Ukraine keeps a fleet of around four hundred Shturm-S ATGM vehicles left behind after the demise of the USSR. Some of them have been operationally deployed in the Donbas Theater in Eastern Ukraine while others are facing retirement as the 9M114 missiles are rapidly approaching the end of their shelf lives.
The Shturm-S was adopted into Soviet Army service in 1979. A two seat-vehicle based on the MT-LB chassis, it was meant to engage and destroy armored vehicle targets with its anti-tank guided missile armament.
What made the Sturm-S especially effective ATGM vehicle at the time was its 9M114 Kokon/Cocoon SACLOS radio guided missile capability. Whilst the missile had a stated range of six kilometers, it actually could reach targets at ranges not exceeding four kilometers.
The 9M114 missile was well suited to be launched from defilade or camouflaged positions, and this was easy to do due to low silhouette of the MT-LB platform. With its high mobility performance and the ammunition allowance of 12 ready to fire missiles, the Shturm-S was considered a pretty highly effective combat vehicle.
That being said, the Shturm-S has several significant shortcomings. Firstly, the 9M114 Kokon does not have the power to destroy modern tank targets with its single-charge warhead, and, secondly, the vehicle, with its daytime-only sight, has little if any utility in night operations.
The Sturm-SM upgrade eliminates these shortcomings. It is effectively a new design (excepting the chassis) with newly developed key capabilities -- the missile, command and control circuit and targeting/sighting system.
The Shturm-SM upgrade includes the DKKB Luch’s RK-2P missile replacing the 9M114 Kokon. This new missile was developed as a derivate of the Barrier ATGM technology that has been fielded in the Donbas conflict area.
The RK-2P has a longer range of 7 km, and it is substantially more reliable and resilient to enemy jamming attempts. The developer claims that the RK-2P is able to penetrate armor protection on any of the battle tanks currently in use.
In the upgraded vehicle, the missile loading system has had to be redesigned to accommodate the larger RK-2P missile housed in a 12-cell loader.
Interestingly enough, the Armed Forces required a range of six kilometers, but DKKB Luch exceeded this, looking ahead into the future.
The RK-2P works interfaced with the Izyum Instrument Factory’s optronic sight system OPSN-I that was unveiled for the first time in 2019. Combining television, thermal imaging and laser sensors with a laser range finding capability and supported by 20X optics, it Is able to pick up targets from more than 11 kilometers away, and its laser can reach targets out to 7 km away.
The OPSN-1 is noteworthy also for its use of a two-axis gyrostabilized platform developed by DKKB Luch. For this technology the developer opted for direct-drive torque motors to ensure smooth movement without jerks, hence to enable easy and accurate aiming.
Beyond that, Luch contributed to the project by developing a software package that simplifies human-machine interaction and adds a whole new functionality for autotracking of targets. That is, the operator will only have to select a target and put the sight’s crosshairs on it; afterwards, the target will be tracked automatically without human intervention until impact.
The Sturm-SM features a laser warning receiver that gives warning of hostile laser threats aiming on the platform and is fielded on modern Ukrainian tanks. Other improvements include GPS-aided navigation; digital, encrypted communications; and an air conditioner for better comfort of the crew.
What is particularly important with respect to the Shturm-SM project is that it integrates a new longer-range missile and a highly capable weapon aiming system with a state-of-the-art software package supporting the target autotracking functionality. These are readily available solutions that can be adopted for use on other weaponry and equipment systems deploying DKKB Luch guided missiles.
Read more: Ukraine’s UCAV capability