C2 of MANPADS

That is, Command and Control of Man Portable Air Defense Systems.

This article on the new Russian “Verba” system has been making the rounds in a couple facebook groups I’m in.

The Russian Airborne Forces have started receiving the newest Verba man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) equipped with an automated fire control system that has no foreign rival, military spokesman Yevgeny Meshkov said Friday.

“The surface to air-missile regiment of the Ivankvsky Airborne Forces division is the first to have started receiving and studying the modern system of air defense battle,” Meshkov said.

The systems automatically provide information on the air environment, fix the target and command a strike against the target within several seconds. “This gives time to an AA sniper armed with the Verba MANPADS to prepare for the meeting and hit the target beforehand,” he said.

It’s actually unclear if Verba is a new missile, or just refers to the Command and Control system for existing shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, such as th SA-24/9K338 Igla-S.
File:IGLA-S MANPADS at IDELF-2008.jpg

Most of us have seen pictures and videos of shoulder launched missiles, especially the US FIM-92 Stinger. What you probably didn’t know is that there has long been a method of centralized control over the fires of Stinger teams and its predecessors, the Redeye missile, and earlier Vulcan guns and Chaparral missile launchers.

The relatively short range of such systems and high approach speeds of enemy aircraft, coupled with the need to avoid shooting down friendly air support, means that teams in the field had to be provided with as much warning as possible of the presence of enemy aircraft. Voice radio is one option, but it is slow, and a surprisingly difficult way of sharing information. Instead, from the 1960s on, the US used a primitive data link system to share radar information with air defense teams in the field.

Under the ROAD/Division86/AoE2000 organization, each division had an Air Defense Artillery Battalion. Its structure varied over time, and depending on what type of division it was organic to. But for our purposes, let’s just consider that it was armed simply with Stinger teams mounted on Humvees. The ADA battalion was responsible for short range air defense of critical divisional assets (such as the division’s CP and artillery) as well as the maneuver forces in the field. Information about air operations in the division’s area could be provided by outside resources such as higher echelons of the Army, or even by Air Force assets. But the primary means was through the ADA battalion’s own organic search radar.

Up until 1991, the division used six MPQ-49 Forward Area Alerting Radars (FAAR) to cover the division area. The FAAR was a short range, mast mounted radar moved by a light truck. With a range of about 20km, it was optimized to detect low flying targets, such as ground attack aircraft and helicopters.

http://www.mobileradar.org/picts/radar_sets/tpq_32/scan0004.jpg

But just having the radar to cover the divisional area wasn’t enough. The information from the radar had to be disseminated to the Stinger teams dispersed throughout the area.

To automatically (and continuously) provide that information, the FAAR was linked to a small man-portable box via a primitive radio datalink. This box was the TADDS or Target Alert Data Display Set.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/accp/ad0699/06990084.gif

The TADDS wasn’t very sophisticated (or precise) but it did give a crude overview of the air situation to Stinger teams in the field. Coupled with voice radio from the battery commander, and judgment of the Stinger team leader on the spot, relatively effective command and control was possible. Mind you, the MPQ-49FAAR/TADDS system was phased out of service in 1991 in favor of more sophisticated radars and displays.

So maybe the Russian airborne forces do have a new command and control system for their MANPADS air defense. But it’s hardly the first in the world.

9 thoughts on “C2 of MANPADS”

  1. The TADDS seldom was used in the field. Maybe another post some day explaining it all and the shortcomings. But for the most part, MANPADS and other SHORAD teams used a grid system to “shout out” the location of friendly and enemy aircraft operations on the FM (an example here: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/71-100-2/Img-029.gif ).

    Even that was cumbersome and difficult to use when “fast movers” were operating. The most important fire control we had with SHORAD was plain old visual aircraft recognition. Let the man with the finger on the trigger call it out. Seemed to have worked…

  2. “Verba” (Willow) is supposed to be a new weapon system (both projectile and launcher) entirely, and not an Igla derivative. It’s supposed to be a bigger system with a triple waveband seeker (as opposed to the dual-waveband sensor on the Igla-S).

  3. Is that one of the mythical gamma goats? They had gotten rid of them by the time I was in, but my PSG told me many tales of woe that featured it.

    1. ’tis indeed a 5/4ton Goat. We still had them in my unit in Hawaii when I was first there. Mostly used by the mortar platoon, but the support platoon had some as well, IIRC.

  4. Here’s how SHORAD worked at the unit level from the POV of maneuver:
    -At NTC: First comes the warning: “Dynamite, Dynamite, Dynamite. Fast movers moving from north to south on the 58 Easting, out.” Then, the maneuver force uses passive air defense measures to hide in the nearest wadis and lets the dust trails blow away. Then comes the attack. Red air blows by and the OCs arbitrarily kill someone. Then comes the defensive measures: the BFV (not yet a BSFV) comes to a belated halt and the MANPAD team comes tumbling out the back, puts their missile in action, invariably faces the wrong way and stands there for a minute before mentally distilling that the enemy has already come and gone before remounting. Repeat.
    -Running into a stationary tank in broad daylight with nothing else around for 1000m during a canned rehearsal.
    -In Germany: Some variant of the above, except add in the following variables:
    -Not killing as many HINDS as my tanks could.
    -Killing allied air forces’ aircraft in “Blue Air” role because if it is not an A10, F15 or F16, it must die. (Unless said A10, F15 or F16 is Red Air, then it will fly unscathed.)
    -Trying to kill my tank with the puny 25mm because M1A1 tanks and OPFOR M113 “BMPs” are easily confused
    -Tracking an M1 and drawing your finger across your throat as if you killed it, then denying it all and sheepishly admitting that you were lying when you need a slave start because you drained your batteries.
    -Firing 88 rounds out of sector during an LFX then running away after “Cease-fire/Freeze” is put out on the net, leaving the supported company stuck on the range for 2 hours.

    I am not saying all duck hunters suck, but I have not ever been supported by good ones. I do think that we have made a serious mistake as an army in reducing their force structure, though, and the fix is more, not less, maneuver with actual ground maneuver forces.

  5. I will say that our ADA battery for our brigade was usually our OPFOR during the company/team level training, so although we were never supported by them as engineers, I have a fair bit of confidence that those guys could drive without running into a stationary M-1. No idea how well they could do their job (I was in support platoon by the time we went to NTC, my memories of Redair include hearing the “Dynamite” call and then finding the nearest wadi and notionally kissing my butt goodbye).

    I will also say that one of my TAC officers in ROTC was an ADA captain. His #1 selling point was that there were zero ADA officer slots without a vehicle for the PL.

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