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Soviet/Russian SAM Site Configuration
Part 1: S-25/SA-1, S-75/SA-2, S-125/SA-3 and
Technical Report APA-TR-2009-1205-A
Sean O'Connor, BA, MS (AMU)
Updated April, 2012
Text © 2009 Sean O'Connor
S-200VE / SA-5 Gammon and S-75 /
Guideline SAMs (via Vestnik PVO).
The Soviet Surface to Air Missile (SAM) force operated by the
Voyska Protivo-Vozdushnoy Oborony (Voyska PVO or V-PVO) was the
backbone of the Soviet / Warsaw Pact air defence system constructed
during the Cold War era. The sophistication, depth and breadth of this
overlapping and heavily integrated system of surface based air defences
had a decisive impact on the evolution of Western air power, and
provided the direct impetus for the development of key technologies in
air defence penetration, including modern electronic warfare
technologies (EW/EWSP/ECM), Terrain Following Radar (TFR), and Very Low
Observable (VLO) or stealth technology.
The earliest origins of the V-PVO SAM forces lie in the post
World War II Soviet
effort to strip occupied Germany and Eastern Europe of as much German
technology, design documentation and design personnel as feasible –
this was the Soviet mirror activity to the Allied Paperclip effort.
S-25 Berkut / SA-1 Guild battery at Kapustin Yar (Russian MoD via Miroslav Gyűrösi).
The Soviets recognized the potential of the SAM as an air defence weapon, as their fighter aircraft were challenged in performance when trying to intercept the fast and high flying US B-29, B-50 and B-36 bombers. With the B-47 and B-52 in development, the Soviets needed a technological strategy for dealing with these threats. The result was the 1950 launch of a new program, the “System 25” or P-25 Berkut (Golden Eagle), later designated by the NATO codename of SA-1 Guild. Provision of a layered SAM belt around Moscow was considered a top priority, to defend the centre of Soviet government apparatus and nucleus of its military industrial complex from nuclear attack by US and British strategic bombers.
The success of the cumbersome SA-1 Guild led to the SA-75/S-75 or SA-2 Guideline system, which became the most widely exported and numerous SAM system produced by the Soviets. The SA-2 played a key role in the Vietnam conflict, but also formed the backbone of the first generation Soviet supplied SAM belts deployed by Egypt and Syria. The SA-2 also formed the backbone of Warsaw Pact SAM belts in Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary, as well as being exported to almost every Soviet client during the Cold War. China reverse engineered the SA-2 during the 1960s, as the HQ-1, and later developed an indigenous derivative, the HQ-2, which has also been widely exported. Much of Iran’s post Shah SAM system comprises Chinese supplied HQ-2s, replacing the US supplied Hawk SAM systems.
The S-75/SA-2 was a new design but clearly showed its
heritage. Two key design requirements for the S-75 were better range
performance compared to the S-25, and much better deployability, as
concreted pads were time consuming and expensive to construct.
The S-25/SA-1 Guild and SA/S-75/SA-2 Guideline set the pattern
for later Soviet SAM site design and configuration, a model which has
remained in use even with the advent of highly mobile later generation
systems such as the S-300P and S-400 series.
S-25 Berkut / SA-1 Guild battery components: V-300 missile round on transporter / gantry loader and B-200 Yo-Yo antenna. The SA-1 was a static system, which shared many design features with the German Wasserfall from which it evolved (via Vestnik PVO).
The first operational strategic SAM system in the world was the Russian S-25 Berkut (SA-1 GUILD). The S-25 was a rail-launched system emplaced at fixed launch sites. The command-guided V-300 missile had a maximum range of 45 kilometers, and a maximum reach of between 4,000 and 14,000 meters in altitude. A 250 kg HE warhead was fitted.
The S-band VNIIRT R-113 Kama (GAGE) radar provided target acquisition to a range of 300 kilometers. The Kama radars were to be used to cue the Article B-200 engagement radars.
The S-band B-200 (YO YO) radar performed target engagement functions, with a maximum range of 150 kilometers and the ability to track between 24 and 30 targets per radar. Each B-200 radar could prosecute one engagement at a time.
The B-200 Yo-Yo engagement radar with its characteristic and unusual triangular antenna system was designed to transmit two narrow beams, one to track the target and one the command link guided missile round. One antenna was used for azimuthal tracking, another for elevation tracking.
The first prototype trials were performed on test ranges in 1952, with 81 test launches conducted by 1953, the Tu-4 being used as the drone target. The first operational S-25 systems were deployed in 1954, with IOC claimed in the 1955-56 timeframe. Russian sources claim that a key design objective for the system was to be able to track and engage twenty aircraft concurrently.
All SAM battery components were sited in fixed hardened concrete installations intended to survive hits from US standard 2,000 lb high explosive bombs, with extensive earthworks and camouflage applied to make targeting difficult.
The S-25 missile design was unique, but showed its Wasserfall heritage. The single stage liquid propellant rocket was deployed by a semi-trailer transloader, which doubled up as a elevating gantry to position the missile round on a fixed launch pad, in the manner of the A-4/V-2 and Wasserfall. The missile employed a unique control arrangement, with nose mounted canards for pitch/yaw control, ailerons for roll control, and tailfins for post launch alignment of the missile trajectory as it accelerated to speed.
The 9 tonne thrust class powerplant was a direct derivative of the R-101 “Wasserfall-ski” engine, using an improved propellant mix.
S-25 Berkut systems and associated Yo-Yo radars were deployed primarily to defend Moscow and Leningrad in concentric fixed SAM belts as initially planned.
Soviet plans for the S-25 included a mobile launcher scheme on railroad cars, and a tracked mobile system, both of which were cancelled in favour of a new SAM system design.
The configuration of SAM sites designed for the S-25 reflected the need to launch these missiles from pads, and fuel them using gantries, a model inherited from its German ancestors. On site storage was required for missile rounds and reloads, as well as for the cumbersome high energy liquid propellant mix.
A deployed S-25 battery with multiple V-300 missiles located on their fixed launch pads (below). The transporter trailer was used to elevate the missile on to the pad, and doubled up as a gantry for fuelling the missile (via Vestnik PVO).
By contemporary standards, the S-25 was a large missile (via Vestnik PVO).
The image below depicts the locations of the 34 outer ring sites and the 22 inner ring sites:
The overhead image below depicts a typical S-25 site as it exists today, with the relevant areas and structures annotated:
The expansive nature of the S-25 sites also allows them to be easily identified using low-resolution imagery, as evidenced by the image below:
The S-25 site seen below has been reused as a residential area, a relatively simple proposition thanks to the aforementioned interconnecting network of concrete roads found throughout the site:
The S-75 / SA-2 Guideline was the first SAM to be used in anger, en masse, and changed the character of air warfare forever. Depicted Soviet supplied S-75 / SA-2 Guideline and SM-90 launcher operated by Egypt in 1985 (US DoD).
The S-75 (SA-2 GUIDELINE) SAM system was developed by the USSR to provide a semi-mobile, widely deployable SAM system to complement the S-25 system in place around Moscow. Deploying the S-25 across the vast geography of the USSR would have proved to be prohibitive in cost, so a smaller, more compact, and therefore cheaper SAM system was needed for air defense across the USSR and the Warsaw Pact member states. The S-75 remains in widespread use to this day, a testament to the robust design and capability of this Cold-War era SAM system. Chinese-produced derivatives share the same deployment layouts, a testament to their S-75 heritage, and are designated HQ-2.
The S-75 missile round retained the cruciform wing and nose canard design of the S-25 round, as well as the command link guidance scheme. While the cruise engine employed a similar hypergolic propellant mix to the S-25, it used a mono-propellant driven turbopump to feed the new Isayev S2.711 engine. Unlike the S-25, the S-75 missile used a new Kartukov designed solid propellant first stage to accelerate the missile off its launcher.
The new S-75 was designed for much higher mobility, using a towed SM-90 trainable single rail launcher for the missile, which was carried in the field by a semi-trailer PR-11 transloader, towed by a Zil 6 x 6 tractor. Once the SM-90 launcher was put in position, and leveled, the missile round was transferred to its launch rail and locked into position. The SM-90 would then be elevated and steered to point the missile in the direction of the target.
A single S-75 battery was made up of six SM-90 launchers clustered around a single RSNA/SNR-75 Fan Song engagement radar. The Fan Song could control up to two missile rounds concurrently against a single target. Cables were used to connect the launchers to the Fan Song radar.
The Fan Song was a new design, but also showed its heritage, with the basic arrangement very similar to the earlier Yo-Yo. Unlike the Yo-Yo, with two massive and separate antennas for elevation and azimuth tracking, the Fan Song used a pair of fixed trough antennas mounted on a single towed trailer, with a third dish antenna for the missile command uplink. A Fan Song would produce two fan shaped “flapping” beams, one for azimuth tracking, the other for elevation tracking, both of the target and a beacon in the tail of the missile.
Targets were typically acquired by the VHF band P-12 Spoon Rest acquisition radar, which used a characteristic horizontal boom mounting two stack arrays of Yagi antennas, better known for their use as rooftop TV aerials. Once acquired by the Spoon Rest, the target position was relayed to the Fan Song which would slew the whole antenna package in the direction of the target and initiate angle and range tracking for a missile shot. A pair of missiles would be fired and an analogue computer used to generate steering commands to fly the missile to a collision with its target, using a radio uplink. A radio proximity fuse was used for the high explosive warhead.
The first S-75 batteries were deployed in the Soviet Union in late 1957. The missile’s first known kill against a Western aircraft remains disputed. Some sources claim it was a U-2 over China in 1959, some Gary Powers’ CIA operated U-2 lost over Sverdlovsk in May, 1960. Many sources also claim a Soviet MiG-19 Farmer was also downed by PVO missileers in the same engagement. An S-75 was used to shoot down a US Air Force U-2 flown by Maj Rudolf Anderson over Cuba in October, 1962. Major Anderson was killed in the engagement. The lethality of the S-75 against the subsonic U-2 rapidly led to the development of the Mach 3 A-11/SR-71 Blackbird.
By 1965 the S-75 was widely deployed in the Soviet sphere of influence, and the system scored its first kills against combat aircraft. Russian sources claim that 4600 launchers were deployed in the Soviet Union alone by 1970.
The command-guided V-750 missiles have a 195 kg HE fragmentation warhead. Ranges vary across variants, with a maximum of between 30 and 67 kilometers. Minimum ranges are as little as 6 kilometers. Altitudes range from a minimum of as little as 100 meters to a maximum of 30,000 meters, depending on the variant. Target engagement functions are handled by the RSN-75 radar set, a C- or X-band band system with a range of up to 145 kilometers, depending on the specific model, and a capability to engage a single target at a time.
In an interesting footnote, the initial designator for the RSN-75 radar in the West was FRUIT SET, as evidenced by declassified CIA documentation from 1961 (NIE 11-5-6, available online at the CIA's FOIA website). No reason has yet been discerned for the change to FAN SONG.
Detailed S-75/SA-2 Analysis [Technical Report APA-TR-2009-0702 Click here ...]
CIA rendering of fixed revetted SA-2 site circa 1966.
S-75 SAM sites are relatively easy to identify on high-resolution imagery. S-75 components are typically arranged in a circular pattern. The RSN-75 engagement radar is positioned in the center of the site, and there are six single round SM-90 rail launchers for the V-750 missiles positioned in a circular pattern facing outward around the radar position. A common practice with permanent sites was to locate the UV and AV operator and electronics vans in a trench or a bunker, next to or below the Fan Song radar head van. Electrical generator vans were also located in trenches, revetments or bunkers.
The V-750 missiles are between 10.6 and 11.2 meters in length, depending on the variant. The launchers measure between 10 and 10.5 meters in length in overhead imagery, depending on the resolution. S-75 sites tend to have a diameter of approximately 0.2 kilometers, although diameters of 0.16 and 0.23 kilometers have also been noted. Deployment in crowded urban areas or in some terrain can necessitate a closer or wider spacing of the site components. The V-750 launchers are emplaced in circular revetments between 20 and 25 meters across, with Chinese HQ-2 sites having revetments up to 30 meters across.
The following image depicts a typical S-75 site in Yemen. Major components are labeled, including a TET used to transport missile reloads from the storage area to the launch rails.
The following image depicts an inactive, overgrown S-75 site in Germany:
The S-75 site depicted below is a Bulgarian site displaying the classic circular layout:
Vietnam has created an unorthodox site layout for its S-75 batteries. The revised layout consists of a single RSN-75 engagement radar surrounded by four, rather than six, rail launchers, arranged in various patterns. The reasoning behind the revised layout is unclear, but there are a few logical reasons which may be behind the unusual deployment. First, Vietnam may simply be taking launchers and missiles out of service to save maintenance and upkeep costs. Given that the RSN-75 can only prosecute one engagement at a time, reducing the number of launchers at a given site may be strategically acceptable. Secondly, Vietnam may be limiting the number of in-service missiles to reduce the wear and tear on important defensive assets, enabling more missiles to be kept in reserve storage for wartime use. Thirdly, as the revised sites do not maintain the 360-degree layout with respect to the launchers, reducing the number of launchers at certain sites may be indicative of Vietnam's strategic thinking insofar as potential threat ingress routes are concerned. All of Vietnam's S-75 sites feature this layout save one, but even that site is only configured with four launch rails.
The following image depicts a Vietnamese S-75 site near Nha Trang AB using the aforementioned unorthodox equipment configuration:
The following image depicts a Chinese HQ-2 site being modernized to field the S-300P or HQ-9 strategic SAM system. Note the HQ-2 battery which has been repositioned to the northwest of the site being refurbished. In this case, the battery is kept at half-strength.
The following image depicts a recently modernized SAM site configured for the S-300P or HQ-9 system, clearly illustrating the presence of an HQ-2 battery:
The following image depicts the coverage provided by identified active S-75 sites in Syria:
Deployed SA-3 5P73 four rail launcher (images © 2009, Miroslav Gyűrösi).
The S-125 (SA-3 GOA) SAM system was developed to provide additional low-altitude coverage in areas already defended by S-25 and S-75 SAM systems. S-125 SAM systems were also deployed in areas identified by the Soviet Military as potential enemy low-altitude ingress routes en-route to high-priority targets. Interestingly, the S-125 began life as the M-1 (SA-N-1 GOA) naval SAM system, and was chosen for land-based use early in development. Many S-125 SAM systems remain in operation to this day, and there are numerous modifications available. The most current modification is the Pechora-2M mobile variant.
Detailed S-125/SA-3 Analysis [Technical Report APA-TR-2009-0602 Click here ...]
CIA NIE 11-3-62 rendering of fixed revetted S-125 / SA-3 Goa site. Site design followed a similar practice to that followed in the construction of S-75 / SA-2 Guideline sites.
A typical S-125 SAM site consists of three or four launch positions arranged in various patterns around a central radar area. Two rail 5P71 or four rail 5P73 launchers are employed. 5V24 missiles are 5.89 meters in length, and 5V27 missiles are 6.09 meters in length, although the difference may not be discernable in overhead imagery. Missile length is sometimes not an effective indicator to use when identifying an S-125 SAM site as the missile rails are often elevated. The launch rails measure approximately 8 meters in length. There is a visible counterbalance and hinge assembly that extends approximately 3.7 meters behind the missiles when they are fitted to the launch rails. This is a convenient feature for identifying an actual launch position as opposed to a missile reload vehicle, which mounts two missiles. The following image depicts a typical three-launcher S-125 site in Syria. Major components and features are labeled.
The following S-125 site in Algeria is an example of a "random" site configuration, in this case dictated by the limited space available for the site as it is located in an urban area:
The following image depicts the coverage provided by identified active S-125 sites (blue) and S-75 sites (red) around the metropolitan areas of northeastern Egypt:
The following image depicts S-125 coverage in Eritrea:
5N62 Square Pair FMCW engagement radar on display at Kecel in Hungary. Note the Square Pair at maximum elevation angle in the background (Image © Miroslav Gyűrösi).
The S-200 (SA-5 GAMMON) SAM system is a long-range air defense system designed to defend large areas against the full spectrum of airborne targets, including high-speed and high-altitude aircraft. The S-200 was originally conceived in part to defend against the expected overflights by Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft, although no such overflights ever took place due to a political restriction of manned overflights of the USSR in the wake of the Francis Gary Powers shootdown. The S-200 entered operational service in 1967 and has remained on combat duty in various nations worldwide ever since.
In a little known role, the S-200 was also employed as a national-level ABM system for a time. This is discussed elsewhere.
Detailed S-200/SA-5 Analysis [Technical Report APA-TR-2009-0603 Click here ...]
S-200 battery deployment illustration from Soviet technical manual. Note each launcher has a pair of 5Yu24 rail transloaders with ready 5V28 rounds (Almaz).
CIA Intelligence Memorandum 69-15, The Soviet SA-5 Deployment Program, provides us with the following descriptions of active S-200 site configurations:
A typical S-200 site will contain between two and five launch areas, each containing launch pads for six 5P72 launch rails. The radar area will contain a single 5N62V/K-1V radar head van for each launch area present in the site. This permits each site to engage multiple targets, reducing the negative impact of the 5N62's single target engagement capability. The missile Launch Control Centre van, the K-3, and the Square Pair K-2 operator van, are sited in close proximity to the 5N62V/K-1V, often behind berms, in a revetment, or a bunker.
The image below depicts a typical active S-200 site located in Libya. Relevant areas are annotated.
The following image depicts an inactive S-200 site in Belarus:
The following image depicts an active S-200 site in Kazakhstan displaying the two launch site configuration. While there are only two missiles visible on launch rails in the eastern launch position, there are two 5N62 radars visible, implying that the entire site is still active.
The following image depicts a Russian S-200 site captured in low-resolution imagery. This is one of two identified S-200 sites containing five launch areas.
SA-5 Gammon Missile Site Design [Technical Report APA-TR-2009-0603-A].
A number of Warsaw Pact sites employed large reinforced concrete platform structures, either with ramp access or the capability to raise and lower the platform itself. These were employed to increase the elevation of the 5N62V Square Pair radar head above the surrounding terrain, to extend the useful radar horizon of the system, critical for achieving maximum range performance for the SARH guided missile. A detailed study of two such sites is available in
North Korean S-200 batteries are deployed in a fashion designed to increase their survivability. As seen previously in examining a North Korean S-125 site, the DPRK chooses to use a series of bunkers to protect the system components. There are individual hardened shelters visible for each 5P72 rail launcher, as well as subsurface housings to protect the 5N62 radars when not in use. Two other subsurface bunkers are also visible, implying that the site may contain a total of four 5N62 radars.
The following annotated image depicts North Korea's western S-200 site:
The following annotated image depicts an Iranian S-200 site located on the grounds of Hamadan AB:
The following image depicts the coverage provided by identified active S-200 sites in Iran:
Imagery Sources: Russian MoD; Vestnik PVO; MilitaryPhotos.net; Miroslav Gyűrösi; other Internet sources.
Technical Report APA-TR-2009-1205-A
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