190214 bigUkraine’s 27th Independence Day parade displayed for the first time a prototype mockup of a Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) for a short-range ballistic missile system under development by KB Pivdenne (aka Yuzhnoye), Dnipro. The TEL is a key element of the operational-tactical missile system variants intended for the domestic and export markets.


Ballistic Missile Project Sapsan


Plans regarding the indigenous development of a new ballistic missile program were first discussed on March 7, 2006 at a National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) meeting attended by the then President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko. It then became evident that the country’s missile defense shield was in urgent need of modernization. Ukraine’s Missile Forces were able to reach targets no longer than 120 km away with aging Soviet-developed Tochka-U ballistic missile complexes that only Russian companies were entitled to overhaul and upgrade. The NSDC meeting agreed that there was a need for developing a new, multifunctional operational-tactical missile system (MFMS) to offer a non-nuclear deterrence capability for Ukraine’s Armed Forces. The domestic defense industry was set to the task of developing a system that would combine the features of tactical missile complexes and multiple launch rocket launchers, i.e. be multifunctional in nature.


M.K. Yangel KB Pivdenne, a State-owned design & development company based in Dnipropetrovsk (now renamed into Dnipro) that previously had developed 12 out of 20 Soviet brands of intercontinental ballistic missile systems, was assigned the job of developing the MFMS project that was assigned the designator name “Sapsan" (meaning “peregrine falcon” in Ukrainian). Operational requirements document for the Sapsan MFMS was agreed upon between the Ministry of Defense and KB Pivdenne in September 2007. It was foreseen that the project would be a broad collaboration between up to 60 domestic defense industries. The new indigenously developed MFMS was supposed to replace the aging Soviet-designed counterparts operated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.


In 2009-2010, however, funding for the Sapsan project was put on hold due to economic decline in Ukraine, in the wake of the Global 2008 Financial Crisis, and resumed after Sapsan had been formalized into a federally targeted program in November 2011. Approved with a budget of just $ 0.825 million, the program got only 5-10 percent of the funding to which it was entitled. In August 2013, the Ministry of Defense, then led by Pavlo Lebedev, terminated the funding for the Sapsan program, citing wastage of the program’s budget by KB Pivdenne.


Hrim – Focus on Export Markets


Against the backdrop of Sapsan's budget expenditure shortfalls, domestic arms dealers began since 2011 offering potential export customers the new operational-tactical missile system (OTMS) named Hrim (also known as Grom, translated as "Thunder"). Two years later, KB Pivdenne received a contract from an undisclosed country to develop the OTMS Hrim-2.


Hrim 2 Sapsan missile complex Kyiv 2018 25


In mid-2014 when Russian incursion into Ukraine was already underway, KB Pivdenne came out with an initiative to resume work on the Sapsan MFMS program leveraging the expertise that it has gained in developing the Hrim-2 for an export customer. Pivdenne suggested that the Sapsan should be ready for user evaluation by 2018 to enable sooner personnel training, sooner completion of the trials process, and sooner introduction into Ukraine’s Armed Forces, the latter being a critical factor for potential export sales.


President Petro Poroshenko, while on a visit to Dnipropetrovsk on October 21, 2014, gave orders that products by Pivdenny (aka Yuzhny) Makarov Machinery Plant should be included into the Government Defense Procurement Contract 2015. In January 2015, Oleksandr Dehtyarev, the Chief Designer at KB Pivdenne, said in an official statement that the Ukrainian government had agreed with the need to unlock the Sapsan MFMS program, and promised that, with adequate and smooth funding, the Sapsan MFMS technology could be ready for testing and evaluation as soon as in 2018.


Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense has been closely watching the running of the design and development process for the foreign customer commissioned Hrim-2 OTMS, and hopes that Ukraine’s Armed Forces would obtain a more advanced and capable variant.


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Further details on the subject


It would be premature to evaluate the capabilities of the new OTMS until it completes its testing program and low-rate initial production is commenced. But this could be attempted, with a degree of error, based on the technical and engineering design data from multiple technology presentations conducted for foreign-country officials previously.


The data below is what we have been able to reconstruct from open sources. The short-range ballistic missile system under development by KB Pivdenne is designed to defeat targets located in the depths of hostile territory: missile batteries, airplanes and helicopters on the ground, artillery cannons and MLRS, air and missile defenses, command/control and field communication centers, critical civilian infrastructures, etc.


The system, as suggested by KB Pivdenne, should include: TELs, cruise and ballistic missiles; a mobile brigade/ division/ battery command & control center, a transport-loader vehicle with a missile launching canister, mobile electric power units; system control equipment; and a launch support vehicle.


The system’s range is dependable primarily upon the range performance of the missile being launched. The missile range for export version is 300 km, limited by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The version intended for Ukraine’s Armed Forces will be able to fly up to 500 km. The minimum range is 20 to 50 km. KB Pivdenne stated that the missile would be able to travel along guided ballistic trajectories as well as aeroballistic trajectories.



Missile launching canister


Interface attachment


Missile head section


Interface attachment


Main engine


Aerodynamic control surfaces


Tail section with pulse correction unitї


Ballistic missile - single-stage, guided, with a non-detachable warhead. Mass of the launch-ready missile is about 4,300 kg, while the launching canister weighs about 5,300 kg when fully loaded.


Main engine - solid fuelled, operating with a fuel blend, featuring a cocoon-type frame. Engine mass is about 3,000 kg. Missile is launched from the canister like a mortar round by gas dynamic jets of the main engine. After launch, the missile has to be guided until impact.


Missile control system combines GPS-supported inertial navigation with guidance from missile’s EO/radar seeker. Guidance to target is provided by inertial/GPS navigation system, with fire-and-forget seeker used for terminal guidance.


The EO seeker would match the terrain being overflown with images from the library downloaded into its “brains” during pre-launch preparations. The library contains digital maps compiled from aero- and satellite images of hostile territory. A similar mode of guidance is used in current-generation cruise missiles. A radar seeker (active or passive) is also suited for this application, and Ukraine already has a solution in this area. The challenge facing the designers of this OTMS is to select a highly accurate guidance system that would provide terminal accuracy measuring in meters of Circular Error Probable (CEP). But the key priority now is to make the missile modular in architecture to enable future improvements driven by technological advances, the Company’s growing expertise, and the varying needs of the Customer (Ministry of Defense).


The missile can accept various types of warheads weighing 480 kg or so, either cluster or unitary, of high explosive fragmentation (HEF) type or Advanced Unitary Penetrator (AUP) type. The kill radius is stated to be 10,000 m² for the HEF warhead and up to 3 hectares for the AUP warhead. In the terminal phase of flight, the missile would approach the target at approximately 1,300 m/s. The process of preparing the missile for launch from TEL would take from 5 to 20 minutes depending on preparedness of the firing position and readiness of the TEL crew.


The TEL of the perspective OTMS is built on a purpose-designed off-road 10x10 wheeled chassis, and the same type of chassis will provide a platform on which the OTMS’ missile transporter and transporter loader will be built. The mockup prototype of the TEL was developed by State-owned Kharkiv Morozov Machinery Design Bureau and built by PrAT Kharkiv Transport Machinery Plant.


The TEL is outfitted with the systems and equipment required for autonomous pre-launch and launch operations. Seen here is a configuration equipped with 2 x launching canisters loaded with ground-to-ground missiles.


In its full configuration, the TEL with two ballistic missiles loaded weighs about 38 tons. Road speed is stated at 70 km/h. Served by a crew of three, the TEL is provided with fuel, food and water supplies for three days of autonomous operation.


Off-road Transport Erector Launcher (TEL)  

Designers: Kharkiv Transport Machinery Plant, State-owned Kharkiv Morozov Machinery Design Bureau

TEL mass, fully loaded – 38 t

Road speed – 70 km/h

Autonomy of operation – 3 days

Crew – 3


10х10 wheeled chassis


Apparatus compartment


Launching canister with a missile loaded


Leveling outriggers




Defense Express proposes to meet the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ requirement for OTMS capabilities at the rate of one OTMS brigade per each Operational Command (plus reserve capabilities).


Contra spem spero


The MTCR allows its signatories to sell missiles with ranges up to 300 km to export markets and up to 500 km to their respective domestic markets. Ukraine is fully in its right to develop a domestic ballistic missile capability, considering especially a continuous threat of aggression from the Russian Federation.


In 2007, Ukraine’s only ballistic missile brigade was modernized with Tochka-U missile complexes replacing the long outdated Scud tactical ballistic missile systems. Ukrainian forces used Tochka-U missile batteries and individual launchers to counter Russian incursion in 2014. But these weapons were deficient, and there were instances where Tochka-U missiles that had underwent life extension upgrades by Russian engineers from Kolomna Design Bureau just ahead of the war fell short of their targets.


Ukraine, having learnt bitter lessons, has to correct own mistakes of the past. Ukraine, albeit being a missile-armed nation, urgently needs a modern ballistic missile capability, and domestic development of this capability is a challenge that must be met.



Defense Express


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