The ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict is throwing out many firsts. There is a new addition to this long list, an artificial intelligence(AI) assisted interception by Russian surface-to-air system.
According to a report by Russian news agency Sputnik, quoting a well informed source, the S-350 ‘Vityaz’ intercepted a Ukrainian aircraft all by itself without a man-in-the-loop with the assistance of AI.
“For the first time in the world the Vityaz performed the fully automated detection, tracking and destruction of Ukrainian air targets in combat; the surface-to-air missiles downed several Ukrainian warplanes and unmanned aerial vehicles,” said the source to Sputnik, as quoted in the report.
"The automatic mode was implemented on the basis of the principle that a person does not cancel the decisions of the SAM’s artificial intelligence elements within the framework of the emerging air combat situation, namely, an operator just did not interfere in the running of the system, thus confirming the operation algorithm chosen by the machine,” the source added.
After the AI- assisted kill by Turkish armed drone in Libya, this is another case of AI- assisted weapon launch. The S-350 is the most recently developed SAM system of the Russian forces.
In May 2019, Russian armed forces inducted the S-350 in its arsenal. Based on the S-300PS, the S-350 Vityaz, armed with 9M96E/E2 missiles, is capable of intercepting aerial targets in all direction up to 120km. It is designed to intercept, tactical and strategic aircraft, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial systems and all other kinds of aerial threats. It can also intercept tactical ballistic missiles.
According to Rosoboronexport, the system “is capable of simultaneously repelling strikes of various types of air attack weapons from any direction (circular mode) in the entire range of altitudes of their flight - from extremely low to high altitudes.” It is designed to defend administrative, industrial and military facilities from massive strikes of modern and advanced air attack weapons.
The S-350E is designed to replace S-300PS medium-range anti-aircraft missile systems which are in service for over three decades. The development of Vityaz began in 2010 and development tests were concluded in 2019. The system went into mass production the same year.
Armed with highly manoeuvrable 9M96E/E2 missiles, with a top speed of around 5 mach, the S-350 can intercept any kind of aerial targets between 5 m to 30 km of heights. This makes it one of the most suitable anti-cruise missile systems.
The S-350 missile system consists of 1/2 50N6A multifunctional passively electronically scanned array radar systems which provide 360 coverage, 50K6A command post, 50P6 launchers with 12 9M96E missiles. It can also fire 9M100 a short-range, IR-passive missile with a maximum range of 10 km. The system is mounted on BAZ-6909 8x8 chassis.
In 2020, Almaz-Antey had said that it will deliver four S-350 systems by 2023 to Russian forces.
The arrival of S-350 in the conflict at this juncture makes it very interesting as the British Strom Shadow air-launched cruise missile is expected to make its entry in the war from Kiev’s side. Britain confirmed deliver of the 250 km range deep strike stealth cruise missile to Ukraine on May 11. France is also delivering Scalp EG, the French version of the Storm Shadow.
The coming months are expected to witness a dual between S-350, a cruise missile killer, against Anglo-French Storm Shadow/ Scapl-EG which according to UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace would "allow Ukraine to push back Russian forces."