Air Defense: Death In A Small Box


February 23, 2011: Russia is now offering for export an updated anti-aircraft missiles system that uses small (as in usually shoulder-fired) missiles in containers (four or eight cells) that can be mounted on vehicles. This Strelets system has been around for years, but the latest version uses an Igla-S (9K338/SA-24) with a proximity fuze. This enables the missile to detonate if it comes close (and the proximity fuze detects that the missile is now moving away from the target). Older versions of Strelets carry the SA-18 missile, which is a few kilograms lighter than the SA-24, has a lower ceiling (three kilometers) and lacks the proximity fuze.

Russia has been offering its SA-18/24 (Igla) portable surface-to-air missile to foreign customers for most of the past decade. The 19 kg (42 pound) system has a missile with a 2.5 kg (5.5 pound) warhead, a range of six kilometers, a max ceiling of six kilometers (20,000 feet) and a seeker that can detect and ignore many types of flares.

The Russians claim the SA-18 is twice as effective as the U.S. Stinger, and much cheaper (at about $30,000 each.) There's no proof the SA-18 is better, or even as good as, Stinger. Sales have been slow since September 11, 2001, because these make excellent terrorist weapons for use against airliners and the U.S. protests any sales that might end up arming terrorists.

The Strelets consists of an 80 kg (176 pound) box like structure that contains four SA-18/24 missiles. The fire control system is mounted elsewhere in the vehicle, and the launcher fires the missile when the operator of the fire control system gets a signal that the SA-18/24 heat seeker has detected a target. There is also a 120 kg (264 pound) version, that carries eight missiles. The Strelets can be mounted in any vehicle that has space for it, and can support the weight of the launcher.

Strelets has already been sold to the Russian army and several foreign customers. Helicopters are the primary target of the SA-18/24 missile, as most American jets (except the A-10) fly too high to be hit.


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