ITO 78

Strela 2

9K32 Strela-2
NATO reporting name: SA-7 Grail
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 1964 approx
Variants See versions
Weight 9.8 kg (Strela-2M missile)
15 kg (system, ready to fire)
Length 1.44 m
Diameter 72 mm

Maximum range 3700m (Strela-2)

4200m (Strela-2M)

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

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

The 9K32 “Strela-2” (Russian 9К32 “Cтрела-2” — 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 to the US Army FIM-43 Redeye, it was the first generation of Soviet man-portable SAMs, entering service in 1968, with series production starting in 1970.

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


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 all existing anti-aircraft guns and most interceptors, at a stroke appeared to render every conventional weapon obsolete. To counter this large vulnerability, numerous long-range, high-altitude SAM systems, such as the SA-1 "Guild" and SA-2 "Guideline", were rapidly developed and fielded, but due to the apparent 'obsolescence' of conventional arms, relatively little development took place to field mobile battlefield air defenses.

This direction was soon to change, however, 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:


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. 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 already in 1970. The Strela-2M replaced Strela-2 in production lines immediately. Improvements were made particularly to increase the engagement envelope of the new system:


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.

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 it attempt to track. If target IR signature can be tracked against the background present, this is indicated by green light and 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 red 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.

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.

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. Unfortunately, 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

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

Middle East

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 avoid fatal damages 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.

During Operation Desert Storm, an Iraqi soldier armed with a MANPADS is reported to have seen a Strela-2 shoot down an American AC-130H gunship, AF Serial No. 69-6567, killing all 14 crewmembers.

A Strela-2 missile is said to have been used in Iraq, April 2005, when members of the Iraqi resistance 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. The missile launcher is not visible on the video, however, making it impossible to confirm the type of MANPADS used.

Strela-2 missiles have been used against Turkish Army helicopters in several occasions during the clashes between Turkey and the Kurdish separatist organization PKK. On May 18, 1997; a Turkish Army AS-532UL Cougar utility helicopter was shot down with a Strela-2 missile in Southeast Turkey. Only a couple weeks later, on June 4, 1997; another Strela-2 missile was used to shoot down an AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter in the area. The video of the latter attack was used extensively for PKK propaganda and eventually released to the Internet.

South-East Asia

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. (Some sources such as Fiszer (2004) 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 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. The internet site Arms-expo.ru 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.



During the Rhodesian Bush War (1964–1979) ZIPRA insurgents used the Strela against unarmed civilian aircraft and brought down two Vickers Viscount passenger aircraft belonging to Air Rhodesia. There was great loss of life in both instances as the flights were returning from Kariba, a well known tourist attraction.

Other use

Southern Lebanon

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


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.

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.

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.

In Angola and Namibia many were fired against the South African Air Force with limited success. The SAAF lost Atlas Impalas to SA-7s 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. UNITA also reportedly obtained 50 SA-7s that Israel had captured, via the CIA. The first one was fired at an Cuban aircraft by French mercenary contracted by the UNITA on 13 March 1976, but the missile failed to hit the target. The missiles were found to be in poor condition none scored a hit. Eventually, UNITA obtained more SA-7s, as it is claimed that they used one to shoot down a TAAG 737-2M2 taking off from Lubango on 8 November 1983. 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 and 2 January 1999, both near Huambo.

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. 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.

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

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. 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. 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, enroute 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. 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. 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.

Central America

On 5 October 1986 a Corporate Air Services C-123 Provider (HPF821, previously N4410F and USAF 54-679, (c/n 20128)) conducting a covert drop of arms to Contra fighters in Nicaragua was shot down by a Sandinista soldier, using a SA-7. CIA pilots Wallace "Buzz" Sawyer and William Cooper were killed in the crash. Loadmaster Eugene Hasenfus parachuted to safety and was taken prisoner. He was later released in December 1986.

Falklands War

Strela-2M missiles were available to Argentinian troops in the Falkland Islands during the Falklands War. A handful of missiles were fired, but no kills were scored.. War Machine Encyclopedia gives no launch recorded, but several missiles were captured. The missiles were supplied by Libya.

Northern Ireland

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) acquired some missiles that were reported to have been fired at a British Army Air Corps Lynx 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.

Yugoslav Wars

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.

2002 Mombasa attacks

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

Iraq and Afghanistan

Strelas are used, along with other MANPAD systems, by insurgent groups in the ongoing Iraq and Afghan wars, however, as in previous conflicts, they are only effective against rotary-winged aircraft. [1]: 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 [2]; while al Qaeda is said to have produced an hour-long training video on how to use SA-7s.



Former Operators


External links

Retrieved from : http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Strela_2&oldid=464202563

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