The destruction of the Libyan national army under the command of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar ZRPK “Pantsir-C1” of Russian production, and then even more humiliating capture by the pro-Turkish forces of the PNS of the same complex, only in an absolutely intact state, are events, without any exaggeration, extremely negative.
I will not discuss the “minuses” (both purely military and image) for the Haftar forces that stem from what happened — my colleagues have already done this professionally. I suggest that you better think about what unpleasant consequences these failures of the LNA can bring to our country. And also - about why they became possible at all and how realistic it is to avoid something like this in the future.
I want to note that I intend to build all the arguments and conclusions from them on the rich experience of using Soviet forces and air defense systems in numerous local conflicts that took place outside of it. Firstly, such a comparison will be the most correct, and secondly, while serving in the USSR Air Defense Forces, I had a lot of opportunities to talk with real veterans of these very “unknown” wars. Therefore, the idea of the issue that I risk raising, I have, let's say, in a slightly larger volume than the one that is available in open sources and on Internet sites.
Technique in the hands of ...
The winged expression of the brilliantly played by Mark Bernes Arkady Dzubin from the immortal movie “Two Fighters” about the fact that “the main detail of any weapon is its owner’s head” was very popular and relevant in the Soviet army. As well as the other, which said that any technique in the hands of ... let's say, an incompetent person inevitably turns into a piece of metal. Why am I doing this? And besides, when delivering air defense equipment to various friendly countries, Moscow, it seems, proceeded precisely from the principles set forth above. And these deliveries were much more extensive - both in terms of quantity and nomenclature, and in geography! At the same time, we leave the Warsaw Pact Organization countries “outside the brackets” - both the construction and functioning of the local air defense systems were carried out under the strict guidance and vigilant control of our specialists completely openly. Allies are all the same.
It was more difficult with the countries of the “people's democracy” and the “socialist camp”, which were not part of the internal affairs department, but were in dire need of military assistance from the USSR because of the constantly threatening danger of becoming objects of attack from the imperialists and colonialists. At the same time, the Air Force was the main weapon that attempted to wage a "struggle against the spread of communism" and "instill democracy" around the world, but actually carried out aggression against states and governments of the armies of the West and its local allies. The strategy, which consisted of the words “bomb the stone age”, was used by them, starting with the first, perhaps, similar adventure - the war in Korea, and was steadily used further. Moreover, the pilots, that the fighting vehicles of the opponents of those who sought to support the Soviet Union, should be given their due, very good.
I will give only some documented examples of the deliveries mentioned above. The complete list is so extensive that it cannot fit into the framework of one article, and we do not need it in this case. So: SA-75M Dvina air defense systems were delivered to Algeria in the late 60s of the last century and S-125M air defense systems Pechora-M, as well as their modification M1A in the early 80s. Angola received the S-75M3 Volga air defense system and the S-125M / S-125M1A Pechora air defense system, mainly in the 80s. Vietnam delivered the SA-75M air defense systems of the Dvina and Volga modifications, as well as, subsequently, the S-125 / S-125M / S-125M1A Pechora air defense systems. In the 70-80s, mass deliveries of both various modifications of the S-75M air defense system and, later, the S-125 air defense system to Libya and Syria were carried out. The geography of deliveries of these two complexes also includes Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Zambia, Yemen, Kampuchea, Laos, Iraq. Well, of course, China, Cuba, Mongolia, North Korea. Someone may say that in this case the comparison is not entirely correct: it is worthless to put the “Shell” next to the “Pechora”, “Volga” and “Dvina”. Here, it would be more appropriate to compare, for example, with Shilka. I beg to differ. Firstly, the S-1 Shell is still a cannon-missile system, and not a ZSU. And secondly, "Shilka" also delivered much and fought pretty well. We will also be talking about them. Let us return, however, to the main theme. Especially a lot of Soviet air defense systems were supplied to Egypt by the Soviet Union at one time. This is precisely on the basis of a very instructive experience of their combat employment in this country that we will continue our conversation.
Do you want to do something well ...
The first real baptism of fire of Soviet air defense systems was the war in Vietnam. Our S-75, and subsequently S-125 turned into a real nightmare for the American "Phantoms" and B-52. For the first month of work in this country, the Soviet air defense systems of these vultures overwhelmed more than a hundred. 60 S-75 divisions were shot down in the Vietnamese sky over the years of conflict, according to various sources, from 2 to 1.5 thousand combat vehicles of the US Air Force. No, of course, our military was not there. Well, or at least, they "did not directly participate in the hostilities." Fedor Ilinykh, Boris Mozhaev, hundreds of other Soviet rocket launchers who “landed” at least 25 American “aces” with missiles of their division, who, according to the recollections of one of the considerable military officials, “showed themselves to be masters of sniper fire in Vietnam” - these are, of course, characters completely mythical, and repair facilities for air defense systems and training classes for Vietnamese rocket men erected in Hanoi by themselves ...
However, we must pay tribute to the Vietnamese comrades - they studied honestly and perceived the "science of victory" from our instructors quite successfully. But nothing similar was achieved with the Arab military (and, apparently, it still fails to this day). The history of the Israeli-Egyptian wars is the best evidence of this. The defeat launched by Egyptian air defense by Israeli aviation in 1967, it is simply impossible to call it the greatest disgrace. In fact, it was smashed to smithereens during the first 3 hours of air raids that began on June 5, 1967 and aimed at Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Of the nearly 300 combat vehicles that the Arab Air Force fleet counted, 203 Egyptian and 70 Syrian were destroyed on the ground. Two Egyptian fighters were shot down in the air ... The situation was even worse with the remaining components of the air defense system.
At the time of the outbreak of hostilities, the ARE armed forces were at least as technically equipped as the IDF — the Soviet Union tried. In the country, 25 S-75 divisions, 90 radars of various types were deployed. Sudden airstrikes destroyed at least a quarter of the air defense systems and about half of the radar. It is only natural that during the period of hostilities from June 5 to 11, Egyptian rocket men managed to shoot down only 9 Israeli aircraft. In the calculations of anti-aircraft artillery, things were even better - they destroyed 44 enemy combat vehicles. After that, under the complete domination of the IDF, the so-called “war of attrition” began in the air. During Operation Khordos, the Israelis began to systematically wipe Egypt off the face of the earth, and Cairo, represented by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, tearfully requested new military assistance. This time in the USSR, they finally remembered the principle: “If you want to do something well, do it yourself!”
In 1970, Operation Caucasus began, during which the Operational Group of Soviet troops consisting of at least 15 thousand people was transferred to Egypt. Basically, these were just parts of the air defense forces — the 18th Special Purpose Anti-Aircraft Missile Division, fighter pilots, EW and radio reconnaissance units. So they showed them to IDF cows, where the crayfish hibernate. The first Phantoms and Skyhawks rained down from the sky, as soon as our crews S-125 appeared on the banks of the Suez Canal, and then it went. A few months of combat work by Soviet soldiers was enough for Tel Aviv to clearly understand: the time of impunity for air piracy was over, and asked for peace. Incidentally, there is evidence that the latest Soviet combat aircraft, the Su-17 and MiG-25RB, were “driven in” on this theater. Of course, Arab pilots were not allowed to approach them.
The situation was similar in approximately the same way in Syria, Angola and other countries, the defense of the sky of which was our air defense. The case was debated precisely when Soviet officers were behind the launch panels, or, at least, they clearly and completely controlled the actions of local crews. Enemies were ruthlessly shot down by missiles, shot from the same Shilok, which were more than successfully used in all the military conflicts mentioned above. Of the Israeli aircraft alone, about three dozen of them were destroyed ... It was then that the Soviet air defense systems earned themselves such strong and formidable glory that it is still alive. It should be noted that far from the newest SAM systems were exported and, even more so, sent to “hot spots”. By the time they accepted their S-125 battle in Egypt, the S-200 complexes were in service in the Soviet Union for three years, and the S-300 was, as they say, on the way (their serial production began in 1975) . And what do we see today? Two broken “Shell-S” in Syria (both with local calculations), the same complex destroyed in Libya, and now the capture of our air defense system by Turkish pro-Turkish fighters. But this technique is considered one of the most advanced developments of the Russian military-industrial complex. Today, when there is a desperate struggle without rules for global arms markets, do we need such a blatant “advertisement” ?!
For doubters, I recall the statement made just the day before by US President Donald Trump. At the next briefing, he spoke about his readiness to “significantly simplify the procedure for selling American weapons”, saving potential buyers from “lengthy bureaucratic formalities” in order to “tear customers away from the Russian arms market”. Recently, China has taken a similar position, desperately breaking into the leaders in sales of military goods and in this regard, indiscriminately criticizing Russian equipment and weapons, which compete with it. Is it worth it to “hand over” such opponents additional information “trump cards”? Today, all the world media in different ways "incline" the situation with the "Shells" in Libya, outraged in wit about this. And even if the combat vehicle came to Haftar from the allies from the UAE, even if our specialists were not there, but she was Russian!
Perhaps, in this situation, our country should nevertheless reconsider somewhat policies sales of the most promising types of weapons, especially to those who, as practice shows, cannot ensure their operation in accordance with the real potential of this equipment? Or, at least, include in the relevant contracts a non-negotiable clause on the full cycle of training of future users by our specialists - at the expense of buyers, of course. Otherwise, it will be necessary to completely copy the experience of the USSR and send our military men to the zones of military conflicts so that they personally prove that the Russian jokes in the right hands are no less jokes than with the Soviet ones.