S-300 Long Range Air Defense Missile System of Russia – SA-10 Grumble, SA-12 Giant/Gladiator, SA-20 Gargoyle

S-300 Long Range Air Defense Missile System was developed by Russia. S-300 is the long range surface to air missile systems produced by NPO Almaz. It has several variants.

S-300 Long Range Air Defense Missile System


In the late 1960s Soviet Union started to build a new surface-to-air missile system. It had an entirely new design. Developers considered the lessons of Vietnam War and the Arab-Israeli conflicts. First generation of this new missile system was the S-300PT, referred in the West as the SA-10 Grumble. It was adopted in 1978 and first deployed in 1979.

   Unlike the previous systems, the new system used a radar set, including 3 radars. Each of them had its own tasks. The 5N63 (Western designation Flap Lid) was the first Soviet phase array radar. It is used as for acquisition and engagement. This radar has 10 000 elements, about 300 km range, capable of detecting 100 targets and engage 6 of them. The second radar was 76N6 (Clam Shell). It was used for target acquisition and surveillance, and for low altitude and moving targets.

Its detection range is stated to be more than 90 km for targets at 450 m altitude and about 125 km for 900 m altitude. Most likely that these numbers improved in later versions. The Clam Shell radar can detect and track targets for engagement. The third radar was the 35D6 (Tin Shield). It can detect targets with a Radar Cross Section (RCS) of 0.1 square meters at an altitude ranging from 90 m out to 47 km. At medium to high altitudes to more than 175 km the system can track 100 targets or 30-60 targets automatically.

   For better surveillance, all of radars can be fitted with a 23.8 meters tall 40V6, 40V6M and 37.8 meters tall 40V6MD static towers. Also the radar set can be integrated with a 54K6 mobile command post.

   The S300PT used three 5P85 TELs in each battery. Each TEL carries 4 missiles.

   All elements of this missile system are based on MAZ-543M 8×8 special wheeled chassis or towed by KrAZ-260 or MAZ-537 trucks.

   The second version of the first generation, was the S-300PS. It appeared in 1982. It is an improved version of the previous S-300PT series. The main difference between the S-300PS and earlier versions is the full mobility of the missile launchers and radar units. All of them have a 5 minute set-up time. The earlier S-300PT has a set-up time of 30 minutes.

   The S-300PS system uses 5P85TE/D/S TELs. An batery of S-300PT/PS includes the 5N63 (Flap Lid) radar, two 5P85D and one 5P85S (in the S-300PS version). Other radar sets were optionally equipped in battalions.

   First generation of the S-300 system like the PT/PT-1/PS versions use the 5V55 missile family including 5V55K missile with a range of 47 km, the 5V55R missile with a range of 75 km, 5V55KD missile with a range of 90 km. In 1992 a much more capable 5V55U missile with a range of 150 km was introduced. All of these missiles have high-explosive warheads. There is also a 5V55V missile with nuclear warhead. However it is no longer deployed.

   The S-300PT air defense system no longer used. All surviving Russian S-300PT systems were retired by 2008. Some S-300PS systems are still in the Russian inventory. However the numbers are reducing. These are being replaced with more modern air defense systems. However the S-300PS are still in service with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine.

   All operational Russian S-300PM systems were upgraded to S-300PM1 standard by 2014. Though there might be still a number of older S-300PM systems in storage.

   The S-300PM2 is a further improved version, developed for the Russian Armed Forces.


The second generation of the S-300P system was the S-300PMU. It is a deep modernization of the first generation S-300 systems. It is referred in the West as SA-20 Gargoyle. This air defense system entered service with the Soviet Armed Forces in the mid 1980s.

   Further development of the S-300PMU became the S-300PMU-1. It is a downgraded export version. It appeared in 1993.

   The S-300PMU and S-300PMU-1 use the 30N6/30N6-1 (30N6E-1 export version) engagement radar. It has a 300 km range, can detect 100 targets and engage 6 of them. The systems also use the 76N6 (76N6E export version) low-level early warning/acquisition radar with more than 120 km range.

  One of the most important improvements of the PMU versions is the third radar. The 5N64S (Western designation Big Bird)  (64N6E export version) is a 360° S-Band 3D long-range surveillance/battle management radar with maximum range of 300 km. This radar has two huge faces, where each side has 2 700 elements (making a total of 5 400 elements). It can detect 200 targets and track 12 of them for engagement. For better intercepting of very fast moving targets the radar stops its rotation. The radar searches with higher processing speed, more resolution and accuracy. Also the radar has the ability of partitioning sectors into smaller zones for specific searches. This feature increases the search and track capabilities.

   The S-300PMU and S-300PMU-1 systems use the 5P85S and 5P85T (export version 5P85SE/TE) TELs. Both of them are equipped with 4 missiles. The battery is also supported by a 54K6E command post vehicle and 1T12 site survey vehicle. Radars and TELs use the MAZ-543M 8×8 chassis or are towed by the KrAZ-260B trucks.

   The S-300 PMU/PMU-1 systems use the 48N6 missile with a 150 km range, speed of about Mach 6, and a 70-100 kg HE warhead. The missile can engage targets with a maximum speed of Mach 8, at an altitude ranging from as low as 10 m to up to 27 km. The S-300PMU-1 for the first time introduced several different kinds of missiles in a single system.

   The S-300PMU is in service with Russia and Ukraine. The improved S-300PMU-1 has been exported to China, Greece, Slovakia and Vietnam.

S-300PMU-2 Favorit

The S-300PMU-2 or Favorit air defense missile system was developed specially for export. It evolved from the S-300PM-2, which was developed for the Russian Armed Forces. The S-300PMU-2 has the highest capabilities in the S-300P family. It was introduced in 1997. As of 2016 this system is 19 years old. The S-300PMU-2 is referred in the West as SA-20B Gargoyle. It uses a 30N6E1 (Tomb Stone) radar. This radar has a range of 300 km, can detect 100 targets, track and engage 36 of them and guide 72 missiles. It is worth noting that earlier radars of the S-300 family could simultaneously engage only 6 targets and guide 12 missiles.

   Unlike the previous S-300PMU-1, the S-300PMU-2 don’t use the 36D6 (Tin Shield) and 76N6 (Clam Shell) radars. Instead the system uses 96L6 all-altitude detector and acquisition radar. The 96L6 works in L-band. It has a 300 km range and very high resolution. The system can detect and track 100 targets. It identifies 4 target classes, including aircraft, helicopters, remotely piloted aerial vehicles, and missiles. It is claimed that this radar can also detect stealthy targets.

   The 64N6E2 3D S-band radar is an upgraded/modernized version of 5N64S (64N6E). It is the most capable radar of the S-300 missile system and has a key role of defeating ballistic missiles and electronic warfare aircraft. This version has a maximum detection range of 600 km. It has 3 400 elements on each side (a total of 7 800), which is a great number for a radar in this band. The system has high resistance against jamming.

   Demonstrator of the system used the 5P85SE mobile TEL (based on MAZ-543M) and 5P85TE towed TEL (towed by KrAZ-260 tractor truck) with four missile each. Later a new 5P58E2 towed TEL was introduced, which is also used with the newer S-400 system. This TEL is towed by a BAZ-6402 tractor truck. Other system components are based on MZKT-7930 special wheeled chassis or Ural-5353 truck.

   The S-300PMU-2 uses the 48N6E2 missile with a range of 200 km, speed of Mach 6, and altitude ranging from 10 m to up to 28 km. This missile is optimized to engage ballistic missiles. It can engage targets with a maximum speed of Mach 8. Comparing with other missiles, the 48N6E2 has much improved capabilities. For example Arrow 2 anti-ballistic system can engage targets flying with the same maximum speed of Mach 8, while the Patriot PAC-2 can engage targets with a maximum speed of Mach 6.

   The S-300PMU-2 system also use smaller 9M96E and 9M96E2 missiles with a range of 40 and 120 km respectively. These missiles can engage targets with a maximum speed of Mach 15. These are claimed to be superior to the Patriot PAC-2 missiles, that can only engage targets with a maximum speed of Mach 4.7. Launcher of the S-300PMU-2 was first publicly revealed with three 9M96 missiles tubes in 1999.

   Against ballistic targets, such as theater ballistic missiles the S-300PMU-2 system uses the 48N6E2 missiles. Role of the 9M96E2 is to defeat more capable targets, like high speed re-entry vehicles in 35 km altitude, and ballistic missiles with a range of more than 2 000 km. The 9M96E is also capable of engaging cruise missiles, anti-radiation missiles, guided bombs and other precision guided munitions. The 48N6 missiles has single shot kill probability of 80% to 93% for an aerial target, 40% to 85% for cruise missiles and 50% to 77% for theater ballistic missiles. The 9M96 missiles has a single shot kill probability of 70% against Harpoon class missile and 90% against a manned aircraft.

   The system use 54K6E2 and 55K6 as command post. Both of them are automated. It is also supported by the 22T6E2 missile loader and the 5T58E missile transporter.

   A battery of the S-300PMU-2 also includes the 30N6E2 X-band engagement radar, the 96L6E L-band acquisition radar, eight (maximum of twelve are supported ) 5P58TE/SE or 5T58-2 TELs with missiles a 54K6E2 or 55K6E command post and a 22T6E2 missile loader. Also battalions uses one or two  64N6E2 S-band radars.

   The S-300PMU-2 has been exported to Azerbaijan, China, Iran, and possibly Algeria. Recently it has been reported that production of all S-300 series systems will be stopped by 2016 in favor to the new generation S-400 system.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *