MOSCOW, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Russia will build three new Voronezh class radar stations in 2013 to improve its missile defense capabilities, a military official said this week.
Col. Alexei Zolotukhin, spokesman for the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces, told ITAR-Tass Sunday the stations will be placed in eastern Siberia's Krasnoyarsk Territory, southern Siberia's Altai Territory and the Orenburg region of central Russia.
The new generation Voronezh-DM class radars have a range of 3,700 miles and are capable of monitoring ballistic and cruise missile launches from the North Atlantic region, the British website Army-Technology.com reported.
The Voronezh class radar comes as Russia overhauls its missile defenses in part because of what the Kremlin perceives as "new strategic challenges" posed by the U.S.-led missile shield plans in Europe.
The new installations are more advanced than previous Dnepr and Daryal class radars and have better combat and performance characteristics allowing Russia's missile warning system to control not only ballistic targets and space objects, but also aerodynamic targets, Zolotukhin said.
"Modernization of space facilities of the missile warning system is related to the creation of a united space system of detection and battle management," he told the Russian news service.
The first of the new generation stations was built in the St. Petersburg area in 2006 and had operated on a test basis until recently. Two other Voronezh-class radars are operating at Armavir in the Black Sea area and in Pionersky near Kaliningrad.
Another in the Siberian city of Irkutsk came into operation last year.
Under a national defense plan extending through 2020, the Defense Ministry is to replace all Soviet long-range radars and close all gaps in radar coverage on Russia's borders.
In November 2011, a Voronezh-DM radar became operational in Russia's westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad. Then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said at the time it was meant as a sign to Western nations that Russia was ready to promptly respond to threats that arise with the start of the NATO missile defense in Europe, RT Television reported.
Also as a result of the upgrades, Russia last month suspended its use of the Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan in a disagreement over the cost of the lease, and was free to do so thanks to the new Voroznezh-DM anti-missile radar near the Black Sea, the broadcaster said.
Following more than a year of negotiations, Moscow and Baku failed to come to a compromise over the lease extension.
The Russian Defense Ministry made the move after Azerbaijan indicated it wanted to increase the lease price tenfold from the annual rent of $7 million paid under a 10-year contract that expired Dec. 9.
"It's really good that [Russia decided to abandon Gabala] and we won't depend on Azerbaijan in such a crucial issue as missile warning system," Aleksandr Khramchikhin, an analyst with the Institute of Political and Military Analysis think tank told RT. "I really hope that the rental agreement won't be renewed."
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