Entering service in the Russian armed forces in 2012, the Patsir-S represented a lethal and highly innovative new air defence platform - a light and highly mobile combat vehicle equipped with autocannons and surface to air missiles able to provide precise point defence against air and missile attacks. The platform was also designed with the ability to engage enemy ground targets as a secondary function, a useful capability when accompanying infantry or armoured units on the battlefield, and the Pantsir’s armament is reportedly highly lethal against light vehicles and infantry. The eight wheel truck mounted Pantsir has emerged as the most prolific variant of the weapons system, though other variants including tracked launcher and naval variants designed for the decks of Russian warships, the Pantsir-M, and Arctic combat variants, the Pantsir-SA, have also been developed. With the weapon system having entered service a year after the start of conflict in Syria, the Pantsir has seen extensive service in the armed forces of both Russia and Syria with a reported 100% efficiency rate - serving as by far the most modern air defence system of the Middle Eastern state.
Building on the success of the original Pantsir platform, both as a valuable means of defending Russian and allied airspace and as a highly popular export, the Russian military sought to commission a new variant, the Pantsir-SM, from 2019. The new system would incorporate vastly enhanced capabilities including twice the engagement range of the original system, from 20km to 40km, and a multi functional targeting station which facilitates a grater detection range of 75 km - from the 40km rage of the Pantsir-S1. The new sensors, designed to detect targets with small radar cross sections, will reportedly give the air defence system the ability to target stealth aircraft. With Russian sources having indicated that the Pantsir would in future be modified to deploy hypersonic missiles, there remains a considerable possibility that the SM variant has been designed with this eventual goal in mind. The combat vehicle reportedly relies on a new high speed surface to air missiles to reach greater ranges and increase the force of impact - which would well be seen as a step towards fielding hypersonic systems. The Pantsir-SM will make use of a new armoured chassis superior to that of the original in its stability, agility and survivability.
A number of reports indicate that the new Pantsir-SM has entered service well ahead of schedule, not only having been deployed by the Russian armed forces but also having reached its first export client - the armed forces of Algeria. A leading client for Russian arms responsible for approximately half of all acquisitions on the African continent, Algeria has often been the first to receive the latest Russian technologies particularly in the field of anti access area denial systems - with some reports indicating that the country placed a quiet order for the S-400 Triumf and received the platform long before other clients. Military exercises carried out in Algeria’s north east, known as Sakhr 2018, feature Pantsir-SM systems alongside other Russian hardware fielded by the country’s 36th Motorised Infantry Brigade - in footage released by the Algerian Ministry of Defence. The fact that the Algerian military already fields the weapons system indicates either that Russia has prioritised exporting the new weapons system over providing for its own air defence needs, demonstrating a considerable degree of confidence in its existing air defence capabilities, or more likely that the system has already entered service in the Russian military.