Igla Man Portable Air Defense Missile System-9K38 Igla-Needle Of Russia-SA-18 Grouse

Igla is a Russian Man Portable infrared homing surface to air missile. It succeeded the older Strela-3 with better range and seeker sensitivity. The system uses an 9M39 Surface-to-Air missile (SAM). It was adopted by the Soviet Army in 1981.


The 9K38 Igla (Needle) is a Man-Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) developed by Soviet Union in the 1970s. It succeeded the older Strela-3 with better range and seeker sensitivity. The system uses an 9M39 Surface-to-Air missile (SAM). It was adopted by the Soviet Army in 1981. This air defense system is known in the West as SA-18 Grouse. The Igla MANPADS can engage aircraft, helicopters and UAVs.

   Comparing with the Strela series, the Igla has increased warhead weight. Its infrared guidance system uses proportional convergence logic for target acquisition and movement prediction.

   The 9M39 missile constitutes a seeker head, control system and propulsion system. The 9E410 seeking head contains photo resistor sensor made of Indium cooled down to -200 degree Celsius for better IR source acquisition. The seeker head also contains logical selection unit to enhance system’s acquisition capability during target engagement. The Igla also uses 9S520 night fire equipment package.

   The Igla launcher tube houses the SAM. It can also mount ground power supply sources and coolant gas. The targeting and triggering mechanisms are located on the gripstock assembly.

   Operation of the Igla is similar to other MANPAD Systems (eg. US Stinger). The 9M39 surface-to-air missile is inserted into the launchtube. Firing operation of Igla involves starting the ground power supply, powering the target acquisition unit and the missile. Friend or foe identification is carried out before target engagement by a 1L14 interrogator mounted on the launch tube.

Additionally, night sight can also be mounted for day/night interoperability. The launcher sight assembly is used to target aerial vehicles and missile is fired using gripstock assembly. This starts the launch motor which pushes the 9M39 missile out of the launch tube. The seeker identifies the source as the boost phase of propulsion starts. During the sustaining phase control fins are used to maneuver the missile towards the IR Source. On nearing/reaching the target the warhead ignites neutralizing the target.

   The probability of kill of the Igla against an unprotected fighter aircraft is 30-48%. Even with jamming protection the kill probability only reduces to 24-30%, denoting Igla’s high countermeasure avoidance capability.

Igla Variants

Igla-1 is a simplified early production version. It is known in the West as SA-16 Gimlet. It had a maximum range of 5 000 m and could reach targets at a maximum altitude of 2 500 m.

   Igla-1E is an export version. It has been exported to a number of countries.

   Igla (SA-18 Grouse) is a standard production version. It was adopted in 1983. Currently it is in service with more than 30 countries, including Russia.

   Igla-D, version developed specially for the Soviet airborne troops. Its launch tube can be disassembled and carried in two separate sections in order to reduce dimensions.

   Igla-M is a naval version for the naval boats. Its Western designation is SA-N-10 Grouse.

   Igla-V is an air-to-air version, used on helicopters.

   Igla-N is a version with much larger and more powerful warhead.

   Igla-S, sometimes referred as Igla-Super. It is an improved variant in the Igla, which entered service with Russian Army in 2004. It is known in the West as SA-24 Grinch. It is more efficient weapon with longer range (up to 6 km). The missile was fitted with a new two-channel optical seeker with logic unit. It has higher jamming immunity due to good target selectivity against the background interference.

The Igla-S also has increased warhead weight, laser based contact/proximity fuse, algorithm based optimal moment of explosion and high accuracy; all adds to the advantages of the new Igla-S over its predecessor. The warhead also features increased high explosive charge and fragment number. The warhead is made of Indium antimonide which allows lock onto receding target easier.

The Igla-S has the same weight and size as the older missile, as well as similar launching/maintenance procedures. With its high combat effectiveness, Igla-S system can be used to engage cruise missiles and drones. This MANPADS has been exported to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Libya, Slovenia, Thailand, Venezuela, Vietnam, and possibly some other countries.

   Verba is the latest version. It was developed as a replacement for the Igla and Igla-S systems. The main improvement is a three-channel optical seeker. It uses three sensors, including ultraviolet, near infrared and mid-infrared. It improved discrimination abilities between real targets and decoys. This air defense system was approved for production in 2011. The Verba was adopted by the Russian Armed Forces in 2014. It has a 1.5 kg warhead and can reach targets at a range of 6 km and maximum altitude of 4.5 km.

   Hwasung-Chong is a North Korean version of the Igla.

   Grom is a Polish version of the Igla. In the early 1990s Polish intelligence services acquired design plans of the Igla missile. This missile entered service with the Polish armed forces in 1995.

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