Thursday, August 21, 2008

Kaliningrad's Strategic Air Defenses


The Kaliningrad Oblast has historically been a significant strategic location for Russia. Home to the Baltic Sea Fleet and a number of other military units, the Kaliningrad Oblast provides Russia with a foothold in territory surrounded by NATO members. In light of recent worldwide events, the Kaliningrad Oblast may be undergoing a resurgence in terms of strategic importance to Russia. As such, the strategic air defense network of the Kaliningrad Oblast is a critical aspect of the region.


Currently deployed strategic air defense assets provide the Kaliningrad Oblast with a robust, modern air defense network. System deployment indicates that priority is clearly given to defending the western half of the Oblast, home to the majority of the significant military facilities and the Baltic Sea Fleet.

EW Coverage

Early warning coverage of the Kaliningrad Oblast is provided by six radar facilities. One of these facilities is home to a 300 km range 5N64S (BIG BIRD B) battle management radar controlling the Oblast's S-300PS (SA-10B GRUMBLE) batteries. Four 36D6 (TIN SHIELD) radar sites with detection ranges of 165 km are also present providing additional coverage, and a further EW site features legacy radar assets providing additional support to the network.

The following image depicts the locations of the Kaliningrad Oblast's EW sites. 36D6 sites are denoted by triangles, the 5N64S site is denoted by a hexagon, and the legacy EW site is denoted by a square.
The coverage of the 5N64S radar site provides the network with the ability to monitor the airspace over the entire Oblast, with coverage extending into Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. A significant portion of the Baltic Sea is also covered, extending to the shoreline of Sweden. The 36D6 sites, one of which being co-located with an S-300PS battery, are also situated to provide coverage of the entire Oblast as well as portions of Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The 36D6 radars are also capable of monitoring an off-shore swath of airspace, albeit to a lesser degree than the longer-ranged 5N64S. The off-shore reach of the Kaliningrad Oblast's EW radars allows them to operate with SAM batteries to provide air defense for Baltic Sea naval vessels operating in the area.

The positioning of the various radar sites provides the network with a significant degree of overlapping EW coverage. The 36D6 radars can also provide targeting support to the S-300PS batteries should the 5N64S radar be rendered inoperable. While this would result in a loss of range with respect to target acquisition, the 36D6 sites are positioned in a manner that ensures that the engagement zones of the S-300PS batteries are not affected. The relatively low, flat terrain in the surrounding areas also ensures that a reliance on the less sophisticated 36D6 radar sets, which can be mounted on 40V6 mast assemblies for increased low-altitude detection capability in areas of rough terrain, would not result in a significant degradation of target acquisition functions.

The following image depicts the coverage of the Kaliningrad Oblast's 5N64S and 36D6 EW sites:
Active Sites

Strategic air defense of the Kaliningrad Oblast is provided by six SAM sites. Five of these sites are occupied by mobile S-300PS SAM systems with maximum engagement ranges of 90 km. The sixth site is the sole remaining S-200 (SA-5 GAMMON) SAM site still actively serving with the Russian air defense network. The S-200 has a maximum engagement range of 300 km.

The following image depicts the operational SAM sites in the Kaliningrad Oblast. S-300PS sites are denoted by red diamonds, with the S-200 site being denoted by a purple diamond.
The S-300PS sites are all situated within 11 kilometers of the shoreline in the westernmost portion of the Oblast. Their proximity provides a layered air defense capability over the city of Kaliningrad and the Baltic Sea home port. The multiple target engagement capability, 6 targets per battery, and effectiveness of the system against low RCS targets represents a significant threat to any potential airborne aggressor. The deployment of S-300PS batteries in lieu of more modern S-300PM (SA-20 GARGOYLE) batteries appears at first glance to be intended to protect the more advanced variants from being exploited by ELINT collection platforms in the area, potentially enabling vulnerabilities to be discovered that would put areas protected by S-300PM batteries at increased risk during times of war. However, following the delivery of the S-300PMU-1 to NATO member Greece and deployment of S-300PMU-1 batteries along the Chinese coastline, exposing them to EP-3 ELINT aircraft, it is more likely that the S-300PS was retained for air defense of Kaliningrad because deployment of the longer-ranged S-300PM was not deemed necessary to ensure adequate air defense coverage.

The S-200 battery is centrally located within the Oblast, but the system's 300 kilometer maximum range allows it to range targets inside of Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania. The system also offers a significant off-shore capability. While the S-200 is no longer a reliable system for engaging maneuverable targets such as fighter aircraft, it remains a significant threat to ISR platforms. The significant reach of the system both offshore and into the surrounding NATO member states would provide Russian air defense commanders with the ability to threaten ISR platforms operating in close proximity to Kaliningrad but remaining outside the engagement zones of the S-300PS batteries.

The following image depicts the engagement zones of the Kaliningrad Oblast's strategic SAM batteries:
Imagery of the S-200 site, seen below, suggests that two of the three batteries remain active, allowing the system to potentially engage two targets simultaneously.
Inactive Sites

There are currently nine inactive strategic SAM sites that have been identified within the Kaliningrad Oblast. These sites are prepared S-75 (SA-2 GUIDELINE), S-125 (SA-3 GOA), and S-300P sites. One tactical 2K12 (SA-4 GANEF) deployment site has also been located and is included here although tactical SAM coverage is outside the scope of this article. During hostilities, these inactive sites could be exploited to provide dispersal sites for the Oblast's resident S-300PS batteries. While only two of the sites are operationally configured for the S-300P, all of the sites would at least provide a degree of protection for the components thanks to the presence of different revetment configurations. Alternatively, S-300P series batteries could be deployed to the area to take up residence at some or all of the sites to bolster the air defense capability of the Oblast.

It should be noted that the 5N83 battle management complex employed by the S-300PS, which includes the 5N64S battle management radar, is capable of supporting six S-300PS batteries. Were there to be multiple S-300P series batteries introduced into the region, one or more additional 5N83 complexes would be needed to be deployed as well.

The following image depicts the inactive SAM sites located in the Kaliningrad Oblast:
Overall Layout

The following image depicts the entirety of the strategic air defense related network of sites within the Kaliningrad Oblast:
The following image depicts the overall coverage areas of both the SAM and EW assets in the Kaliningrad Oblast. This image highlights the overlapping layout of the entire network, depicting how the EW and SAM sites are positioned to support and defend each other. The multiple target engagement capability of the S-300PS, combined with the expansive EW coverage, allows the Kaliningrad Oblast air defense network to effectively repulse a small-scale strike package, perhaps designed to target and eliminate nuclear missiles in the area. The S-300PS network could engage a total of 30 targets simultaneously, and would be backed up by an Su-27 (FLANKER-B) interceptor unit in the area. Anything less than a full-scale aerial invasion of the Oblast would be an extremely difficult operation to successfully accomplish without risking severe losses and potential failure, inviting a Russian response which could conceivably escalate into an environment where a nuclear exchange is a definite possibility.

Modernization efforts for the Kaliningrad Oblast's air defense network have been discussed in the open press as far back as 2001. Russian officials have stated that the extant S-200 complex will remain operational until it is replaced by the new S-400 (SA-21). S-400 batteries are currently being assigned to the Moscow air defense network, and it could be assumed that it will be some time before a battery is available for assignment to the Kaliningrad Oblast given Moscow's higher strategic priority. However, given the deteriorating relationship between Russia and NATO, replacing the S-200 complex with the S-400 may take on an increased priority in the near term. It is also possible that 150 km range S-300PM batteries displaced by S-400 units around Moscow could be reassigned to the Oblast to replace the older S-300PS batteries.

Were the SAM units to be upgraded, upgrading the EW network would also be necessary, particularly to support the S-400. The 5N64S battle management radar and associated 5N83 battle management complex would need to be replaced by the newer 30K6 complex and 600 km range 91N6 (BIG BIRD E) radar. A one-for-one replacement of S-300PS batteries by S-300PM batteries would necessitate the presence of a single 30K6 complex, capable of handling up to six S-300P and/or S-400 series batteries. Replacement of the 36D6 radar systems with newer 300 km range 96L6 radar systems is also a possibility as these systems were designed to operate with S-300PM and S-400 batteries.

Postulating the replacement of 36D6, 5N64S, S-300PS, and S-200 units with 96L6, 91N6, S-300PM, and S-400 units respectively, the following image depicts the potential coverage of the future Kaliningrad Oblast air defense network. Two range rings are provided for the S-400, one depicting the 240 km engagement range of the 48N6DM missile currently deployed with the system and one depicting the 400 km engagement range of the future 40N6 missile.
As can clearly be seen, such a modernization of the air defense network would significantly enhance the coverage area. The detection range of the EW assets would enable targets to be detected over the entirety of Poland and the Baltic Sea. Increased engagement ranges allow the western-sited S-300PM sites to combine with the S-400 battery to provide overlapping fields of fire over the entirety of the Oblast, bringing the eastern portion of the territory under the protection of a modern SAM system allowing for potential surface-to-surface missile units to be dispersed over a greater expanse and still remain under the protective umbrella of the network. This capability would potentially allow SSM units to deploy without organic tactical air defense support, aiding in their concealment during wartime as there would not be nearby SAM units giving off tell-tale radar emissions. Increasing the difficulty of locating and targeting any such missile units would increase their effectiveness as a potential nuclear deterrent.


As relations between Russia and the NATO powers have progressively deteriorated for a number of factors, to include Western political opinion regarding Russian military action in the Caucasus, insinuations have been made that Russia may place nuclear-armed missiles inside the Kaliningrad Oblast as a counter to American missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic. Regardless of whether or not this comes to pass, air defense of the Kaliningrad Oblast will continue to be a strategic priority for Russia, helping to ensure the continued security of its foothold inside territory dominated by NATO members.


The range rings and site locations used in the imagery in this article can be downloaded as a Google Earth placemark file here.


-Satellite imagery provided by Google Earth and Kosmosnimki

S-200 Remains In Service
Russia Severs Military Ties With NATO
Nuclear Kaliningrad?
New Missiles in Kaliningrad?
The S-300P
NPO Almaz
Jane's Land-based Air Defence, various editions


PS860 said...

Very interesting post, as always. You may add another air defence asset to the Kaliningrad order of battle. The 43d SAM brigade, garrisoned in Znamensk and equipped with S-300V, would be an important contribution to the air defence of Kaliningrad. Unfortunately, Znamensk (54°36'38"N 21°13'22"E) is still in low resolution.

Sean O'Connor said...

I think the only places you can actually see S-300V components are Birobidzhan, Orenberg, Smolensk, and Strugi Krasnyye. S-300Vs in Kaliningrad are a great ATBM asset but they don't really add anything that significant to the picture, especially once the S-400 moves in to take over the place.

Anonymous said...

Curious about one thing ...when you draw circles of radar or missile coverage - what target height is assumed?

Sean O'Connor said...

I'm simply using the maximum quoted ranges for the system. Most modern systems are capable of target detection or engagement at relatively low altitude even at their max range anyway, provided you don't get into a line of sight issue with the Earth's curvature. For example, when mounted at sea level, BIG BIRD's radar horizon at 300 kilometers is 5292 meters. At some point I will generate an example of an actual engagement envelope diagram for a SAM system and explain how to figure out where and when targets can actually be engaged.

If you look at the Chinese Air Defense piece from I think January, I do describe how terrain can significantly impact the range and field of view of a SAM system. But, if I tried to generate rings demonstrating a wholly accurate terrain picture, I'd get nowhere. It'd take way too much time.

The bottom line is that while the rings aren't truly 100% accurate, they are as accurate as necessary for most applications seeing as how the system does in fact have a capability at that range.

Anonymous said...

sorry for the stupid question: how do you make those rings
on ge? there seems to be no such mark.

Sean O'Connor said...

I use the Google Earth Circle Generator tool, found here:

Anonymous said...

Great job!
I think there are nont only new radar system (BIG BIRD, THIN SHIELD etc.). We can see on the pictures aslo old russian radars: K-66, P-37 and many high finders.

Anonymous said...

This Russian air defense network in Kaliningrad is now defenseless against any NATO air strike. One stealth cruise missile salvo (JSOW-ER, JASSM, Taurus, SCALP) could destroy it and/or important targets in Kaliningrad Oblast very easily not mention about S-300PS vulnerability to modern jamming.

Anonymous said...

Why are not there any Clam Shell low-altitude detection radars present in the Kaliningrad Oblast?

Sean O'Connor said...

There are CLAM SHELL radars present, but they are not marked separately as they are co-located with the S-300PS batteries.

Anonymous said...

I see.

Yet, could you explain to me difference between CLAM SHELL and TIN SHIELD radars? I guess both are battery level acquisition radars but first of them detects only low level targets and the latter medium and high altitude threats. Moreover at battalion level there is longer range BIG BIRD acquisition (EW) radar present. So I think S-300P battalion can work without TIN SHIELD radars active while FLAP LID engagement radars get target information from CLAM SHELL (low-level coverage) and BIG BIRD (higher level awareness).
Besides analyzing your post about S-300P deployment sites I could not find TIN SHIELD radars in Russia. Does it mean this radar type was withdrawn from service now or it is not a part of more modern S-300P versions i.e. S-300PM and above?

Sean O'Connor said...

CLAM SHELL is a dedicated low-altitude detection system. It has a height limit of about 10,000 meters if I remember right. TIN SHIELD is used to supplement the EW coverage of the system and allow it to operate independently of the BIG BIRD radar set. TIN SHIELD and CLAM SHELL are both extra features, they are not needed for normal system operation.

China does use the TIN SHIELD with its S-300PMU-1 systems, so they are still used with the more modern variants. Russia doesn't appear to use them that often with their S-300P batteries, but that's probably due to the large number of EW assets present in the nation anyway. If you look in the SAM site file, you will see that Russia uses a lot of TIN SHIELD radars as EW assets throughout the nation.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting! This S-330P concept was developed as very modular in mind. So it seems that we have reached several conclusions:

- TIN SHIELD radar is not S-300P organic component but primarily an independent EW radar system which an be used alone.

- S-300P system can work fine only with two radars: BIG BIRD (acquisition) and FLAP LID (tracking and engagement).

However, is it possible to detect and track targets independently by FLAP LID radar? Maybe this is also sector search radar similar in concept to 9S19 HIGH SCREEN radar from S-300V system?

Sean O'Connor said...

FLAP LID does have an autonomous search capacity to allow it to perform independently. HIGH SCREEN is a pure sector scan radar, not an engagement radar! For more info on how the S-300P components relate and interact, check out the S-300P analysis feature from July of this year.

Anonymous said...

Yes, FLAP LID can detect targets autonomously but with such very narrow detection angle in elevation it can do that effectively only at high altitudes.

Having read your S-300P article I noticed you forgot to mention about S-300P missiles with nuclear (5V55S/V, 5Zh48) and passive radar homing warheads (5V55VM/PM). I think both are very important S-300P features!