Incapable Of Shooting ‘Low Altitude’ Targets, Russia Says Its S-350 Vityaz Much Superior To US’ Patriots

Top Russian military analyst claims that Russia’s latest S-350 Vityaz surface-to-air missile system is much more accurate than the American Patriot missile system and will also be cheaper.

“The American equipment is always more overestimated. The Vityaz will be far cheaper than the similar Patriot system. It is far more advantageous to buy Vityaz systems as Russia is a considerably more reliable partner than the US,” said Alexander Mikhailov, the Director of the Military-Political Analysis Bureau, a Russian think tank based in Moscow.

Mikhailov made these remarks during the Aero India 2023 international air show, held at Yelahanka Air Force base in Bangalore in southern India on February 13-17.

According to Mikhailov, the Vityaz anti-aircraft missile system is comparable to the US-made Patriot missile system in terms of operational characteristics, but Russian missiles fly faster and have the capability of striking low-flying targets.

“The Patriot does not shoot down targets flying at an altitude of lower than 100 meters, whereas the Vityaz knocks out targets at an altitude of 10 meters and higher,” the Russian expert told Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency.

50P6 missile launcher of S-350E system at 2013 MAKS Airshow (Wikipedia)

The Vityaz’s export version is displayed at the Aero India 2023 air show. Mikhailov expressed confidence that the system will evoke the interest of potential buyers in Asia, including India.

“India is traditionally our serious partner in anti-missile and air defense, and they buy our military hardware well. India is in first place among our military-technical partners regarding the contracts signed. Therefore, I believe that the Vityaz will also evoke the great interest of our potential buyers in the Asian market. The task of this system is to be our major brand for export sales,” he said.

A representative of the Design Bureau of Russia’s Almaz-Antey aerospace defense manufacturer at the Aero India 2023 air show also said that the export version of the Vityaz air defense system held good prospects on any world market.

“The system boasts excellent target detection, tracking, and destruction capabilities in its class,” he explained.

S-350 Vityaz Vs. Patriot

The S-350 Vityaz is a medium-range surface-to-air missile system developed and manufactured by the Russian Defense Company Almaz-Antey. The development work on the system began in the early 1990s, and its first flight test occurred in 2013.

The system was unveiled for the first time to the public during the 2013 MAKS Air Show in Moscow, and the Russian military received its first batch of S-350 systems in December 2019.

M-104 Patriot is produced by Raytheon in Massachusetts and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Florida. It is the primary air defense missile system used by the US Army and many NATO allies besides the THAAD.

File: Patriot-3 Missile

The maximum range of the system is 70 kilometers. The PAC-2 variant can intercept targets up to an altitude of 20 kilometers and the PAC-3 up to 40 kilometers.

Whereas the S-350 system can fire the 9M96 guided missile, which can be deployed against aerial and ballistic threats at a range between 1.5 to 120 kilometers and an altitude of 10 to 30,000 meters (or 30 kilometers).

The S-350 can also fire the 9M100 short-range guided missile with a maximum firing range of ten kilometers. The 9M100 can destroy various aerial threats, including aircraft, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and cruise missiles.

The system relies on the 50N6 radar that can track 100 objects and engage eight targets simultaneously over a distance exceeding 200 kilometers.

Meanwhile, the Patriot relies on the AN/MPQ-53/65 Radar Set, a passive electronically scanned array radar equipped with IFF, electronic counter-countermeasure (ECCM), and track-via-missile (TVM) guidance subsystems.

The PAC-2 units are equipped with the AN/MPQ-53 Radar Set, while the PAC-3 units are fitted with the AN/MPQ-65 Radar Set. The AN/MPQ-53 is said to track 100 targets simultaneously and support up to nine missile engagements.

Overall, the Patriot is effective against ballistic missiles and aircraft. Still, it is said to fall short against unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as those used by Yemeni rebels against Saudi Arabia or Iranian-made kamikaze drones used by Russia in Ukraine.

Also, the Patriot missile system has come under the scanner in the past because of problems with its software which uses advanced computer algorithms to determine a target’s speed and altitude, as well as its radio transponder signal in the case of an airplane.

The flaws in the software caused a series of disasters that brought the Patriot system a lot of flak. A Patriot battery shot down a British Royal Air Force Tornado fighter bomber flying to Kuwait from a mission over Iraq in March 2003, resulting in the crew member’s death.

The shootdown was caused because the system’s radar misidentified the aircraft as an anti-radiation missile (ARM) capable of destroying air defense radars by homing in on their emissions.

The same month, a Patriot battery hooked its radar on a US Air Force F-16 in preparation for a missile launch. However, the F-16 pilot avoided the mishap by shooting at the battery with a radar-seeking missile 48 kilometers south of the Iraqi city of Najaf. The incident did not result in any casualties of the US personnel.

The following month, a Patriot system again shot down a US Navy F/A-18 over southern Iraq, killing the pilot. The Patriot system is said to have assumed the fighter jet was an Iraqi missile. The pilot had seen the incoming missile and even attempted to evade it.

Has The S-350 Already Been Exported?

So far, the Russian military is known to be the only operator of the S-350 system. However, in August last year, satellite imagery surfaced suggesting that Algeria may have acquired the Russian-made S-350 ‘Vityaz’ air defense system, which, so far, is known to be operated only by the Russian military, meaning Algeria could be the first foreign customer of this system.

Images Purportedly Showing S-350 Air Defense System (Twitter)

So far, there is no official confirmation from Algeria or Russia about selling this air defense system. However, there was an indication when an Algerian TV network showed images of the S-350 in the background of the Algerian Army Chief of Staff General Said Chengriha and even during the meetings of Algerian Defense officials.

The Algerian TV network aired these images only about a week after the Russian military had received its first batch of S-350 systems on December 23, 2019.

Algeria has historically had close defense ties with Moscow, dating back to the Soviet era. Those ties have only strengthened in recent years, mainly because of its arch-rival Morocco cultivating close relations with Israel and the US.

Algeria had deployed these alleged S-350 systems near the border with Morocco. Reports at the time suggested that Algeria could have deliberately leaked the photos to send a message to Morocco after its recent purchase of the Barak MX air defense system from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).