With the initiation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, the aerial presence of combat platforms assumes significant importance. Observers with expertise have expanded their surveillance not only to ground activities but also to aerial maneuvers.
Attack aircraft and helicopters, being the primary menace to tank formations and various armored vehicles on the move, unfortunately find themselves among the prime targets for destruction. This is especially concerning considering the substantial deployment of Western and domestic anti-aircraft missile systems within the ranks of the Ukrainian armed forces.
In recent days, numerous experts from both opposing factions, who closely monitor the unfolding events, have raised inquiries regarding the lack of effectiveness of the advancing forces’ MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems), given the evident abundance of Ka-52 Alligators and Mi-28 Night Hunters in the sky. It appears that Ukraine has potentially discovered the long-awaited “antidote” to the “Stingers,” thanks to the acquisition of significant quantities of these anti-aircraft systems.
A remarkable incident occurred involving a single Ka-52 helicopter encountering a staggering 18 MANPADS launches simultaneously. Despite the intensity of the attack, the Ka-52 returned to its base unscathed, evading any damage.
This extraordinary achievement can be attributed to the diligent efforts of Russian designers and engineers who developed a system known as Vitebsk-25, also referred to as President-S in the international market. The Vitebsk-25 air defense system has garnered recognition and is renowned for its capabilities.
Initially unveiled at Eurosatory-2010 in Paris, the Vitebsk-25 system faced skepticism from experts who doubted its ability to successfully counter a significant number of missiles. However, five years later, the Egyptian Ministry of Defense conducted rigorous testing on Russian Ka-52 helicopters, deploying numerous Igla MANPADS missiles. Astonishingly, not a single missile managed to hit the targeted helicopter equipped with the Vitebsk-25 system. Even then, some doubts persisted among journalists who questioned the possibility of Russian deception.
While a detailed specification is not available, certain Western media reports suggest that the Vitebsk-25 system incorporates laser countermeasures designed to counter surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles employing flare-enhanced infrared guidance. The system purportedly possesses the capability to detect and disrupt threats within a 120-degree azimuth and a 60-degree elevation. Additionally, the Vitebsk-25 system is equipped to detect and interfere with radar threats operating within the frequency range of four gigahertz/GHz to 18GHz.
The Vitebsk-25 system, developed by the Moscow-based concern “Radioelectronic Technologies,” employs a systematic approach to its functioning. It begins by diligently detecting missile launches and promptly notifying the crew of the impending threat. From there, it initiates its primary operations.
Passive protection measures encompass the deployment of well-known heat traps and chaff to divert incoming missiles. However, the system’s capabilities extend beyond these standard measures.
The active defense phase commences as the Vitebsk-25 system directly engages the thermal homing systems of anti-aircraft missiles by emitting infrared radiation and applies potent jamming techniques to disrupt radar-guided targets. As a result, missiles from various anti-aircraft systems obediently divert towards false targets.
The Vitebsk-25 system combines a range of sensors, including radar warning receivers, laser warning receivers, and missile approach warning sensors, to detect and locate incoming threats. It then employs a variety of countermeasures, such as chaff, flares, and electronic jamming, to confuse or disable the incoming missiles.
Key features of the Vitebsk-25 system include its ability to detect and jam radar signals while also producing decoy signals to confound enemy radar systems. Furthermore, it possesses the capability to detect and track incoming missiles, offering countermeasures to defeat them.
An essential attribute of the Vitebsk-25 system is its fully automatic mode, enabling rapid response to threats without requiring extensive input from the aircraft’s crew. This feature greatly enhances its effectiveness in combat scenarios, where split-second decisions can determine life or death outcomes.
Moreover, the Vitebsk-25 system exhibits high modularity, allowing easy integration into various aircraft types and configurations. This quality renders it a versatile and flexible solution for military forces operating a diverse fleet of aircraft.