Modifications to Russia’s Patnsir Air Defence Systems Improve Efficiency Against Storm Shadow Missiles and HIMARS Rockets

The capabilities of Russia’s Pantsir short range air defence combat vehicles against strikes from Storm Shadow radar evading cruise missiles has been significantly been improved, according to a report from representatives from the High Precision Weapons holding of the Russian state owned defence conglomerate Rostec. “All necessary alterations have been introduced to the Pantsir-S system, making it possible to increase its efficiency against ‘difficult’ projectiles and long-range missiles, including the long-range, low-visibility Storm Shadow cruise missile. The results of its combat use have proven the correctness of previously made design decisions,” a representative told the TASS state media outlet. He was at the time answering questions regarding upgrades to the system introduced since the beginning of escalated military operations in Ukraine. The Storm Shadow has been in use in Ukraine since May, with a single missile captured relatively intact by Russian forces in early July. Access to this was expected to help Russia develop more effective countermeasures. 

The Storm Shadow is relied on very heavily by states across much of Europe, as demonstrated by the massive proportion of strikes against Syria the previous decade which were conducted using the missiles. While in Syria Russia reportedly used its electronic warfare capabilities to bring down American Tomahawk cruise missiles, which were subsequently sent to Russia for study, the capture of the Storm Shadow has presented similar opportunities. A missile was confirmed on July 7 to have been handed over to specialists for examination. A near identical sister to the Storm Shadow, the SCALP cruise missile developed for the French Air Force, began deliveries to Ukraine in July, with these expected to prove similarly vulnerable as Russian air defences continue to adapt to the challenges posed by radar evading missiles of their kind. Alongside improved capabilities against these air launched cruise missiles, which when first deployed had caused significant difficulties for Russian forces, a Rostec representative also claimed that upgraded Pantsir systems had gained a much improved efficiency against American HIMARS rocket artillery systems. These are also precision guided and have played a much greater role in the war effort than European air launched weapons due to their greater abundance and the scarcity of combat aircraft available to launch Scalps and Storm Shadows.

Russia has also notably invested in improving the capabilities of its air defence network against threats posed by very small low speed drones, which its defences have continued to prove deficient against allowing Ukraine and its partners to launch multiple successful strikes on civilian infrastructure in the capital Moscow. A wide range of new drones and precision guided weapons have been able to be integrated relatively seamlessly into Ukraine’s armed forces due to the extensive access it has been provided to NATO military satellite networks for guidance, communications and reconnaissance, as well as due to the massive presence of Western personnel on the ground in roles ranging from frontline combat to training and logistics. Contractors from across the Western world have also played significant and growing roles in the war effort.