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Man-portable air defense missile system


The Strela-2 was the first generation of Soviet shoulder-launched air defense missiles

Country of origin Soviet Union
Entered service 1968
Missile length 1.44 m
Missile diameter 0.07 m
Fin span 0.3 m
Missile weight 9.15 kg
Weight (with launcher) 15 kg
Warhead weight 1.17 kg
Warhead type High explosive blast fragmentation
Range of fire 3.6 km
Altitude of fire 2 km
Guidance Infrared homing


   The Strela-2 (Russian: "Arrow-2") was the first generation of Soviet shoulder-launcher air defense missiles. It is a clone of the US FIM-43 Red Eye. The shoulder-launcher Strela-2 has nothing in common with the previous vehicle-mounted Strela-1. The Strela-2 was officially adopted in 1968. Its Western reporting name is SA-7 or Grail. Full-rate production commenced in 1970. The Strela-2 was widely used by the Soviet armed forces. It has been exported to Warsaw Pact countries, Soviet allies and countries, where Soviet influence has spread. This shoulder-launcher missile was produced in Bulgaria, China, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia. China, Egypt and Yugoslavia even developed their own improved versions of this missile.

   The Strela-2 air defense missile is no longer used by the Russian Army. However it is still used by a number of countries.

   This Man-Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) was designed to engage aircraft and helicopters. However this old system can not engage drones. Maximum range of fire is 3.6 km. Maximum altitude is 2 km. Performance of the Strela-2 is broadly similar to that of the FIM-43 Red Eye.

   The 9M32 missile has an infrared seeker. It was designed to see infrared energy and guide itself on very hot surfaces, such as aircraft's heat signature, and particularly inside of a jet engine. The missile explodes on contact. If it misses, the missile self-destructs. When launched at an aircraft, the Strela-2 is most effective in tail-chase engagements.

   Hit probability with a single missile against an unprotected target is only around 10-20%. This number is reduced it the target uses countermeasures, such as chaffs and flares. The Strela-2 is not protected against these countermeasures. Also in some cases the missile proved to be vulnerable to background interference, sun, clouds and horizon. So by modern standards its performance is poor. However at the time of its introduction in the late 1960s such hit ratio was acceptable.

   Operation of the Strela-2 is similar to other MANPAD systems such as the Red Eye or Stinger. The missile is inserted into the launcher prior to launch. The launcher can be reloaded up to 5 times. After that it is disposed.

   Minimum launch time from carrying position to launch is 13 seconds. Once the launcher is on the shoulder, covers are removed and sights are extended, time to launch is reduced to 6-10 seconds. It takes around 25 seconds to reload the launcher.

   In the Soviet Army the Strela-2 was used by separate 3-man teams. Each team member had its launcher and 2 spare missiles. This missile can be launched from a hatch of an armored vehicle, moving at a speed of up to 20 km/h. It is worth noting that in the Soviet armed forces most armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles carried these air defense missiles inside the hull.

   The Strela-2 saw action during numerous wars and military conflicts. It was first used in Egypt in 1968 during the war with Israel. Between 1968 and 1970 a total of 99 missiles were launched. These hit or downed 36 Israeli aircraft. In 1973 Egyptians hit another 31 Israeli aircraft with these shoulder-launched missiles. In 1974 Syrians destroyed 11 Israeli air targets with these missiles. During the Vietnam War the Strela-2 systems were supplied to Vietnam. Between 1972 and 1975 a total of 589 Strela-2 and Strela-2M missiles were launched, mainly against American helicopters. A total of 204 air targets were destroyed or damaged. The Strela-2 missiles were also used during a number of other military conflicts. The type remains in active service.

   Combat experience revealed that the Strela-2 was not efficient enough. It appeared that missiles used to hit tail parts of the planes, that had little vital systems. Also the missiles could not inflict sufficient damage due to small warheads. A number of damaged planes managed to return to their bases and after brief repairs were flying again. Sometimes it took only a couple of hours to repair damaged planes. So development of the Strela-2 continued.




   Strela-2M is an improved version. It was developed soon after the introduction of the Strela-2. The improved version was officially adopted in 1970. Its reporting name in the West is SA-7B. It uses an improved 9M32M missile. The seeker is more sensitive, however it still lacked protection against countermeasures. Maximum range of fire is 4.2 km, while maximum altitude is 2.3 km. Hit probability against an unprotected target is 11-24%. The Strela-2M missile is slightly heavier.

   Strela-3 is a further improved version, adopted in 1974. This missile had a new and significantly more sensitive seeker. It was no longer sensitive to background interference, such as rain, fog, sun and cloudy environment. Hit probability against an unprotected target is 31-33%. Its maximum range is 4.5 km and maximum altitude is 3 km. The Stela-3 can be used with a friend-or-foe interrogator.

   CA-94 is a Romanian license-produced version of the Strela-2. The CA-94M is equivalent to Strela-2M.

   HN-5 is a Chinese reverse-engineered version of the Strela-2. A sample was obtained during the Vietnam War from North Vietnam.

   Ayn al Saqr (Hawk Eye) is an Egyptian version of the Strela-2.

   Strela-2M/A is a version produced in Yugoslavia.








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