On 14 September 2019, Yemen’s Houthi movement attacked
oil production and refining facilities in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi army, with its
third largest military budget in the world after the USA and China, proved
unable to repel the attack. The country’s air defence system, built to US
standards and utilising US weapons, was helpless against makeshift cruise
missiles and drones.
The unprecedented strike on the world’s largest refinery in Abqaiq and the
facility near the Khurais oil field, both owned by Saudi Aramco, led to a
temporary drop in Saudi Arabia’s hydrocarbons production by more than a half,
from 9.8 to 4.1 million barrels per day, or almost 5% of global oil production.
According to an 18 September briefing by the Saudi Defence Ministry, the
refinery was attacked by 18 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and the Khurais
facility, by seven cruise missiles. Only four of the missiles reached their
target; the rest fell in the desert.
For comparison, let us consider the example of how air defences are organised at
Russia’s Khmeimim air base in Syria, which has been attacked dozens of times by
similar threats and successfully repelled all the attacks. The base was
additionally equipped with the Tor-M2E SAM system, whose combat effectiveness
exceeds 90%. We may state with confidence that this system is currently the best
solution for combating UAVs, cruise missiles and precision weapon elements.
The Tor-M2E’s equivalent, the Tor-M2KM, is a universal autonomous short-range
SAM system. It ensures effective destruction of long-, medium- and short-range
manoeuvring cruise missiles; anti-radiation missiles; anti-ship missiles flying
as low as 5 m above the sea surface; glide and guided air bombs; UAVs; fixed-
and rotary-wing aircraft flying at altitudes between 10 and 10,000 m. above the
ground, at distances of between 1,000 and15,000 m and at a ground range of 8,000
The system is highly immune to active and passive interference and can operate
in all weather conditions, day and night.
The fully autonomous system can be mounted on any platforms of appropriate
carrying capacity (automotive chassis, trailers and semi-trailers, trailers,
rail flatcars, roofs of buildings and structures, decks of warships and civil
vessels, in stationary locations, and at prepared sites in hard-to-reach areas).
The system requires virtually no structural changes to its platform. It can be
easily installed and dismantled by any lifting device with a capacity of at
least 25 tonnes.
The system comprises combat and technical components.
The combat components are as follows:
- the 9A331MK-1 autonomous combat module (ACM);
- two 9M334D SAM modules each holding four 9M331D missiles (eight
ready-to-launch missiles in total).
The technical components comprise a set of spares, tools and accessories for
maintenance and repair. There is also an electronic training aid for the ACM
The 9A331MK-1 autonomous combat module is capable of independently detecting,
identifying and engaging aerial targets. It has its own round-the-clock radar
and optical sensors, eight ready-to-launch SAMs, computer control system, crew
workstations, navigation and positioning systems, main power supply (3х220V,
400Hz, 65 kW) in the form of a gas turbine or a diesel generator, back-up power
supply (solid-state, converting 3х200V 50Hz to 3х200V 400Hz up to 90kW), fuel
supply and life support systems.
All equipment and personnel are accommodated in one compact module. The ACM’s
operation is fully automated. It automatically seeks, detects and tracks up to
144 targets, of which 10 targets identified by the control computer system as
the most dangerous are displayed on the commander’s screen, each complete with
its number from 1 to 10. To engage a specific target, the commander only needs
to press the control panel with the number of the selected target on it.
The system automatically tracks three more targets in the 30-degree sector. The
control computer system determines the moment of launch to engage the target at
maximum possible range and feeds the launch authorisation command to the
commander’s workstation. The commander then presses the launch button.
Throughout its operation the functionality of all the system’s equipment is
automatically monitored and troubleshooted if need be.
The radio guidance system ensures high interference immunity and allows for
missile guidance with different parameters depending on the target type. The
guidance parameters are automatically selected by the control computer system.
One of the guidance parameters makes it possible to reliably engage cruise
missiles flying at down to 10 m above ground level (5 m above sea level). The
second parameter is designed for diving targets such as the HARM anti-radiation
missile. The third parameter is against guided air bombs. The fourth, fifth and
sixth parameters are intended for fixed-wing, rotary-wing and UAV targets,
respectively. The system’s ability to engage targets at a ground range of up to
8 km ensures coverage of an area measuring up to 480 sq. km.
The system is operational in the temperature range of between -50 and +50
degrees Centigrade. Its combat components are protected against the elements
such as solar radiation, precipitation, salt mist and salt spray.
The 9A331MK-1’s all-up weight does not exceed 15 tonnes, which allows for any
mode of transportation, including underslung by heavy helicopters such as the
The system’s universality allows for its use as an air defence asset for ground
units, warships, auxiliary vessels, civilian vessels, airfields, ports,
sensitive strategic government and military facilities.
In addition, the Tor-M2KM can provide reliable protection of oil-and-gas
facilities, including offshore oil platforms, as well as oil refineries, from
terrorist attacks involving cruise missiles, strike UAVs and kamikaze drones.
The Tor-M2KM structure can be built depending on the type, area and location of
the object to be protected. The best option is to use two to four 9A331MK-1 ACMs
The system implements the one-for-one algorithm, as the kill probability exceeds
According to military experts, in terms of the cost-effectiveness ratio the
Tor-M2KM is the leading short-range SAM system both in Russia and abroad.