Methodological Basis for Launching Asymmetric Responses in Military-Technological Battle with a High-Technology Adversary

Journal Title: Military Thought

Issue Edition: Vol. 28, No. 1

Author: V.V. Selivanov, Yu.D. Ilyin

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Methodological Basis

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

most important.

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

will be.

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 о) ≤ Созо),

Спп) / Со о) ≥ Спп) / Соз(Ро),

tпп) ≥ tпзп)

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 о) =total cost necessary to create an asymmetric item (complex

or system) of weapons

Соз о) =hard (or soft) limits on one’s own total costs

Ро к, ро, … рм) = personnel (рк) and material and technical resources

(unique equipment (ро), scarce materials (рм), etc. used

in preparing an AR

Сп п) =the adversary’s cost to neutralize the AR

Рп к, ро, ..., рм) = personnel, logistical, and other types of resources used

by the adversary to neutralize the AR

tо о) =time required for the development, adoption, and mass

production of a sufficient number of asymmetric items

(complexes) of weapons

tп п) =time required for the adversary to neutralize the AR;

tпз п) =time during which the adversary will not be able to neutralize

the AR.

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

June 2018.11

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. document133 (Retrieved on May 17, 2018.)

3. “Asimmetrichniy otvet [Asymmetric Reponse],” Voyennoye obozreniye, Aug. 27, 2010.

URL: (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: (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: (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:

(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:

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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