Air Force secretly acquires Russian missile system: Pantsir S-1

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Russian Ministry of DefenseGetty Images

  • US Air Force picked up a Russian-made surface-to-air missile system in June 2020, flying it out of Libya in a C-17 transport.
  • Libyan government forces captured the Pantsir S-1 weapon system and handed it over to the Americans.
  • Pantsir is a low-altitude, truck-mounted air defense system used in Syria, Libya and other war zones.

    Last summer, a secret US military flight to Libya took away one of Russia’s most modern air defense weapons systems. The US Air Force flew the Pantsir S-1 surface-to-air missile system, which Libyan government forces captured, out of the country on a military transport flight for unknown parts.

    The acquisition of a Pantsir, designed to defend against US and NATO aircraft, is a boon to the US intelligence community.

    According to The temperature, the secret mission to Libya took place in June 2020. The Pantsir, which the United Arab Emirates bought from Russia and gave to the Libyan government, had been abandoned and then captured by a local militia. Government forces eventually recovered the system and transferred it to a base housing Turkish military forces.

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    Of the, Above the defense Explain, the Palantir was shipped to Zuwara Air Base. Next, a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport went to the airport, picked up the truck-mounted system, and transported it north to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. It was then that the track cooled.

    libya conflict russia
    A captured Pantsir S1 marched through Tripoli by government forces in May 2020. This may be the system the US Air Force flew a month later, but it’s probably impossible to know for sure.

    MAHMUD TURKEYGetty Images

    The Pantsir S-1 is one of the first Russian post-Cold War low-level air defense systems. The system consists of 12 short-range 57E6 surface-to-air missiles, radar-guided and electro-optic, with a range of up to 11 miles. The weapons charge is supplemented by a pair of 30-millimeter automatic cannons directed by radar. The entire system rests on the bed of an 8×8 truck chassis.

    The Pantsir is intended to provide air defense to headquarters, supply units, air bases and other important sites against threats, including low-level fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, drones and even cruise missiles.


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    While Pantsir has been widely exported, Russian military forces still use it, making it a system that US and NATO forces could face in wartime. US forces would have had access to the Pantsirs during their military service in the UAE during joint exercises, but the Libyan system is the first that the US military and intelligence community can retain.

    The weapon could likely end up at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, home of the U.S. Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center, which maintains a Foreign material exploitation center for the express purpose of investigating captured, stolen or otherwise acquired foreign weapon systems.

    The system will likely be dismantled and rebuilt, and knowing how Pantsir engages enemy planes will help protect U.S. and Allied planes in the future.


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