The Russian Navy put land-based air defence system on warships, how effective is it?

Recent images on social media show that the Russian Vasily Bykov class corvette is equipped with a ground-based Tor surface-to-air missile system on its flight deck.

As we all know, anti-aircraft missiles and air-to-air missiles are close relatives, and there are many anti-aircraft missiles that are improved from advanced air-to-air missiles. Similarly, there are air-to-air missiles and surface-to-air missiles. Recently, however, Russia has installed a very peculiar land-based air defence missile on warships. Because they directly installed the launch module of the Tor-M2 anti-aircraft missile on the flight deck of the warship.

Photos of Russian 22160 class frigates with Tor surface-to-air missile systems mounted on the helicopter deck were recently exposed. According to Ukrainian experts, this is because the Russian Navy has lost the cruiser Moskva, and in order to avoid something similar happening, they decided to use Tor anti-aircraft missiles in this extremely crude way to intercept anti-ship missiles launched by Ukraine.

The 22160 Corvette is a new Russian-developed small-tonnage warship, or a patrol ship with a relatively large tonnage, which is mainly used for patrol monitoring and escort tasks on the high seas and closed seas. Construction of the first warship began in February 2014 and joined the Russian Navy in 2018, with 4 currently completed and a total of 6 warships planned. The Type 22160 warship has a tonnage of about 1400 tons, a hull length of about 94 meters, a width of 14 meters, a 76.2 mm AK176 naval gun, two quad-mounted missile systems for anti-ship and attack missiles, and eight man-portable missiles for anti-aircraft missiles. There were also two 14.5 mm heavy machine guns and a helicopter, generally the Ka-27. According to Russia, warships can also use 2 to 4 drones of various types.

Project 22160 Class Patrol Ships
Project 22160 Class Patrol Ships

It can be seen from the equipment of the weapons that for this warship with a displacement of 1’300 tons, the overall firepower is still very good, the disadvantage is that its air defense strength is relatively limited, but this is not to say that it is flawed, but because we look at it from a higher perspective.  Russia also plans to install a more advanced and powerful air defense system on its basis. It is precise because Russia urgently installed the Tor missile system for the warship in the Russo-Ukrainian War, although this blunt grafting is particularly rough, but compared with the original portable air defense missile, the overall protection strength of the warship has been substantially improved.

The newly installed missile launch modules are equipped with 8 to 16 anti-aircraft missiles and have a maximum range of 15 kilometers. Ukrainian experts also say the system is well suited to counter drones like the TB2 and low-speed anti-ship missiles, as well as helicopters and regular fighter jets.

Due to its geographical location, the warships of the Black Sea Fleet were clearly the focus of Ukrainian strikes. The reason why Russia urgently installed the Tor anti-aircraft missile system on the 22160-class Corvette is mainly because the four warships currently in service are in service with the Black Sea Fleet, and the two that are under construction are about to enter service with the Black Sea Fleet, which is indeed more in line with the original design goals of this warship.

Tor-M2U air defense missile systems
Tor-M2U air defense missile systems

There are not many examples of such anti-aircraft missiles being used directly to warships, such as the Previous Israeli Navy’s Saar 5-class frigates that had an Iron Dome anti-aircraft missile system on the helicopter deck, because Israel was also very afraid of all kinds of suicide drones. By the Sa’ar 6-class frigate, the Iron Dome air defense system has been integrated into the warship, and the prevention and control efficiency has been significantly improved. The Egyptian Navy has also installed the Avenger air defense system from the United States on the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship from France, so it is not particularly strange to install the anti-aircraft missiles on the warship.

However, this temporary modification of the system also has more obvious defects, first of all, the warship itself has a relatively complete radar electronic system, if the new installation of land-based air defense system, then it will produce certain interference in use, the superstructure of the warship will also have a certain impact on the detection and tracking radar. In addition, when used on the sea, the missile launch system is also susceptible to corrosion by seawater.

In short, such an approach is a simple and effective way to increase the anti-aircraft firepower of warships, but it is not a long-term solution. 22160-class ship uses a separate space below the flight deck, which Russia originally wanted to use as a modular weapons compartment. Although this space is not necessarily prepared for anti-aircraft missiles.

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