Sary Shagan: Birthplace of the ABM

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  1. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    IMINT & Analysis: Sary Shagan: Birthplace of the ABM

    INTRODUCTION

    Sary Shagan is one of the most important historical sites in the history of the Cold War. The birthplace of the modern ABM system, Sary Shagan's main facilities are situated along the western shores of Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan, with the massive test range extending west into the Betpak-Dala desert. Originally part of the USSR, Sary Shagan is still leased by the Russian government to conduct test launches of the current System A-135's 53T6 (ABM-4B GAZELLE) endoatmospheric interceptors.

    The Sary Shagan test complex was conceived in 1956 as a secure, isolated facility with the sole purpose of testing the USSR's ABM systems. The original System A proof-of-concept system began trials in 1960, and made history with the first intercept of a ballistic missile when a Fakel V-1000 (SA-2 GAFFER; the V-1000 was designated as such by the West as it was originally believed to be a SAM system) interceptor destroyed the warhead of an R-12 (SS-4 SANDAL) on 4 March, 1961. Subsequently, Sary Shagan would be home to the test efforts of every Soviet and Russian ABM system to date.

    RANGE OVERVIEW

    Sary Shagan is a vast range complex, home to a wide range of test areas for a multitude of weapon systems.

    The vast range complex contains three range instrumentation radar sites to provide missile tracking functions facilitating the monitoring of test programs. Two HEN NEST and one HEN EGG radar systems provide the necessary hardware, located at the following coordinates:

    46°57'07.49"N 72°31'49.15"E (HEN NEST)
    45°37'34.68"N 72°34'02.80"E (HEN NEST)
    46°14'43.34"N 70°55'29.22"E (HEN EGG)

    Seven launch facilities are scattered throughout the range to support test launches of various missile systems. The most historically significant launch area is Site D, which housed the Aldan trial version of the A-35 ABM system. Sites C and G are small-scale faclities, possibly used as launch sites for strategic SAM systems tested at the range in the past. The launch sites are located at the following coordinates:

    46°24'39.22"N 72°50'59.07"E (Site A)
    46°01'01.22"N 72°28'09.98"E (Site B)
    45°49'19.91"N 73°25'07.82"E (Site C)
    45°48'41.83"N 73°33'43.70"E (Site D)
    45°37'53.27"N 72°35'57.88"E (Site E)
    46°26'34.20"N 72°51'05.71"E (Site F)
    45°51'51.68"N 73°23'52.93"E (Site G)

    Sary Shagan is also home to various other test facilities, where the USSR's ABM-related system components were trialled and perfected for operational use. The facilities have been considered to be located in a northern, central, and southern area for the purpose of this article.

    An general overview of the Sary Shagan test range can be seen in the image below:

    [​IMG]

    NORTH AREA

    Sary Shagan's northern test area is home to various ABM-related test radars. The prototype 5N86P Dnepr-P (HEN HOUSE) and a trial version of a Daryal radar component were installed here. Following the completion of their associated test programs, the Dnepr-P and Daryal prototypes were eventually dismantled. The other identifiable radar system in the north area is the Don-2NP (HORSE LEG), the prototype for System A-135's Don-2N (PILL BOX) engagement radar installed north of Moscow. The Don-2NP appears relatively intact, and would likely be employed to support test firings of ABMs associated with System A-135. A fourth, undientified array is also visible, positioned near the dismantled Daryal array. This may have represented a sub-scale trial version of the other Daryal array, or may have served (and may still be serving, given that the radar apparently remains intact) a completely different purpose.

    The following image depicts the radar facilities in Sary Shagan's northern test area:

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    CENTRAL AREA

    The central test area consists of three separate complexes.

    The northernmost complex features an unusual facility containing three unidentified test components. There appear to be two large sliding doors, possibly housing radar systems, along with two small antennas mounted at the base of the southern platform. This may be the facility which housed the 5N16 Neman radar system. The 5N16 was conceived as an alternative to the Aurora ABM system's 5N24 Argun radar set, but was not selected as an Aurora component. It has been reported that a sub-scale version of the 5N16 was tested at Sary Shagan, and it may be behind one of the massive sliding doors at this unidentified facility.

    The following image depicts the central test area's northernmost facility:

    [​IMG]

    The central area was once home to the separate transmitter and receiver arrays for the 5N11P Dunai-3UP (TOP ROOST). The 5N11P was the prototype for System A-35's 5N11 Dunai-3U (DOG HOUSE) battle management radar. The 5N11P arrays were built following the trials of the Dunai-1 and Dunai-2 (HEN ROOST) proof of concept and test arrays, which were located on the same grounds.

    As can be seen in the image below, the 5N11UP arrays have been dismantled at some point:

    [​IMG]

    The southernmost complex houses various dismantled radar facilities, a SATCOM facility, and a partially complete TRY ADD radar system. This area has been described in some sources as a space tracking facility. Were this the case, likely duties would have included the tracking of satellites for ASAT weapons testing. Presence of TRY ADD elements suggest that A-350 missile guidance functions may also have been conducted in support of System A-35 and System A-35M test firings. As the TRY ADD found in the southern test area was subsequently modified (see the image below), the presence of a second TRY ADD at Sary Shagan to support test firings over the life of the A-35 and A-35M ABM systems seems logical.

    The following image depicts the southernmost portion of the central test area:

    [​IMG]
     
  4. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    SOUTH AREA

    Sary Shagan's southern test area is home to some of the range's most interesting and varied facilities. Firstly, the area is home to Sary Shagan's Site D launch facility, which housed the trial launchers of the Aldan trial version of the System A-35 ABM complex. Three other possible ABM test launch areas have also been identified in the area. The southern test area is also home to both of Sary Shagan's laser test facilities.

    The following image provides a general overview of the southern test area:

    [​IMG]

    The Aldan test launch area was a partially complete version of the operational launch sites employed by System A-35 around Moscow. The Aldan launch site featured four launch positions, as opposed to the eight featured at an operational site (it should be noted that each of the four operational A-35 sites were composed of two separate, adjacent complexes, each containing a TRY ADD radar and eight launch positions). The Aldan test area no longer appears capable of supporting ABM test launches. Only one of the three TRY ADD radar systems remains complete. One has had the radar removed completely, and the third has seen its radar replaced by the 5N24 Argun, which will be described later. There is also an unidentified radar system present. It would appear to be in a state of disrepair, with the associated radome sitting on the ground next to the facility. This is clearly not a TRY ADD radar system component, as the radome is much too small to be associated with that system. It should be noted that this facility was associated with the Aurora ABM system as well, perhaps explaining some of the modifications to the site and the TRY ADD radars in particular. Aurora never reached the hardware stage, and the southern test area was later employed to test laser systems.

    The following image depicts the Aldan test area and the associated radar facilities:

    [​IMG]

    SAM TEST FACILITIES

    In addition to being the home to Soviet and Russian ABM research and development, Sary Shagan was once home to the development and test efforts of certain strategic SAM systems. The S-200 (SA-5 GAMMON) and S-300 (SA-10 GRUMBLE) were both trialled at Sary Shagan. When the USSR broke up, strategic SAM test efforts were consolidated with the tactical SAM test efforts at Kapustin Yar. Three S-75s (SA-2 GUIDELINE), one S-125 (SA-3 GOA), and one S-200 site are still visible scattered throughout the Sary Shagan range. The S-75 sites are most likely former operational air defense sites positioned to intercept reconnaissance aircraft attempting to overfly the facility. Interestingly, there appears to be activity at the S-125 site.

    The following image depicts the locations of SAM sites at Sary Shagan:

    [​IMG]
     
  5. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    LASER TEST FACILITIES

    In addition to the various SAM and ABM test areas, Sary Shagan is home to two laser test facilities. Both of these sites are located in the southern test area.

    The first facility is located among the remnants of a former ABM test area for the Aldan trial version of System A-35. The site consists of a 5N24 Argun radar set originally designed as part of the Aurora ABM system, and what may be a laser array housing. The Argun radar is believed to be used for directing experimental laser systems employed in an ASAT role. It is also sometimes referred to as a missile tracking radar, ostensibly providing telemetry data for research programs, but this may be confusion with the aforementioned Neman system.

    The Argun facility can be seen in the image below:

    [​IMG]

    The second laser test facility at Sary Shagan is the Terra-3 laser test complex. This site was created in the 1970's by OKB Vympel to test laser systems for use in an ABM role. The Terra-3 laser system consisted of Astrofizika-designed red ruby and carbon dioxide high-energy lasers. These laser systems were found to be unsuitable for use as ABM weapons, but had potential as ASAT weapons, as they did produce enough output capable of disabling satellites or damaging optical sensors. On the 10th of October in 1984, the Terra-3 complex used a low-power laser to track the Space Shuttle Challenger, at the request of then-Minister of Defense Peter Ustinov who wanted a Soviet response to the American decision to proceed with the Star Wars program. The aforementioned Argun radar facility may have been employed to direct the Terra-3's laser systems.

    The Terra-3 facility can be seen in the image below, and is in what seems to be a state of disrepair, suggesting that the facility is no longer active:

    [​IMG]

    SPACE SURVEILLANCE/BMEW SITE

    Apart from being an ABM birthing ground, Sary Shagan was home to the first 5N15 Dnestr space-surveillance radars used for tracking objects in orbit. Four such arrays were constructed near Gulshad. The 5N15 design was later modified for use in the BMEW role to support the USSR's developing ABM program. An operational 5N86 Dnepr was later installed at the space surveillance site in the early 1970's, following the testing of the 5N86P Dnepr-P at Sary Shagan's north test area discussed above.

    The following low-resolution image depicts the Dnestr and Dnepr radars deployed at Sary Shagan:

    [​IMG]

    PRIOZERSK

    The city of Priozersk, located on the shores of Lake Balkhash, is home to the administrative and residential areas for personnel working at Sary Shagan. Interestingly enough, many of the SAMs and ABMs that have been tested at Sary Shagan are on display throughout the city.

    The following image depicts the locations of the two missile systems to have borne the Western SA-5 designator, the 5V11 Dal (SA-5 GAFFER) and the "real" SA-5, the S-200:

    [​IMG]


    There is also an ABM display, seen below, featuring various types of experimental and operational weapons:

    [​IMG]
     
  6. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    Silent Space Is Being Monitored

    Silent Space Is Being Monitored

    Moscow ARMEYSKIY SBORNIK, Jun 96 No 6, (Signed to press 25 May 96) pp 48-51
    by Lieutenant Colonel Boris Kononenko

    In the journal's previous issue we told about one component of strategic deterrence assets, the ABM defense system. Today the discussion is about another of its components, the Outer Space Monitoring System (SKKP).

    The idea of building the Outer Space Monitoring System in our country was formalized once and for all in the summer of 1963. At that time a team of scientists directed by A. Gorelik and N. Buslenko developed a conceptual design and two years later a preliminary design. It was extremely dangerous to put off solving this problem, since each year it was becoming more and more difficult to take "inventory" of outer space. Evidently the U.S. Defense Department also was guided by these considerations, when in the late 1950's and early 1960's the decision was made to establish SPADATS, a national system for monitoring outer space. It used radar and electro-optical equipment stationed on U.S. territory and at certain military bases outside the United States. The research of space outside the atmosphere proceeded not just along the path of its peaceful development; the need also was being considered for developing a space defense (PKO) system capable of engaging military targets. To this end the Outer Space Monitoring System was supposed to identify probable enemy spacecraft subject to destruction and issue precise target designations to the space defense system.

    In 1967 Dnestr, the first specialized radiotechnical station intended for monitoring outer space, was tested in Kazakhstan. In the next year there were successful tests of a radar complex of eight Dnestr stations under the direction of Lieutenant General I. Pisarev, chief of staff of ABM Defense and Space Defense Troops. They were located in Kazakhstan and Siberia, forming a continuous "barrier" extending 5,000 km at altitudes to 300 km. The DSP-1Yu satellite was launched especially for aligning the stations and confirming the characteristics specified for them. In parallel with development of the system preliminary design, scientists in suburban Moscow were setting up the Outer Space Monitoring Center (TsKKP). Its first phase was placed on alert duty in 1970, by which time six U.S. military space systems already were permanently functioning: reconnaissance (detailed, ELINT and electro-optical), ballistic missile launch and nuclear explosion detection, navigational, meteorological, topogeodetic, and communications. Each one consisted of several spacecraft. In addition, a large number of our satellites also were in orbit. The monitoring mission consisted of reliably detecting, identifying and tracking active domestic and foreign satellites with high reliability.

    In 1974 CINC National Air Defense Troops Colonel General P. Batitskiy submitted a proposal to the USSR Ministry of Defense on further upgrading the Outer Space Monitoring System. The task was assigned to V. Repin, chief designer of the missile attack warning system (SPRN). But the Outer Space Monitoring Center operated in a coordinate system distinct from the missile attack warning system and ABM defense. An additional program called Kosmos had to be developed urgently. The U.S. military also encountered similar difficulties. In short, the arms race was picking up speed and it took the USSR and United States years to curb it. As a result, the Paris Charter for a New Europe was adopted, the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces and the ABM Treaty were ratified, and a Treaty on a Fifty-Percent Reduction of Strategic Arms was concluded. But space still hides many dangers created by man.

    Colonel Aleksandr Voynov, operations duty officer of the Outer Space Monitoring System command post, escorted us into an enormous room with displays and multicolor screens. "From here we see practically all of moving space." The word "moving" somehow strikes the ear unusually, for in our understanding space is an immense expanse. Well, a hundred or more satellites intended for television and radio communications and for navigation and a manned station are flying in their orbits, but generally there is silence. "You know how many objects are in space?" Aleksandr Vasilyevich asked, and answered his own question: "Over 20,000 the size of a tennis ball and larger, of which around 8,000 are taken into account. There are other tens of millions of small fragments, many of which are in orbits or in the immediate proximity of orbits most often used for satellite flights. The collision of a manned craft even with the smallest object can lead to trouble. And foreign military spacecraft launched with specific goals are objects of our increased attention."

    We were convinced of this when we looked through reports from abroad entered in a special log. Here are some of them.

    "3 April 1990. Ofeq II satellite launched in Israel. Purpose is to collect intelligence. In the words of Acting Prime Minister Y. Shamir, this event is proof of our strength and capabilities.' Some mass media assessed the launch of the new Israeli satellite as a sign of escalation of the arms race in the Near East."

    "1 August 1990. A rocket with electronic components for Star Wars' program to be tested in the air strayed from course and was destroyed on command from Earth. The command for destruction came from the White Sands, New Mexico Test Range."

    "4 August 1990. A Delta II rocket was launched from the Cape Canaveral, Florida space launch facility. The main purpose is to insert a NAVSTAR system satellite into orbit under a Pentagon program."

    "21 November 1990. According to an AP AGENCY report, the Atlantis space shuttle completed a flight under a secret Pentagon program. It inserted a secret cargo, presumably a spy satellite, into orbit."

    Now it is understandable why patrollers of the celestial abyss try to know everything or almost everything about envoys from Earth. The Outer Space Monitoring Center starts a kind of personal file on each of them, in which the satellite's coordinates and capabilities are entered. In this way a catalogue is compiled by which it is possible to quickly determine the area where any object is located, if necessary, and then tracking complexes will give out its characteristics. With what accuracy? It was explained to us: "Imagine two tennis balls flying in space 10 cm from each other. Well now, we can say that there are specifically two balls and not one in orbit." But this is a figurative comparison. There also are examples of specific work attesting to the collective's professionalism.

    Many at the Outer Space Monitoring Center remember 8 March 1989. Four new objects "appeared" in space. An analysis showed that these were parts of a satellite inserted into orbit by the crew of Atlantis. That all would mean nothing, but the satellite was no simple one--it was launched in support of the Pentagon for visual reconnaissance and ELINT and weighed 17 tonnes. Evidently the Americans had blown it up in connection with defects that had appeared. It was necessary to give a precise answer as to how dangerous the "fragments" were. According to calculations of Outer Space Monitoring Center specialists, the fragments were supposed to burn up in dense layers of the atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean in 10-15 days, and that is what happened. They also tracked smaller ones until they, too, "died."

    "At that time we had to be worried," relates Lieutenant Colonel Anatoliy Zayats, assistant operations duty officer, who began service here in 1979. "For in such cases it is impossible to err. Each of us knows what kind of satellites there can be..."

    As a matter of fact, it is one thing when a communications satellite is inserted into orbit and another when it is a satellite, let us assume with a nuclear power plant. Thus, in December 1982 Kosmos-1402 broke into three parts due to failures. It is understandable that from the moment the booster rocket was launched, Object 1402 was, as they say, the focus of attention of Outer Space Monitoring System specialists. And so they needed only a few minutes for calculations: in two days the first part would enter dense layers of the atmosphere and burn up, and the very same fate awaited the second part, the instrumentation compartment, only its journey would last a month. But everything turned out to be more difficult with the nuclear power plant. It was continuously monitored for more than a year. Several days before the power plant entered the Earth's atmosphere, specialists produced data: it would not burn up completely, remnants would fall into the Atlantic Ocean, coordinates... Subsequent events confirmed the correctness of calculations.

    A different situation took shape with Kosmos-1900, inserted into orbit in April 1988: for eight months the Outer Space Monitoring Center "kept an eye on" the satellite with the failed control system. Two days before the calculated time of cessation of the satellite's existence, coordinates were issued to its "own" department. The Control Center succeeded in turning on the propulsion unit and shifting the object into a long life orbit.

    And here is a fresh example, so to speak. In early December 1995 the need arose to begin monitoring the final phase of flight of the remaining fragment of the Kosmos-398 satellite, a craft weighing around 2 tonnes launched back in 1971 and intended for delivering a cosmonaut to the Moon. Calculations showed that approximately five percent of the space "wanderer's" overall weight would not manage to burn up and would reach Earth. Monitoring was conducted within the framework of international cooperation: Russian Federation Ministry of Defense (Outer Space Monitoring System), NASA, and European, French and Japanese space agencies. Each department issued its own data. The difference in the fragment's time of impact reached more than 30 minutes, and this with the object's speed of 7.5 km/sec. Can you imagine that kind of "mistake" in distance? The object entered the Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific on 10 December 1995, exactly at the time calculated by our specialists. The fragment train stretched for 500 km.

    "The opinion formed that the Military Space Forces (VKS) observe and control all objects in space," Colonel Yuriy Rubtsov, chief of the Outer Space Tracking Center, shared his opinion. "As a matter of fact, this is not so. The Military Space Forces launch ballistic missiles, satellites and manned spacecraft from their own ranges and launch pads. They only see them, which means control them, as long as they are operating. If an emergency situation arises, they cannot get by without our data."

    Thus, in 1985 communications with the Salyut-7 orbital station was interrupted. There was a high probability of losing the unique space laboratory, potential capabilities of which had not yet been fully used. Experienced cosmonauts were sent to save it. TASS announced: "In the course of the two-day automatic flight of the Soyuz T-13 craft several adjustments were made to the movement trajectory, as a result of which the craft approached the Salyut-7 station to within the given distance. Subsequent closing was performed by the crew manually, using gear for determining distance and an onboard computer complex." Few knew at that time that Vladimir Dzhanibekov and Viktor Savinykh found the silent station and then docked with it thanks only to data issued from here, from the Outer Space Monitoring Center.

    Colonel General (Retired) Yuriy Votintsev, past commander of ABM and Space Defense Troops, recalls one episode confirming the USSR's striving for leadership in the area of monitoring outer space.

    "In 1981 the United States carried out the first launch of the Shuttle spacecraft. This naturally drew the attention of the country's government and Ministry of Defense leadership. On being launched from the U.S. Air Force Western Space and Missile Center (Vandenberg), the Columbia and then the Challenger manned orbiter stages would pass over middle latitudes of the USSR from east to west, primarily in hours of daylight. This is 8 out of 14 revolutions per day, coinciding with our country's time zones. Orbital altitude was 300-400 km and there was total conformity with the sequence of passage of U.S. reconnaissance spacecraft.

    "In those days I was preparing a detailed report for the Minister of Defense on means being used to track the Shuttle flight and on results of Outer Space Monitoring System operation. Then, some time in the autumn of 1983, Marshal of the Soviet Union D. Ustinov called me on the Kremlin phone [kremlevka]: I have before me your report on work on the Shuttle. Tell me, why hasn't the experimental laser complex of General Designer Nikolay Ustinov been used?' Dmitriy Fedorovich was excited over his son's creation. At that time a team of 300 specialists was performing modifications on the complex, and I reported this to the Minister of Defense. And the experiment took place on 10 October 1984, during the Challenger's 13th flight, when its orbital revolutions were passing in the vicinity of the National Air Defense Troops state range near Lake Balkhash, with the laser unit operating in a detection mode with minimum emissive power. The craft's orbital altitude at that time was 365 km and the slant range of acquisition and tracking was 400-800 km. A precise target designation was issued to the laser unit by General Designer Grigoriy Kisunko's Argun radar measurement complex.

    "The Challenger crew later reported that as they were flying over the vicinity of Balkhash, communications on the craft suddenly shut down, malfunctions appeared in operation of gear, and the astronauts themselves did not feel quite well. The Americans began to investigate and soon realized that the crew had been subjected to some kind of artificial effect from our side and lodged an official protest with the USSR. Based on humane considerations, the laser unit as well as a portion of the range's radiotechnical complexes having a high energy potential subsequently were not employed to track the Shuttles."

    I looked at those who were performing alert duty that day and tried to draw a psychological portrait of certain specialists. It did not work out. Although he is engaged in his specific job here in the Center, each serviceman works for the sake of a common goal--ensuring the monitoring of "silent" space. And Lieutenant Aleksandr Gudemchuk and Colonel Aleksandr Voynov and their comrades are troubled by problems of further increasing the reliability of acquisition and tracking of space objects and modernization of existing data processing, command and control and communications equipment. There are no indifferent people when it becomes known in the Tracking Center, for example, that SPADATS or NASA is using some kind of new technical equipment. There was and there remains rivalry in this area. The important thing is not to fall behind, because space monitoring systems will be needed even when there are no more wars in the world, since they also can operate for strictly "civilian" purposes. The concern of professionals is understandable: in order to secure their fellow citizens against various chance happenings--from those same falling fragments--one has to be knowledgeable of the latest technical achievements in the area of outer space development.

    The space patrollers' post, located in a picturesque coniferous forest, was living with its own fully earthly problems. The kindergarten teacher had taken the kids out for a walk, there was brisk trade in the food store, and young mothers rolled children's strollers along the central avenue. Perhaps they were the wives of those officers who in these minutes were following the large succession of figures on the displays, directing their gazes at distances of outer space that are as yet by no means safe.
     

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