June 4, 2012: Strategy Page
This month, Russia activated its fourth Voronezh early warning radar, in Irkutsk, Siberia. This is the first of three to be built in eastern Russia. The other two will be in action by 2017. The Voronezh radars in Western Russia cost between $85 million and $128 million each, while those in eastern Russia (VP models) cost over 50 percent more because they cover a wider area. The Voronezh radar can detect incoming missiles up to 6,000 kilometers away.
Three Voronezh M/DM radars were installed in Western Russia between 2005 and 2011. One is in Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea. Another is on the east coast of the Black Sea (Armavir) while the third is at the eastern end of the Baltic Sea outside St Petersburg.
All this radar building activity was caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the destruction of the Russian ballistic missile early warning system. This came about because each of the fourteen new nations, carved out of the Soviet Union, got to keep whatever government property that was within the new borders. That meant many of the radar stations that formed the Soviet ICBM early warning system were now owned by foreign countries. A combination of disputes over money, and aging electronics, eventually put many of those early warning radars out of action. The two in Ukraine went off line three years ago.
The rising price of oil over the last decade provided Russia with the cash to rebuild its ballistic missile early warning radar system. The first one, outside St Petersburg, was built in 18 months (versus over ten years for the ones it replaced). The new design uses much less electricity, has a smaller staff and is more reliable. Russia has adopted much Western technology, and work practices, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it all showed in this radar station. The St Petersburg facility replaced one that was in Latvia, and was dismantled in 2003, after going off line in 1998. The one new radar in Armavir was built to replace defunct Soviet era radars in Azerbaijan and Ukraine.