, a new mobile command post and a launcher carrying 12 vertical-launch missiles, which will use a variant of the 9M96 active radar homing missile. Similar missiles are used by the S-400, the newer generation of the S-300, which is currently being deployed in Russia.

Vityaz launchers can also fire a short-range missile that was not officially identified, but is likely a variant of the 9M100.

“I believe the system will be able to engage target within ranges from 30km to 120km,” Said Aminov, military analyst and editor of the World of Air Defense website told RT. “It’s a system of object air defense with some element of tactical antimissile defense.”

Almaz-Antey aims to hand over the system to the Russian Defense Ministry for testing before the year’s end, company head Vladislav Menshikov told Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was inspecting the plant.

The company partially based the design of the Vityaz on its work with the South Korean KM-SAM Chun Koong system. Almaz-Antey designed three radar units for the KM-SAM, and is rumored to have also helped design the system’s missiles.

The Russian military officially backed the Vityaz project – which has better capabilities than the Korean air defense system – after studying its performance, Almaz-Antey said in 2010. The new Russian system has been in the works since 2007, and is expected to be completed in record time.

The ministry earlier said it plans to buy at least 30 Vityaz systems before 2020, if it passes testing, and deployment of the platforms could start as early as next year.

KM-SAM Chun Koong (image from http://www.militaryphotos.net)

Vityaz was designed as a replacement for the S-300PS, an older variant of the S-300 air defense system developed in the early 1980s. The Russian army is expected to decommission about 50 of the S-300PS by 2015 due to old age.

The name of the system comes from an archaic Slavic word for a noble warrior. It is shared by the famous aerobatic team known as the Russkie Vityazi (‘Russian Knights’).

Russia plans to deploy the Vityaz system alongside other advanced air defense weapons, including the service-ready S-400 and Pantsir-S1, and the future long-range S-500 and short-range Morfei. Moscow aims to create a multi-layered grid to cover Russia’s airspace, defending against threats ranging from drones, to conventional manned aircraft, to cruise and ballistic missiles.

S-400 Triumf anti-aicraft missile system (RIA Novosti / Alexander Vilf)