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NIEMI 9K33 Osa/Romb
  Self Propelled Air Defence System / SA-8 Gecko
  НИЭМИ Cамоходный Зенитный Ракетный  Комплекс 9К33 Оса/Ромб 

Technical Report APA-TR-2009-0704

by Dr Carlo Kopp, AFAIAA, SMIEEE, PEng
July 2009
Updated April, 2012
Text, Line Art © 2009 Carlo Kopp

9K33AKM Osa AKM / SA-8B Gecko (JSC Kupol image)


The 9K33 Osa/Romb / SA-8 Gecko Surface to Air Missile system was developed for PVO-SV (Soviet Army Air Defence) and other Warpac Armies to provide a short range terminal point defence capability for armoured and combined arms divisions on the move. Key requirements included high levels of autonomy for the system, an amphibious TELAR vehicle, and the capability to engage targets at altitudes between 50 and 100 m, up to 5 km, at closing speeds of up to 500 m/s, at ranges between 0,8 to1 km out to 8-10 km.

The protracted development process was initiated in 1960. The Soviets were impressed with the concept of the US Army XMIM-46A Mauler SAM, but wanted a more capable system. Initial thinking was to design a small semi-active homing missile similar to a scaled down 3M9 Gainful, but this proved infeasible due to the size of the seeker. Problems arose with most key technological components in the design, resulting in a rescheduling and rebaselining of the project in 1964-65. The choice of vehicle also presented problems, with various proposals failing and the MT-LB (used in the 9K35 / SA-13 Gopher) rejected. The amphibious 6 x 6 BAZ-5937 was eventually accepted. After trials in 1970 the design achieved IOC in 1971.

In practical terms the 9K33 / SA-8 was a contemporary of the Franco-German Roland and the British Rapier Blindfire. All three missiles were command link guided weapons using a combined search and track radar package. The Soviet design was by far the most ambitious.

The 9M33 / SA-8 Gecko was a complex system design. The
BAZ-5937 TELAR was fitted with a turret which mounted four elevating missile launch rails each carrying a 9K33A round, and the two radars, including an IFF system and missile capture and uplink antennas.

A number of variants were developed over the production life of the system, and the system was also navalised for use on smaller surface fleet combatants.

The first variant was the 9K33 Osa / SA-8A Gecko, readily identified by the use of exposed missile rounds. It could engage targets manoeuvring up to 5G.

The second variant to emerge was the 9K33M2 Osa AK / SA-8B Gecko, using the improved 9A33VM2 TELAR with improved and more accurate fire control computers, which introduced an increased payload of 6 folding fin missiles, carried in sealed launcher/container tubes. The improved missile round had an increased engagement envelope and could
engage targets manoeuvring up to 8G. A key feature was a two channel proximity fuse designed to compensate for ground clutter and permitting a much  lower engagement altitudes.  This variant achieved IOC in 1975.

The third variant, the
9K33M3 Osa AK / SA-8C Gecko, was specifically designed to engage and destroy anti-tank helicopters which had become a major concern following the success of the TOW armed gunships in the 1972 Spring Offensive, in Vietnam. The design involved further evolution of the proximity fuse design, improvements to the radar to improve clutter rejection, a more lethal warhead, and refined control laws for missile guidance.

Export variants were marketed as the 9K33 Romb. While the system has been a feature of Middle Eastern and African conflicts since the early 1980s, there are few documented combat kills by the system.

In operation a typical battery employs a single PU-12 series command post, or
9S738-3, with four TELARs and a pair of 9T217BM replenishment vehicles - these combine the functions of a transporter, transloader and fuel tanker. Multiple batteries are then cued, via radifreqeuncy datalinks, by a supporting acquisition radar package. In Soviet service this was typically the P-40 Long Track, export systems were usually supplied with some configuration of the P-15/P-19 Flat Face, P-15M Squat Eye, or P-12/P-12 Spoon Rest, with a heightfinder and IFF interrogator.

Land Roll Engagement Radar

The Land Roll engagement radar package in the SA-8 Gecko was designed to provide a completely autonomous acquisition and engagement capability. The acquisition component is equipped with a mechanically steered stabilised paraboloid section antenna, providing a 1° - 4° mainlobe in azimuth and 19° mainlobe in elevation, sweeping at 33 RPM. This radar produces a peak power of 250 kiloWatts.

The tracking and missile guidance component is mounted on the front of the turret. It has a large protected truncated paraboloid primary reflector with a ~1° mainlobe. This radar was used to perform precision tracking of targets. To either side of the primary antenna are a pair of missile capture and uplink antennas, used to support the Command to Line of Sight (CLOS)  guidance on the missiles. Russian sources claim the trajectory used included a vertical bias component to fly the missile above the line of sight converging with the target at impact.

A more detailed discussion can be found under Engagement and Fire Control Radars.

9K33 Gecko Cutaway (via Vestnik-PVO)
Radio proximity fuse transmitter
Cruciform canard controls
Power supply
Compressed air bottle (power supply)
Radio proximity fuse receiver
Command link receiver
15 kg blast fragmentation warhead
Solid rocket motor
Folding cruciform tailfins on rotating sleeve

A late model Fakel 9K33M3 Gecko missile round. The green painted dielectric covers the proximity fuse antennas (Wikipedia image).

Fakel 9K33/9K33M Surface to Air Missile

The design of the missile round is similar conceptually to its Western equivalents, employing a simple tubular airframe design with a solid rocket powerplant. The airframe uses cruciform canard controls for pitch/yaw control, and a revolving sleeve mounts the cruciform tail surfaces. The missile is not roll stabilised. The controls are powered by compressed air.

The proximity fuse transmit antenna is in the missile nose, which also contains the transmitter. The fuse receiver, command link receiver and autopilot are all clustered in the centresection of the missile. The warhead is situated between the guidance section and motor. A pair of command link and beacon antennas are mounted on the tail.

The Russians have not disclosed the control laws used in this design, but it is known that the missiles are flown in an arcing trajectory, and perform a shallow dive against a low flying target, this is intended to maximise ground clearance of the missile round and facilitate tracking by the TELAR regardless of clutter.

9K33M3 Osa AKM missile launch (JSC Kupol).

Above, below, 9K33M3 Osa AKM battery deployed for the Berezina 2002 exercise in Belarus (images © Miroslav Gyűrösi).

Production and Exports

The 9K33 / SA-8 Gecko series has been widely exported, especially to the Middle East and Africa. While the system is much more complex and expensive than earlier Soviet SAM systems, it has been very popular due its capability to operate with high levels of autonomy. It popularity is such, that many operators have been contracting Tetraedr and Russian manufacturers to perform technology insertion upgrades rather than replace the system with the newer Tor M1/M2 series.

Current operators cited include Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cuba, Ecuador, Georgia, Greece (former DDR inventory), India, Jordan, Libya, Poland, Romania, Russia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Ukraine.

A number of electronics upgrades have been developed,  with Tetraedr also offering rehosting on a new vehicle, and Agat offering the retrofit of an active radar homing seeker to the missile. A more detailed discussion can be found under Legacy Air Defence System Upgrades.

9K33 Technical Data

Сравнительные характеристики ЗРК «Оса»,  «Оса-АК» и «Оса-АКМ»
Comparative Characteristics of the Osa, Osa AK and  Osa AKM Air Defence Systems
Principal Manufacturer
Основной разработчик НИЭМИ
Year of Service Acceptance
Год принятия на вооружение 1972 1975 1980
Engagement Range, km
Зона поражения по дальности, км 2-9 1,5-10 1,5-10
Engagement Altitude, km
Зона поражения по высоте, км 0,05-5 0,025-5 0,025-5

Курсовой параметр, км 4-6 до 6 до 6
Single Shot Kill Probability
Вероятность поражения одной ЗУР

   самолета 0,35-0,85 0,5-0,85 0,5-0,85
   вертолета 0,3-0,4 до 0,45 0,6-0,85
   cruise missile
   КР до 0,4 до 0,4 до 0,6
   ballistic missile
   БР - - -
   ДПЛА до 0,7 до 0,8 до 0,8
Maximum target speed, m/s
Максимальная скорость цели, м/с до 420 до 500 до 500
Reaction time, sec
Время реакции, с 26-34 26-34 26-34
System weight, kg
Масса БМ, кг около 19000 около 19000 18680
Missile/warhead weight, kg
Масса ЗУР/БЧ, кг 128/15 128/15 128/15
Deployment/stow time, min
Время перевода в боевое/походное положение, мин 3-5/3-5 3-5/3-5 3-5/3-5
Maximum road speed, km/h
Максимальная скорость движения, км/ч до 80 до 80 до 80

9K33M3 Battery Components

9K33M3 Battery Components
6 Round Amphibious TELAR
12 round Amphibious Transporter/Transloader/Tanker
Towed 18 Round Semi-Trailer Transporter (5Ya254)
Ural 375
Mobile Crane for Missile Loading
PU-12M / 9S738-3
Mobile Command Post
P-40/1S12 Long Track
Self Propelled  Acquisition Radar AT-T
9V242 2
9A33 Missile Repair/Test Station
Missile Preparation/Assembly Station
Compressed Air Tanker
9V914 1
TELAR Sensor Calibration System
Repair Station
P-15, P-18, P-19, P-40 Repair/Test Station ZiL-131
Mobile Training Simulator for TELAR Crews
Missile Warstock Deployed

9K33M3  Optional Battery Components
P-15M Squat Eye 1 UHF-Band Low Level Acquisition Radar Ural-375
P-15/19 Flat Face 1 UHF-Band Acquisition Radar Ural-375
1L22 Parol 4 / 75E6 Parol 3 1 IFF Interrogator KrAZ-255
PRV-16 Thin Skin
1 Heightfinding Radar SP

9A33BM Amphibious Transporter Erector Launcher And Radar

  Late model Osa AKM TELAR with elevated missiles (JSC Kupol).

9T217B Amphibious Transporter/Transloader/Tanker

9T217B Gecko transporter/transloader/tanker deployed for the Tetraedr Osa 1T live fire trials at the Domanovo test range in October, 2005. The vehicle carries up to twelve containerised 9K33 Gecko reloads and a 4033B series hoist for loading the missiles, and a fuel tank with diesel for refuelling the TELARs. The reloads and hoist are covered by a canvas canopy and metal tube frame (all 9T217B images © Miroslav Gyűrösi).

Reloading and refuelling the Osa. The 9T217B will rendezvous with a TELAR at an arranged location.

The TELAR and 9T217B are parked abeam each other.

The protective canopy is opened and pushed aft to expose the hoist and payload bay.

The crew unlock the empty missile canisters.

A series of checks are required to ensure safety while handing the missiles.

Once checks are completed the reload can proceed.

The hydraulic hoist is used to transfer missile reloads from the 9T217B payload bay to the TELAR. A well practiced crew can effect a full reload in a matter of minutes. If required, the 9T217B can also refuel the TELAR, which uses a 9I210 gas turbine APU to power all mission systems.

PU-12M Battery Mobile Command Post

The PU-12M command post controls four 9A33M TELARs in a battery (Rosoboronexport).

P-40/1S12 Long Track Acquisition Radar

The P-40/1S12 Long Track S-band acquisition radar is often cited as the mobile acquisition component in Romb/Osa SAM batteries, although its primary purpose was supporting the SA-4 Ganef system. It uses a modified tank chassis to provide high cross country mobility. The antenna stows flat on the roof of the vehicle. Eight stacked beams are used for heightfinding.

P-15 / P-15M / P-19 Flat Face / Squat Eye Acquisition Radar

Late model P-19 Flat Face D acquisition radar. The Flat Face and Squat Eye were frequently used as acquisition radars for groups of 9K33M / SA-8 Gecko batteries, especially in the Middle East.

PR-14A , P-15 Flat Face and P-15M Squat Eye. Note the antenna mast tether on the P-15M (Soviet MoD).

LEMZ PRV-16/1RL132 Naklon / Thin Skin Heightfinding Radar

PRV-16 self-propelled 6 GHz band nodding heightfinder (Elsys, Vestnik PVO images).


  1. Said Aminov, Vestnik PVO, URL: http://pvo.guns.ru
  2. Peter Skarus, Peter's ADA - Theorie und Grundlagen  der Fla, URL: http://peters-ada.de/
  3. Ralf Wagner, Fla-Rakete 3M9, Flak-11 Die Truppen-luftabwehr (TLA) der 11. MSD, URL: http://www.flak11.de/
  4. H. Kaiser, Raketen- und Waffentechnischer Dienst im Kdo. MB III, URL: http://www.rwd-mb3.de/

Technical Report APA-TR-2009-0704

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