Russia does not have many foreign military bases. More precisely, only seven (five - in the near abroad, two - in the far). You can even list them. Two in Syria are the Khmeimim airbase, where the 555th air group is deployed, and the 720th PMTO (logistics center) of the Navy in Tartus. One in Abkhazia is the 7th military base (Gudauta, Sukhum). One in South Ossetia - the 4th military base (Tskhinval, Java). One in Armenia is the 102nd military base (Gyumri, Yerevan). One in Tajikistan is the 201st military base (Dushanbe, Kurgan-Tyube) and the 999th air base in Kyrgyzstan (Kant). Now, under an agreement with the government of Sudan, the construction of the eighth base is underway, more precisely, the PMTO of the Navy in Port Sudan. It will be perhaps the largest military facility outside the Russian Federation.
For comparison, the United States has more than a thousand such bases and they are scattered all over the world. Military bases are serious! Not to be confused with peacekeeping troops. Because the peacekeepers of the Russian Federation solve other people's problems, for example, in Transnistria or the grouping now deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh (a disputed territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan), and military bases are designed to solve exclusively the tasks of the Russian Federation in this region. An attempt to close one of these bases (specifically the naval base in Sevastopol) without the desire of the Russian Federation ended for one pseudo-state with the loss of territory (you know this story, I will not retell it). Therefore, the closure in 2002 by Putin of the oldest, still Soviet military base in Cuba, more precisely, the Electronic Intelligence Center in Lourdes, became a sensation (the Cuban government is still offended by us).
Information: The Lourdes radio electronic center is the main Soviet, and then the Russian most important foreign center for electronic intelligence. It was located in the southern suburb of Lourdes, the Cuban capital, Havana. Construction began in 1962, commissioned in 1967, and was used for its intended purpose until 2002. These were our eyes and ears in North America (Cuba was separated from the nearest US state - Florida only by the strait of the same name, 177 km wide). The center played a key role in obtaining intelligence information during the Cold War. The equipment has been upgraded several times. The capabilities of the center made it possible to intercept data from American communication satellites, terrestrial telecommunication cables, as well as messages from the American NASA mission control center in the nearby US state of Florida.
Why Putin closed the base, which even Gorbachev and Yeltsin did not dare to close, is a backfill question only for very illiterate critics of the Kremlin. The answer is simple - the base has lost its functional purpose. It turned out to be a very expensive pleasure. The grouping of low-orbit spy satellites, which, changing each other, continuously hang over America, recording and photographing every step of our sworn "partners and friends", are much cheaper for the Russian treasury. Believe me, even what is written on the screen of your smartphone can be photographed from space with high-quality resolution, not to mention larger objects. Yes, and space is a conditional concept, you are separated from it by a distance of a couple of hundred kilometers. Cuba in this regard was much further from a number of objects of interest to us in the United States.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Putin is pushing the arms race into space. I wrote about this in more detail already here... We are talking about the secret for the time being an airborne anti-satellite missile system 14K168 "Burevestnik" (not to be confused with the same-name cruise missile of unlimited range with a nuclear power plant, presented in March 2018 by Putin in his annual Address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, which received this name as a result popular vote, they are just namesakes, and the KRND received this name much later).
The "partners" are worried. Russians are up to something
The West, naturally, could not fail to notice these our activities. Believe me, they follow our every step very closely. Here is what their main analytical tanks wrote on this score in their reports (I am quoting literally, the translation is automated, so don't ask for it):
“In September 2018, an aeronautical photographer noticed something interesting while observing the activities at the Flight Research Institute. Gromov in Zhukovsky near Moscow, which is sometimes called "the Russian air force base Edwards." His attention was attracted by the MiG-31BM fighter with a big black rockethanging under the belly. Although this particular aircraft had been seen before, the rocket was new. The photographs he posted online puzzled observers: the missile seemed too big to be an air-to-air or air-to-surface missile. It looks like it was the right size for an anti-satellite weapon.
The photographs evoke memories of the Soviet-era Kontakt anti-satellite system project, which included a MiG-31D aircraft and a Fakel design bureau missile equipped with a kinetic destruction combat vehicle. Kontakt was the Soviet response to the American miniature air-launched vehicle, or ASM-135A, that destroyed the American satellite in September 1985 after it was dropped from an F-15 fighter jet. It is reported that test flights of the MiG-31D with a rocket were carried out in the late 1980s - early 1990s, but without targeting satellites.
Thus, it looks like the new project could very well be the reincarnation of Contact, as suggested in many articles within weeks of the photos being posted. This idea was confirmed by at least two statements by Russian officials. In August 2009, Russian Air Force Commander Alexander Zelin announced that the MiG-31 was being modernized to perform the same space defense tasks as in Soviet times. About eight years later, in February 2017, the commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces squadron, Yevgeny Polyakov, told the Zvezda TV channel of the Russian Ministry of Defense that a new missile was being developed for the MiG-31BM, "capable of destroying targets in near space."
An analysis of publicly available Russian online sources leaves no doubt that the MiG-31BM and the missile are part of a broader anti-satellite system project called Burevestnik. Most likely, the missile will not carry a kinetic destruction engine like its predecessor in Soviet times, but will serve as a launch vehicle for small interceptor satellites that can approach enemy satellites and disable them. "
As you can see, our enemies are very closely watching all our movements, tracking all publications in the press, not disdaining even the statements of officials in the rank of squadron commander.
What's true is true. Enemies tremble!
It must be admitted that the Burevestnik project has never been discussed in state-controlled media or even in specialized Russian space publications, but details about the project have gradually leaked out in recent years, mainly through publicly available tender documents and contracts on the Russian government procurement website. According to them, we can say that the project started on September 1, 2011 with a government contract granted to the Design Bureau of Mechanical Engineering (NPK KBM), a weapons manufacturer based in Kolomna (about 100 km southeast of Moscow), which is most likely general project coordinator. At the end of the same month, NPK KBM signed a contract with the Moscow Central Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics (TsNIIHM), to which, in turn, it subcontracted work on satellites called Burevestnik-M.
The next stage of the project began on December 1, 2015, when NPK KBM received another state contract, according to which TsNIIHM subsequently performed work on the Burevestnik-KA-M satellites. The difference between Burevestnik-M and Burevestnik-KA-M is unknown, but a PowerPoint presentation (in Russian) of a Russian manufacturer of solar panels and batteries (PJSC Saturn), which somehow ended up online in May 2019 years, clearly identified them as two different satellites.
From all this, our enemies draw the following conclusion:
The hidden nature of the project, as well as the backstory of some of the contractors involved, strongly indicate that it is most likely an anti-satellite system.
And they were not mistaken, I already wrote about this earlier, describing our new 14K168 airborne anti-satellite missile system "Burevestnik" based on the MiG-31BM.
Moreover, enemies suspect that the scale of the Burevestnik project is not limited to an anti-satellite system alone. They assume that the non-destructive Technology to disable co-orbital enemy satellites by spraying fine particles near them, designed to interfere with the operation of satellite sensors or cause other damage, can be used to hide their own satellites from potential enemy anti-satellite interceptors under a program known as Veil. However, they do not yet have convincing evidence that this work is connected with the "Petrel".
But they do have accurate evidence that the Russians have advanced quite far in their developments and have tested their new anti-satellite system already in stationary orbit. According to them, between 2013 and 2019, Russia launched six mysterious satellites from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, which showed similar behavior in orbit and transmitted signals on identical radio frequencies, indicating that they share a common platform. These satellites are known as Kosmos-2491, 2499, 2504, 2521, 2535, 2536 and 2543. All of them were launched as fellow travelers with other payloads, the first three on the Rokot launch vehicle, now decommissioned, and later on the Soyuz-2,1V spacecraft (this is the lightest rocket in the Soyuz family of launch vehicles, without first-stage attachments and with NK-33 engines inherited from the Soviet-era N-1 lunar rocket). All but the first have performed rendezvous and rendezvous operations with other objects launched as part of the same mission.
And all would be nothing, they could be attributed to the project "Level", which is led by the same TsNIIHM. The Nivelir satellites are intended for in-orbit inspection of other satellites, but they have at least two design features from the Burevestnik satellites (4LI-20 PJSC Saturn lithium-ion batteries and MSKV84 NIIMash fuel tanks), but since they use common bus, it is difficult to determine which satellite belongs to which program. If not for one circumstance that strained our "partners".
While most of the six satellites have completed missions comparable to those of US and Chinese inspection satellites, two experiments conducted during those missions appear to have nothing to do with the claimed inspection. In October 2017, Kosmos-2521 itself deployed a small subsatellite (Kosmos-2523), which immediately lowered the perigee by 100 kilometers and remains inert until now, never again approaching its "parent". General John Raymond, commander of the US Space Force, compared these satellites to Russian nesting dolls, calling the subsatellite a "high-speed projectile." Perhaps Kosmos-2523 was another top-secret TsNIIHM satellite identified as "Tension", the purpose of which is still unclear to our enemies.
Another mysterious event occurred during the Kosmos 2535 and 2536 missions, launched in July 2019, along with two other satellites (Kosmos 2537 and 2538), which are probably used to calibrate ground-based radars. About two weeks after launch, Kosmos 2535 and 2536 began a long series of close collisions that continued until early 2020. The first of them, in early August, was actually reported by the Russian Ministry of Defense, which characterized these two objects as an "inspection satellite" and a "recording satellite". They reportedly carried out a mission to study the impact of "artificial and natural space factors" on satellites, as well as to test satellite protection technologies and their maintenance in orbit.
Then, in mid-October, objects marked "Cosmos-2535" began to gradually appear in the catalog of space objects maintained by the US Strategic Command. A total of 24 such objects have been registered. The catalog does not indicate which satellite created this debris, but orbital analysis traced most of it to a close collision between Kosmos-2535 and 2536 in late September (which would mean that the debris could have appeared from any satellite). Both satellites then continued to maneuver, which means that neither of them was incapacitated.
Based on this, American analysts conclude that it was either an unsuccessful ASAT test, or not an ASAT test at all. However, numerous other scenarios are possible, including one in which the Russians decided to test an explosive charge without destroying satellites in order to minimize the amount of debris and not draw undue attention to the mission. It could, for example, be thrown into a canister and detonated at a safe distance while one or both satellites were watching the event. It is also possible that one or both of the satellites had protective material to allow them to survive the event, and even sensors to detect possible impacts, like many of the target satellites used in the Soviet IS project. However, such scenarios do not go beyond the mission specified by the Russian side, therefore, there seems to be nothing to make claims against them.
But that's not all!
As large-scale as the Burevestnik project may seem to our enemies, this is just one of several anti-satellite defense projects that Russia is currently working on. The most advanced of these is the Nudol, a direct take-off ground-based anti-satellite missile developed by the Novator Design Bureau, which is believed to have completed at least ten test flights from Plesetsk since 2014 without hitting targets in space. The last of these occurred on April 15, 2020, prompting an immediate response from US Space Command General John Raymond, who sees it as “further evidence of Russia's hypocritical support for space arms control proposals aimed at limiting the capabilities of the United States, while clearly lacking intentions to end their programs to create counter-space weapons. " Recently collected evidence indicates that another, possibly more powerful rocket could be developed for Nudol at the Moscow Institute of Thermal Engineering.
Other likely anti-satellite defense systems under development are ground and air systems for dazzling or dazzling satellite optical systems (Kalina and Sokol-Echelon), as well as ground and space electronic warfare systems (Tirada-2S and Ekipazh). In November 2017, a Russian military official also announced the existence of a "mobile anti-satellite complex" called "Rudolph" about which nothing is known. Another satellite under development at TsNIIHM, called Numismat, is likely to carry the hard-to-detect ultra-wideband noise radar for close-range operation and may also have an ASAT-related role.
The coexistence of several ASAT projects indicates that they are intended to perform complementary functions, possibly targeting different types of satellites in different types of orbits. Likewise, in the 1980s, the Soviet Union worked on a variety of anti-satellite systems, each with its own clearly defined missions in various possible war scenarios. The collapse of the Soviet Union prevented any of them from achieving operational status, but it appears that Russia again has a stable program to develop a wide range of US countermeasures in outer space, whatever its motives. These are the findings of American think tanks.
I hope that knowing all this will save hotheads in the West from rash actions and we will see Star Wars only in the movies.