Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kapustin Yar Imagery Update

Google Earth has provided updated imagery of Kapustin Yar Missile Test Range (KYMTR). The new imagery, uploaded on 12 January 2010, was captured in May of 2009. This new imagery highlights one of the more significant areas of the test range, the system checkout facility.

It should be noted that this facility is not explicitly known to be associated with research and development, although it could certainly perform tasks in that capacity. R&D is handled by various locations to the northeast, which remain obscured as they are only currently visible in medium resolution. This facility is tied to the preparation of tested systems for operational use, and as such any significant activity is a sign that new systems are going to be operational in the near future.

The SAM system checkout facility at KYMTR, seen in the image below, is an evaluation center used to ensure that newly-produced SAM systems are in full working order before delivery to operational units or export customers. Typically, SAM systems will arrive at KYMTR and be fully evaluated, to include test firings to gauge the performance of the radar systems. There are five primary areas or interest in the evaluation center. These consist of separate pads for battle management and EW radars, firing battery components, and target launch systems.
It comes as no suprise that most of the activity at the KYMTR evaluation center appears focused on the S-300P and S-400 strategic SAM systems. Various components of each system can be seen in the available imagery. S-400 components are likely being evaluated for the Russian military, while S-300P components may be being evaluated for Russia or an export customer.

The first area of interest is the battle management radar facility. This facility consists of four large isolation chambers, each capable of housing a 64N6 or 91N6 (BIG BIRD) radar system. The radars are placed in isolation chambers to preclude interfering with each other, allowing more than one radar to be evaluated at a time, increasing the productivity of the facility. As can be seen in the image below, there are three BIG BIRD-series radars occupying the isolation chambers, with one chamber being unoccupied.
Moving northwest, the next area of interest is the likely target launch facility. Multiple 5P71 and 5P73 launch rails can be seen. These launch rails can be fitted with the 9F841 or RM-5V27 target missiles. The target launch facility can be seen in the image below:
Continuing to the northwest, the SAM firing positions can be seen, separated by a pad housing battery-level EW assets. The EW pad appears to contain two 96L6 series radar systems, along with multiple 40V6-series mast assemblies for mounting either the 96L6 or 76N6 EW radars. Each SAM pad contains four isolation chambers for the engagement radars, along with space for multiple TELs, allowing for four batteries to be evaluated at each location simultaneously.

The northern SAM pad appears to be evaluating S-300P series systems, with 5P85SM and 5P85T TELs in residence. These systems may be overhauled Russian examples being returned to line service, or prepared for export.

The southern SAM pad contains 5P85T and 5P85T2 TELs. 5P85T2 TELs can be visually differentiated from 5P85T TELs at this resolution with relative ease as the spare tire mounting on the right side of the cabin can clearly be seen. The presence of the 5P85T2 indicates that an S-400 battery is being evaluated. While the 5P85TE2 has been exported to China as part of the S-300PMU-2 (SA-20B GARGOYLE), all of China's batteries had been delivered by the time the imagery was captured. Taken in that light, these components are most likely belonging to a Russian S-400 battery. Russia will take delivery of S-400 batteries in 2010 to supplement the two batteries currently in service, and these components likely represent the first of those new batteries. The lack of any engagement radars at this location suggests that the TELs are being held pending the completion of production of other components, possibly including the engagement radar.

Given that there are three complete sets of TELs visible, one of which is likely for an S-400 battery, it is possible that one of the BIG BIRD radars visible at the battle management radar facility is a 91N6 variant.

The EW checkout pad can be seen in the image below:
The northern SAM checkout pad can be seen in the image below:
The southern SAM checkout pad can be seen in the image below:


Christian said...


RAJ47 said...

Gr8 analysis work.

Roy said...

Thanks for the in depth analysis of this historic site !
I have a question, though: how can one know for sure that the photos are form May 2009?

Sean O'Connor said...

The bottom left-hand corner of the images shows the date the imagery was taken.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sean!
There is some more interesting equipment out in the range around here 48.771160° 46.305256°.
Recent Layer offers 96L6 at 48.769931° 46.301150° and a 5P85T2 at 48.774114° 46.310452°.
If you open the history layer (July 10th 2002) there are two 9S19 High Screen at 48.773130° 46.308103°.
Cheers from bernd reuter

Sean O'Connor said...

Good stuff, but that isn't a 5P85T2. Don't know what it is but it definitely isn't an S-300/400 series TEL.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Big Birds:
I measured some drawings for MAZ-7910 (64N6 truck) and MZKT-7930 (91N6 truck) which you can find at

The length of the huge cabin of the MAZ is about 5,2m. The MZKT has a smaller cabin which measures 3,5m.
The trailer itself remains unchanged and cannot be placed „bend“ or to an angle when uncoupled from the truck.
To place the whole vehicle (Truck and trailer) in a bended kind can only happend when truck and trailer get turned around at the point where the trailer coupler is placed.
In so far I think that the bended Big Bird which we see „in the middle“ (48.660340° 45.698468°) is not just a trailer but a trailer coupled to the truck and that the shorter cabin hint for a 91N6 Version.

Cheers from bernd reuter

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