Why is anti-aircraft artillery once again becoming a credible alternative to missiles?

Whether within the Ukrainian forces, facing Russian drones, or on board Western destroyers and frigates in the Red Sea, anti-aircraft artillery has regained, in recent weeks, the letters of nobility that it seemed to have lost since the beginning of the 70s, in favor of the missile.

Whether it is to respond to the very unfavorable budgetary equation compared to Iranian-designed attack drones, or to reduce missile consumption while the industry is unable to produce replenishment as quickly as they are consumed, simplicity, rusticity and the low costs linked to the use of anti-aircraft guns have once again become determining criteria, particularly in the management of conflicts expected to last.

However, does the cannon really have the advantage, against drones, stand-off munitions and other cruise missiles, over anti-aircraft missiles? A question, as is often the case, much more complex than it appears at first glance.

The replacement of anti-aircraft artillery by missiles in the 60s and 70s

If the first surface-to-air missiles appeared in the 50s, with the Soviet S-75 Dvina (1957) and the American MiM-14 Nike Hercules (1955), these systems aimed above all to counter the threat of heavy bombers operating at high and very high altitude, and at high speed, making interception by fighter planes uncertain.

S-75 Dvina norvietnam
Although elevated to the status of a national symbol, North Korea's S-75 Dvina shot down only 8% of all American fighter jets lost in combat during the Vietnam War.

Protection against tactical aviation relied, until the 60s, mainly on surface-to-air artillery, even if missile systems dedicated to this mission, such as the American Hawk (1962), and the Soviet 2K12 (1967), appeared during this decade.

Thus, of the 2 aircraft of the US Air Force, US Navy and US Marine Corps lost in combat (excluding accidents) during the Vietnam War, only 500 were lost by North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile systems. , and 205 by Vietnamese hunting. The more than 269 remaining aircraft were shot down by the anti-aircraft guns of the North Vietnamese armies.

Hanoi then deployed more than 10 anti-aircraft batteries ranging from 000 and 12,7 mm heavy machine guns, to the 14,5 mm S-60 cannon firing more than one shell per second at a distance of up to 57 m when coupled with radar guidance.

If this defense proved effective against the American fighter, it quickly became apparent that the anti-aircraft guns mobilized considerable human resources, more than 120 North Vietnamese soldiers being devoted to this mission alone, and required a very high density. to be efficient.

F 4J VF 96 Showtime 100 armed from below Anti-aircraft defense system | Germany | Defense Analysis
The approximately 8 anti-aircraft guns and 000 anti-aircraft heavy machine guns deployed by North Vietnam destroyed 2000 of the 2000 American fighters, bombers and fixed-wing aircraft lost in combat during the Vietnam War.

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