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Limitations of the Struna-1 include a low detection altitude. The nature of the system results in the detection range being a rough biased parabola between the receiver and transmitter. This limits the detection altitude to around 7km at the tallest point, with the maximum detection range going down as one gets closer to the transmitter/receiver towers. The transverse size of the detection zone is likewise limited, being around 1.5km close to the towers to 12km at the optimal point between the towers. The small size of the detection zone limits the use of the Struna-1 system as a tripwire, it cannot replace traditional radars as an overall search mechanism. However with its high precision tracks of stealthy aircraft, it would serve as a good counterpart to other longer-band radar systems such as Sunflower, which provide less precise tracks of planes. The Struna-1 cannot act as a targeting radar due to its inability to provide constant radar illumination tracking a target, so it cannot be used to guide in semi-active surface-to-air missiles.
While the Struna-1 bistatic radar is not a be-all end-all detection solution for stealth aircraft, it could pose a significant threat to stealth NATO aircraft in a future conflict. Strike aircraft with stealth features are particularly vulnerable, the strike role tends to favor flight profiles that might cause aircraft to fly into the Struna-1’s detection range. In tandem with other modern “stealth-defeating” radar systems, the Struna-1 could provide critical information to an adversary on the position and movement of stealth aircraft.
Charlie Gao studied Political and Computer Science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues.