Russia, which has already suffered losses in Ukraine, appears to be straining at home as well, with a large fire breaking out on April 21 in a secretive Russian military research facility, killing seven people, injuring another 25 people, and causing substantial damage, according to the state-run news outlet Tass.
The facility in Tver, about 120 miles northwest of Moscow, is reportedly in charge of a variety of air defense-related research that purportedly spans space and military domains. The facility is said to be used for research on stealth technologies and their countermeasures.
The fire broke out in an administrative building of the Russian defense ministry’s Central Scientific Research Institute of the Aerospace Defense Troops, or TSNII VVKO. It gradually engulfed the upper three levels of the building, leading everyone within to jump from windows and prompting the roof to cave in, the report said.
The main building was destroyed by fire, as per photographs. The sight was captured on video with dense smoke and flames rising from the institute’s windows. Early investigations pointed to aging wiring as a contributing factor.
US’ High-End Aircraft In The Facility?
There isn’t a lot of information accessible on the Facility’s objectives. However, a TV documentary broadcast on the defense ministry’s Zvezda TV channel in 2018 provides an overview of the TSNII VVKO’s actual operations.
The institute’s focus on the development of air defense systems, in particular efforts to counter specific Western air-launched missiles and combating US stealth technology, is highlighted in this documentary.
In the documentary, a variety of mock-ups are evident. Among these mock-ups, however, were some of the most sophisticated aircraft from the US military. Non-scale models featured the AH-64 assault helicopter, the B-2, F/A-18, F-22, and F-35 fighter jets, as well as other combat aircraft used by possibly hostile nations. The French-made Rafale can also be visible in the footage.
Aside from these, the institution owns at least one component of the surface skin of the F-117 stealth fighter that was taken down over Yugoslavia in 1999. This is one of the institute’s valued assets. This also illustrates the institute’s efforts to counteract US stealth technology.
Experts believe that every fragment of the accessible F-117 wreckage was analyzed and that Russian radar designers benefited from their observations. This reflects the concerns with which Russian air defense units have evaluated stealth aircraft and weapons in general.
Although the institution houses these models, it throws them to use on its test range, which is outfitted with a variety of radar systems capable of determining the radio-frequency characteristics of these weapons and aircraft across a wide range of bandwidths. This information is then passed on to the various design bureaus in charge of Russian air defense systems.
Research On Western Air Defense System
This research institute made significant contributions to Russia’s development of countermeasures to Western air defenses. The AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile – Expanded Response (SLAM-ER), the now-retired AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM), and the Joint Direct Attack Munition were among the several mock-ups seen in the video.
There were also replicas of two US hypersonic missiles on display, one of which was a full-size duplicate of the Boeing HyFly. The other appeared to be a duplicate of the same company’s scramjet-powered X-51A, although it might also represent one of the rival Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) concepts.
Aside from air-to-surface missiles, the institution also showcased “elements” of the US Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) missile. This reveals that, in addition to air defense systems, the institution provides expertise to designers of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which are the GBI’s primary goals.
In addition, the footage shows mock-ups of several types of decoys carried by Russian ICBMs and designed to thwart missile defense systems.
According to Yury Borisov, then Russia’s deputy defense minister and now deputy prime minister, the institution is concerned with “trends” and “antidotes” to Western weapons systems.
Whilst the reasons for the fire at the TSNII VVKO remain unclear, as does the degree of the overall damage, it is fairly sure that the flames have dealt a severe setback to this specialized Russian research program.