Air Defense: March 11, 2005


Russia is making a major effort to sell its SA-18 (Igla-S) portable surface-to-air missile to foreign customers. The 35 pound system has a missile with a 2.2 pound warhead, a range of six kilometers, a max ceiling of 10,800 feet and a seeker that is 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. So Russia is pushing another version of the SA-18, the Strelets, that is mounted in vehicles. This system consists of a 176 pound box like structure that contains four SA-18 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 heat seeker has detected a target. There is also a 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. Russia is currently trying to sell Strelets to Syria, and has already sold it to the Russian army and unnamed foreign customers. Separatist rebels in Chechnya have managed to buy SA-18s from Russian soldiers and have shot down Russian helicopters and a Su-25 (the Russian equivalent of the U.S. A-10) with them. Helicopters are the primary target of the SA-18 missile, as most American jets (except the A-10) fly too high to be hit. 


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