Russia sells Pantsir-S1 aerial systems to Saudi Arabia amid sanctions.
According to information from the Italian media outlet RID, Russia has completed selling and delivering its Pantsir-S1 short-range aerial systems to Saudi Arabia. This event takes place within the framework of the World Defense Show 2024, held in Riyadh, in an interesting context due to the economic sanctions imposed on Russia due to the Ukrainian conflict.

With this operation, Saudi Arabia becomes the third client in the Persian Gulf to acquire this system, after the UAE and Oman. The same sources have revealed payment problems due to the exclusion of Russian banks from the international SWIFT system.

This situation occurred as a result of Western sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, the exact number of systems purchased and their specific configurations remain undisclosed. 

The system in question, Pantsir-S1, is a reliable and combat-proven option. Recent improvements and modifications, especially to its software components, have made it significantly effective in Ukraine in mitigating missile and rocket threats, according to the RID report.

Close ties with Russia

Saudi Arabia’s position in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is complex and multifaceted, influenced by various geopolitical, economic and strategic factors. The main driver of this complexity is the country’s long relationship with Russia, characterized by mutual respect and cooperation in various areas, especially in the energy sector.

As two of the world’s largest oil producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia play a critical role in maintaining the stability of global oil markets. These two nations frequently coordinate through the OPEC+ alliance to effectively regulate their oil production policies, ensuring the stabilization of crude oil prices. Therefore, adopting a rigid stance against Russia could compromise this vital economic partnership.

Russia sells Pantsir-S1 aerial systems

Another factor contributing to this stance is Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical considerations. The Kingdom has made efforts to diversify its international relations, trying to reduce its dependence on the United States. This strategy has led to closer ties with Russia, among other countries. Therefore, positioning alongside the United States against Russia in the Ukraine conflict could be detrimental to this strategic objective.

Furthermore, a cornerstone of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy has always been non-interventionism. The country prefers to maintain neutrality in international conflicts unless its own national security is directly threatened. This policy is deeply rooted in the principles of respect for the sovereignty of the State and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

Finally, it is essential to emphasize that Saudi Arabia’s position in the Ukraine conflict is not indicative of any global problem in its relationship with the United States. Despite its position on this specific issue, the Kingdom maintains strong ties with the United States in various sectors, especially defense and security. However, on this isolated issue, their interests and strategic considerations are more in line with a neutral or non-confrontational stance.

Russia sells Pantsir-S1 aerial systems

About Pantsir-S1

The Pantsir-S1, also known as SA-22 Greyhound by NATO, is a short- and medium-range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon system produced in Russia.

This system is designed to protect key military and industrial installations and to increase the defense capabilities of long-range air defense systems by eliminating precision-guided munitions.

The technical specifications of the Pantsir-S1 make it an imposing weapons system. It is equipped with a radar and an electro-optical system that can detect, track and engage targets at ranges of up to 36 kilometers and altitudes of up to 15 kilometers. The system can track up to 20 targets simultaneously and attack three of them with its missiles. In addition, the Pantsir-S1 has a high level of mobility, capable of reaching speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour on the road.

How does it work?

The operational range of the Pantsir-S1 is quite wide. Its 12 surface-to-air guided missiles have a destruction range of up to 20 kilometers for aerodynamic targets and up to 15 kilometers for ballistic targets. The system’s two dual 30mm autocannons are effective up to 4 kilometers in range and up to 3 kilometers in altitude.

The Pantsir-S1’s armament consists of 12 57E6 surface-to-air guided missiles and two 2A38M 30 mm automatic cannons. The missiles are guided by radio command and are equipped with a high-explosive fragmentation warhead, along with contact and proximity fuses. The autocannons are capable of firing up to 2,500 rounds per minute, providing a dense barrage against incoming targets.

The Pantsir-S1 is powered by radar that detects and tracks targets. Once the target is detected, the fire control system calculates the optimal shooting solution. Target data is sent to the missile just before launch. After launch, the missile is guided to the target by the radio command system. The missile’s warhead is then detonated by contact with the target or by its proximity fuze.

Alexey Lenkov