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for Launching Asymmetric Responses
in Military-Technological Battle
with a High-Technology Adversary
Doctor of Technical Sciences
Col. Yu.D. ILYIN (Ret.),
Candidate of Technical Sciences
Abstract. This article considers methodological issues of launching an
asymmetrical response in order to improve Russia’s defense capability. It formulates
key provisions of a methodological basis for asymmetrical responses
in military-technical struggle against a high-technology potential adversary
in developing prospective weapons, military and specialized hardware.
Keywords: asymmetric response, hierarchic levels, time-cost-efficiency
criteria, scientific and technical process stock, defense capability, principles,
programmatically targeted planning, systemic approach.
Asymmetric responses (AR) in conflicts with superior adversary forces have
always existed. For example, in the Second Punic War (212 BC), the brilliant scientist
and engineer Archimedes created and successfully used projectile
machines capable of throwing stones of about 250 kg at high speeds, as well as
mechanisms to throw heavy logs at ships from the shore. Largely due to
Archimedes, the siege of Syracuse lasted eight months. In the early 1980s, the
United States launched the concept of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI),
regarded throughout the world as the “Star Wars” program. In 1983, the US military
and political leadership announced that the task of research and development
(R&D) under the SDI program was to make nuclear weapons “obsolete and
unnecessary.” In response to SDI, without rigorously taking into account the
emerging financial and economic constraints, the Soviet Union developed and
partially implemented a system of military-political and military-technical countermeasures
that was called “our asymmetric response.” In particular, it was supposed
to disable American satellites using ground-based laser systems.
In recent decades, the unpredictability of the actions of the US military-political
leadership, which began with the withdrawal from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile
Treaty in 2002, should be especially taken into account. Without objective reasons,
the US has prepared to withdraw unilaterally1 from the 1987 Treaty on the
Elimination of Intermediate-Range Missiles (IMRM). It is highly likely that the
2010 Treaty between the Russian Federation (RF) and the US on Measures for
the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START-3),
slated to last 10 years with a possible extension by mutual agreement of the parties
for five years, will not be renewed. Under extremely severe informational,
financial, economic and military-political pressure from the US and some other
Western countries, as well as amid rapid growth of military technologies
throughout the world, an asymmetric response is intended to be a “lifesaver” for
the Russian Federation that would ensure the country’s sovereignty and acceptable
development without exorbitant costs in the face of long-term sanctions and
territorial claims. Paragraph 105 of the National Security Strategy of the Russian
Federation2 stresses that “in order to ensure strategic stability and equal multilateral
interaction in the international arena, the Russian Federation is making all
necessary efforts to maintain the deterrent potential in the field of strategic offensive
weapons at the least cost.”
An asymmetric response is usually understood to mean a set of political-military
measures, including diplomacy, political propaganda, and programs for the
development of strategic weapon systems, as well as their scientific and technological
base.3 AR should provide their capability to exert nonstandard, highly
efficient impact on an adversary, generally at a fraction of the cost,4 therefore
making it pointless to incur the expense of creating high-technology weapon systems.
AR currently ensures a strategic balance between the military superpowers.
The present article discusses the military-technological aspects of this issue.
We will assume that the objective of the AR is to effectively counter the
adversary’s superior combat capabilities using a resource-saving method that
consists of finding the weakest links in the opposing groups of troops (forces),
weapon systems and infrastructure, and inflicting selective, precision damage on
them. AR makes it possible to concentrate limited resources within a short time
to develop and mass-produce original items, packages and weapon systems
(hereinafter referred to as weapon systems), thereby creating in an allotted time
and place capabilities for successful combat actions (operations) against superior
adversary forces. In other words, when preparing an AR as a fundamental
basis of military-technological solutions for the Russian Federation Armed
Forces (RF AF), other troops, military formations and agencies, the task set by
V.V. Gerasimov, Chief of the RF AF General Staff must be fulfilled: “to even out
the strengths of a high-technology adversary.”5 A symmetric response to such an
adversary only draws the economically weaker side into an arms race, that is, an
economic “warfare” of resource depletion. At the same time, under modern conditions
it is impossible not to take into account the diversity of various forms and
Launching Asymmetric Responses to High-Technology Adversary 21
methods of combat actions. One example that can be cited is Afghanistan, where
for more than a decade armed opposition groups (first of all, the Taliban) have
been preventing the US military contingent, which is equipped with the advanced
weapons and military and specialized hardware (WaMSH), to turn the tide of the
conflict in its favor.
From a methodological point of view, the achievements of the RF in creating
technologies and items of hypersonic weapons (HSW) in its military-technological
rivalry with the US and China should not be considered “ideal” tools for
an asymmetric response.6 There is a tough struggle between the three countries
for superiority in creating a new type of weapons; in our opinion, the ideal AR
entails, first of all, a “surprise” to the probable adversary that forces the latter to
radically change the ideology of military-technical development in a specific
area of warfare and to incur costs that exceed ours by 1-2 orders of magnitude.
In the meantime, each country is achieving original developments and successes
in creating HSW of various classes and purposes. Specific forms of HSW may
provide asymmetricalesponses within the framework of existing imbalances.
For example, the adoption of the RS-28 Sarmat strategic missile system
(SMS) (nATO classification Satan-2)7 will allow [Russia] to overcome the US
antimissile defense system more efficiently. The “orbital bombardment” technology
loaded into the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) makes it possible
to strike the US on a suborbital trajectory via the South Pole, bypassing the
deployed antimissile defense systems. This goal is also facilitated by equipping
the ICBM’s warheads with more advanced means of overcoming antimissile
defense. The Avangard (Yu-71) guided hypersonic warheads on this SMS allow
ICBMs to be used as part of the Prompt Global Strike strategy to destroy adversary’s
strategic targets with the kinetic energy of a warhead without using a
nuclear explosion. This project is also interesting in that it allows the launching
of spacecraft for various purposes, which in a certain situation can be used to prepare
an AR. An example of such an AR is the creation of shaped-charge antitank
projectiles. Their development is a clear demonstration of military-technological
AR at the tactical level, since it made it useless to simply increase the thickness
of homogeneous steel armor; it transformed the scientific-technological opposition
of “projectile vs. armor” into the quest for effective multilayered armor and
active protection of armored and aviation hardware. Another example that underlines
the importance of strike assets in impacting infrastructure facilities: according
to experts, including American ones,8 500 to 700 conventionally equipped
The ideal AR entails, first of all, a “surprise” to the probable
adversary that forces the latter to radically change the ideology
of military-technological developments in a specific area of warfare and
to incur costs that exceed ours by 1-2 orders of magnitude.
Kalibr cruise missiles are sufficient to plunge the US into darkness. This would
be enough to disable the entire US power industry for a long period of time.
An AR may consist not only of the destruction of a larger number of assets
and manpower of adversary troops (forces) groups, but also in creating conditions
where their use becomes ineffective, leading to the adversary’s defeat. The world
is currently intensively searching for new forms and ways to achieve political and
strategic goals by integrating nonmilitary and military methods of influencing a
rival state or a potential adversary. At the same time, nATO (the US) is increasingly
focusing on creating military-political situations where it is inexpedient for
them to wage large-scale wars. This means that our military-technological AR
must deter the aggressor not only from launching a large-scale war, including with
the use of nuclear weapons, but also must create the threat of using asymmetric
weapon systems in other military conflicts. For example, the presence of original
items of high-precision weapons (HPW) or electronic warfare countermeasures
that would require the adversary to incur unacceptable expenses for local wars
and armed conflicts, will keep that adversary from initiating low-intensity military
conflicts. Therefore, taking into account the Russian Federation’s insufficient
financial and economic capabilities, we should not limit ourselves to preparing
AR only at the national (state) and strategic levels. From the standpoint of a systemic
approach, mounting an AR involves consideration of several levels of hierarchy.
In our opinion, four levels of AR should be distinguished.
n The first is national security (based on ongoing analysis of military dangers,
challenges and threats to the existence of the state; the objective is
to prevent aggression).
n The second is the strategic level (repelling aggression on theaters of operations
and strategic areas).
n The third is the operational-strategic level (operational directions; frontline
and army operations).
n The fourth is the tactical level (battles in various sectors of warfare).
Among the principles of preparing AR, the following are suggested as the
Launching Asymmetric Responses to High-Technology Adversary 23
An AR may consist not only of the destruction of a larger number
of assets and manpower of adversary troops (forces), but also
in creating conditions where their use becomes ineffective, leading
to the adversary’s defeat. The world is currently intensively searching
for new forms and ways to achieve political and strategic goals
by integrating nonmilitary and military methods of influencing
a rival state or a potential adversary.
Apply a systemic approach that includes comprehensive examination of all
four hierarchical levels in addressing AR tasks. When preparing military-technological
solutions at a given level, it is necessary to go 2-3 levels higher. This
is due to the fact that the study of a complex object takes into account the dependence
of the whole system on the condition of its parts and, conversely, the
dependence of the parts on the condition of the whole system; the study of a system
is inseparable from the study of the conditions under which it functions.
Therefore, when drafting AR proposals, for example, at the battalion level, one
should proceed not only in terms of addressing tasks of a battalion and a regiment
(brigade), but also a division and the [entire] army. At the same time, naturally,
one should follow the rule: The more factors of direct and indirect influence
are taken into account, the more reliable the results of analysis and forecasting
Maintain scientific and technological independence, by refusing to borrow
foreign technologies in the development of weapon systems and by ensuring scientific
and technological superiority in selected areas of WaMSH development.
As part of research and development on basic critical military and dual-purpose
technologies (DPT), it is advisable to focus on technologies that foster AR. To
enable an AR, fundamentally new items of WaMSH that have no analogues
should be developed, since an orientation toward the use of modern technologies
that have analogues in foreign countries will not provide a tangible advantage in
achieving the final result. At the same time, the emergence of breakthroughs in
scientific and technological progress must be taken into account. For example, at
present, and especially in the future, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a
determinant of further scientific and technological progress. It is already clear
that AI will very likely be the basis for the further development of military technologies,
robotics, and humanless production. It is hard to imagine, but in the
future, the management of complicated processes, both technological production
and socioeconomic activities, will not be possible without breakthrough achievements
in AI. Obtaining items of new (smart) materials, unmanned vehicles, etc.
is also impossible without AI.
Seek out weak points in the disposition of adversary troops (forces) and in
their strike and defensive systems, complexes, and items. A sequential list of priorities
should be drawn up for “sore spots” (bottlenecks) in the operation (primarily
combat usage) and WaMSH series production.
Reject symmetric interventions and develop original asymmetrical measures
that cause maximum damage to opposing groups of troops (forces) and infrastructure,
as well as measures that most fully disrupt the operation of the most
important elements of command, information support, navigation, etc., and
require the most time and material costs to restore their combat capability. It
should be borne in mind that creating original strike (fire) assets to destroy
adversary targets and infrastructure costs the state, as a rule, five to ten times less
than the corresponding active means of protection.
Create a broad front of research, development, and design to lay asymmetric
scientific and technological groundwork (ASTG) and perform tactical feasibility
studies (TFS) on the characteristics of asymmetric weapon systems that
would cause a certain military-economic damage to a likely adversary, based on
the choice of a reasonable time frame for development (adoption) and the scale
of mass production. The ASTG should make it possible to find the optimal solution
among alternative projects of various hierarchical levels for each militarytechnological
problem of countering the adversary. It is advisable for the ASTG
to have a special status under Section 10 of the State Armament Program, and for
tasks involved in its creation to be annually updated before the State Defense
Order is drawn up.
Set scientific-technological and military-technical “traps” for a potential
adversary, leading into unpromising areas of research and development and
ensuring that the adversary spends an inordinate amount of time and incurs exorbitant
financial and economic costs.
Foster competition among gifted inventors, scientific schools and research
organizations to seek and implement scientific ideas and design/technology
breakthroughs in the framework of efforts to create WaMSH asymmetric systems.
Provide strategic planning and program-targeted scientific and organizational
technological support for the development of asymmetric weapons. The
timing of initiating the development of such items, complexes, and systems, as
well as adopting them, should ensure maximum costs for the opposing side.
Use the criterion of “time- and cost-efficiency” in assessing the feasibility
of developing and adopting asymmetric weapon systems. Depending on how the
task is formulated at a specific hierarchical level, any of the parameters of time,
cost, and effect can be used as the objective function. In this case, the rest are
used as hard or soft limits. At the same time, the constraints on all types of
resources used (P) should be taken into account throughout the entire life cycle
of an AR: personnel, experimental and test bases, logistics, etc. As an example,
one possible formula for optimization in terms of time- and cost-efficiency is:
Э (Со, Сп, tо, tп) → max
Со (Ро) ≤ Соз(Ро),
Сп(Рп) / Со (Ро) ≥ Сп(Рп) / Соз(Ро),
tп(Сп) ≥ tпз(Сп)
where: Э is the effect of the presence and/or possible use of an asymmetric
weapon model, complex, or system. In assessing the effect of Э, probabilistic
indicators of the performance of combat missions, as well as damage incurred
and/or prevented, can traditionally be considered. For example, for strike asymmetric
weapon systems, it is advisable to assess the damage inflicted on the
adversary in relation to one’s own total expenditures on the WaMSH system; for
Launching Asymmetric Responses to High-Technology Adversary 25
defensive systems, one should assess prevented damage in relation to the estimated
costs of a symmetric response and/or other (for example, passive) countermeasures.
Со (Ро) =total cost necessary to create an asymmetric item (complex
or system) of weapons
Соз (Ро) =hard (or soft) limits on one’s own total costs
Ро (рк, ро, … рм) = personnel (рк) and material and technical resources
(unique equipment (ро), scarce materials (рм), etc. used
in preparing an AR
Сп (Рп) =the adversary’s cost to neutralize the AR
Рп (рк, ро, ..., рм) = personnel, logistical, and other types of resources used
by the adversary to neutralize the AR
tо (Со) =time required for the development, adoption, and mass
production of a sufficient number of asymmetric items
(complexes) of weapons
tп (Сп) =time required for the adversary to neutralize the AR;
tпз (Сп) =time during which the adversary will not be able to neutralize
In methodological terms, it seems appropriate to make recommendations on
a graduated scale of assessment of the achieved generalized effect when drafting
proposals for developing and implementing AR. The Table below presents an
example of gradations for generalized indicators characterizing the efficiency of
AR, as well as weapons systems. As an alternative to what is presented in the
Table, we may consider an approach based on comparison of symmetric and
AR Efficiency Criteria
AR Assessment Levels
Ratio of adversary’s cost
of neutralizing AR (Сп) to total
cost (Со) of creating our
own asymmetric weapon system
($mln / $mln)
5 ≤ (Сп / Со) < 10 10 ≤ (Сп / Со) < 100 (Сп / Со) ≥ 100
Time (tп) required for adversary
to neutralize AR (years)
3 ≤ tп < 5 5 ≤ tп < 10 tп ≥10
T a b l e
Measuring the Efficiency of an Asymmetric Response
Launching Asymmetric Responses to High-Technology Adversary 27
asymmetric countermeasures both in terms of time/resource expenditures and in
terms of efficiency achieved when performing standard combat missions. It may
also be possible in some situations (with the appropriate TFS) to assign an AR
mission in which expenditures need not prevail.
Obviously, the values of the assessment ranges presented in the Table can be
considered baseline (initial) recommendations that should be refined in the
course of practical work to develop a methodology for asymmetric responses. In
contrast to strike (fire) asymmetric weapon systems, it will evidently be a rather
complex issue to perform a systems analysis and draft recommendations on the
development of AR for various-purpose defense systems, automatic control systems,
reconnaissance, navigation, and other types of support. Here, as a rule, it
is necessary to consider and compare the total and partial damage inflicted and/or
prevented, both to own troops (or infrastructure) and to the opposing adversary.
At the same time, in terms of limitations from the standpoint of a systemic
approach, it is necessary to assess the level of guaranteed fulfillment of the missions
of the protected objects (for example, strike weapon systems) and the
allowable prevented damage, including in case of incomplete fulfillment of the
assigned combat missions. We offer as an example the development of the active
protection system (APS) of the Mozyr silos, which was carried out in the 1980s
and 1990s under the direction of S.P. nepobedimy.9
The APS includes radar detection and guidance systems, as well as special
gun mounts. A distinctive feature of the APS is that airborne assets are engaged
with metal arrows and balls with a diameter of 30 mm at altitudes of up to 6 km.
The arrows and balls are fired at an initial speed of 1.8 km/s, which is comparable
to a long-range cannon projectile, and they create a real “iron cloud.” One
salvo can release up to 40,000 items. The impact speed at which incoming warheads
encounter the multiple projectiles is about 6 km/s. Destruction of the warhead-
target is mechanical. A synchronized volley ejects shells with a volumetric
cloud of a certain density, concentrated within the airborne trajectory of the
attacking warhead. The most complex part of the system is the mathematical calculation
(computation) of the algorithm of convergence of the striking elements
with the target, considering that the speed of impact is March 3-4. After repeated
successful launches in the early 1990s, the project was discontinued under US
pressure, and also due to funding problems, but not for technical reasons.
According to media reports,10 the Russian Ministry of Defense conducted additional
tests of the Mozyr APS at the beginning of this decade.
Many countries have done R&D for APS to defend strategic facilities, but
efforts have gone no further than sketches and prototypes. The [Mozyr] project
is unique: nothing like it has ever been created in the world. Estimates of the
total prevented damage to the silos and the damage inflicted on the potential
adversary in a retaliatory strike of the Strategic Missile Forces show the militaryeconomic
feasibility and the priority need to implement this project, since a
Mozyr-type APS guarantees the survivability of the missile defense system and
the possibility of a retaliatory strike at minimum cost. In our opinion, this would
be a worthy AR to a probable adversary with guaranteed protection of silos, command
posts, and other strategic point facilities (not only of the SMF). At the same
time, as an alternative approach, the possibility could be assessed of using a fundamentally
new type of active protection of mobile and stationary complexes:
plasmodynamic installations, on which successful tests were conducted in
In summary, we should note the importance of the issue examined above for
the development of adequate asymmetric responses and the rational use of the
resource-saving method in developing a weapon system for the RF AF. The proposals
for the development of guidelines for asymmetric responses in a militarytechnological
confrontation with a high-technology adversary need further systematic
development by creating a full-fledged methodological apparatus for AR.
1. Selivanov, V.V. and Ilyin, Yu.D., “Voyenno-tekhnicheskiye aspekty Dogovora o likvidatsiyi
raket sredney i men’shey dal’nosti: vozmozhniye posledstviya odnostoronnego vykhoda [Military-
Technical Aspects of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range Missiles: Possible
Consequences of Unilateral Withdrawal],” Izvestiya RARAN, #1, 2018, pp. 16-23.
2. Strategiya natsional’noy bezopasnosti RF [national Security Strategy of the Russian Federation].
Approved by Decree # 683 of the Russian President, 12.31.2015. URL: http://www.scrf.
gov.ru/security/docs/ document133 (Retrieved on May 17, 2018.)
3. “Asimmetrichniy otvet [Asymmetric Reponse],” Voyennoye obozreniye, Aug. 27, 2010.
URL: https://topwar.ru/1175-asimmetrichnyj-otvet.html (Retrieved on May 17, 2018.); Oznobishchev,
S.K., Potapov, V.Ya., and Skokov, V.V., “Kak gotovilsya ‘asimmetrichniy otvet’ na
Strategicheskuyu oboronnuyu initsiativu R. Reygana [How an Asymmetric Response Was Prepared
to Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative], Velikhov, Ye.P., Kokoshin, A.A., et al.,
LEnAnD, Мoscow, 2008.
Background information: The Mozyr APS is essentially a shining example
of a new type of weapon: antimissile artillery. The APS was designed to
cover stationary point targets such as silos, command posts, and communication
centers, and thus differs from interceptor missiles, which are intended
to operate in sectors. This system was the first in the world to intercept intercontinental
ballistic targets using nonnuclear assets at low altitude. It is capable
of destroying objects that manage to break through the coverage zones of
Gazel-type antimissiles, S-400, and Prometheus S-500 surface-to-air missile
(SAM) systems, and others. The Mozyr APS was able to destroy not only
ballistic missiles of various classes, but also other types of modern HPW,
including cruise missiles (software refinement was required) and GPS-corrected
bombs. During the development of the APS, military tests were successfully
conducted, and, in essence, it provided guaranteed protection for
the Strategic Missile Forces in the final segment of the silos’ defense line.
4.Asimmetrichniy otvet [Asymmetric Response]. Russian Wikipedia. URL: https://ru.wikipedia.
82 (Retrieved on May 17, 2018.)
5. Gerasimov, V.V., “Po opytu Siriyi [Based on the Experience of Syria],” Voyenno-promyshlenniy
kuriyer, # 9 (624), March 9, 2016. URL: http://vpk-news.ru/articles/29579 (Retrieved on
May 17, 2018.)
6. Giperzvukovoye oruzhiye: ideal’niy instrument dlya asimmetrichnogo voyennogo otveta
[Hypersonic Weapons: An Ideal Tool for Asymmetric Military Response]. URL: http://x-true.
otveta.html (Retrieved on May 16, 2018.)
7. Rossiyskaya tyazholaya mezhkontinental’naya ballisticheskaya raketa RS-28 “Sarmat”
(GRAU 15А28, НАТО SS-X-30) [RS-28 Sarmat: Russian Heavy Intercontinental Ballistic
Missile (Chief Missile and Artillery Directorate 15А28, НАТО SS-X-30)]. Novosti VPK. URL:
https://vpk.name/library/f/sarmat-mbr.html (Retrieved on May 18, 2018.)
8. Tsyganov, A., “Rossiya mozhet vbombit’ SShA v kamenniy vek bez riska ‘yadernoy zimy’
[Russia Can Bomb the US into Stone Age without Risking ‘nuclear Winter’],” Tsargrad. URL:
94535?utm_source=smi2 (Retrieved on May 28, 2018.)
9. “Mozyr” – kompleks aktivnoy zashchity ShPU [Mozyr Active Silo Defense Complex]. russianarms.
ru, Dec. 11, 2012. URL: http://www.russianarms.ru/forum/index.php?topic=11782.0
(Retrieved on May 17, 2018.)
10. Vozobnovlyayutsya ispytaniya kompleksa aktivnoy zashchity ShPU [Tests of Active Silo
Defense Package Resume], Raketnaya tekhnika, Dec. 11, 2012. URL: http://rbase.new-factoria.
ru/news/vozobnovlyayutsya-ispytaniya-kompleksa-aktivnoy-zashchity-pro-shpu (Retrieved on
June 9, 2018.)
11. Zdravstvuy, budushcheye: plazmodinamicheskaya zashchita rossiyskoy tekhniki [Hello,
Future: Plasmodynamic Protection of Russian Hardware]. Oko planety. URL: https://oko-planet.
siyskoy-tehniki.html (Retrieved on June 9, 2018.)
Translated by Laurence Bogoslaw
Launching Asymmetric Responses to High-Technology Adversary 29__
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