Fire means ZRPK Pilica in a self-propelled configuration
On December 18, the Polish armed forces received the first battery of PSR-A Pilica anti-aircraft missile and cannon systems. The production of this equipment has started, and new deliveries are expected in the coming years. With the help of such complexes, the Polish army intends to strengthen its air defense and provide protection against typical threats of the present time.
Despite the apparent simplicity, the development of the PSR-A Pilica project took quite a long time. The first studies on the topic of air defense missile systems based on available components began back in 2006. In 2010, the Polish Ministry of Defense launched a full-fledged project development with the involvement of several organizations. Later, after the organization of a unified defense company Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa SA, they were brought into the PGZ-Pilica consortium.
The Pilica project was completed in the first half of the tenth years, after which testing and development began. In 2015, the experienced air defense missile systems successfully coped with the tests. In November 2016, an agreement was signed for the supply of six batteries with a total value of 746 million zlotys (over 160 million euros). In 2018, an additional agreement appeared that specified the terms of supply. It was planned to transfer the equipment until 2021-22.
Work on the first PSR-A ZRPK battery continued until October this year, when it successfully passed acceptance tests. After that, it was necessary to draw up the remaining documents and transfer the products to the army. The broadcast took place on December 18. The first battery of the complex was transferred to the 3rd Air Defense Brigade operating in the area of Warsaw.
During the handover ceremony, officials noted the great importance of the new air defense missile systems for the development of Polish air defense. In particular, such short-range weapons are seen as a modern and effective response to the threat of unmanned aerial vehicles. They also talked about the benefits of collaboration between different organizations that resulted in the Pilica product.
On available components
It was proposed to build a promising air defense missile system PSR-A Pilica with a wide use of available components. In fact, only individual devices had to be developed from scratch, mainly the means of interaction between the components of the complex.
Shooting complex. Fire launchers deployed in a self-propelled and towed version
The battery of the Pilica complex includes a command post, a detection radar, six self-propelled / towed anti-aircraft guns and a couple of transport vehicles for transporting ammunition. The fixed assets of the complex are based on the Jelcz 442.32 truck with a platform body or a van. The radar can be mounted on a lighter chassis.
Target detection is carried out using a three-dimensional radar ELM-2106NG ADSR-3D manufactured by the Israeli company IAI. This product detects tactical aircraft at ranges of up to 60 km and UAVs at ranges of 20 km, and also accompanies up to 60 targets. In addition, anti-aircraft installations are equipped with their own optoelectronic units that transmit a signal to the command post. The latter processes the data and issues target designation to the firing installations. It also provides data exchange with other anti-aircraft systems within the framework of echeloned air defense.
As part of the PSR-A, the ZUR-23-2KG Jodek missile and cannon launcher (Polish modernization of the Soviet ZU-23-2) is used. It has a regular gun carriage, aiming equipment and a pair of 23-mm automatic cannons. At the same time, the right seat of the anti-aircraft gunner was removed, and new equipment was placed in its place. The remaining operator-gunner receives a new sight and a monitor for issuing data for shooting. Above the cannons there is a support for two Grom MANPADS (Polish version of the Igla product) or newer Piorun products.
The rocket-cannon installation is made on a wheeled carriage, which allows it to be towed behind a standard tractor from the complex. It also provides for the unit to be housed in a tractor body, which increases mobility and simplifies deployment into position.
The main combat characteristics of the Pilica air defense missile system are determined by its main components. 23-mm cannons are capable of hitting targets at ranges of no more than 2-3 km, and the presence of missiles increases the affected area up to 5 km in range and up to 3.5-4 km in height. At the same time, the presence of new electronic means at the installation allows more fully use the potential of the weapon.
A significant number of anti-aircraft artillery installations still remain in service with the Polish army, and they are still considered a fairly effective means for solving certain problems. It is with this that the emergence of a new PSR-A complex is associated, which will have to supplement and then replace obsolete products.
Poland currently has approx. 250-270 installations ZU-23-2 and ZUR-23-2 of early modifications. Also in service is approx. 70 upgraded ZUR-23-2KG with Grom missiles. No more than 40-50 units of different types are mounted on trucks – this ZSU is called Hibneryt. Despite several upgrades, it is considered obsolete and in need of replacement. The main problem with this ZSU is the lack of early warning and full battery control.
The modern PSR-A Pilica project provides for the combination of several missile and cannon installations into a complex with unified detection and control facilities. Batteries of this composition can be incorporated into larger air defense systems. All these measures make it possible to obtain the maximum possible results from the available fire weapons.
An air defense missile system of the PSR-A type is of obvious interest to the Polish army, which plans to keep the ZU-23-2 and its derivatives in service. The new project allows the use of existing installations, but at the same time bring their combat qualities closer to modern requirements. In addition, it is argued that outdated weapons with new control systems are capable of hitting small UAVs and other complex targets.
Quality and quantity
It should be noted that the prospects for the PSR-A Pilica complex and the Polish air defense as a whole are seriously limited by several objective factors. Some are fundamentally impossible to get rid of, but it is quite possible to cope with others.
The main drawbacks of PSR-A and other developments of this kind are related to obsolete base components. 23-mm automatic cannons do not meet modern requirements for air defense artillery for a long time. Acceptable characteristics of range, altitude and power are achieved only with calibers of at least 30 mm. Replacing the guns with the Pilica air defense missile system is not possible.
MANPADS “Thunder”, which is a licensed copy of the rather old “Igla”, is also morally outdated. The newer Piorun complex has certain advantages, but how they affect the overall capabilities of the air defense missile system is a big question.
Difficulties at the stage of development and development of production should be noted. Research on the future of the air defense missile system began almost 15 years ago, the design was launched in 2010, and the first production vehicles reached the troops only 10 years later. At the same time, the project was based on ready-made components and therefore did not differ in principle complexity. Such deadlines for the completion of work may indicate the weakness of the development enterprises, which is capable of hitting serial production.
Anti-aircraft self-propelled gun Hibneryt
The current order provides for the supply of 6 anti-aircraft batteries, each of which includes 6 anti-aircraft installations. Thus, no later than 2022, the Polish army will have 36 new missile and cannon installations. However, this is slightly less than 10% of the total number of 23-mm installations in service. For all its technical and combat advantages, the new Pilica will only have a limited impact on air defense capabilities.
Attempts to update
The air defense of the Polish army, both military and on-site, is not distinguished by the novelty and high characteristics of the systems in service. Outdated products remain in service, which are trying to modernize in order to “squeeze” the maximum possible performance. A striking example of such a situation and such an approach is the new PSR-A Pilica air defense missile system.
By building a full-fledged battery and introducing new devices, Polish designers were able to significantly improve the combat qualities of the outdated ZU-23-2 installation. At the same time, the old fire weapons with all their shortcomings and limitations remained at the heart of the anti-aircraft complex. However, the Polish army ignores these problems and calls PSR-A a clear success, and not an ambiguous model with dubious prospects.