Almaz S-75 family of (SA-2 ‘Guideline’) low- to high-altitude surface-to-air missile systems

Development :

Development of the S-75 Dvina (Russian river name, US/NATO designations SA-2 `Guideline’) system began in the mid-fifties under the direction of the 2nd Main Directorate of the USSR Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Aviation’s KB-2 (A Raspletin, P Grushkin and B Korobov) as a mobile medium- to high-altitude SAM system for use against non-manoeuvring targets such as bombers. It was also designed to be more suitable than the R-113 (SA-1 `Guild’) SAM for nationwide deployment. The designation for the system changed as it evolved through its operational development period. In 1957, the first operational PVO-Strany (Voyska Protivovozduchnoy Oborony Strany – Troops of the National Air Defence) S-75 missile regiments of three six-rail launcher battalions were formed with one of the initial deployments near the strategically important city of Sverdlovsk. On 1 May 1960, the Sverdlovsk units fired a total of 14 V-750 missiles against a Lockheed U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft flown by Gary Powers of the CIA. The subsequent detonation of the missiles at high altitude not only forced the U-2 to crash, thereby precipitating an international crisis, but also destroyed a PVO-Strany MiG-19 interceptor. The result of the incident was that the USA ceased all further U-2 overflights of Russian territory, losing a valuable strategic intelligence source. The next incident involving the V-750 was when Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Defence Missile units shot down a Taiwanese-flown Lockheed U-2 over Nanching in September 1962. The V-750 and its locally built copy, the HQ-1, and derivative, HQ-2, were subsequently used on many occasions throughout the 1960s against further Taiwanese-flown U-2s and US Ryan pilotless reconnaissance drones, scoring at least another eight U-2s by 1970. The initial Chinese incident was rapidly followed by the 1962 Cuban missile crisis during which a US Air Force U-2 was lost on 27 October to a V-750 while flying over the Cuban naval base at Banes. In mid-1965, the `Guideline’ was introduced into the North Vietnamese Air Defence Network, claiming its first victim, a US Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom, on 24 July of that year. The system was subsequently used throughout the various bombing campaigns against the North Vietnamese military infrastructure. Surprisingly, despite the initial uses of the V-750, it was not until the Vietnam War that the US gained the necessary raw intelligence data on the weapon’s proximity fuzing system, its terminal phase guidance signals and the warhead’s overpressure characteristics at detonation to enable them to design suitable ECM systems to counter it. This was obtained on 13 February 1966 during a flight over North Vietnam by a specially radar-enhanced high-altitude Ryan 147E ELINT pilotless drone which relayed the information back to a monitoring station until a V-750 destroyed it. This was followed on 22 July 1966 by another special flight involving a Ryan 147F drone protected by onboard ECM equipment. A total of 11 V-750s were fired at the drone before one managed to defeat the ECM coverage and hit it. In the same year that the V-750 entered the Vietnam War, the Indian Air Force used it operationally during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War. Obtained in 1963, the first examples of an eventual 25 battalion force were deployed around New Delhi and several of the key airfields in that area. The only confirmed kill was near Delhi on 6 September when an Indian Air Force Antonov An-12 Cub transport was shot down, mistaken for a Pakistan Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules. However, during the later stages of the war, the Pakistan Air Force’s sole high-altitude Martin RB-57F reconnaissance aircraft was bracketed by two V-750s at about 15,850 m altitude causing sufficient damage for it to crash land on return to its base. In December 1965, a USAF RB-57F was destroyed by a V-750 on a flight over the Black Sea, near the Russian coastline.

Egypt began receiving the V-750 at the same time as the Indians and had 18 battalions in service by the time the June 1967 war with Israel started. According to US Corona satellite reconnaissance assets, Egypt had 35 known SAM sites and six known SAM support facilities available for use. These fired only 22 missiles destroying two Mirage IIICJ fighters (on 7 and 8 June respectively) and one complete battalion including radars was captured by the Israel Defence Force with another eight battalions destroyed by the Israeli Air Force. During the following 1968 to 1970 War of Attrition, hundreds of V-750s were supplied to Egypt and the weapon scored its first kill in this war on 9 March 1969 when an Israeli Piper Cub observation aircraft was destroyed. Between then and the 1973 war the number of kills it had made increased to about 10. The V-750 was also used in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war (one kill), the 1973 Yom Kippur War (by both Egypt and Syria with 14 assessed kills), the 1990-91 Gulf War (by both sides), by Syria during the 1982 Bekaa Valley air defence battle, by Libya during the March/April 1986 incidents with the US and by Angola against the South African Air Force. It has also been used by North Korea and Cuba on numerous occasions to try to hit US Lockheed SR-71 high-speed high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. On 19 March 1993, Georgian Air Defence units around Sukhumi shot down a Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-27 `Flanker’ fighter by using S-75 missiles. This is one of several Russian Air Force aircraft and helicopters shot down during several localised conflicts in the Caucasus during the early 1990s. One more recent combat use was in November 1994 against NATO aircraft operating over western Bosnia. The Bosnian and Krajinian Serbs have also used the SA-2 in the ground-to-ground role against Bosnian Muslim and Croatian targets. At least 18 `Guidelines’ were fired during November and December 1994 against ground targets using modified fuze systems for ground contact or very low-level airbursts. It was also the subject of NATO air defence suppression raids during the 1995 bombing of Bosnian Serb targets. When the performance of the weapon is analysed, however, a high number of launches per kill is found, but the missile has proved its worth by reducing the accuracy and effectiveness of the enemy’s air power by diverting valuable effort to SAM suppression missions, restricting the use of reconnaissance assets and, most importantly, forcing enemy aircraft to adopt tactics or fly lower where other air defence systems such as guns, interceptors or different missile types can prey on their increased vulnerability. By mid-1993, the number of V-750 launchers in Russian air defence regiments had declined from a peak of over 4,600 in the late 1960s through approximately 2,400 in mid-1988 to approximately 150 in 1996. During its long life the weapon has been subjected to numerous modifications, both internally and to its guidance systems. Most of these were prompted by operational experience and the need to rectify problems found in combat.

The original V-750 missile used in the first S-75 Dvina SAM system was assigned the US/NATO codename SA-2a/`Guideline’ Mod 0. The system entered operational service in November 1957. The associated E-band missile guidance radar was assigned the NATO codename `Fan Song-A’. A further missile variant used with this system was the V-750V, which was given the same SA-2a `Guideline’ Mod 0 codename. The system was capable of engaging targets flying at up to 1,500 m/h at altitudes between 3,000 and 22,000 m. The S-75 was quickly superseded by the SA-75 Desna system which entered operational service in 1959. This was assigned the missile codename SA-2b/`Guideline’ Mod 1 and used the V-750VK and V-750VN missile variants. The associated radar was assigned the codename `Fan Song-B’. The main improvements were in the missiles themselves and on the radar with the deletion of the original upper parabolic antenna fitted to the vertical orthogonal antenna. The system could engage targets at altitudes between 500 and 30,000 m and ranges up to 34,000 m. The next system entered service in 1961 and was designated the S-75M Volkhov. The associated missile was the V-750M and was assigned the designation SA-2c/`Guideline’ Mod 2. The radar was the G-band `Fan Song-C’ set. The V-750M was identical to the V-750VK/V-750VN weapons but with improved performance. The target engagement altitudes were now 400 to 30,000 m at ranges up to 43,000 m. Maximum target speed was increased to 2,300 km/h. During the early to mid-1960s, two further S-75M variants were fielded – the S-75M Volkhov system with the V-750SM missile assigned the codename SA-2d/`Guideline’ Mod 3 and the S-75M Volkhov system with the V-750AK missile assigned the codename SA-2e/`Guideline’ Mod 4. The G-band radar associated with both variants has the codename `Fan Song-E’. A G-band `Fan Song-D’ was also developed but never actually entered operational service.

The V-750SM differed significantly from the original V-750 in having four enlarged dielectric uplink guidance receiver strip antennas under prominent covers on the forward side of the missile instead of the usual two sets of four. It also has a longer barometric nose probe and several other differences associated with the sustainer motor casing. The V-750AK is essentially the same as the V-750SM externally but has upgraded internal components and a larger, more bulbous warhead section for either a conventional HE fragmentation or command-detonated nuclear warhead. Unlike the V-750SM the V-750AK was not exported and has remained a solely Russian-operated weapon. The `Fan Song-E’ radar has two parabolic antennas added above the horizontal orthogonal antennas to provide Lobe-On-Receiver-Only (LORO) Electronic Counter-CounterMeasures (ECCM). During 1967 to 1968, following the extensive combat experience gained on `Guideline’ during the Vietnam War and the capture of a battalion with at least 12 SA-2b missiles and associated `Fan Song-B’ radar equipment by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, the S-75 system design bureau undertook a crash programme to improve the ECCM capabilities and engagement envelope of the Dvina. Using technology drawn from the more advanced S-125 Neva, the bureau produced the S-75M Volga version with the US/NATO codename SA-2f/`Guideline’ Mod 5 missile and `Fan Song-F’ radar. Prototype trials were undertaken in 1968, with the first production battalions being operationally deployed in late 1968. A number of the SA-2f systems was rushed to Egypt for use along the Suez Canal in the latter part of the War of Attrition. Further deliveries were made to Vietnam during 1970 to 1971 for incorporation into its air defence network. The major changes were in the `Fan Song-F’ radar. This reverted back to the original E-band but with a higher output, scintillation suppression and manual plus mixed mode tracking. The model is readily distinguished from the earlier models, having a small distinctive box-like housing centrally located over the horizontal orthogonal antenna which replaces the `Fan Song-E’s’ pair of LORO parabolic dish antennas. The `cab’ contains the necessary electro-optical tracking and guidance equipment for a two-man team to track a target in a severe ECM environment where the normal automatic electronic tracking mode has been jammed. The optical systems allow target acquisition and missile guidance using the C-band UHF command link at altitudes down to approximately 100 m. The other significant change in the SA-2f is in the missile guidance package, which now has a capability to home on targets using strobe jamming. The S-75 guidance system was the responsibility of the Aleksandr Raspletin design bureau. The SA-2 family was used by Iraq during the 1990-91 Gulf War. It is possible that the local Iraqi variant (qv) was also used. The SA-10 `Grumble’ system has effectively replaced the SA-2 `Guideline’ in Russian service.


The V-750 missile was developed by the Petr Grushin design bureau and is a two-stage weapon with a large solid propellant booster stage fitted with four very large delta fins. The missile itself has a storable liquid fuel sustainer rocket motor which uses an inhibited red fuming nitric acid/kerosene fuel mix. Towards the mid-section is a set of four cropped delta-shaped wings with a second in-line set of small fixed fins at the nose and a third in-line set of slightly larger powered control fins at the tail. The warhead of the SA-2a/b/c/d/f weighs 195 kg (130 kg of which is HE) and is an HE internally grooved fragmentation type with proximity, contact and command-type fuzing available. The 295 kg nuclear warhead for the SA-2e variant is believed to have a yield of 15 kT. The conventional warhead weighs the same. The warhead of the SA-2a/b/c/e/f models is fitted forward of the main fins and behind the nose-mounted guidance assembly. Maximum blast radius against a high-altitude target such as a U-2 is around 244 m due to the rarified atmosphere. At medium to low levels against fighter-sized targets the kill radius is about 65 m and the blast radius for severe damage is 100 to 120 m. The weapon has a CEP figure of 75 m with the large blast radius compensating for any system inaccuracies.

The whole S-75 system, including the launcher, is designed to be simple and easy to operate with the minimum of specialised training. In practically all user countries the pattern of a battalion site is as follows: six semi-fixed trainable single rail launchers are deployed in a hexagonal arrangement, about 60 to 100 m apart. They can either be dug into pits, left at ground level or hardened by being dug in and surrounded by concrete revetments. In the centre of the launchers is the battery command post with the fire-control team and its computer, the `Fan Song’ missile control radar, the P-12 (NATO designation `Spoon Rest-A’ truck-mounted or `Spoon Rest-B’) early warning radar and usually six reload rounds on their articulated trailers. Again, the fire-control team, its equipment and the radars can either be van-mounted above ground, simply dug in or located underground in hardened concrete bunkers. Camouflage is used as required.

The battalion’s early warning and target acquisition `Spoon Rest’ A-band radar has a range of 275 km using a large Yagi antenna array. At regimental HQ there is a fourth `Spoon Rest’, a van-mounted P-15 (NATO codename `Flat Face’) 250 km range C-band search and tracking radar with two elliptical parabolic reflectors and a PRV-11 (NATO codename `Side Net’) 180 km range E-band nodding height-finder radar mounted on a box-bodied trailer. There is also a radar control truck and a `Mercury Grass’ truck-mounted command communications system for linking the HQ to the three battalions. Once the P-12 and P-15 radars detect a target entering the regiment’s assigned defence zone, it is interrogated by the HQ’s IFF system (NATO codename `Score Board’). If designated hostile, the regimental HQ identifies which of its three battalions is the most suitable one for the engagement and transmits the contact details in the form of range, altitude and bearing either by radio or landline from the `Mercury Grass’ command station to the battalion’s radar elements.

The `A’ to `E’ models of the Fan Song are normally operated by a four-man crew (the `Fan Song-F’ has six crew): a range tracking officer and three enlisted men who serve as angle track operators. The `Fan Songs’ operate in two basic modes (except the `Fan Song-E’ and `-F’ systems which have a third intermediate mode for low-altitude search and tracking): target acquisition and automatic tracking. In the target acquisition mode the radar searches for the target to which it has been alerted by the P-12 battalion set. The track-while-scan capability allows it to transfer the data on one target’s bearing, altitude and velocity to the fire-control computer whilst continuing the scanning to acquire other targets for follow-up tracking. The `Fan Song-E’ is able to track up to six targets simultaneously. Once there is sufficient data for the engagement the radar is switched over to its automatic tracking mode and then to its missile guidance mode. Maximum radar range of the E-band `Fan Song-A/B/F’ models varies between 60 and 120 km depending upon target type, altitude and operating conditions. The G-band `Fan Song-D/E’ maximum range is extended to between 75 and 145 km under the same parameters. The main element of a `Fan Song’ is a pair of orthogonal trough antennas, one horizontal and one vertical, which emit two `flapping’ fan-shaped radar beams in their respective planes. The separate azimuth and elevation beams of the early `Fan Song’ radars sweep through the target aircraft and a pair of enlisted men keep the target in the centre of the scan pattern by using manually operated controls. As already stated the `Fan Song-E’ set has an additional LORO ECCM facility built in, whilst the `Fan Song-F’ has had this replaced by an electro-optical guidance mode option for use in heavy ECM environments. In some countries which only deploy early versions of the SA-2, the elderly ground-mounted P-8 Dolphin (NATO codename `Knife Rest-A’) or truck-mounted P-10 (NATO codename `Knife Rest-B/C’) radars may be used in lieu of `Spoon Rest’. They are A-band sets and have an operating range in the order of 150 to 200 km. As soon as the computer has a firing solution on a target, a launcher is brought to bear, elevated to between +20 and +80┬░ and blast deflectors erected. Up to three missiles can be fired and controlled against a single target. Launch interval is 6 seconds. Once a missile is fired its solid fuel booster is ignited and this burns for 4.5 seconds to take the weapon away from the launch site; 0.5 seconds later the burnout booster unit is jettisoned. After the launch the fire-control computer continues to receive target data from the `Fan Song’ which is now tracking the missile as well. The computer continually generates commands to guide the missile to the target and these are transmitted over a C-band UHF radio beam uplink to four (on the SA-2d/e) or eight (on the SA-2b/c) strip antennas mounted forward and aft of the missile’s centrebody wings. The onboard guidance unit accepts these and adjusts the missile’s trajectory using the movable control fins aft. A V-750 must pick up its narrow UHF line of sight guidance beam within 6 seconds of launch otherwise it goes ballistic and does not guide. The liquid fuel sustainer burns for a total of 22 seconds with the V-750 attaining its maximum velocity only when it reaches around 7,630 m altitude.

This means that the missile has limited capability and manoeuvrability when engaging tactical aircraft. Once guided to the vicinity of its target, the weapon’s fuzing system is command activated by the fire-control computer and this detonates the warhead either by proximity to the target or by receipt of a command signal. A self-destruct unit detonates the warhead after 60 seconds of unguided flight time following launch or after 115 seconds, if closure with the target during guided flight has not been made. Reloading a launcher takes about 12 minutes using the articulated reload trailer and its (6 x 6) tractor. One of the North Vietnamese tactics evolved for the S-75 system was the use of a `light battalion’ organisation. This used only one or two launchers, a fire-control radar and no acquisition and tracking radar or supporting sub-units. The time taken to come out of action and be ready to move was thus reduced to approximately 15 minutes, some 30 minutes less than the Russian norm of 45 minutes for a full battalion outfit. These `light battalions’ were used extensively by the North Vietnamese operating ambush tactics whereby several such units would occupy previously prepared positions and would wait, studying the air position in the region before attacking a single target. Over the years various defence techniques have been developed to counter the V-75 models. These include ECM systems, the deployment of large quantities of chaff to confuse the `Fan Song’ guidance radar, and actually outmanoeuvring the missile in flight. However, the best to date has proved to be the use of specialist aircraft to suppress the SAM system by electronically and physically attacking it.


The People’s Republic of China has developed its own modified version of the S-75 under the designation HQ-2, details of which appear earlier in this section. The licence-built version was the HQ-1. Arab British Dynamics reverse-engineered the V-750 `Guideline’ to meet the requirements of the Egyptian Air Defence Command, but it was not placed in production. It had the local name Early Bird. A navalised version, the V-753 missile with the system named the M-2 Volkhov-M, was tried on the Project 70E `Sverdlov’ class cruiser conversion Dzerzhinski. Converted during 1960-62 with a twin-rail launcher in place of X-turret and an eight-round magazine, the project was not a success. Iraq has modified some of its SA-2 stockpile to accept an infrared homing seeker. As far as is known this has not seen any combat use in the recent Middle East conflicts. Photographs of this version appeared in Jane’s Land-Based Air Defence 1997-98 page 266. In 1993, the Volga-M modernisation programme under the management of the Almaz NPO (the successor to the original S-75 design bureau) was revealed (qv previous entry in this section).


Missile Type: two-stage low- to high-altitude
(SA-2a) 10.6 m
(SA-2b/c/e/f) 10.8 m
(SA-2d) 11.2 m
(booster) 0.65 m
(missile) 0.50 m
Max span:
(booster) 2.5 m
(missile) 1.7 m
Launch weight:
(SA-2a/b/c/f) 2,287 kg
(SA-2d/e) 2,450 kg
Propulsion: solid fuel booster with storable liquid fuel sustainer
rocket motor
Guidance: command type
(SA-2a/b/c/d/f) 195 kg HE fragmentation with proximity and/or command fuzing systems
(SA-2e) optional 295 kg HE fragmentation with proximity and/or command fuzing or 15 kT nuclear warhead with command fuzing system
Max speed: M3.5
Max effective range:
(SA-2a) 30,000 m
(SA-2b) 34,000 m
(SA-2c/d/e) 43,000 m
(SA-2f) 55,000 m
Min effective range:
(SA-2a) 8,000 m
(SA-2b) 10,000 m
(SA-2c) 9,300 m
(SA-2d/e) 7,000 m
(SA-2f) 6,000 m
Max effective altitude:
(SA-2a) 22,000 m
(SA-2b/c/d/e/f) 30,000 m
Min effective altitude:
(SA-2a) 3,000 m
(SA-2b) 500 m
(SA-2c/d/e) 400 m
(SA-2f) 100 m
Launcher: single rail semi-fixed trainable
Reload time: 12 min

Status :Pakistan has 12+ batteries, Air Force, HQ-2 version

COMPANY NAME : Russian state factories