Four Long Range Russian Radar Installations Start Active Combat Duty

Voronezh early warning radar in Lekhtusi. Wikimedia Commons

Four new Russian long-range radar stations have started active combat duty, the head of Russian Space Command has announced.

The four 'Voronezh' early-warning radar installations have come online in the last year and are placed in Irkutsk and Yeniseysk in the east, Barnaul in the South and in the Russian exclave Kaliningrad, stationed between Poland and Lithuania, Major General Oleg Maidanovich said yesterday. The new installations join two other combat-active Voronezh sites; one outside of St. Petersburg and another in Krasnodar, between the Black and Caspian seas.

Chris Biggers, writing for the investigative journalism website Bellingcat reports that the radars, "are currently in a mixed state of full active and experimental combat duty."

The Voronezh radars have a range of up to 4,200 kilometres, allowing detailed observation of military operations such as missile launches.

A map of the radars and their fields of view Pavel Podvig

The new radar stations have been completed as Russia restores and modernises its aerospace and defence capabilities after they largely fell apart with the end of the Soviet Union. The radar stations will complement Russia's EKS, programme which also seeks to modernise Russia's aerospace capabilities with a series of early warning satellites. Described by an official within Russian Space Command as "hopelessly outdated", Oko, the satellite system first launched in 1972, will be replaced by EKS.

The announcement comes at a time of heightened tension with the West over Russia's involvement in the Ukraine conflict. Patrols by the Russian air force have increased considerably over the last year, with flights of bombers spotted as far as the Atlantic. There have also been a number of incursions by Russian fighter jets into European airspace. There has been at least one near-miss with a commercial airliner due to the jets flying without their transponders switched on, rendering them invisible to commercial radar.

The radar stations are considered energy efficient, where earlier radar systems required water plants to cool the transmitters; The Voronezh's transmitters are cooled by the wind. According to Russia's Kommersant Daily, the radars only consume 0.7 megawatts of power as opposed to the 50 megawatts that older models could use.

However, Pavel Podvig, director of the Russian Nuclear Forces Project plays down the political implications. "Construction of the Voronezh radars appears to be part of a long-term plan to rebuild the early-warning radar network. The general idea is to make sure that all radars are on the Russian territory and to replace some really old ones, like Dnepr or Daryal. But I'm fairly confident that it's not linked to any political considerations of the moment."