Useful Notes / Mnogo Nukes Surface To Air Missiles

Nuclear Surface To Air Missiles and Anti-Ballistic Missiles

(The Soviet designations refer to the whole system. There are also designations, Russian and Reporting Names, for each component part- radar, launcher, missile etc. but we won't generally bother you with those)

Moscow has the world's only fully operational anti-ballistic system, in service since the 1960s and progressively upgraded. The USA's first counterpart system, Safeguard, was deactivated in 1976. The National Missile Defense system is still under development and the precise nature of that is unclear- President Obama favours a "proven" system.

While Russia still maintains nuclear warheads associated with surface-to-air missiles, these are all currently in storage as per the 2002 SORT and 2010 New START Treaties.

S-25 Berkut (Golden Eagle- a former name later used for several other things)/SA-1 "Guild"

The first Soviet SAM, designed to defend Moscow, by shooting down bombers, with nuclear warheads if need be. Fixed site and not particularly brilliant.

S-75/SA-2 "Guideline" family

The SA-2f was nuclear capable, but the missile is far more famous in its conventional role. It performed the first successful SAM shoot down of an aircraft, shot down Gary Powers, could have started World War III via destroying another U-2 and killing the pilot during the Cuban Missiles Crisis, then caused the US a lot of problems in Vietnam, with a lot of jamming aircraft and equipment needed, as well as some B-52 missions being aborted when one was detected. Dubbed "the flying telephone pole" on account of the missile's size, it remains in service in a few countries, but due to the anti-missile stuff it caused in response, is effectively obsolete; the US have been beating them routinely since the mid-1980s. Even in its day, it was often necessary to "spam" an aircraft with several missiles for a shoot down (it took 14 to shoot down Gary Powers, with the apparent loss of a Soviet aircraft in the process). This, combined with the MiG-19 had a revolutionary impact on aerial warfare. It became clear that you could no longer fly above air defences and would have to fly below them.

Command guided, meaning you could jam it easily.

A naval version was tested on a modified "Sverdlov" cruiser, but found to be too large to be practical.

S-200 Angara, Vega and Dubna/SA-5 "Gammon"

A nuclear-capable medium-to-high altitude SAM, with semi-active radar homing capability- which is far better. Gained initial operating capacity in 1967, the thing is rather huge and has boosters attached to launch the thing. About 1,300 were ultimately deployed at 130 sites in the USSR.

Was designed for bombers or the SR-71.

A number of countries still retain them, although Russia phased them out in 2001.

M-11 Shtorm/SA-N-3 "Goblet"

A naval SAM, first installed on Moskva in 1967, but not officially cleared for service until 1969. Found on the "Moskva" helicopter carriers, "Kara" destroyers, "Kresta" anti-sub cruisers and "Kiev" aviation cruisers. Could carry a nuclear warhead. The fire control radar looked like a head-light from the front, so was dubbed "Head Light" in the West.

There was no land-based counterpart and it never fired in anger.


An ABM modification of Chelomey's UR-100/SS-11 ICBM, studied 1962-64. The aim would have been to have the missiles capable of changing role within 24 hours.

When discovered you'd need 200 of the things to shoot down 100 Minuteman missiles, Khrushchev cancelled the project. Pitched again in the 1980s as a response to Star Wars, but got nowhere.

A-35/ABM-1 "Galosh"

Moscow's first ABM system. This was a nuclear ABM. These (the A-350 missiles in this case) would defend Moscow from incoming missiles by nuking them. Think Missile Command. NATO developed manoeuvrable warheads- again think Missile Command.

A-135 System

The upgrade of A-35. This meant more advanced computer systems and radars, which are phased arrays (electronically-steered beams) as opposed to mechanically-steered radars. They're generally better. And a second kind of interceptor, the 53T6 (GRAU designation- other unknown))/SH-08 "Gazelle", was added; this can be thought of as the Soviet/Russian equivalent to the US Sprint. (See Peace Through Superior Firepower.) The 51T6 (GRAU again)/SH-11 "Gorgon" was also added for intercepts outside the atmosphere, making it a two layered system.
  • Moscow retains an ABM system, but the "Gazelle" and "Gorgon" missiles are now reportedly conventional-only. The ABM Treaty, regulating these systems, became void when the US withdrew to develop the NMD system. Russia, ostensibly concerned over this system's impact on its nuclear weaponry, offered the use of the Qadala radar site in Azerbaijan for NMD, rather than sites in Poland. The Americans looked at the radar, claimed it wasn't suitable and rejected the offer.

S-300P/SA-10 "Grumble

Capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, the S-300P is part of the S-300 series. They are found mounted in fours on a truck and have a very long range, being considered "strategic" SAMs

This missile is part of what the US call the "double-digit SAMs", mobile Russian air defense systems that are considered a major threat to modern non-stealth aircraft (a currently-on-hold sale of S-300PMU to Iran gives Israel sleepless nights). These missiles spurred the development of the F-22 and F-35.

Later missiles in this series include the S-400/SA-21, which has a partial ABM capability.


  • Sergei Korolev, the main person behind the early Soviet space program, submitted a design for a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS). It would have placed its warheads into an orbit so that they would go over the South Pole, as opposed to the North Pole where the U.S. concentrated its early warning systems. If it worked, the U.S. would only have minutes to respond before the missiles impacted, with the if being a very large one. The warheads were to be launched on a modified N1, the rocket the Soviets planned to use to go to the moon, and blew up all four times it launched.