March 21, 2012:
The Czech Republic came up with a novel way of upgrading their elderly Russian self-propelled anti-aircraft missile systems. These 2K12 (known as the SA-6 in the West) systems are having their Russian missiles replaced with Italian Aspides and getting a new fire control system.
The 2K12/SA-6 entered service in 1970, and made a reputation for itself by shooting down most of the 102 warplanes the Israelis lost in the 1973 war. The SA-6 went through improvements over the years but production ceased in 1985. The missiles required careful storage and maintenance, which they often didn't get in the many nations the Russians sold the system to. Many users have discarded the 2K12 but about twenty nations still have it. The Czechs had taken good care of their four 2K12 batteries (each with a mobile radar and four mobile launchers, each with four missiles). But a new missile and fire control system seemed the most cost effective alternative to buying all new systems.
The Aspide is a 220 kg (485 pound) missile with a range of 75 kilometers. The 3.7 meter (12.1 foot) long missile has a 33 kg (72.7 pound) warhead. The Aspide was originally based on the American AIM-7E Sparrow radar guided air-to-air missile. But the Italians soon replaced nearly all of the original American designed components with upgraded ones. Aspide has no combat experience but the Sparrow design has proved successful, as have other anti-aircraft systems that use air-to-air missiles.