The Russian military appears to have destroyed several US-made counter-battery radars in Ukraine. So far, at least five counter-battery radars supplied to Ukrainian forces have been obliterated, as per two separate claims by the Russian defense ministry.
On November 12, the spokesperson of the Russian Defense Ministry, Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov, announced that the Russian military destroyed two US-made counter-battery radars.
“In the settlements of Lozovaya in the Kharkiv region and Zelenaya Dolina in the Donetsk People’s Republic, two US-made AN/TPQ-50 and AN/TPQ-36 counter-battery radar stations were destroyed,” Konashenkov said at a briefing.
Before this, three Ukrainian AN/TPQ-50 were destroyed by Russian artillery and aircraft in the areas of the settlements of Krasny Liman in the DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic), Novogrigorovka in the Kherson region, and Novopoltavka in the Mykolaiv region, according to the claims by Russian Defense Ministry on November 10.
It is impossible to verify the claims made by Russian Defense Ministry independently, but there is visual evidence of at least one purported AN/TPQ-36 being destroyed.
— Fantom (@Ghost132607472) November 9, 2022
On November 9, Twitter handles sympathetic to Russia shared a video of AN/TPQ-36 being destroyed by Russian artillery fire. However, the video was reportedly filmed in the Zaporizhzhia direction and not in any of the regions above.
Counter-battery fire is a critical aspect of an artillery duel. It relies on counter-battery radars that detect and track incoming projectiles and, based on their trajectories, calculate their point of origin.
In addition to the trajectory of rockets, the counter-battery systems also use the sound generated when rockets are launched to determine the location of enemy launchers.
American Counter-Battery Radars In Ukraine
Ukraine is known to have received 15 AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder radars from the US and Netherlands between 2015 and May 2022.
Manufactured by Northrop Grumman and developed by Hughes Aircraft Co. in the mid-late 1970s, the X-band AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder is a highly mobile short-range counter-battery radar with a detection range of up to 24 kilometers.
The dozens of AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder counter artillery radar systems are crucial in the warzone when paired with artillery weapons like the M777 howitzers.
The radar can not only be connected to M777s but can also be linked to High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), both of which the US has sent in sufficient numbers to Kyiv.
The reason why M777s or HIMARS have been so successful is because as soon as the Russian troops fire on the Ukrainian positions, the US-origin radars send the coordinates to the M777s or HIMARS, which can then return fire with pinpoint accuracy.
Apart from the latest video of the destruction of an alleged AN/TPQ-36 on November 9, in March, the AN/TPQ-36 was damaged in east Ukraine due to Russian artillery shelling. This means Ukraine appears to have lost at least three AN/TPQ-36s so far.
As for the AN/TPQ-50, there is no evidence, so far, of this radar either being supplied to or used by Ukraine.
The L-band AN/TPQ-50 has a detection range of up to ten kilometers, and the US is believed to have sent a single AN/TPQ-50 to Ukraine in 2015 for testing purposes, but there is no evidence that supplies of this radar then followed.
Experts suggest the US decided to take advantage of the Russian aggression in Ukraine in 2014 to evaluate the performance of the AN/TPQ-50 in detecting Russian artillery.
That said, Russia has claimed to destroy AN/TPQ-50 radars since the start of its special military operation in Ukraine.
AN/TPQ-50 counter battery radar taken out by artillery.
— Taurevanime (@Taurevanime) September 24, 2022
While there is not much visual evidence to support Russian claims, in September, social media channels sympathetic to Russia shared a video showing the destruction of what appeared to be the AN/TPQ radar antenna from the top view.
Other Counter-Battery Radars Used In Ukraine
Besides the US-made Firefinder radars, Ukrainian forces are also using the German-made Hensoldt Cobra-C band counter-battery radars that can detect and track around 1,500 targets in a radius of up to 250 kilometers.
Meanwhile, the Russian artillery units have primarily relied on the Zoopark-1M and the IL271 Aistenok Ku-band radars.
The Zoopark-1M has a detection range of up to 40 kilometers, as per the claims made in Russian literature. It can determine potential launch positions of hostile artilleries up to 15 kilometers.
Zoopark-1 M’s detection range is much less than the German Cobra-C radars, but a single Zoopark-1M can reportedly determine the coordinates of up to 60 batteries per minute. In contrast, the Cobra can do this for only 20 batteries per minute.
Interestingly, Ukraine was also supplied with Zoopark-1Ms, and Ukrainian engineers are expected to know the system’s vulnerabilities already, which they are believed to have shared with the NATO countries.
#Ukraine: Likely M982 Excalibur in action again: A potent Russian 1L261 radar vehicle from the 1L260 Zoopark-1M counter-battery complex, along with a transport truck, were destroyed by precise Ukrainian artillery fire in #Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Note the proximity detonation. pic.twitter.com/OWXOMIF3pK
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) August 20, 2022
Russian forces have lost at least five Zoopark-1Ms radars, of which three were destroyed, and two were captured.
#Ukraine: A Russian 1L271 portable mortar locating reconnaissance radar was captured by the Ukrainian army in Rubtsi, #Donestk Oblast along with two dozen OF-843B 120mm HE mortar bombs. pic.twitter.com/p8plY3q7xD
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) September 27, 2022
The IL271 Aistenok is capable of determining mortar-firing positions at ranges of 750 meters, according to experts. Ukrainian forces captured a single IL271 Aistenok in Donetsk Oblast in September.