Strela 2

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9K32 Strela-2
NATO reporting name: SA-7 Grail
SA-7.jpg
KBM Kolomna 9K32 Strela-2 missile and canister
Type Man portable surface-to-air missile launcher
Place of origin Soviet Union
Service history
In service 1968–present
Used by See operators
Production history
Designer KBM (Kolomna)
Designed circa 1964
Variants See versions
Specifications
Weight 9.8 kg (21.6 lb) (Strela-2M missile)[1]
15 kg (33.1 lb) (system, ready to fire)[1]
Length 1.44 m[1]
Diameter 72 mm[1]

Maximum firing range

3700 m (Strela-2)

4200m (Strela-2M)[1]
Warhead weight 1.15 kg directed-energy blast fragmentation warhead (Strela-2M),[1] 370g HE content.
Detonation
mechanism
non-delay impact and grazing fuzes, 14–17 second delay self-destruct.

Wingspan 0.3 m
Flight altitude 50–1500 m (Strela-2)
50–2300 m (Strela-2M)[1]
Speed 430 m/s (Strela-2)
500 m/s (Strela-2M)[2]
Guidance
system
Proportional navigation logic

The 9K32 Strela-2 (Russian: Cтрела, "arrow"; NATO reporting name SA-7 Grail) is a man-portable, shoulder-fired, low-altitude surface-to-air missile system with a high explosive warhead and passive infrared homing guidance. Broadly comparable in performance with the US Army FIM-43 Redeye, which was designed in 1959, it was the first generation of Soviet man-portable SAMs, entering service in 1968, with series production starting in 1970.[3]

Described by one expert as being "the premier Russian export line",[4] the Strela and its variants have seen widespread use in nearly every regional conflict since 1968.

Development[edit]

The end of World War II saw a major shift in Soviet defense policy. The advent of long range, high altitude, nuclear-armed American bombers, capable of penetrating Soviet airspace at heights and speeds unreachable and unmatchable by anti-aircraft guns and most interceptors, appeared to render every conventional weapon obsolete at a stroke. Numerous long-range, high-altitude SAM systems, such as the SA-1 "Guild" and SA-2 "Guideline", were rapidly developed and fielded to counter this large vulnerability. Due to the apparent "obsolescence" of conventional arms, however, relatively little development took place to field mobile battlefield air defenses.

This direction was soon changed with the beginning of the Korean War. An entirely conventional conflict, it proved that nuclear weapons were not the be-all and end-all of warfare. In the face of a powerful and modern American air force, carrying non-nuclear payloads, the Soviet Union invested heavily in a multi-tier air defense system, consisting of several new mobile SAMs, to cover all altitude ranges and protect ground forces. The new doctrine listed five requirements:

  • Front-level medium-to-high-altitude area defense system 9K8 Krug (NATO designation SA-4 “Ganef”)
  • Army-level low-to-medium-range area defense system 3K9 Kub (NATO designation SA-6 “Gainful”)
  • Division-level low-altitude short-range system 9K33 Osa (NATO designation SA-8 “Gecko”)
  • Regiment-level all-weather radar-guided gun system ZSU-23-4 “Shilka” and very-short-range missile systems Strela-1 (NATO designation SA-9 "Gaskin")
  • Battalion-level man-portable Strela-2 (NATO SA-7 “Grail”)
A Soviet soldier posing with a Strela launcher.

Both Strela-1 and Strela-2 were initially intended to be man-portable systems. As the Strela-2 proved to be a considerably smaller and lighter package, however, the role of the Strela-1 was changed, becoming a heavier, vehicle-mounted system with increased range and performance to better support the ZSU-23-4 in the regimental air defense role.

As development began in the Turopov OKB (later changed to Kolomna), detailed information on the design of the US FIM-43 Redeye became available. While it was by no means a simple reverse-engineered copy, in many ways the Strela design borrowed heavily from the Redeye, which had started development a few years earlier. Due to the comparatively primitive Soviet technical base, development was protracted, and many problems arose, especially in designing a sufficiently small seeker head and rocket. Eventually the designers settled for a simpler seeker head than that of the Redeye, allowing the initial version, the 9K32 “Strela-2” (US DoD designation SA-7A, missile round 9M32) to finally enter service in 1968, five years behind schedule.

Improvements[edit]

The initial variant suffered from numerous shortcomings: it could only engage targets flying at relatively slow airspeeds and low altitudes and then only from rear hemisphere, it suffered from poor guidance reliability (particularly in the presence of natural or man-made background IR radiation sources), and even when a hit was achieved, it often failed to destroy the target.[5][6] Poor lethality was an issue especially when used against jet aircraft: the hottest part of the target was the nozzle behind the actual engine, which the missile therefore usually hit - but there its small warhead often failed to cause significant damage to the engine itself.

In order to address the shortcomings, two improved versions were ordered already in 1968; as an intermediate stop-gap the slightly improved 9K32M “Strela-2M” (NATO reporting name SA-7b) to replace the original, as well as the more ambitious Strela-3.

As the modifications introduced with the Strela-2M were relatively minor, the process was fast and it was accepted in service in 1970.[6] The Strela-2M replaced the Strela-2 in production lines immediately. Improvements were made particularly to increase the engagement envelope of the new system:[5]

  • higher thrust propellant increased slant range from 3.4 to 4.2 km and ceiling from 1.5 to 2.3 km
  • improved guidance and control logic allowed the engagement of propeller-driven and helicopter aircraft (but not jets) approaching at a maximum speed of 150 m/s
  • maximum speed of receding targets was increased from 220 m/s to 260 m/s
  • more automated gripstock provided a simplified firing method against fast targets: a single trigger pull followed by lead and superelevation replacing the separate stages of releasing the seeker to track, and launching the missile (see Description below)

Contrary to what was at first reported in some Western publications, more recent information indicates that while lethality on impact had proven to be a problem, the warhead remained the same 1.17 kg unit (including 370 gram TNT charge) as in the original.[7] This in fact remained the warhead of all Soviet MANPADS up to and including most Igla variants; to address the problem of poor lethality, a more powerful HE filling than TNT, improved fuzing, a terminal maneuver, and finally a separate charge to set off any remaining rocket fuel were gradually introduced in later MANPADS systems, but the original Strela-2/2M warhead design of a 370 g directed-energy HE charge in a pre-fragmented casing remained.

The seeker head improvements were only minor changes to allow better discrimination of the target signal against background emissions.[5][7] Some sources claim that the seeker sensitivity was also improved.[6] The only defence against infra-red countermeasures remained the seeker head's narrow field of view, which could be hoped to help the rapidly slowing flare fall off the missile field of view as it was tracking a fast-moving target.[5] In practice, chaff flares proved to be highly effective countermeasure against both versions of the Strela-2.

The seeker is commonly referred to as a hot metal tracker. The seeker can only see infrared energy in the near infrared (NIR) spectrum, emitted by very hot surfaces only seen on the inside of the jet nozzle. This allows only rear-aspect engagement of jet targets, earning the weapon its other moniker as a revenge weapon, since the missile has to "chase" an aircraft after it has already passed by.

The Strela-2M was also procured for use on-board Warsaw Pact warships;[8] installed on four-round pedestal mounts[8] aboard Soviet amphibious warfare vessels and various smaller combatants, the weapon remained unchanged, but was assigned the NATO reporting name SA-N-5 "Grail".[8]

Description[edit]

The missile launcher system consists of the green missile launch tube containing the missile, a grip stock and a cylindrical thermal battery. The launch tube is reloadable at depot, but missile rounds are delivered to fire units in their launch tubes. The device can be reloaded up to five times.[9]

Strela being aimed, the lens of the seeker clearly visible

When engaging slow or straight-receding targets, the operator tracks the target with the iron sights in the launch tube and applies half-trigger. This action "uncages" the seeker and allows its attempt to track. If target IR signature can be tracked against the background present, this is indicated by a light and a buzzer sound. The shooter then pulls the trigger fully, and immediately applies lead and superelevation. This method is called a manual engagement. An automatic mode, which is used against fast targets, allows the shooter to fully depress the trigger in one pull followed by immediate lead and superelevation of the launch tube. The seeker will uncage and will automatically launch the missile if a strong enough signal is detected.

Manufacturer lists reaction time measured from carrying position (missile carried at soldier's back with protective covers) to missile launch to be 13 seconds, a figure that is achievable but requires considerable training and skill in missile handling. With launcher on the shoulder, covers removed and sights extended, reaction time from fire command to launch reduces to 6–10 seconds, depending greatly on target difficulty and shooter's skill.

After activating the power supply to the missile electronics, the gunner waits for electricity supply and gyros to stabilize, puts the sights on target and tracks it smoothly with the launch tube's iron sights, and pulls the trigger on the grip stock. This activates the seeker electronics and the missile attempts to lock onto the target. If the target is producing a strong enough signal and the angular tracking rate is within acceptable launch parameters, the missile alerts the gunner that the target is locked on by illuminating a light in the sight mechanism, and producing a constant buzzing noise. The operator then has 0.8 seconds to provide lead to the target while the missiles on-board power supply is activated and the throw-out motor ignited.

Should the target be outside acceptable parameters then the light cue in the sight and buzzer signal tell the gunner to re-aim the missile.

On launch, the booster burns out before the missile leaves the launch tube at 32 m/s, and rotating the missile at approximately 20 revolutions per second. As the missile leaves the tube the two forward steering fins unfold, as do the four rear stabilizing tail fins. The self-destruct mechanism is then armed, which is set to destroy the missile after between 14 and 17 seconds to prevent it hitting the ground if it should miss the target.

Strela shortly after launch, fins unfurled, just before sustainer motor activation

Once the missile is five and half meters away from the gunner, approximately 0.3 seconds after leaving the launch tube it activates the rocket sustainer motor. The sustainer motor takes it to a velocity of 430 meters per second, and sustains it at this speed. Once it reaches peak speed at a distance of around 120 meters from the gunner, the final safety mechanism is disabled and the missile is fully armed. All told, the booster burns for 0.5 second and the driving engine for another 2.0 seconds.[9]

The missile's uncooled lead sulphide passive infra-red seeker head detects infrared radiation at below 2.8 μm in wavelength. It has a 1.9 degree field of view and can track at 9 degrees per second. The seeker head tracks the target with an amplitude-modulated spinning reticle (spin-scan or AM tracking), which attempts to keep the seeker constantly pointed towards the target. The spinning reticle measures the amount of incoming infrared (IR) energy. It does this by using a circular pattern that has solid portions and slats that allow the IR energy to pass through to the seeker. As the reticle spins IR energy passes through the open portions of the reticle. Based on where the IR energy falls on the reticle the amount or amplitude of IR energy allowed through to the seeker increases the closer to the center of the reticle. Therefore, the seeker is able to identify where the center of the IR energy is. If the seeker detects a decrease in the amplitude of the IR energy it steers the missile back towards where the IR energy was the strongest. The seeker's design creates a dead-space in the middle of the reticle. The center mounted reticle has no detection capability. This means that as the seeker tracks a target as soon as the seeker is dead center, (aimed directly at the IR source) there is a decrease in the amplitude of IR energy. The seeker interprets this decrease as being off target so it changes direction. This causes the missile to move off target until another decrease in IR energy is detected and the process repeats itself. This gives the missile a very noticeable wobble in flight as the seeker bounces in and out from the dead-space. This wobble becomes more pronounced as the missile closes on the target as the IR energy fills a greater portion of the reticle. These continuous course corrections effectively bleed energy from the missile reducing its range and velocity.

The guidance of the SA-7 follows proportional convergence logic, also known as angle rate tracking system or pro-logic. In this method as the seeker tracks the target, the missile is turned towards where the seeker is turning towards - not where it is pointing at - relative to the missile longitudinal axis. Against a target flying in a straight-line course at constant speed, the angle rate of seeker-to-body reduces to zero when the missile is in a straight-line flight path to intercept point.

Combat use[edit]

As a consequence of their widespread availability and large numbers, the Strela system has seen use in conflicts across the globe.

Middle East[edit]

Egypt[edit]

Jane's credits the first combat use of the missile as being in 1969 during the War of Attrition by Egyptian soldiers. The first 'kill' was claimed on 19 August 1969. A 102 Squadron A-4H Skyhawk was hit with a shoulder-fired missile 12 miles west of the Suez Canal and pilot SqL Nassim Ezer Ashkenazi captured. Between this first firing and June 1970 the Egyptian army fired 99 missiles resulting in 36 hits. The missile proved to have poor kinematic reach against combat jets, and also poor lethality as many aircraft that were hit managed to return safely to base. The missile was used later in the Yom Kippur War, where Strela were fired in the hundreds, scoring not many hits and few kills (A-4s had their exhaust pipes lengthened, in order to prevent fatal damage to the engine, a solution made in the previous war, together with flare launchers) but, together with Shilka and SA-2/3/6s they caused very heavy losses to the Israeli Air Force in the first days, after that the Arab SAMs firings were so high, that they almost depleted their weapon stocks. SA-7s were not that effective against fast jets, but they were the best weapon available to Arab infantry at the time.

A Strela 2 was reportedly used by the Islamist militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis to destroy Mil-8 Egyptian military helicopter operating in the northern Sinai region on 26 January 2014 near Sheikh Zuweid (close to the border with Gaza), killing its five occupants. This is the first attack of this type during the Sinai insurgency, which has raged on the peninsula due to the security and political turmoil since the 2011 revolution. The MANPADS is reported by United Nations to have come from former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's large stocks, which have been widely proliferated after Libya's civil war chaos and have become a concern to regional and world security.[10][11]

Syria[edit]

The Strela was deployed by Syrian forces occupying Lebanon, along with other Soviet air-defense systems that challenged U.S, French and Israeli airpower in the aftermath of the 1982 conflict and the deployment of the Multinational Force in Lebanon during that year. On November 10, 1983 a French Super Etendard escaped from being hit by an SA-7 near Bourj el-Barajneh while flying over Druze positions and, on December 3, more Strelas and anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) were fired at United States Navy F-14 Tomcats flying a reconnaissance mission.[12][13]

The Americans responded with a large strike package of 12 A-7 Corsairs and 16 A-6 Intruders (supported by a single E-2C Hawkeye, two EA-6B Prowlers and two F-14As) launched from the carriers USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) and USS Independence (CV-62) sailing in the Mediterranean. The aircraft were to bomb Syrian instalations, AAA sites and weapons depots near Falouga and Hammana, some 16 km north of Beirut-Damascus highway, when they were received by a volley of (possibly up to 40) Syrian SAMs, one of which hit a Corsair (AE305 of the VA-15) and forcing the pilot to eject over the sea before being rescued by a USN search and rescue mission.[13]

The attack formation broke, every pilot attacked each objective on its own and it prompted the shooting down of the second U.S aircraft: an Intruder from VA-85 was hit either by an SA-7 or an SA-9 and forced the navigator, Lieutenant Bobby Goodman to eject near a village surrounded by Syrian positions while the pilot of the A-6, Lt. Mark Lange, ejected too late and died from his wounds soon after being captured by Syrian soldiers and Lebanese civilians. Goodman was captured by the Syrians and taken to Damascus before being freed in January 1984.[14][15]

A second Corsair searching for the downed Intruder crew was later hit by an SA-7 but the pilot, Cdr. Edward Andrews, managed to eject over the sea near Beirut and was rescued by a Christian fisherman and his son who in turn handed him over to the U.S Marines.[14][15]

Lebanon[edit]

On June 24, 1974, Palestinians in southern Lebanon fired 2 SA-7s against invading Israeli aircraft, though no hits were scored.[16]

Hezbollah has also reportedly fielded some Strelas and fired 2 against Israeli warplanes on June 12, 2001 near Tyre, but these too failed to hit.[17]

Iraq[edit]

In the early dawn of January 31, 1991, during the Battle of Khafji in Operation Desert Storm, an Iraqi soldier shot down an American AC-130H gunship, AF Serial No. 69-6567, with a Strela 2, killing all 14 crewmembers.[18]

Strela-2 missiles have been used against Turkish Army helicopters by the PKK in Northern Iraq. During Operation Hammer; on May 18, 1997 a Strela-2 missile was used to shoot down an AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter. Only a couple of weeks later, on June 4, 1997, another Strela was used to down a Turkish Army AS-532UL Cougar transport helicopter in the Zakho area, killing the 11 occupants.[19][20][21] The video of the first attack was used extensively for PKK propaganda and eventually released to the Internet. Greece and Serbia's intelligence services, as well as Iran, Syria, Armenia, and Cyprus were traced as possible sources of the missiles.[19][22]

A Strela-2 missile is said to have been used in April 2005, when members of the insurgents shot down an Mi-8 helicopter operated by Blackwater, killing all 11 crew members. The Islamic Army in Iraq took responsibility for the action and a video showing the downing was released in the Internet.[23] The missile launcher is not visible on the video, however, making it impossible to confirm the type of MANPADS used.

The spate of helicopter shoot downs during 2006 and 2007 in Iraq has been partly attributed to the prevalence of the Strela amongst Sunni insurgent groups of that time;[24] while al Qaeda is said to have produced an hour-long training video on how to use SA-7s.[17]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

In late 2001, a Sudanese man with links to Al-Qaida fired an SA-7 at an American F-15 Eagle fighter taking off from Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. The missile missed the target and was not detected by the pilot or anyone at the base. Saudi police found the empty launcher in the desert in May 2002, and a suspect was arrested in Sudan a month later. He led police to a cache in the desert where a second missile was buried.[25]

Gaza[edit]

During October 2012, militants in Gaza fired a Strela in an attempt to down an IDF helicopter.[26] During Operation Pillar of Defense, Hamas released a video purporting to be a launch of Strela missile at an IAF target.[27] One was also reportedly fired in March 2013 from Gaza at an IAF helicopter.[26]

Southeast Asia[edit]

The Strela-2 system was also given to North Vietnam forces, where along with the more advanced Strela-2M it achieved 204 hits out of 589 firings against US aircraft between 1972 and 1975 according to Russian sources.[7] (Some sources such as Fiszer (2004)[6] claim it was used already from 1968 onwards).

A total of approximately 40–50 kills are attributed to Strela-2/2M hits between 1970 and the fall of Saigon, all but one (a TA-4 Skyhawk) against helicopters and propeller-driven aircraft. As in the War of Attrition, the missile's speed and range proved insufficient against fast jets and results were very poor: only one US Skyhawk and one South Vietnamese F-5 are known to have been shot down by with Strela-2s during the conflict.

US fixed-wing losses are listed in the following table.[28] The internet site Arms-expo.ru[7] states 14 fixed-wing aircraft and 10 helicopters were shot down with 161 missile rounds used between April 28 and July 14 of 1972; the difference in fixed-wing losses may be at least partly due to South Vietnamese aircraft shot down by the weapon.

Date Type Unit Altitude
when hit (ft)
Casualties Mission Location
01-05-1972 O-2A 20th TASS  ? 0 FAC Quang Tri
01-05-1972 A-1H 1 SOS 3500 0 SAR Quang Tri
02-05-1972 A-1E 1 SOS 5500 0 SAR Quang Tri
02-05-1972 A-1G 1 SOS 6500 1 WIA SAR Quang Tri
14-05-1972 O-1 4000 0 FAC An Loc
26-05-1972 TA-4F H&MS-15 4500 0 armed recce Hue
18-06-1972 AC-130A 16 SOS 12 KIA armed recce A Shau
29-06-1972 OV-10A 20 TASS 6500 1 KIA FAC Quang Tri
02-07-1972 O-1 0 FAC Phum Long (Cambodia)
19-12-1972 OV-10A 20 TASS 1 KIA FAC Quang Tri
27-01-1973 OV-10A 23 TASS 6000 2 MIA FAC Quang Tri

The table shows heavy losses particularly in the beginning of May, with especially lethal results on 1st-2 May, where the shootdown of the O-2 FAC led to further losses when a rescue operation was attempted. After these initial losses, changes in tactics and widespread introduction of decoy flares helped to counter the threat, but a steady flow of attrition [clarification needed] and necessity of minimizing time spent in the Strela's engagement envelope nonetheless continued to limit the effectiveness of US battlefield air operations until the end of US involvement in South-East Asia. The United States lost at least 10 AH-1 Cobras and several UH-1 Hueys to Strela-2/2M hits in South East Asia.

In the late 1980s, Strela-2s were used against Royal Thai Air Force aircraft by Laotian and Vietnamese forces during the numerous border clashes of that period. An RTAF F-5E was damaged on 4 March 1987 and another F-5E was shot down on 4 February 1988 near the Thai-Cambodian border.

Afghanistan[edit]

An Afghan Mujahid with a Strela 2

Strela-2M was used also in Afghanistan during the Soviet war in Afghanistan by the Mujahiddeen. The missiles were obtained from various sources, some from Egypt and China (locally manufactured Sakr Eye and HN-5 versions of the SAM), and the CIA also assisted the guerrillas in finding missiles from other sources.

Results from combat use were not dissimilar from experiences with the Strela-2/2M from Vietnam: while 42 helicopters were shot down by various Strela-2 variants (including a few Mi-24s until exhaust shrouds made them next to invisible to the short-wavelength Strela-2 seeker) only 5 fixed-wing aircraft were destroyed with the weapon. Due to its poor kinematic performance and vulnerability to even the most primitive infra-red countermeasures, the guerrillas considered the Strela-2 suitable for use against helicopters and prop-driven transports, but not combat jets.

However the recent studies and interviews after the Cold war, say that most of Strela sold to the Mujahiddeen on the black market, were broken/damaged or faulty. This is possibly another reason why the Soviet army in Afghanistan didn't expect working anti-aircraft missiles like Stinger to be used.[29]

On July 22, 2007 the first reported attack of the Taliban against a coalition aircraft using MANPADS was reported. The weapon was reported to be an SA-7 allegedly smuggled from Iran to the Taliban. The missile failed after the crew of the USAF C-130, flying over the Nimroz province, launched flares and made evasive manoeuvers.[30]

However most of the Strelas operated by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan are probably inherited from fighters that used it during the Soviet invasion. Most are probably faulty, broken or in other ways not usable (even from beginning) against military helicopters, with the intercepts of NATO aviation by Stingers (acquired also during 80s) or other missiles.[citation needed]

Africa[edit]

There are many reports of SA-7s being used in Africa; it must be made clear, however, that it is not easy to say which types of Russian (or Chinese) MANPADS were used, be they SA-7a, -b or newer types, such as the SA-14.

Guinea-Bissau[edit]

When PAIGC rebels in Guinea began to receive SA-7s in early 1973, these immediately became a threat to Portuguese air superiority. On 23 March 1973, two Portuguese Air Force (FAP) Fiat G.91s were shot down by SA-7s, followed six weeks later by another Fiat, and a Dornier Do 27.[31]

Mozambique[edit]

FRELIMO fighters in Mozambique were also able to field some SA-7s with Chinese support, although the weapon is not known to have caused any losses to the FAP, even if it forced Portuguese pilots to change their tactics. In one case a Douglas DC-3 carrying foreign military attaches and members of the senior Portuguese military command was hit by an SA-7 in one of the engines. The crippled plane managed to land safely and was later repaired.[32]

Angola[edit]

In Angola and Namibia SA-7s were deployed against the South African Air Force with limited success. The SAAF lost Atlas Impalas to Strelas on 24 January 1980 and 10 October 1980. Another Impala was hit by a SA-7 on 23 December 1983, but the pilot was able to fly the aircraft back to Ondangwa AB.[33] UNITA also reportedly obtained 50 SA-7s that Israel had captured, via the CIA. The first one was fired at Cuban aircraft by a French mercenary on 13 March 1976, but the missile failed to hit the target. The individual missiles may have been in poor condition, as none scored a direct hit.[34] Additionally, it is claimed that they used SA-7s to shoot down two Transafrik International Lockheed L-100-30 Hercules flying UN charters, on 26 December 1998[35] and 2 January 1999,[36] both near Huambo.[37]

Sudan[edit]

Using a SA-7, the Sudan People's Liberation Army shot down a Sudan Airways Fokker F-27 Friendship 400M taking off from Malakal on 16 August 1986, killing all 60 on board.[38] On 21 December 1989, an Aviation Sans Frontières Britten-Norman BN-2A-9 Islander (F-OGSM) was shot down by a SA-7 while taking off from Aweil Sudan, killing the four crew on board.[39]

Western Sahara[edit]

The Polisario Front has used SA-7s against the Royal Moroccan Air Force and Mauritanian Air Force during the Western Sahara War over the former Spanish colonies of the Spanish Sahara. The Mauritania Air Force lost a Britten-Norman Defender to a SA-7 fired by the Polisario on 29 December 1976.[40] Between 1975 and 1991, the Royal Moroccan Air Force has lost several Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighters and Dassault Mirage F1s to SA-7s fired by the Polisario.[41] In a case of mistaken identity, a Dornier Do 228 owned by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research was shot down over the Western Sahara near Dakhla on 24 February 1985. Two Dornier 228s named Polar 2 and Polar 3 were on a return flight to Germany following a South Pole expedition. After having taken off from Dakar, Senegal, en route to Arrecife, Canary Islands, flying 5 minutes behind Polar 2 and at a lower altitude (9,000 feet), Polar 3 was shot down by a SA-7 fired by the Polisario.[42] The crew of three were killed. In another incident, on 8 December 1988, two Douglas DC-7CFs flying at 11,000 feet from Dakar, Senegal to Agadir, Morocco for a locust control mission there, had SA-7s fired at them by the Polisario. One aircraft, N284, was hit and lost one of its engines and part of a wing. This led to the aircraft crashing, killing the crew of five.[43] The other aircraft, N90804, also was hit and lost an engine along with suffering other damage, but it was able to land safely at Sidi Ifni Morocco.[44]

Airliner attacks[edit]

During the Rhodesian Bush War, members of the military wing, the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army, brought down two Vickers Viscount civilian airliners near Kariba in September 1978 and February 1979, respectively. There was great loss of life in both instances as the flights were returning from a well known tourist attraction.[45]

  • Vickers Viscount, Flight RH825, 3 September 1978 - downed by a Strela missile near Kariba Dam. After initial impact, the pilot was able to make an emergency landing in a nearby field but the aircraft broke up on impact. Eighteen of the fifty-six passengers in the tail section survived the crash. Ten of these survivors were shot dead at the crash-site by insurgents who later looted the bodies and wreckage.[45]
  • Vickers Viscount, Flight RH827, 12 February 1979 - shot by down Strela missile near Kariba Dam; all 59 people on board were killed.

UNITA claimed that they used one to shoot down a TAAG Boeing 737-2M2 taking off from Lubango on 8 November 1983.[46]

A Lignes Aériennes Congolaises Boeing 727-30 taking off from Kindu was shot down by a SA-7 fired by rebel forces in 1998, killing all 41 on board.[47]

Two missiles were fired at a Boeing 757 during the 2002 Mombasa attacks. Neither missile struck its target.[48][49]

Latin America[edit]

Argentina[edit]

Strela-2M missiles were available to Argentinian troops in the Falkland Islands during the Falklands War. War Machine Encyclopedia gives no launch recorded, but several missiles were captured.[50] The missiles were supplied by Libya.[51]

Nicaragua[edit]

The Strela-2 was used by both Sandinista government forces and Contra insurgents during the 1979–1990 civil war.

On 3 October 1983, at about 10:00 am, a Contra-operated Douglas DC-3 carrying supplies, that had took off from Catamacas airport in Honduras, was hit and downed by a Strela fired by Sandinista soldier Fausto Palacios over the Los Cedros area, in the Nueva Segovia Department. Four crewmen were captured by government forces while one died in the attack. The pilot, Major Roberto Amador Alvarez, as well as his co-pilot Capt. Hugo Reinaldo Aguilar were former members of the extinct National Guard of former dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle.[52][53][54]

On 27 August 1984, a Contra-operated Douglas C-47 Skytrain was hit and downed by another Strela fired by Sandinista soldier Fanor Medina Leyton. Sources differ over the attack and crash area: both a Russian source and Sandinista officials reported the Jinotega Department, while the Aviation Safety Network reports the Quilalí area in the Nueva Segovia department. All eight occupants were killed. The pilot, José Luis Gutiérrez Lugo, was reported as a former pilot for the Somoza family. Sandinista and Contra forces subsequently battled for the control of six packages dropped from the plane.[52][55][56]

On 5 October 1986 a Corporate Air Services C-123 Provider (HPF821, previously N4410F and USAF 54-679, (c/n 20128))[57] conducting a covert drop of arms to Contra fighters in Nicaragua was shot down by Sandinista soldier José Fernando Canales Alemán, using an SA-7. CIA pilots William J. Cooper and Wallace "Buzz" Sawyer as well as radio operator Freddy Vilches were killed in the crash. Loadmaster Eugene Hasenfus parachuted to safety and was taken prisoner. He was later released in December 1986.[58] The flight had departed Ilopango Airport, El Salvador loaded with 70 Soviet-made AK-47 rifles and 100,000 rounds of ammunition, rocket grenades and other supplies.[59]

El Salvador[edit]

FMLN rebels acquired SA-7 missiles around 1989 and employed them extensively in the closing years of the Salvadoran Civil War, dramatically increasing the combat losses of Salvadoran Air Force aircraft. At least 2 O-2 Skymasters (on 26 September and 19 November 1990), one A-37 Dragonfly (on November 23, 1990), two Hughes 500 helicopters (2 February and 18 May 1990), and two UH-1Hs were lost to SA-7s. One of the UH-1Hs (on January 2, 1991) was crewed by US Army personnel, while the other was operated by the Honduran Air Force.[60][61]

Colombia[edit]

In late December 2012 a video showing FARC rebels attempting to shoot down a Colombian Air Force Arpía helicopter with an SA-7 in the Cauca raised the alarm in the Colombian military, though the missile failed.[62] [63]

During that same month, a Strela was captured by the Colombian military. It is believed that they might came from Cuba, Nicaragua or Peru; the only Latin American operators of the type.[64] Furthermore, the CIA's motive to remove and destroy Chinese copies of the SA-7 (HN-5s) from Bolivia in 2005 was the fear of them reaching FARC rebels because, according to a US military magazine, “they used the HN-5 against Colombian-operated U.S-made helicopters”.[65] The Ecuadorian Army captured an HN-5 allegdly destined for the FARC in the border province of Sucumbíos, near Colombia, in July 2013.[66][67]

Europe[edit]

Yugoslav wars[edit]

Confiscated SA-7s awaiting destruction in Bosnia, 1996

The system was used on a large scale during the wars in former Yugoslavia by all Yugoslav successor states and factions. Among Strela's victims in these conflicts were military jets and helicopters.

Northern Ireland[edit]

The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) acquired some missiles that were reported to have been fired at a British Army Air Corps Lynx helicopter in 1991 in South Armagh, however it missed its target. To counter the new threat the British helicopters flew in pairs below 50 feet or above 500 feet.

Spain[edit]

In 2001, the Basque separatist group ETA tried on three occasions (April 29, May 4 and 11) to use Strela 2 missiles to shoot down the Dassault Falcon 900 aircraft with the then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on board. The missiles failed to launch every time near the Fuenterrabía and Foronda airports. In 2004 several systems were captured by the Civil Guard.[68] Some Strela 2 missiles were bought from IRA in 1999, while Libya was tracked as the original source used by IRA.[69]

Ukraine[edit]

Following the toppling of the Russian backed government of President Viktor Yanukovich in February 2014, Pro-Russian separatists in the Eastern part of Ukraine are currently using the Strela SAMs in their battle for independence and alliance with Russia against Ukrainian forces. This Soviet-made weapon is found on the territory of entire former USSR and in Ukraine in large numbers.

Versions[edit]

  • 9K32M Strela-2M: "SA-7b Grail"
  • Strela 2M2J Sava: Yugoslav version
  • CA-94 and CA-94M: Romanian versions
  • HN-5: Hongying 5, Chinese version
  • Anza MKI: Pakistani version
  • Ayn al Saqr (Known as hawk Eye " عين الصقر "): Egyptian version[70]
  • Hwasung-Chong: North Korean version

Operators[edit]

Former operators[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]