31, 2007: Venezuela is buying three batteries of Russian Tor-M1 anti-aircraft
missiles. These would be used to protect key Venezuelan assets from attack by,
well, you never know.
battery costs about $100 million, and consists of search radar and command
center vehicles, as well as four missile launcher vehicles (each carrying
eight missiles, and another radar.) The missiles can hit aircraft up to 12
kilometers away, and cruise missiles at a distance of five kilometers. The
missile launcher vehicle has a crew of thee (commander, driver and missile
370 pound missiles are nine feet long and 9.25 inches (235mm) in diameter. The
tracking radar on the missile vehicle can track two targets at once, and can
launch a missile in under eight seconds of a target being located. Missiles can
be launched from the vehicle at three second intervals. The missile carrying
vehicle weighs 34 tons, and has light armor (good against small arms and shell
fragments). The system has not been used in combat yet, but the Russians say it
has performed well in tests. The Chinese and Iranians are happy with the
system, and the Chinese have ordered more of them.
Tor-M1 is also known to NATO as the SA-15 Gauntlet. The system was designed as
a successor to the SA-N-8 Gecko. The system was designed to be a tactical
battlefield air-defense system, designed to take out close-air-support planes
like the A-10 or tactical fighter-bombers like the F-4, F-16, and F-18. The
A-10 still comes in low, but most other American warplanes stay up at 20,000
feet, dropping smart bombs, and are thus out of range of the Tor-M1.