The Soviets were forced to become interested in Anti Aircraft Missiles and the accompanying radar systems in earnest on account of the Postwar USAF bomber strength as well as spy flights. The SA-1 Guild / S-25 Berkut was the earliest Soviet surface to air missile known to the west from 1955, while the SA-2 Guideline” or S-75 Dvina, installed from 1957 onward, gained notoriety with the downing of Garry Power’s Lockheed U-2 in 1960.

While the west often joked about the quality and effectiveness of Soviet equipment, their missile systems and radars show a relentless and methodical attempt to overcome inherent limitations with both quantity and evolutionary improvements as well as an integrated systems approach. Once you analyze the radar systems they begin to make sense and you see the modular approach taken to much of the equipment which allowed the Warsaw pact to standardize many components and get a lot more bang for the buck. For instance, the cabins and trailer chassis of the radars where often similar if not identical and they tended to overlap each other in order to get a more integral approach. Generally they used a long range radar to find the offending flying object, then used an altitude radar to find at which height it was flying at and then used a third radar to for short range tracking and the guidance of the missile. After some basic research, I found out that the Soviet radars are based on compatible systems often around a missile type but also interchangeable also in succeeding generations. I saw a complete radar unit in the Syrian desert between Homs and Palmira but sadly/wisely took no photos.

The SA-1 Guild / S-25 Berkut featured a small and simple launch pad that the missile simple sat on fully errect without any movement but up. The missile itself was called V-300, while the entire weapons system was called S-25 (S for System). It was also unusual as the missile rested completely upright on a launch base and was not swung in one direction or an other for launch. It had a modernistic nearly triangular shaped target engagement radar called the B-200 (NATO: Yo-Yo), with the antennas usually installed in pairs (A-11/A-12) in a seemingly semi hardened facility about 1 km from the field of about 60 launchers. Another radar called the R-113 served as target aquisition whilst a ring of A-100 "Kama" radars surrounded Moscow. It is possible that other radars such as the P-30 Big Mesh and P-35 Bar Lock replaced this in due course.

The S-25 system never fired a shot in anger and only 72 units were exported to North Korea in 1961 where they also languished. The S-25 system was decomissioned in 1982 in favour of the S-300 system. For transport and display at May 1stparades, the missile itself was pulled on a trailer by a Zil-57 Truck, much like the SA-2.


The SA-2 Guideline almost always had an RSNA-75 Fan Song, P-12 Spoon Rest and PRV-10 Rock Cake and a Zil 157 command van. In the early days it probably also had the P-10 Knife Rest B radar on a further Zil truck. Airfix offered the SA-2, launcher and transporter 40 years ago, which is now being traded in the range of €90.  The launcher and missile is now available in resin or from the Gran company. Egyptian units were often installed in complex 6 pack sand revetments, while the Vietnamese used earth revetments in a similar arrangement.

SA-2 "Guideline"

SA-2 "Guideline"

PRV-10 "Rock Cake"

The SA-3 Goa or S-125 Neva missile for lower altitudes and shorter range deployed starting from 1961 mostly used the P-15 Flat Face radar on a Zil 157 truck and an PRV-11 Side Net altitude radar and a command van. Gran offers a launcher unit with 4 missiles.

SA-3 "Goa"

P-15 "Flat Face"

The massive SA-4 Ganef or 2K11 Krug fielded from 1967, was based on a Self Propelled Howitzer Chassi, and used the RPN-1S32 Pat Hand and P-40 Long Track tracked radar unit and the PRV-16 Thin Skin B on a Kraz 255 truck. Wespe Models makes a resin 2S3 Acatsiya Soviet 152mm SPG in 1/72 which can be modified into a launcher vehicle.

The long range SA-5 Gammon / S-200 Angara missile deployed from 1966 onwards used the P-35/37 Bar Lock and the 5N62 Square Pair. It also used the P-14/5N84A Tall King early warning radar, the Kabina 66/5N87 Back Net, the PRV-11 Side Net or PRV-17 Odd Pair height finding radar as well as the tower like P-15M Squat Eye target detection radar. The Russian Gran company may bring out the SA-5 Gammon as an injection moulded this year.

The SA-6 Gainful or 2K12 Kub on an APC tracked chassi had the 1S91M2 Straight Flush radar on a similar tracked chassi, the 1L22 Parola on a Ural 4300 truck, the P-18 Spoon Rest D on a Ural 4320 Truck as well as a Ural 4320 Command Van. Again, there was a Ural 4320 based re-supply truck.

SA-6 "Gainful"

The SA-7 Grail or Strela-2 was man portable and aimed by line of sight. It was exported very widely. The system was not the most effective or accurate. Israeli Skyhawks often survived an encounter with a Strela, but the annoyance factor alone could complicate an attack plan.

SA-7 "Grail"

The SA-8 Gecko or 9K33 OSA missile used its own Land Roll radar on a 6 wheel vehicle as well as the P-40 Long Track E band early warning radar, the P-15 Flat Face as well as the PRV-16 Thin Skin-B.

SA-8 "Gecko"

The SA-9 Gaskin or 9K31 Strela-1 was based on a 4 wheel armoured car and used a passive radar system in the vehicle

The SA-13 Gopher or 9K35 Strela-10 is mounted on an MT-LB Tracked chassi. It appears to have its own passive radar system.

The P-35 Bar Lock and earlier P-30 Big Mesh tended to lurk in the background for long distance detection and were often installed on a small man made hill. Again, the P-15M Squat Eye was tall enough not to need this.

PR-30 "Big Mesh"

P-35 "Bar Lock"

The Soviets also fielded a number of radars for securing airfields under the RSP series. The RSP-6M featured a relatively large dish on a trailer. The RSP-7T Two Spot was a little more interesting as it consists of relatively small antennas on a Zil-157 Truck. This can easily be scratch built for a Soviet airfield diorama. The RSP-10 Long Talk was similar to the RSP-6M but was mounted on a mast.

The ZZ Models from the Czech Republic offers a variety of Soviet Radars, such as PRV-10, P-12, P-15, P-18, P-19, P-30 and P-35 to name just a few. As the cabins and trailers are often similar, these can be modified into other relevant radars, such as the PRV-11 and Fan Song. They are largely out of resin (cabin, trailer and deails) with etched brass frets for the radar dishes and masts. The quality control department has unfortunately often misplaced parts and instruction and the email address doesn’t work. The resulting spare parts are however useful for conversions to other radar units, even if this is an expensive way around this.

Even with the demise of the Soviet union, the Russians have continued to upgrade their air defenses and are widely exporting these to various countries, including the usual pariah nations. Most famous would be the very large SA-10 Grumble / S300 on a 8 wheel vehicle with accompanying Flap Lid radar on a similar vehicle. There is a similar tube launched SA-12 Gladiator/Giant system on a tracked vehicle. The SA-11 Gadfly or 9K37 Buk missile system is now also replacing the SA-6 Gainful and is itself being upgraded to the 9K37M2 Buk-M2.

Article, models and photographs by Alex Hunger