Russian Air Defenses Are World’s Best, but Could the Americans Simply Overwhelm Them With Numbers?

The US can afford to expend numerous missiles and converted decoy drones to saturate Russian defenses and deplete their ammunition

Historically, the Air and Missile Defense Forces (Voyska Protivovozdushnoy i Protivoraketnoy Oborony—PVO-PRO) have constituted one of the main strengths of the Soviet/Russian Armed Forces and an indispensable national security element (, June 27, 2012).

From late 2018 to early 2019, Russia has showcased a number of new achievements that will purportedly reinforce its existing PVO-PRO systems, with special emphasis placed on short- and medium-range complexes (see Part One in EDM, April 30).

However, in spite of the highly publicized progress, some leading Russian military experts have voiced concerns and posed serious questions about the ostensible “omnipotence” of the Russian PVO-PRO systems.

In a relatively recent article published by Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, leading Russian military expert Alexander Khramchikhin expresses his doubts, stating that the declared invincibility of the Russian PVO-PRO might in fact seriously diverge from reality.

Specifically, Khramchikhin suggests that both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO—with the United States as its leading force) and China (whose strategic alliance with Russia, he says, is “nothing but rhetoric”) are capable of overcoming or destroying Russia’s PVO-PRO system.

Regarding the former opponent, the expert argues that, in case of hostilities, the US can easily turn quantity into quality “by simply ‘pounding’ Russian anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems with large numbers of Tomahawks, AGM-86, AGM-158, [and] JASSM-ER [cruise missiles]…

Aside from this, QF-16А/Сs [remote-control-capable drones built from aging F-16 fighter jet platforms], which are formally considered to be nothing but [full-scale] aerial [practice] targets, will most certainly be used as unmanned combat aerial vehicles [UCAV] for delivering maximum damage to the Russian PVO-PRO system…

This will be primarily directed at our S-300/400 systems to exhaust their ammunition and make them useless targets that can be easily destroyed” (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, March 29).

Khramchikhin writes that, based on elementary mathematical calculations, Russia simply does not have enough PVO-PRO systems to ward off a massive aerial attack from a much stronger adversary, such as the US.

He goes on to suggest that “Americans can allow themselves to ‘waste’ several hundred missiles and QF-16s (that have already become relatively obsolete) to destroy every regiment (especially, those located outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and have no ‘backing’ from other regiments). Yes, this is quite expensive, but they have enough money” (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, March 29).

In addition, Khramchikhin admits that China also has a huge arsenal of various types of ballistic and cruise missiles (such as the DH-10/CJ-10), as well as outdated Shenyang J-6 and J-7 fighters that “are already being transformed into UCAVs for the same purpose: delivering maximum damage against a strong PVO-PRO system.”

According to Khramchikhin, “This problem is becoming more and more serious… We can actually witness it now unfolding on a limited scale in Syria” (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, March 29).

Incidentally, as Khramchihin contended last year, it is on Russia’s eastern flank where existing PVO-PRO systems reveal multiple flaws and “inadequacy with regard to the challenges faced by Russia” (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye,November 22, 2018).

Source: Jamestown Foundation

  1. wimroffel says

    We see this already playing out in Syria. Regularly there are reports that Israel fired a lot of missiles, Syria’s air defense captured most but a few reached their target. No doubt both sides are analyzing what happens and seeking improvements.

  2. Хасен Жасем Халфет says

    can’t happen. I don’t like this kind of analysts who try to explore more options but ignore simple facts. it is true that they have many missiles. but also S-300/400 are not the only systems used for defence. in fact to shoot down cruise missiles Tor-Buk and Pantsir are the designated systems to do it. the S-300V4 and S-400 missiles are too valuable to spend on ammunition: they are used to counter the vectors (airplanes). now the number of Buk-Tor-Pantsir (nearly 800 systems of them are in service) and they will be supplemented by Vityaz – Morfei. that’s to say all missile will actually be launshed while a full scale operations will see Aircraft destroyed by S-400/300V4 and ships being destroyed by Tsirkon-Kinzhal-Onyx before they even launch their missiles (to target moscow and St. Peterburg you need to be in barents/baltic in range for all defencive systems of the russian armed forces)

  3. storbjorn1 says

    When and if russua is overwhelmed then they willll simply use nukes to counter these. Doctrine of “when security of the state is threatened- use nukes.

  4. skinner15 says

    Russia has access to hundreds of obsolete aircraft, which could also be turned into drone attack vehicles, to saturate NATO airbases. This would also deplete NATO air-defence to the point where they would have nothing left to counter the Iskanders and all the other lethal missiles of Russia heading their way. Don’t forget the Russian airforce also having a clear run.

    Sergey should consider both sides of the facts, as I’m sure NATO and Russian military planners do.

  5. JustPassingThrough says

    i think the author should consider that the russian response will also be offensive. no?
    why is this a one-sided view?
    what is the agenda behind this piece of elementary math?
    “The Jamestown Foundation is a Washington, D.C.-based institute for research and analysis, founded in 1984 as a platform to support Soviet defectors. Today its stated mission is to inform and educate policy makers about events and trends, which it regards as being of current strategic importance to the United States.”

    It’s just Sergey earning his daily bread working for the man. lmao

    1. YY4U says

      I agree, it is not like Russia is going to set there while their air defense is being destroyed. It would be hard to launch Tomahawks from the deck of a Guided Missile Destroyer at the bottom of the sea. Or take off in a converted F16 with craters in the runways!

      1. Jesus says

        Subsonic cruise missiles are handled relatively easy and shot down with Pantsir and Tor SHORAD defense, as Syrian experience showed us, first wave of NATO aircraft attacking will be faced with S300 and S400 defenses, EW and superiority fighters Suk 30 and 35. In meantime Iskander missile brigades would pulverize airfields command and control centers creating a problem for the launched aircraft.
        Given the F35’s ineptitude to fly sustained sorties for a few weeks, renders US Air Force to use its F-16 and F-15 as their workhorse, the air defenses comprising of the S300 and S400 with their selection of missiles for amlayered defense would be far greater in numbers than the aircraft in the air.
        I do not see NATO AirPower having the numbers nor the fortitude to destroy Russian integrated air defense systems.

  6. Inferior says

    I would say it isn’t just that easy and simple. While Russians are bombed do we supposed to believe they will be in a tent gulping Vodka?

  7. Eol Awki says

    The author fails miserably at presenting a realistic perspective. The fact is that in the event of such a war action taking place, Russia would immediately target the launchers of these weapons, whether they be sea, air or land-based. Russia’s hypersonic missiles can not be stopped by American defences. Carrier attack groups would be taken out quickly, as would land-based missile launchers. Any aircraft able to get close enough to Russian borders to be effective would also be taken out. Unless the USA and its allies have an infinite supply of launchers, they will fail to get the desired results. And Russia has already clearly indicated that they will directly attack American shores with their stealthy and quiet submarines and bombers carrying hypersonic missiles that can wipe out military port cities on US and foreign soil within minutes.

    The USA must get this idea that they can survive a war with Russia.

    1. Michael Brown says

      And this is obviously a anti American people know damn well Russia cannot deafeat the US in a war so yes they would probably resort to there default “use nukes policy”. Trust me good people RUSSIA DOEST NOT WANT IT WITH US🇺🇸 PERIOD.

      1. muIvica Repic says

        Really? Your army cannot defeat a Talibans in Afganistan,let alone Russians

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