Moscow's Air-Defense Network


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29 January 2006
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Moscow's Air-Defense Network, Part 1: Foundations in Fear

Worried about US strategic bombers over the Red capital, Stalin initiates the world's largest air-defense network

by Michal Fiszer
Nov. 29, 2004

In December 1954, on Premier Nikita Khrushchev's order, the 1st Special Purpose Army of the Soviet National Air Defense Forces was established. At its outset, the army was short of equipment and people who knew what they were doing. The army's primary asset, the S-25 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, was only just being deployed. Its personnel were in training or otherwise engaged in construction of the units' facilities. The army was so secret that even the USSR's minister of defense did not know the details of its creation.


A depiction of a Type 215 missile of the S-25 air-defense system taking off. The task of developing the airframe of the missile that would be used in Moscow's air-defense system was assigned to Semion Lavochkin, the famous aircraft designer and director of the OKB-301 design bureau and its attending factory in Khimki, near Moscow. Igor Szablewski

On June 15, 1955, the 1st Special Purpose Army (SPA) was attached to the Moscow Air Defense District. Construction of its facilities had been mostly completed by that time. Final training and acceptance of the S-25 air-defense system took another year, so it was not until June 8, 1956, that the army was declared combat ready. The 1st Special Purpose Army remained operational until 1994, when the last of its S-25 systems was withdrawn from service. Since that time, Moscow has been defended by four air-defense brigades, each fielding eight S-300PT and six S-300PM battalions. Soon these units will be replaced by about 20 S-400 battalions.

For five decades, Moscow has been the most heavily defended city on Earth – against air attack, at least. The details of Moscow's air-defense network reveal as much about its creators' will and power as it does about their fears and weaknesses

Concentric Rings

From the very beginning of the Cold War, the danger of enemy air raids against the Soviet Union was treated very seriously. Already in 1948, air-defense forces were detached from other services and formed into an independent branch of the armed forces. In 1954 their status was raised to that of an independent service, fully equal to the army, navy, and air force.

In the late 1940s, when work on the first Soviet missiles exceeded the limits of German WWII achievements, Joseph Stalin became interested in surface-to-air missile systems as a way of increasing the combat effectiveness of air defenses in the nuclear era. At this time, the Soviets started three guided SAM programs, all of which were based on German concepts. Research-Scientific Institute (NII) No. 88, located in Podlipki, near Moscow, was the primary Soviet missile-development center in the early Cold War years and carried out all three early SAM programs. NII No. 88 included the Special Design Bureau (SKB) with a number of divisions handling a variety of ballistic and air-defense missile projects. The SAM efforts were the R-101 missile, a copy of the German Wasserfall; the R-103 missile, a copy of the German Rheintochter; and the R-105 missile, a copy of the German Schmetterling. None of these programs produced a successful missile, mainly due to problems with guidance and control systems.

In the early years of failure, a very important organization arose that, over the course of a half-century, would evolve into what is now the Almaz consortium, one of the most prolific missile-development groups in the world. The nascent organization was Special Design Bureau No. 1 (SB-1). In 1947 Sergei Beria, a son of Lavrentiy Beria, the powerful minister of the interior (MVD), graduated from Leningrad's Red Army Communications Academy. His graduating thesis was on a guidance and control system for an anti-ship missile. The lead professor on the project was Pavel Kuksenko, an experienced academic teacher. When Minister Beria, who reported directly to Stalin, learned about the work his son was involved in, he ordered the effort be made into a funded development program, and SB-1 was established for this purpose in September 1947 in Sokol, on Moscow's outskirts. Here also was the NII-20 radar institute led by Mikhail Sliosberg and Electrical Factory No. 465. Professor Kuksenko was transferred from the Red Army Communications Academy to become the chief of SB-1, while Sergei Beria was appointed his deputy. Soon, SB-1 received some talented specialists, mainly from NII-20.


Here is an illustration of the original S-25 layout around Moscow. Continuous lines are the internal (22 regiments) and external (34 regiments) rings. The small circles represent Air Defense Regiments. The shadowed triangles in the upper right show engagement sectors. The dashed circles are the fire ranges of internal- and external-ring regiments.

By 1950 Stalin had became very concerned about the lack of progress in the development of SAM systems. Nevertheless, at his insistence, the Soviet Council of Ministers issued an August 9, 1950, decision about establishing the Moscow Air Defense system based on guided missiles. A few days later, Dmitri Ustinov, minister of armaments, issued a decision that SB-1 would be reorganized as KB-1, with Kuksenko and Sergei Beria released from administrative duties to pursue design work. The new KB-1 was quickly reinforced with various specialists taken from other institutions on Minister Beria's order. Some highly qualified and valuable specialists were taken from TsNII-108, a radar-research institute, among them the famous Aleksandr Raspletin, who became a deputy chief designer. A division of "Lager No. 1" (Gulag) with imprisoned German and Soviet specialists was also attached to KB-1. To supervise this part of the organization, Col. Grigori Kutepov of the Internal Security Forces was appointed the deputy director of KB-1, but he, in fact, reported directly to Minister Beria.

The newly created KB-1 was responsible for overall system integration, as well as development of the control and guidance of the SAM missile, which would come to be called the Berkut. A common story has it that "Berkut" stands for names of Sergei Beria and Kuksenko, but according to more reliable information it came from the names of their supervisors: Minister Beria and Col. Kutepov.

At the same time, the task of developing the airframe of the Berkut missile was assigned to Semion Lavochkin, the famous aircraft designer and director of the OKB-301 design bureau and its attending factory in Khimki, near Moscow. The liquid rocket engine for the missile was entrusted to NII-88 under the teams led by Aleksey Isayev and Dominic Sevruk. Lavochkin decided on a single-stage missile, because the system was to be deployed around Moscow, a densely urbanized area. Factories, research centers, design bureaus, military depots, and various other government facilities and compounds dominated Moscow's environs. In the case of any live firings, a launch booster would be dropped a few seconds after the missile took off and would fall down somewhere, jeopardizing any of these valuable assets.

It was decided that air-defense missiles would be deployed in two rings around Moscow, the inner ring about 45-50 km from the city center and the outer ring about 90-100 km from the city center. The SAM units on each ring were to be deployed 15-20 km apart so that no gap would be left between their zones of engagement. This translated into 22 units on the internal ring and 34 on the external one, for a total of 56 SAM units. These units were organized into four sectors: Northern, Western, Eastern, and Southern. The Northern and Western sectors would deploy nine units on the external ring and six on the internal. The Eastern and Southern sectors would deploy eight units on the external ring and five units on the internal. There were to be central main and alternate operations centers of the 1st Special Purpose Army (SPA), functioning as Moscow's air-defense command posts. Every also sector got its own command post, which was manned by a corps HQ.

The basic SAM unit was to be formed as a SAM regiment, with 56 regiments in total. The 1st SPA received its own radar network. Eight long-range radar posts were constructed: four forward posts, called RUDs, deployed one per corps; and four on the closer ring, called RUBs, also one per corps. Each corps' main operation center was deployed at the RUD with the alternate at the RUB. A powerful A-100 radar set was deployed at each post with a range of 250-300 km and 360-degree coverage. NII-20 developed the A-100 especially for the Berkut system. The long-range sets provided targeting information for the B-200 fire-control radar sets deployed with each Berkut regiment. Each B-200 covered a 60-degree arc.

In November 1951, Soviet planners decided the Moscow air-defense system would be supplemented by an airborne element that would operate on the approaches to the ground-based elements. At the time, it was not clear that typical gun-armed fighters would be suitable for the role. Therefore, the airborne element would be built around the G-300 air-to-air missile, which was to be a smaller version of the S-25's V-300 surface-to-air missile. The missile's carrier aircraft would be the G-310, based on the Tu-4 piston-engine bomber (an exact copy of US Boeing B-29, made from damaged aircraft that diverted to the Soviet Union after bombing Japanese targets in Manchuria and were interned). The G-310 was also to be equipped with a fire-control radar, developed by NII-17 under Viktor V. Tikhomirov, in the nose and a guidance-command transmitter. The air-interception element also consisted of a radar-equipped D-500 Taifun command-and-control aircraft, also based on the Tu-4.

The G-300 missile, known at Lavochkin's OKB-301 as "missile 210," was 8.3-m long and 0.5-m in diameter and weighed 3 tons. Four of the missiles were to be carried by a single G-310 interceptor. In late 1951, the missile project was slightly modified into the 211 version by omitting the solid-propellant boosters, which had proved to be superfluous. In May-June 1952, the G-310 made 10 flights with 211 missile mock-ups, but the program was then terminated.

The D-500 Taifun had four antennas and four radar sets for observing the front, rear, upper, and lower hemispheres. The radar was also developed by NII-17 and had a range of 80-100 km. This aircraft also made some test flights before program cancellation. It was later used as a testbed for developing airborne-radar observation techniques that were ultimately used in the Tu-126 Moss airborne warning and control aircraft.

The programs based on the G-300 had been canceled because it became evident that airborne air defense could be accomplished by conventional fighter-interceptors armed with smaller missiles. Lavochkin proposed building such an aircraft: a supersonic fighter with a delta wing and a radar in the nose. The fighter, designated "205," was to be armed with "typical" air-to-air missiles of the K-15 family (275, 278, and 280 missiles), also developed by OKB-301. The "250" fighter is another story, but it can be said here that it never went beyond the prototype stage.

A Very Unique Radar

The B-200 was one of the strangest radar systems ever built. Probably no other radar in the world worked in a similar way. The B-200 was a very complicated 3D, multifunction unit with all functions – search, track, and fire control – accomplished on the same mode of operations. The radar had two antennas, one each for azimuth and elevation. Both antennas were similar and were formed by two triangular plates about two meters apart arranged in a six-pointed "Star of David." Instead of narrow pencil beams, the radar antennas created wide, flat beams. The two antenna complexes were deployed side by side: the elevation-scanning antenna was upright, while the azimuth-scanning antenna was angled at 30 degrees above the horizontal.


The B-200 volume-search, tracking, and fire-control radar for Moscow's air-defense system was one of the strangest radar systems ever built. The radar had two antennas, one each for azimuth (shown here angled upward) and elevation (standing vertical). Both antennas were similar and were formed by two triangular plates about two meters apart, arranged in a six-pointed "Star of David." The B-200 was capable of tracking up to 20 targets while scanning for up to 100 total targets in the same mode, all in an analog era of vacuum tubes and servo-mechanical "computers." Igor Szablewski

In operation, a given antenna formed six beams, each 30-degrees wide and less than 1-degree thick, in a fan shape that emerged from between the triangular plates and perpendicular to their flat planes. Each "pairing" of plate edges and points produced a 30-degree beam to the left or to the right of center, inclined toward the flat plate edge. The alternating pairings enabled 60-degree coverage. When a given beam reached the appropriate orientation, high power was switched to its emitter. After the powered-up beam traversed its useful 30 degrees left or right of center, the high power was switched to the next emitter in sequence. And so on: left 30 degrees, right 30 degrees, left 30 degrees, etc.

The elevation antenna was set up like a mill's water wheel, with the paired triangular plates rotating about a horizontal axis. Since every beam was 30-degrees wide, it was not possible to measure the azimuth of the target. The elevation antenna provided only information about whether a target was in the left or right half of the scanned sector. But the target's elevation was measured relatively accurately. The antenna rotated quickly, so information was updated frequently – an important condition for firm target track.

One could ask why the antenna was projecting six beams in the same direction instead of using only one beam mechanically scanning a 60-degree sector in a more conventional back-and-forth motion. The problem was that designers wanted to get a high scan rate, and the antenna assembly weighed a few tons. If such an antenna were forced to make oscillating movements, a constant antenna speed would be unattainable. The antenna would first accelerate from one extreme position to the desired speed and then would be decelerating to stop at the other extreme, only to accelerate on the way back. This very non-linear movement had to be mimicked exactly by the reference line on the radar's screen. Otherwise, errors in measurement would be created from differences between the real antenna position and the position of the screen's reference. In the B-200's accepted solution, the antenna was rotating in one direction at a constant speed and synchronized with the screen's reference, which was also the measured data used for fire control, since this was simple and accurate.

The azimuth antenna worked in a more complicated way. To work exactly on the same principle as the elevation antenna, it should be placed horizontally with a vertical axis of rotation. In this case, any time one of the six beams would be scanning the 60-degree azimuth sector from left to right, clockwise. But in such an arrangement, three of the beams would be scanning 30 degrees above ground level while the other three would be directed 30 degrees below. So the B-200's azimuth antenna was angled 30 degrees above the ground. This arrangement caused measurement errors. Below this surface, the measured azimuth was larger than reality, and the error was the greatest at the outer edges of the sector, with zero error in the middle. Above the surface of the antenna plates, the situation was the opposite: the target's real azimuth was higher than measured. The measurement error was easily corrected, as will be described later.

Both elevation and azimuth antennas were synchronized to make sure that adequate angle and distance measurement referred to the same target. Up to 20 targets could be tracked by quick horizontal and vertical sector scanning, with azimuth/distance/altitude data output updated every rapid scan cycle while at the same time up to 100 other targets could be detected. Other contemporary systems typically provided continuous narrowbeam tracking of a single target. In the B-200 radar, an analog processor projected an "artificial" track between updates, giving the track data also in a continuous way to the fire-control processor. In this complicated way, a solution was achieved in the analog and vacuum-tube era. It is only in our digital, solid-state technology era that three-dimensional, multifunction radars have achieved such track-while-scan performance.


Here is a close up of a B-200 antenna at the Russian Federation Air Force Museum in Monino. It is important to note that the unit has been incorrectly assembled for the display. The two triangular plates should form a "Star of David" configuration and should not be matching as shown here. Properly configured, the plates spin together in synch so that the beams emitted from the central unit would be directed 30 degrees either to the left or the right, providing a coverage arc of 60 degrees.
Jerzy Gruszczynski

The complicated B-200 radar was fully developed by Soviet specialists, led by Kuksenko, Beria, and Raspletin. However, German specialists also worked on parallel solutions. In the 1940s and 1950s, it was a rule that the projects prepared by German specialists forced to work in the Soviet Union were not to be fielded but only monitored for some useful technical solutions. German specialists were very rarely informed about the details of a whole program and were never provided with information about technologies or materials that were available to Soviet industry. Therefore, their projects, with a few exceptions in the field of aviation, could not be realized practically, even in the form of an experimental prototype. This was also the case in B-200 development. However, Sergei Beria did not hesitate to seek advice from captive German engineers on particular matters. At least two serious problems were solved successfully with the Germans' help.

One was related to the transmission of guidance commands to the missiles. Initially, the commands were to be sent in sequence to up to 20 missiles on the same frequency by the same powerful emitter. Every package of guidance commands was to be sent together with simple code to be recognized by a particular missile. The whole system was very complicated, and there was no provision for increasing the number of missiles attacking the same target. The Germans proposed using 20 separate transmitters working on separate frequencies. Before a missile launch, the missile's onboard receiver would automatically be set on a chosen frequency, and then all guidance commands could be transmitted at the same time. Also, the fire-control processors were divided into 20 units, each responsible for tracking a single target and guiding the missile, working in four groups of five.

Every group was attended by two operators: one responsible for automatic track supervision and the other for preparation and launch of a missile while monitoring other targets approaching the engagement zone. From one position, the two operators supervised five engagement channels, thus five tracked targets and missiles, as well as other parameters related to them. It was deemed that five engagements was the maximum for a given team. Each operator had two screens: one showing the azimuth (horizontally) and distance (vertically) and the other showing elevation (horizontally) and distance (vertically). In addition, each group had three specialists responsible for manual track mode should the automatic track fail for any reason, one each for tracking azimuth, elevation, and distance of a single target and missile. So in the case of manual-mode operations, only one target in a given section could be tracked and engaged at a time instead of five. Thus, together with a shift commander, this organization required 21 operators for a single B-200 radar, not counting technical personnel.

The other problem also involved missile control during the engagement cycle. The problem was that the processor's software algorithm for preparing guidance commands was too complicated, and the processor worked too slowly, resulting in "outdated" commands. German specialists noticed that much of the computational delay occurred when the system processed geographical-reference grids for the target and missile track. These were calculated from azimuth/elevation and distance information. The Germans proposed using angle and distance as the base reference system, which eliminated the need to recalculate them. Laboratory tests showed that the Germans were right, and the problem was solved. Such an approach also eliminated the need for correction of the measurement error in azimuth, which was mentioned earlier, since the error referred equally to the target's position and missile's position. In the other words, the missile could be accurately directed to the target-interception point because the azimuth error of the missile and target differed from the real azimuth by the same value.

The huge technical phase of the project was completed in the autumn of 1951. It was decided to build an experimental example of the radar that was not quite a prototype but something that in the contemporary Western world would be called a "technology demonstrator." Such a demonstrator was constructed in Kratkovo (presently Zhukovsky), at the edge of LII's (Flight Research Institute) airfield. The airfield hosted a large number of flights of the most modern types of aircraft in the Soviet inventory and so offered the unique opportunity to test the experimental B-200 radar against all of those targets, deemed as being the future of military aviation.


A 217 or 217M missile and the improperly displayed B-200 radar antenna at the Monino Air Force Museum near Moscow. Powerful A-100 radar sets provided targeting information for the B-200 fire-control radar sets deployed with each S-25 regiment. The basic SAM unit was to be formed as a SAM regiment, with 56 regiments in total. Each regimental fire-control center had four teams of operators, each responsible for managing up to five targets and missile attacks.
Jerzy Gruszczynski

The experimental radar's components were built mostly by KB-1's facilities. Other factories built only a few elements. The largest and most important elements ordered externally were the antennas, which were produced by No. 701 State Factory in Podolsk. The experimental radar was not a complete B-200: for example, only some of the tracking/guidance channels were operational. For initial tests, a lot of specially developed simulation and test equipment was used. About 400 meters from the radar a 40-meter-high tower was raised that supported a missile's receiver and transponder. Both were connected to simulation equipment, working in a circuit. The receiver passed guidance commands to an analog, vacuum-tube, mechanical-servomechanism-based "computer," which calculated the expected position of the missile and sent data to the radar via cable. The radar tracked the transponder on the tower, but in some tests, the transponder input was replaced by missile-position data provided by the "computer," which calculated expected virtual missile position on the basis of guidance commands sent by the radar. In this way, the track and guidance sequence could be checked without actually launching any missiles, which were not available at this time. This is one of the early examples of computer modeling and simulation.


In December 1954, Premier Khrushchev ordered the establishment of the 1st Special Purpose Army of the Soviet National Air Defense Forces. The army's primary asset, the S-25 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system and its V-300 missile (shown here), was only just being deployed. The 1st Special Purpose Army remained operational until 1994, when the last of its S-25 systems was withdrawn from service. Since that time, Moscow has been defended by four air-defense brigades, each fielding eight S-300PT and six S-300PM battalions. These units will soon be replaced by about 20 S-400 battalions.

In the spring of 1952, the B-200's design was refined to the point where a decision was made to proceed with a so-called "test radar," which today would be called a "full-scale development" example. At this stage, it was decided to prepare the selected Soviet factories for series production of the system components and involve them in construction of the test radar. State Factory No. 304 in Kuntsevo, near Moscow, would be the main contractor and would be responsible for final assembly of the radar. Since June 1945, the former ammunition factory had been involved in the production of the SON-series of anti-aircraft-artillery (AAA) fire-control radar and the PUAZO AAA electro-mechanical fire calculator. Presently, the factory is known as AOOT Moscow Radio-Technical Factory. During its history, the factory has produced fire-control radar sets for the S-75 (SA-2), S-125 (SA-3), S-200 (SA-5), and S-300 (SA-10) systems, and presently is producing radar sets for export S-300PMU and for Russian S-400 systems.

Missile Development

The Soviet Council of Ministers entrusted the development of a missile for the Berkut system to OKB-301 at Khimki, near Moscow, in August 1950. By March 1951, an initial design of the V-300 missile was presented for approval, which was quickly granted. At the same time, the first live engine trials were conducted on a test stand in Zagorsk. This was Isayev's SO8.2 engine that used pressurized air to push fuel and oxidizer into the gas chamber of the engine (VAD system) and generated 8,000 kg of thrust.

The first V-300 missiles, called "article 205," were delivered to the Kapustin Yar shooting range in early June 1951. The first unguided launch with a stabilized autopilot took place on June 27. However, the first launches were not successful. The missiles went out of control and crashed prematurely. During one launch, a fallen missile damaged the barracks where the engineers and technicians were living, but fortunately they were empty at the time. The problem was soon located: there was an error in the electrical scheme of the autopilot. The error was actually discovered by two old German engineers working at KB-1. Normally, German engineers were not allowed to be so close to the Soviet's most secret works, but KB-1 had "special" status. After the correction was implemented, the subsequent launches were mostly successful. Through the end of September 1951, a total of 30 launches were conducted.

Work on the missile accelerated in September 1951. It was concluded that more guidance and control specialists were needed at Lavochkin's OKB-301, so 14 guidance-system specialists, led by Georgiy Babakin, were transferred from NII-88. At the same time, Petr Grushin became Lavochkin's deputy.

The second phase of missile tests started in March 1952. The missiles were equipped with the SO9.29A engine delivering 9,000 kg of thrust, developed by A. Isayev at Lavochkin's request. During these tests, trials of the command-control system were also conducted. No real target was involved, though. The goal was simply to guide a missile into a certain point in space. Missiles in flight were tracked by SON-4 AAA fire-control radar. The next part of these trials was conducted with the use of the test example of the B-200 radar. Attempts were undertaken to track launched missiles, but five attempts all failed. The radar initiated contact with the missiles' transponders and tracked them while they climbed vertically, but every time the missiles started to turn towards the targets, the track was lost. The transponders were carefully checked, but all of them were fully functioning. The radar was also tracking all other targets – just not the transponder-equipped missiles after they turned! Nobody could figure out the nature of the phenomena.

As it turned out, the problem was simple. The missile was disappearing in a cloud of ions created by the rocket engine's flames. Increasing the transponder's power output solved the matter as far as the test series was concerned. Ultimately, tuning changes to the transponder frequency cured the problem for practical use. During the second phase of missile and radar tests, completed in September 1952, 31 launches were conducted. More than half of these were successful. Still, a lot of work remained ahead for the design teams.

The last phase of the factory-testing program was the most complex and the longest part of the Berkut system trials. In this phase, all of the system elements were being tested together, with live firing and missile control by the B-200 radar system. Test shots were made against virtual targets generated artificially on the screen by a special simulator, against radar reflectors dropped on parachutes, and against unmanned radio-controlled target drones converted from Tu-4 bombers. Altogether, 123 launches were carried out from Oct. 18, 1952, through September 1953.

At that time, there were no specialized drones available and the aforementioned aircraft targets were only provisionally equipped with a radio receiver that controlled the bomber's standard autopilot. The autopilot could stabilize barometric altitude and magnetic heading. The control aircraft could change a target's heading and the altitude by radio, but the "drone" had to take off as a manned aircraft. The pilots of Tu-4 targets performed manual take-off and flew to the designated test zone together with the controller aircraft. When all was ready, the crew engaged the autopilot and ejected. The ejection seats were not standard equipment on the Tu-4 but were mounted for the test series because the crew had to stabilize speed above 500 kmph before leaving the aircraft. This was too fast for a safe bailout from the standard hatches. It should be pointed out that early ejection seats used explosives – like artillery shells – and were neither as safe nor as reliable as modern rocket-powered ejection seats. Crews for these manned drones were offered substantial financial rewards to undertake the risk and the shock attending these sorties, but there were few crewmembers who withstood more than two or three ejections.

The first radio-controlled Tu-4 was shot down by the Berkut system on April 26, 1953. The aircraft fell relatively close to all of the people present on the spot, among them designers, engineers, technicians, and government representatives. Many of these people rushed toward the crash site, where the wreck of the aircraft was still burning. When the crowd reached the wreck, there was suddenly a loud explosion that threw everybody to the ground. Luckily nobody was seriously injured, but approaching downed aircraft in the future was strictly forbidden.

Through the end of September 1953, a total of five Tu-4 radio-controlled aircraft were shot down by the Berkut system, which would receive the designation S-25. Many parachute target reflectors were "hit" as well. Among the 123 fired missiles, there were also 13 of the first series-production missiles produced by No. 82 State Factory in Tushino, near Moscow. Everybody expected a decision accepting the system into service. However, that did not happen just yet.
Moscow's Air Defense's, Part II: A Parade of Missiles

by Michal Fiszer
Dec. 9, 2004


Illustration by Igor Szablewski

Joseph Stalin died on March 2, 1953, and his death caused a lot of changes in the Soviet Union. Initially, Nikita Khrushchev, Georgiy Malenkov, and Lavrentiy Beria shared authority over the country. But soon Krushchev, Malenkov, and Marshal Georgiy Zhukov – the World War II hero – decided to remove Beria and other "Stalin people." On June 26, 1953, during a session at the Kremlin, Zhukov and Col. Gen. Kiryl Moskalenko, commander of the Moscow Air Defense District, arrested Beria. Moscow Air Defense officers were selected for the operation, since they were deemed the most reliable. Beria was placed for a week at the Moscow Air Defense District's HQs encasement and was later imprisoned in a freshly built empty bunker belonging to the HQs of 1st Special Purpose Army, the main operator of Berkut system. He was kept here until a short trial was conducted December 18-23, 1953. Almost immediately after the trial, Beria was executed by Lt. Gen. Pavel F. Batiskiy, deputy commander of the Moscow Air Defense District.

Beria's son Sergei, one of the Berkut's principle architects, was arrested in early July 1953 and placed under house arrest. He was tried and sentenced to banishment from the European part of the Soviet Union. The court also changed his name to Alexandr S. Gegechkoriya, his mother's maiden name. Alexandr Gegechkoriya was sent to Sverdlovsk, where he worked as a senior engineer at a factory for the next 10 years under close supervision by the KGB. Pavel Kuksenko, Sergei Beria's partner, was also relieved of his position but was kept on at KB-1 as secretary of the scientific and technical assembly, a totally unimportant job.

In 1955 KB-1 was reorganized under the directorship of S.M. Vladimirskiy. It was divided into three Special Design Bureaus (SKBs). SKB-30, headed by Alexandr A. Raspletin, was responsible for all air-defense systems, including the Berkut. SKB-31, headed by Grigoriy Kisunko, was responsible for strategic anti-missile defense systems. SKB-41, headed by A. A. Kolosov, was responsible for guidance systems for anti-ship and some air-to-air missiles.


In 1955 KB-1 was reorganized into three Special Design Bureaus (SKBs). SKB-30, headed by Alexandr A. Raspletin, shown here, was responsible for all air-defense systems, including the Berkut, as the S-25 program was then known. Soviet intelligence reported that US strategic bombers had been equipped with chaff dispensers that would render the S-25's B-200 fire-control radar ineffective. To solve the problem, system designers provided the S-25 with a moving-target-indicator (MTI) mode. The effort was conducted between 1955-1957, under the direction of Raspletin. The MTI equipment was integrated into the B-200 radar during by 1959. Raspletin often found himself walking a fine line between what Soviet commanders wanted and what was technically possible.

One of the results of these changes was that Moscow's air-defense system lost the designation Berkut in favor of "Sistema 25" (System 25, or S-25). The system was introduced into service with two types of missiles: the 205 and 207. Both were developed by OKB-301 in Khimki under the lead of Semion Lavochkin. All the missiles of S-25 system were referred to, in general, as V-300s, but product numbers were commonly used by the armed forces to distinguish between versions.

The First Missiles

The 205 was the first version of the V-300 missile to enter series production. It was a single-stage missile powered by an Isayev SO9.29A single-chamber (divided into four sub-chambers) liquid-fuel rocket motor generating nine tons of fixed thrust. The engines were produced by No. 456 State Factory in Khimki, No. 586 State Factory in Dnepropetrovsk, and No. 66 State Factory in Zlatoust. The fuel tanks accommodated 460 kg of TG-2 aviation kerosene and 1,740 kg of nitric acid as an oxidizer. The fuel and oxidizer were injected into the engine by pressurized air (the VAD system). The missile's warhead, developed by NII-6 of the Agricultural Machinery Ministry (presently the Federal Chemistry and Mechanics Center) in Moscow, was a blast-fragmentation type, weighing 235 kg. It was controlled by a Doppler-type radio fuze developed by NII-504. The missile was controlled by an APV-301S autopilot with the assistance of "Product 555" radio-guidance equipment after a control nozzle for the initial phase of flight was jettisoned a few seconds after launch.

In terms of layout, the 205 missile featured four stabilizers in front and four ailerons on the delta wings mounted at the lower-middle part of the missile body, all controlled by pneumatic servo-mechanisms. The missile weighed 3,570 kg and was 11.6 meters long and 0.65 meters in diameter, with a wingspan of 2.7 meters. The maximum speed of the missile was 1,000 m/sec. (3,600 kmph), and it could engage a target traveling at up to 1,000 kmph. Minimum engagement range was 8 km, and maximum range was 30 km. The engagement altitude was between 5,000 m and 25,000 m.

A total of 2,894 V-300 Type 205 missiles were produced by several state factories from 1952 through 1954. In addition, a modified 205A version was manufactured equipped with a hollow-charge warhead However, this was not regarded as a successful variant, and production was quickly terminated.

Even as the 205 missile moved toward production, development of additional versions was ongoing. The 206 missile, carrying the unusual designation V-300K3, differed from the basic 205 by using SO9.29B and SO9.29D engines. The first was equipped with a pyrotechnic system for injecting fuel to the engine (PAD system), while the latter was equipped with a gas generator to achieve the same purpose (the ZhAD system). Both engines were tested on stands and were unsuccessful. In the case of the SO9.29B engine, the fuel tanks were destroyed by excessive pressure created by the pyrotechnic system, while the SO9.29D engine experienced severe vibrations. Therefore, no prototype 206 missile was ever built.

Development of the 207 missile started in 1952, as the trials with 205 missile were underway. The 207 was powered by an Isayev S2.260 four-chamber rocket motor, generating nine tons of take-off thrust and 4.5 tons of sustained thrust, which was achieved by turning off two of the engine's chambers. This was not the only change in the 207 missile. During one test of the 205 missile, Marshal Mitrofan Nedelin from the Main Missile and Artillery Directorate of the Soviet Ministry of Defense (MoD) was present. (He later served as commander of Strategic Missile Forces and became famous when killed in a R-16 missile disaster at Tyuratam on Oct. 24, 1960.) When the test 205 missile was launched, the jettisoned nozzle-control units fell rather close to Nedelin's observation position. He became angry: "What the hell was that?"

When it was explained to him that the nozzles provided control at full thrust during the early stages of flight before the aerodynamic control surfaces could take over take over, Nedelin emphasized that the missile was specified to be single-stage, and in his interpretation, that meant nothing jettisoned after launch to fall to the ground. After all, the outskirts of Moscow were where important Soviet officials had their homes and gardens.

At the request of Marshal Nedelin, OKB-301 adopted a new type of nozzle-control unit. The units were made of a special composite that gradually burned out after launch. A smooth transition from gas-dynamic control to aerodynamic control was thus secured, and no missile parts had to be jettisoned after launch. Version 207 missiles were produced in relatively small numbers, since they were soon followed by subsequent variants. A total of 1,137 missiles were produced between 1954-1955.

S-25 State Trials

After Lavrentiy Beria was arrested, the MoD gained much more control over weapons development for Moscow's air-defense system. Military commanders also got better access, and they immediately demanded so-called "control trials" of the system to be conducted in accordance with standard requirements for state trials. It was expected that comprehensive system trials that had been conducted through September 1953 would form the basis for a decision on accepting the system into service. There was a little room for any radical changes, since S-25 facility construction had already started in 1951. And this was a tremendous job.

All the launch pads were built as permanent, with an underground hydraulic erector supplied with pressure by a special compressor, underground electric and control cables, fuel lines for refueling the missile on a pad, concrete roads to every pad, more than 500 km of new connecting roads, bunkers, staff buildings, depots, maintenance facilities, barracks and other facilities for soldiers, HQ bunkers, and A-100 radar positions. An enormous amount of money was spent for the infrastructure, not counting the S-25 system equipment itself: A-100 radars, 56 B-200 radars, more than 3,000 V-300 missiles, as well as command and control, communications, and other equipment. Moreover, the surface-to-air-missile (SAM) positions were connected with two ring-type concrete roads, called Betonka-1 (inner ring) and Betonka-2 (outer ring). On the road maps of the Moscow region they are called A-107 and A-108, respectively.


Two Type 207A missiles for S-25 on display. One missile has its nose painted black, which was done in order to deceive of Western analyzers of satellite photos as to the nature of the seeker. The deception apparently worked, because Western sources claimed that late versions of the V-300 missile were semi-active radar guided. This was incorrect for the simple reason that the B-200 fire-control radar did not support such a guidance method. All S-25 missiles were radio-command controlled.

Thus, even if the S-25 didn't meet MoD standards, it was fairly apparent that the system would be accepted into service anyway, given the huge expenditure that had been made. For its part, the MoD said it simply wanted to discover all of the flaws and quirks of the system so that it could force Soviet industry to take care of them before delivery to the armed forces.

The control trials were the most complex and difficult tests ever conducted with the S-25 system. For example, generals required that not only parachute-target imitators and slow-moving Tu-4 bombers be used but also the newest Il-28 jet bombers, which were much smaller. Again, no suitable drone was available, and the same technique was adopted for Il-28 targets as for Tu-4 targets but now pilots were to eject at speeds of 800-900 kmph.

As might be expected, the first control trials conducted in September-October 1953 did not satisfy the military. During these trials, 33 launches of Version 205 missiles were conducted, which, among others, destroyed four Tu-4s and four Il-28 bombers. Also, a test of simultaneous engagement of four targets was conducted against parachute imitators, with all four being destroyed. But this was not enough for the military commanders, who demanded full-scale state trials, with the use of the serial B-200 radar. A suitable construction at the Kapustin Yar range took some time, and the launching of state trials became possible a year later.

In the meantime, training of the system's personnel began. Training Unit No. 2 was temporarily established in October 1952 to conduct the training of thousands of soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and officers. The unit was reformed into the 1st Special Purpose Air Defense Army in December 1954.

The official state trials of the 205 missile started on Oct. 1, 1954, and with the 207 missile on Oct. 30, 1954. The state-trials commission was supervised by Marshal of Artillery Nikolay D. Yakovlev. He had just been released from prison after serving a term for his negligence in supervising the S-60 57mm anti-aircraft (AA) gun program. The guns sent to the Korean War in 1951 showed numerous malfunctions, and Yakovlev was accused by Stalin of being at fault. After being released, he was rehabilitated by Krushchev but remained very cautious and supervised the S-25 trials extremely thoroughly.

One of the most difficult tests demanded by the military was the simultaneous engagement of 20 targets, which was the maximum capability of the B-200. Twelve Tu-4 bombers dropped 24 parachute-target imitators, and 20 of them were to be destroyed. The test took place in December 1954 and was mostly run by regular military personnel already trained on the system under the new training program. The first attempt at dropping targets by 12 bombers was unsuccessful, when the aircraft formation leader approached the zone from the wrong direction, and they had to make another pass. This annoyance was compounded when one of the 20 missiles took off with no launch command and had to be destroyed. Marshal Yakovlev became very upset. However, the aircraft made a second pass and dropped the targets. The 19 remaining missiles were launched and 18 targets were successfully shot down.

It was a good result, and one of the KB-1 representatives, Igor Illarionov, said to Yakovlev, "Did you see it, sir? The system is really good, and the accidental launch is a trifle."

Yakovlev replied: "Have you ever been in jail? I have, and it was all for trifles."

The cause of the accidental launch turned out not to be so mysterious. It was found that a launch button in the operator room of the B-200 radar was broken in the "pressed" position, so as soon as the power supply to the control panels was turned on, the broken button sent the launch signal. The button had been broken by soldiers cleaning the room that morning who were playing with the launch buttons. The buttons were subsequently redesigned in such a way that, when broken, they disconnected rather than connected the circuit.

The S-25 state trials were taken so seriously that four new Tu-16 jet bombers were used as radio-controlled targets and were all shot down, along with 10 Il-28s and 10 Tu-4s. One Il-28 and one Tu-4 target dropped dipoles (chaff) to simulate passive jamming. The S-25 system had not yet been equipped with a moving-target indicator, and it was not easy task to distinguish between real and false targets. But finally the live-firing program ended in December 1954. The military demanded one more trial, this time in a position near Moscow. A randomly selected radar was to pass 24 hours of continuous operation, and every now and then during the test, an aircraft was to approach to enable the crew to conduct simulated engagements.


A Type 217 or 217M missile of the S-25 system. This missile represented an attempt to fix a possibly fatal flaw in the S-25's capabilities. The limitations of previous missiles would enable a supersonic strategic bomber to penetrate the system relatively easily. The Type 217 missile employed a turbo-pump-equipped, two-chamber rocket motor intended to produce more efficient sustained thrust for high-energy engagements. But the pressure was too great for the missile. The Type 217M used a modified engine that succeeded in increasing the missile speed to 1,550 m/sec. and enabled it to engage targets flying at speeds of up to 4,200 kmph.
Jerzy Gruszczynski

This test only sounded simple. In fact, the initial radars were plagued by tuning problems and short-lived vacuum tubes. A whole family of vacuum tubes resistant to 15 g called Anod was developed especially for the S-25 system. Most of the Anod tubes were developed by NII-160 (presently the Istok company, which produces microprocessors) in Friazino under Nikolai V. Cherepin. The development was difficult, and at one stage, Lavrentiy Beria asked Cherepin, "How many people from NII-160 are to be executed ["rasstrelat," which means executed by gunshot] before the Anod vacuum tubes will be reliable?"

All of the vacuum tubes for various military applications in the Soviet Union at that time were produced in enormous quantities by inexperienced factory workers and technicians new to the industry. The tubes tended to be of dubious quality and had a short lifespan. For example, most of the vacuum tubes for the B-200 radars had a life of only 500 hours, which meant that S-25 personnel in all 56 regiments had to replace half a million vacuum tubes every month.

The tuning of the radar was the other major problem. Most of the military personnel had little experience in radio-technical jobs, and despite operating 24 hours a day, many radars were improperly tuned, with most of their engagement channels unusable. The biggest problem was synchronizing all 20 target tracks and calculating the guidance commands for each of the 20 channels. To solve the matter, No. 304 State Factory in Kuntsevo formed SMU-304, a special team that consisted of tuning specialists. Interestingly, V.I. Kyrshev, the present director of NPO Granit (the former OKB-304 of No. 304 Factory) and Vieniamin P. Efremov, general designer of the NPO Antey consortium, started their careers as "tuners" in SMU-304.

Into Service, Flawed

On May 27, 1954, the Country Air Defense Forces (Protivovozduszna Oborona Strany, or PVO-Strany) became an independent service within the armed forces, equal to the Army, Air Force, and Navy. Marshal Leonid Govorov was appointed as PVO-Strany's first commander. In 1955 he was replaced by Marshal Sergei Biriuzov, who remained at this post till 1962.

PVO-Strany consisted of two districts: the Special Moscow Air Defense District, covering the area of the Moscow Military District; and the rest of the country's military districts. It consisted of five armies, each covering a key military district; and 13 independent air-defense corps, each covering less important military districts or some selected areas. The 1st Special Purpose Army, which operated the S-25 system, was created in December 1954. This was not the only air-defense organization in the region. Some other cities in the relatively large area encompassed in the Moscow Military District were protected by AA artillery and – years later – by S-75 and S-125 missile systems.

Despite the fact that the S-25 system passed state trials successfully, military leaders did not want to accept it into service at once, feeling that such a huge and complex system had to be properly "brushed off." Hidden flaws had to be uncovered and corrected, and the personnel needed a lot of training to handle the system properly. So commanders insisted that the S-25 be accepted into service for an "experimental period," and only after that would full acceptance for regular service be conferred.

The final S-25 test was conducted on April 2, 1955, when the system – manned only by military personnel, with no engineers or technicians from industry – successfully engaged a target at the Kapustin Yar shooting range. Nikita Khrushchev, not understanding the full nature of the system's complexity, ordered the system to be accepted to service thereafter, and this officially happened on May 7, 1955.

The question of whether the S-25 was exported to the People's Republic of China in 1958 and to North Korea in 1961 remain unclear. Some sources indicate thus but do not provide any details. Certainly, in neither case was a complete system – or even a single ring – ever built. Probably only feasibility tests were conducted and some technologies incorporated into local air-defense networks.

One of the first improvements introduced to the Soviet S-25 system occurred while it was still under construction and involved increasing the number of missiles on every engagement channel from a single missile to two or three missiles in order to increase kill probability. By late 1955, every S-25 regiment could conduct a simultaneous engagement of 20 targets with three missiles each, which meant the launching of 60 missiles in salvos of 20 at short intervals. Thus, each regiment had 60 launching pads. Every group of aircraft could be engaged at least twice – by a regiment on the outer ring and then, if necessary, by a regiment on the inner ring.

Despite all of these efforts, though, the S-25 system was accepted into service with a flaw, perhaps a fatal one. It was vulnerable to jamming – even to the most widespread forms of passive countermeasures. Even officers working on S-25 system used to have a verse:

Pod Moskvoi na ravnom myestye,
Stoit stantsya B-dvyestye.
U nyeyo odin ogryekh,
Nyet zashchiti od pomyekh!

Roughly translated, this means: "Near Moscow on a flat surface, there is a radar B-200. It has a major setback – no resistance to jamming!"

Soviet intelligence reported that US strategic bombers had been equipped with chaff dispensers that would render the S-25 ineffective. To solve the problem, system designers provided the S-25 with a moving-target-indicator (MTI) mode. The effort was conducted between 1955-1957, under the direction of A. Raspletin. Some of the elements of the MTI equipment for the S-25 radar were developed by the OKB-304 Design Bureau, at that time belonging to No. 304 State Factory in Kuntsevo, near Moscow. The MTI equipment was integrated into the B-200 radar by 1959. At the same time, coherent-frequency generators and synchronizers replaced quartz-frequency stabilization of all guidance and tracking channels. The generators proved to be much more stable, and tuning requirements were significantly reduced.

More Missiles

OKB-301 developed the 207A missile during 1953-1954, with production starting in 1955. It was officially accepted into service the following year. The development of 207A was initiated by availability of the new Isayev S2.7151B single-chamber rocket motor. It still had nine tons of continuous thrust, but it burned fuel more efficiently, thus enabling longer burn times. The S2.7151B accelerated the missile to a speed of 1,100 m/sec., and the missile's engagement range increased from 30 to 35 km.

The 207A also received a lighter and more effective autopilot, radio-command receiver, and control system. Maneuverability was slightly increased, but the real improvement was a lowering of the minimum engagement altitude from 5,000 m to 3,000 m. More compact and lighter autopilot and guidance equipment enabled an increase in the size of the warhead from 235 kg to 324 kg. The warhead was also of a hollow-charge type that functioned differently from hollow-charge anti-tank warheads. The proximity fuze detonated the warhead not as it passed targets but while the target was 50 m or less in front of it. The warhead explosion was directed toward the front hemisphere instead of spreading out in a spherical pattern. During live-fire tests against Tu-4 aircraft, it was discovered that such a warhead was significantly more effective than traditional blast-fragmentation warheads.


A launch pad for a V-300 missile of the S-25 system. As modernization of the program progressed, there was some concern that the launch pads would not be able to accommodate the higher launch thrust of more powerful missile versions that were being introduced. This was no small matter, because each regiment had 60 such launch pads, and there were 56 regiments defending Moscow -- 3,360 launch pads, all set in concrete. But the equipment turned out to be up to the task.
Jerzy Gruszczynski

All three S-25 missile factories produced 207A missiles, and it can be estimated that nearly 7,000 were delivered between 1955-1957, representing a full system compliment of 3,360 missiles, plus reload stocks and test articles.

The 207A3 missile was an alternative version of 207A, equipped with an experimental warhead producing a directional fragmentation blast towards the target based on information from a proximity fuze. The warhead proved complicated and unreliable, however, and was not adopted.

The 208 missile was basically similar to the 207A but was powered by a new rocket engine developed by OKB-3 of NII-88, led by Dominic Sevruk. Fuel was injected into the missile by means of pyrotechnically created gases. But, like a similar engine developed for the 206 missile described above, there were frequent fuel tank cracks, and these led to missile explosions. In 1954 work on 208 missile was terminated.


A late version of the V-300 missile on a PR-3M3 transport trailer during the S-25 system's operational period. Already in the late 1970s, some Soviet military commanders raised the prospect of replacing the S-25 as Moscow's air-defense system. It was obvious that the system had exhausted its modernization potential, and it remained unable to engage very low targets, such as the Air Launched Cruised Missiles and Tomahawks that were about to enter service with US forces.

To increase the effectiveness of the S-25 air-defense system in repulsing mass air raids, the system had to be adapted to engage group targets rather than individual aircraft. Commanders were afraid that large groups of bombers could still break through to Moscow, despite suffering losses of up to 40 aircraft per group in two engagements (a 100% kill rate). To eliminate this possibility, it was decided in 1955 to use nuclear-tipped missiles, with at least one deployed at every regiment. Initially, the intended nuclear warhead was too heavy, and it was planned that a special two-stage 225 missile would be developed, with the first stage powered by solid-fuel PRD-218 engine developed by Ivan Kartukov.

In this case, there were no restrictions about "something falling down on inhabited areas," since such a missile was only to be fired in a serious emergency. But finally a 380-kg warhead was developed with a 10-kT yield that could be mounted on a standard 207A missile. Such a missile was developed under the designation 207T, later changed to 215, and accepted into service with the modernized S-25M system by 1962. The attending fire-control radar was designated the B-200M.

The most unusual feature of the 215 nuclear missile was the fact that it had redundant guidance and control systems. It had two command receivers, two autopilots, two control systems, etc. One set was engaged at any time, and in the event of a failure or upon the operator's command, it could be switched to the other one, which was operating but not passing commands to the missile's control servo-mechanisms. To realize this configuration, two engagement channels on two different frequencies were used to guide a single 215 missile, which also served to counter enemy jamming. Such precautions were required because of the nuclear warhead and the consequences of lost missile control. The minimum engagement altitude for the nuclear-tipped missile was set at 8,000 m.

On Dec. 31, 1957, the Soviet Council of Ministers authorized the production of production of 60 nuclear Type 215 missiles during the first quarter of 1958, but due to delays in production of the PIM-6 warhead trigger, missile delivery was not completed until the end of 1958.

Interestingly, a live Type 215 missile test reportedly was conducted in January 1957 in Kapustin Yar. According to the book, USSR Nuclear Weapons Tests and Peaceful Nuclear Explosions: 1949 Through 1990, edited by V. N. Mikhailov and issued in 1996 by the Russian Ministries of Atomic Energy and Defense, only one nuclear test was conducted at Kapustin Yar in 1957. It took place on Jan. 19, 1957, and the yield was confirmed as 10 kT. During the test, two unmanned, radio-controlled Il-28 bombers flying in a wide formation were successfully destroyed at an altitude of 10,000 m.

Three other nuclear tests were conducted with the use of Type 215 missiles in 1962. They were also launched from Kapustin Yar, which was actually a missile test range and not typically a nuclear range. Most Soviet nuclear tests were conducted on special nuclear ranges at Semipalatynsk in Kazakhstan or on the island of Novaya Zemlya in the Artic Ocean. But as the nuclear ranges did not have any facilities for launching S-25 missiles, Kapustin Yar was used instead.

This time, a series of high-altitude nuclear-explosion tests were planned, probably related to studying electromagnetic-pulse (EMP) effects. KB-1 was tasked with providing missiles to carry a 300-kT warhead to altitudes of 20 km and 50 km. The 20-km test, called Operation Groza, was to use the 215 missile, while the 50-km test, known as Operation Grom, was to be conducted with the one of Kisunko's anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs). Both missiles were to climb vertically, and the warhead was to be detonated at a preset altitude by a barometric altimeter device. The first two tests ended in failure when the barometric altimeters triggered the nuclear warhead at 4 km instead of 20 km. The third test involving the 215 missile was successful, with the missile exploding at 20 km as planned.

In 1954 it was decided that the Moscow air-defense system was to receive missiles capable of engaging supersonic targets. The limitations of the 205, 207, 207A, and 215 missiles would enable a supersonic strategic bomber to penetrate the system relatively easily. To enable the missile to intercept a fast-moving target, it was necessary to increase the speed of missile itself. Therefore, a much more powerful engine was needed, but such an engine would consume too much fuel.

When the engine was fed with fuel by air pressure, it was not possible to adjust the engine thrust, so a turbo-pump was necessary. In 1954 Dominik Sevruk developed a series of turbo-pump-equipped, two-chamber rocket motors: the S3.40, S3.41, and S3.42. Each of these motors had a launch thrust of 17 tons and a sustained thrust of five tons. Tests of 217 missiles equipped with S3.42 engines started in 1957 but were mostly unsuccessful due to engine and missile explosions after launch. Sevruk blamed Lavochkin for errors in the design of the missile part of fuel system. After a severe dispute between both designers, Lavochkin decided to use only Isayev engines in the future, but soon the 217 missile program was terminated.

Another attempt to build a fast missile for the S-25 system was undertaken shortly afterward. At Lavochkin's request, some documentation concerning the S3.42 engine was passed through NII-88 to Isayev's KB-2, where Nikolay I. Leontiev used it as the basis for the S5.1A engine. A Type 207A missile equipped with an S5.1A engine was designated the 217A. Tests of this configuration, conducted in 1959 and 1960, were more successful. But already decision-makers were saying that they wanted a more maneuverable missile for the S-25 rather than a faster one. Thus, work on the 217A was terminated in 1960.

Second S-25 Modernization

In the spring of 1958, Soviet intelligence reported on US plans to deploy F-101C Voodoo fighters to the 81st Fighter-Bomber Wing in the UK, and that the nuclear-armed aircraft were to have targets assigned in the eastern part of the Soviet Union, possibly including Moscow. Such strikes were to be one-way missions, and it was arguable whether such operations would ever be undertaken by the wing. Nevertheless, Soviet analysts concluded that the trend toward long-range tactical aircraft would continue and that it was only a matter of time before Moscow was truly under threat from fast and maneuverable fighter-bombers.

Therefore, on June 4, 1958, a decision was issued to adapt the S-25M system so that it could engage tactical aircraft. Requirements specified that the system should have the ability to engage and destroy a "MiG-19-size" aircraft at altitudes between 1,500 and 30,000 m. The minimum altitude of 1,500 m was a compromise between designers and the military commanders, who wanted the requirement to read at any altitude up to 30,000 m. Raspletin told them that such a capability would not be possible without developing a totally new system.

To meet the requirements, three options were considered: replacing radar antennas with bigger ones, using more sensitive receivers, or using more powerful transmitters. Under the direction of Aleksandr L. Mints, director of the Radio-Technical Institute of the Soviet Academy of Science, Nikolai Oganov from KB-1 developed a new transmitter with a power output five-times greater than the current one (10 MW instead of 2 MW). The second element of the program would be to develop faster and more maneuverable missiles capable of engaging supersonic, evading targets. Development of such missiles had been attempted earlier but failed due to engine problems. The Type 217A missile with the S5.1A engine was considered the most promising starting point, and it was decided to concentrate on purging the pairing of its flaws and shortcomings.

The S5.1A engine was further developed to have more thrust and fuel. The new engine, called the S5.41, had controlled thrust in the range of 17 tons for take-off to three tons sustained and was equipped with a pneumatic/hydraulic turbo-pump. The engines were produced by No. 26 State Factory in Ufa and No. 13 State Factory in Ust-Katav. The use of the more powerful engine increased the missile's speed to 1,550 m/sec. and enabled it to engage targets flying at speeds of up to 4,200 kmph. The missile's range was increased to 43 km and the maximum engagement altitude to 30,000 m. Minimum engagement altitude was 1,500 m. In a special guidance mode, when a ballistic flyout was also used, the range was increasing to 56 km and the maximum engagement altitude to 35,000 m.

Further changes were made to the warhead, which had a steerable sector of blast fragments and a new E-802M pulse-type radar fuze in place of the RV-515 Doppler-type fuze. For the first time, titanium was used in missile construction, which enabled it to maneuver at higher G forces. Aerodynamic controls were improved to work at higher speeds.

In the beginning, the designers were worried about whether the existing launch pads would withstand the increased engine thrust of the 217M missile. Changing the launch pads would be a very difficult job, since their bases were put into concrete at the launch positions. However, tests showed that the launch pads were capable of withstanding up to 19 tons of thrust, and there was no need for change.

Tests of 217M missile were conducted from 1959-1961. It was accepted to service in 1962, and its production started in Tushino in the same year. One of the two missile factories that had been dedicated to support V-300 missile production had been retooled to manufacture V-750 missiles for the S-75 (SA-2) system

The Final Modernizations: S-25MA, S-25MAM, and S-25MR

One of the main shortcomings of the previous modernization was its continued inability to engage low-flying targets, and in 1965 Soviet analysts concluded that US strategic bombers would be able to use low altitude for long periods of time while approaching targets. Another problem was the advent of nuclear attack missiles, such as the AGM-28 Hound Dog, which could also fly relatively low. One aspect of the effort to improve the low-level capabilities of the S-25 system was to lower the angle of the azimuth antenna. Also, more modern analog-type computing devices, as well as more advanced high-frequency amplifiers, were employed. As result, the kill probability for low-altitude engagements improved, although initially the lower engagement zone remained at 1,500 m because of ground clutter. Yet radar resistance to active jamming was also improved.

A new missile was also put into development for the modernized system. Semion Lavochkin died of a heart attack on June 9, 1960. In 1962 all authority for further development of V-300 missiles was passed to the OKB-82 Design Bureau of the Tushino factory, led by Alexandr V. Potapalov. All subsequent V-300 missile variants through the early 1980s carried the prefix "5Ya," according to new Main Missile and Artillery Directorate of Soviet General Staff (GRAU) regulations. Confusingly, the designation was not only in force for V-300 missiles (5Ya25 and 5Ya24) but also the V-750 missiles from the S-75 family (5Ya23 and 5Ya29), and further adding to the confusion, some missiles from other bureaus carried similar designations (5Ya26 and 5Ya27).

The 5Ya25 entered development in 1965. The version received quicker servo-mechanisms and a new autopilot, with improved modes of stabilization and missile control. These increased the missile's maneuverability. The new Isayev 5D25 engine had the same thrust as the S5.41 but burned for longer time, thereby increasing missile energy, although the boundaries of the engagement zone did not change. The missile also received improved a 390-kg directional-fragmentation warhead. The 5Ya25 missile was also called 217MA at the design bureau.

The last modernization of the S-25 was conducted in two phases. The first phase was run by OKB-304 (later known as NPO Granit) with the cooperation of the technical service of the 1st Special Purpose Army. The second phase was run by the military alone.

During the first phase, new analog-digital computing blocks were added to the B-200MA radar that enabled signal processing to eliminate ground clutter. Now the lower engagement zone was limited only by the maneuver characteristics of the V-300 missiles, which could be prone to hitting the ground when maneuvering at very low altitudes due to the guidance-control software. Effective minimum altitude for the system was reduced to 800 m with the use of the 5Ya25M missile, which was introduced into service in 1976. It was lowered even further to 500 m with the introduction of the 5Ya24 missile in 1980. The modernized system was designated the S-25MAM, and it was declared operational 1979.

During the second phase of the modernization, some new anti-jamming capabilities were added to the B-200 radar, including frequency agility and more advanced signal processing. After the modernization was completed in the early 1980s, the system was called the S-25MR. The S-25MR was also adapted for using the 5Ya24 and 44N6 (nuclear) missiles (see below).

A modernized 5Ya25M missile received a new, more sensitive 5Kh48 radar fuze that was effective against targets with a radar cross-section of 0.3 sq. m. The fuze's capabilities matched those of the modernized radar for the detection of small-size targets flying at speeds of up to 4,300 kmph, such as the Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM). In the design bureau, the missile was also known as the 217MAM. It was produced by Tushino from 1975 through 1980.

The last conventional version of the V-300 missile family entered production in 1980 and was produced until 1986. The missile had a new 5U31 jam-resistant guidance-command receiver that was able to change to pre-selected frequencies if facing strong radio-frequency jamming. The transmitter also changed to the next frequency in sequence if contact with the missile was lost. The missile also had a modified 5D25N engine that controlled thrust according to required maneuver characteristics. Improved maneuverability enabled the missile to attack more agile targets. The minimum engagement altitude was lowered to 500 m. The maximum engagement altitudes were 30,000 with start-to-finish command guidance and 35,000 m with an initial ballistic trajectory. Maximum engagement distance was 47 km and, with the use of a ballistic trajectory, up to 60 km.

A small number of nuclear missiles were built for the modernized system, based on the 5Ya24 missile. The missile was designated the 44N6 and entered production in 1982. The warhead was of a nominal 10-kT yield and had a special device that reduced its yield when used at low altitudes. This enabled the nuclear-engagement zone to be reduced to 3,500 m. The remaining parameters were equal to 5Ya24 missile, in that the ballistic mode could be used to increase the engagement envelope. The 44N6 was also called the 219 in the design bureau. This was the last V-300 version to enter service with the S-25 system.

Already in the late 1970s, some Soviet military commanders raised the prospect of replacing the S-25 as Moscow's air-defense system. It was obvious that the system had exhausted its modernization potential, and it remained unable to engage very low targets, such as the Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs) and the Tomahawks that were about to enter service with US forces. The decision was finally made in 1980, and the dismantling of the world's most extensive air-defense system started in 1984. As of 1993, the S-25 has been completely replaced by the S-300PT/PM.
Moscow's Air Defense's, Part III: Closing the Ring

by Michal Fiszer
Mar. 31, 2006

In the late '70s and early '80s, Soviet commanders became very concerned about the new generation of US cruise missiles, especially the AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM), Tomahawk ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM), and naval BGM-109 Tomahawk. Those missiles flew at very low altitude and had very small radar cross-sections. They were difficult to detect and track, and the older air-defense systems could not engage them effectively. This vulnerability was especially the case with the S-25 Berkut air-defense system deployed around Moscow, which could not be modernized to the point where it could be made effective against the new-generation cruise missiles. It had to be replaced by a new system, and the only one considered up to the task was the S-300P series already deployed in some other places in the Soviet Union.


The Soviet Union's decision replace the extensive -- and expensive -- air-defense system for Moscow based on the S-25 Berkut with a new one was not easily arrived at. The Air Defense Forces, Army, and Navy all wanted new air-defense systems, and Soviet authorities decided that a solution would be a common "tri-service" missile: the S-300. Shown here is the S-300P system, developed for the Air Defense Forces.
Photo by Michal Fiszer

Initially, the S-300P was used to protect those vital objects that were most exposed to attack by low-flying bombers on the outskirts of the Soviet Union. The first S-300PT was deployed in the Severodvinsk area, far north, considered to be the first target that would be attacked by incoming ALCMs launched from B-52 bombers. Severodvinsk has been one of the most important bases for Soviet (now Russian) strategic ballistic-missile submarines, and a big shipyard was located there, so it had to be protected effectively. There were other vital objects close to the Soviet Union's frontier areas, especially on those directions from which NATO air raids were mostly expected.

Moscow, the most important area in the whole Soviet Union (and Russia), was left with an obsolete air-defense system that was unable to deal with the new threats. An incredible amount of money had been spent on the S-25 system, and it was not easy to explain to the Politburo that this costly system had now become ineffective. Even dismounting it would cost a lot of money, so the decision to replace the extensive – and expensive – air-defense system for Moscow based on the S-25 Berkut with a new one was not easily arrived at. However, just such a decision was made in 1980, after a 1978 recommendation from the 2nd TsNII, the research and development center responsible for studying the progress in air and air-defense forces.

The Soviet Council of Ministers instructed the Moskovkiy NII Pribornoy Avtomatiki (Moscow Research and Development Institute of Automatics and Instrumentations, presently NTTs "Proton") to develop an adequate command system for the S-300P surface-to-air missile units. The result was the 73N6 Baikal: a fully mobile system mounted on the same MAZ-543M chassis as the S-300PS transporter-erector-launcher and radar (TELAR) vehicle itself. The system consisted of a 49L6 mobile command post, along with 52L6 communications systems for linking S-200 and 53L6 systems to S-300 systems. Up to 12 units can be attached to each Baikal system, which can be fed with information on about 80 tracked targets. The system is produced by the MZ "Proton" factory in Perm.

The Baikal, presently used in Russia at the air-defense corps level, integrates with the 5S99M Senezh mobile regimental command system. The latter system was developed by OKB "Peleng" in Yekaterinburg and is produced by NPO "Vektor," also in Yekaterinburg. The Senezh can collect information from the Baikal and convey it down to the surface-to-air-missile (SAM) battalions. The Baikal information is combined with information from the radio-technical (radar) brigade's command-and-control system and from a signals-intelligence (SIGINT) battalion's command-and-control system to create a unified air picture for the SAM battalions.

Tests of the Baikal system were conducted through the end of 1984, and it was decided to deploy it operationally along with the S-300P system. The deployment of S-300PT battalions around Moscow began with the external ring in 1985. Simultaneously, the S-25 positions were dismounted, and the associated equipment was taken out. There is no commonality of equipment between the two systems. Some S-300PT positions were simply built in new places, and the old S-25 positions were abandoned altogether. Typically, one S-300PT battalion was deployed in place of one S-25 regiment. Most S-300P regiments have three battalions (though some only have two), so about 20 regiments would be required to complete the ring. Through 1988, however, only eight S-300PT and S-300PS regiments had been deployed, whereas all of the S-25 units had been removed from the external ring in by 1987. The modernization of the internal ring was much delayed, and six regiments of new S-300PM systems were deployed from 1989 to 1994 (the last S-25s were removed in late 1993). So only 14 regiments were deployed in total, and that is the situation as it exists today.


An S-300P batter position deployed. Soviet authorities, concerned that developing NATO weapons and tactics – particularly wave attacks by low-flying cruise missiles – had rendered obsolete Moscow's air-defense system based on the S-25, embarked on the complex S-300P program.
Photo by Miroslav Gyurosi

Currently, the 14 regiments comprising Moscow's air-defense network are organized under the 1st Air Defense Corps. The known locations of the component regiments are as follows: in the Southwest Sector, 124th Air Defense Missile Regiment (ADMR) is at Odintsovo, and the 93rd ADMR is at Zvenigorod; in the Northwest Sector, the 210th ADMR is at Morozki, and another ADMR is at Dolgoprudnyi; in the Northeast Sector, the 631st ADMR is at Marino, the 502nd ADMR is at Fryazevo, and other ADMRs are at Kablukovo and Chernoye; and in the Southeast Sector, the 713th ADMR is at Zakharove, the 390th ADMR is at Novoyean, the 549th ADMR is at Stupino, and another ADMR is at Serpukhov. The remaining four regiments belong to the 32nd Air Defense Corps, headquartered at Rzhev, and its only known unit is the 145th ADMR at Voronezh.

The integrated air-defense network has undergone further changes, and Russia is now beginning to field the S-400 system in place of S-300PM/S-300PM1

The Common Tri-Service Missile

In the late 1960s, the highest authorities in the Soviet Union (read: the Politburo of the Communist Party) were concerned about the growing costs of armaments-development programs. At that time, the Soviet Union undertook tremendous efforts to field a broad range of new weapons types, including new air-defense systems, such as the S-200 Angara (SA-5), 2K11 Krug (SA-4), 2K12 Kub (SA-6), ZSU-23-4 Shilka, and the 9M32 Strela-2 (SA-7). Simultaneously, there were efforts to improve deployed systems, such as the SA-75 Dvina (SA-2), S-75 Desna, S-75M Volkhov, and the S-125/S-125M Neva (SA-3), which were then in mass production. Moreover, the Country Air Defense Forces (Voiska Protivovozdushnoi Oborony Strany, or PVO-Strany) issued a requirement for a new air-defense system that would replace the two existing transportable systems it fielded: the S-75 and S-125. Both of these were so-called "single-channel" systems that could engage only one target at a time. The single-engagement capability was the price for being transportable, as opposed to fixed or semi-fixed systems, such as the S-25 (SA-1) and S-200 (SA-5), respectively. The new system PVO-Strany wanted was to be transportable and was to have the ability to engage multiple targets. The transportability was to enable a change of fire positions, which would increase the system's survivability and combat effectiveness by countering an enemy's efforts to develop a carefully scripted suppression attack against them.

In addition, the Soviet Army also desired a new system. The Army wanted a medium- to long-range system with the ability to engage multiple targets that, by necessity, would also be mobile. And the Soviet Navy also expressed some interest in such a system. Considering all of these requests, the Soviet Council of Ministers decided that fulfilling them would be a duplication of efforts, and in December 1966, it directed the Voyenno-Promyslenny Komplex (VPK, the military-industrial complex) to organize the development of a single medium- to long-range mobile air-defense system with the ability to engage multiple targets that would be common for three services: the Air Defense Forces (PVO-Strany, coded "P"), the Soviet Army (Sukhoputnoye Voiska, coded "S"), and the Soviet Navy (Flot, coded "F").

The decision immediately sparked heated discussions among specialists from the military forces, industry, the Ministry of Defense, and the Politburo. Most of the military and industry authorities strongly opposed a "joint" program. Only the Navy did not object vigorously, since it usually got versions of land systems anyway (there was only one pure naval air-defense missile system ever developed in the Soviet Union: the M-11 Shtorm, or SA-N-3). The Army, however, was strongly against the idea. Army officers believed that a system developed for the Country Air Defense would first meet PVO-Strany's requirements, leaving the mobile forces with a cumbersome, heavy, and complicated system. PVO-Strany was usually more powerful in the Soviet military hierarchy, and the Soviet Army was definitely sensitive about combining development efforts with this service.


One of the radars usually attached to the S-300PT battalion's command post was initially the 5N66M (NATO: Clam Shell) radar for the detection of low-flying targets. It had a vertical parabolic antenna, similar to the antennas of altitude-finder radars, and was placed on a special 24.4-m 40V6 mast, as seen here.

Army officers knew that they would not be able to change a decision that originated from the highest Communist Party authorities, so they started to sabotage the program in an effort to make it appear that separate systems were needed. (Their posture was somewhat similar to the US Navy when it was forced to acquire the F-111B aircraft, a version of the US Air Force's F-111A fighter-bomber.) The Soviet Army wrote its requirements in such a way that PVO-Strany would not accept them. One of the primary features of the Army system was the ability to engage short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. The Army stated that it was absolutely essential to provide the land forces with effective protection against US Pershing 1A missiles with a range of 740 km. This requirement was set by Gen. Col. Pavel N. Kuleshov, then chief of Glavnoye Raketno-Artileriyske Upravleniye (GRAU, Main Missile-Artillery Directorate). Although desiring an anti-ballistic-missile (ABM) capability was rational, the firm statement that an ABM capability against medium-range missiles was absolutely essential immediately created a technological challenge. At the same time, it was clear that PVO-Strany would not demand any ABM capability, since its systems protected objects located well beyond the range of theater ballistic missile (TBMs), and a strategic ABM capability was provided by a dedicated system deployed only around Moscow. (The Moscow ABM system, A-35 and A-135, requires a separate description and lies outside the scope of this article.) The other important requirement the Army laid down was the need for a lightly armored, tracked chassis. Again, it was obvious that tracked vehicles and light armor would be luxuries for PVO-Strany and that it would not want to pay for them.

Both services, however, agreed that the range of the air-defense system be at least 50-60 km (not less than the S-75M Volkhov or 2K11 Krug), that it have the ability to engage targets at altitudes from 25 to 25,000 m, that it have the capability to engage at least six targets at a time (to account for a four-ship formation in a single engagement sequence at a kill probability of 0.75), and that the system also be able to engage small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and cruise missiles flying at extremely low altitude at high-subsonic speed. The Army also wanted the capability to engage hovering helicopters, but there was a willingness to be flexible on this point. As it was expected, PVO-Strany wanted to downgrade the Army version: no ABM capability, no armor, and a wheeled chassis (no cross-country mobility required).

A man who well understood the whole game was Marshal Dmitri F. Ustinov, then secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and later (1976) minister of defense of the Soviet Union. Ustinov was a former national commissar for armament (1946-1953), minister of armament (1953-1957), and minister of defense industry (1957-1963) – it was all the same office, just the title changed – and since 1963, he had been responsible for supervising of the military-industrial complex. The marshal directed KB-1 of the Ministry of Radio Industry (on March 24, 1966, the organization reformed into MKB "Strela," presently known as NPO "Alamaz," a part of the Almaz-Antey consortium) to undertake the conceptual development of a unified system. Simultaneously, he instructed NII-20 (reorganized in 1967 into Nauchno-Isledovatelski Electro-Mekhanicheski Institute, NIEMI) Research-Development Electro-Mechanical Institute) located in Kuntsevo, near Moscow, to undertake preliminary design of a complex air-defense and ABM system, unofficially dubbed the S-500U ("U" for universalny, meaning "universal" or "multirole").

In May 1969, the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Council of Ministers, during a joint session, issued a decision regarding the development of a unified S-300 system. The document directed that a unified system, adapted to the needs of the three services, was to be developed cooperatively by the following organizations: MKB "Strela" would develop the S-300P version for PVO-Strany; VNII RE MSP would develop the S-300F version for the Navy; and NIEMI would develop the S-300V version for the Army. This decision was meaningful. Theoretically, it demanded that all three versions be unified, but at the same time, separate organizations were responsible for their development, so the commonality was doubtful at best. Only Ustinov and the industry representatives really knew what was going on. Soviet authorities thought that a joint system would be developed. They were wrong.

The S-300P


Despite being accepted into service, the S-300PT and S-300PS, the launcher for the latter of which is seen here, did not meet the requirement for a 140-km range. Therefore, in January 1983 Soviet authorities mandated that a new upgraded system called the S-300PM would be developed.

The S-300P project was to be based earlier MKB "Strela" concept program. It was decided that the core of the system would consist of a dozen launchers that would carry single-stage solid-fuel missiles, a target-tracking and -illumination radar, and a command post. The radar was to be based on solid-state electronics of modular design. The command post was to automatically control the radar and would be equipped with a digital computer. All of the system's electronics were to be digital and solid state. It is worth mentioning that the S-300F's core remained very similar, with the use of the same missile in a "navalized" form (5V55RM and later 48N6M – "M" for morskiy, or naval) and a similar radar with a slightly different, stabilized antenna adapted for naval operations; some different radar electronics; and much different software.

As it might be expected, the Army version developed by NIEMI was based on the earlier S-500U conceptual model, and although called the S-300V, it did not develop into simply another version of S-300 family. The S-300V became a very complicated and cumbersome system, with a few different types of complex radars, two types of missiles, and four types of launchers, all placed on tracked, lightly armored vehicles. The Army shot an "own goal" in setting such a wide range of challenging requirements. The resulting S-300V met all of these requirements as a system of impressive cost and complexity.

During the development of the S-300P, it was assumed that the system would be fully automated, from the collection of information about a target to engagement. The system was divided into the fire unit: the fire-control radar, the battery command post, a dozen launchers and auxiliary equipment; and the command-and-control unit with an interface to the regiment's automated command-and-control system (the 5S99M Senezh). Rounding out the system were an acquisition radar (later it got two acquisition radars), and a battalion command post that controlled up to six fire batteries. Given that a battalion of S-300P would be able to engage up to 36 targets a time, this represented a rather dramatic increase in capabilities over previous systems such as the S-75 and S-125, which had only a single fire battery in a battalion with the ability to engage just one target at a time.

The digital computer for the S-300P, called 5E26, was developed by the Moscow Institute for Precise Mechanics and Computing Technologies. The biggest problem in its development was a lack of software specialists, but MKB Strela solved the problem by undertaking cooperation with the Moscow Physical and Mathematical Institute (MFTI), drafting the best graduates and even students for the effort. Such specialists were relatively rare in the early 1970s.

From the very beginning, it was assumed that the whole system would be mobile. But the main designer of the Minsk Automobile Factory (MAZ) in Belarus said that the chassis based on the MAZ-543 would not be ready under the timetable specified for initial system production. Therefore, it was decided that the system would be built in two basic versions: S-300PT ("T" for transportiruyemiy, or transportable) and S-300PS ("S" for samokhodniy, or self-propelled).


Even though the original requirements for the S-300PT called for a fully mobile system, a towed version of the system (seen here) was rushed into state trials in December 1977.

The first missiles were produced by the MKB "Fakel" prototype factory in Moscow. Flight tests began in March 1970. The missile had weight of 1,480 kg, a length of 7.25 m, and a body diameter of 0.508 m. The tail surfaces span was 1.124 m. The weight of the high-explosive fragmentation warhead was 133 kg, of which about 40% was the weight of the explosive itself. The missile's engine worked for 8-10 seconds, imparting a missile speed of up to 1900 m/sec. The range for target engagement was from 3 km (minimum) to 47 km (maximum). The engagement altitude was between 25 m to 25,000 m. The maximum speed of the engaged target was 1,200 m/sec.

The next missile introduced to service was the semi-active radar-guided version with track-via-missile as the primary mode. The missile was called the V-500R in the design bureau and 5V55R in production factories and in military service. It had the same external dimensions as the original, but its weight was increased to 1,665 kg. The range was increased to 75 km, due to the better guidance system. The missile was capable of engaging targets out to a range of 90 km, but this capability was not attained until the arrival of the S-300PM version, when improved missile-guidance algorithms for making use of energy during climbs and dives became available. The maximum engagement altitude was increased to 27,000 m. Simultaneously, a 5V55KD version with upgraded guidance was introduced that had similar performance to the 5V55R.

The S-300P's 5N63S (Flap Lid A) fire-control radar was developed by MKB "Strela" and consists of the F20 chassis based on the MAZ-543M vehicle, the F1S module behind the truck's cabin that houses the 30N6 fire-control radar set with its phased array antenna, the F2K module with its 5E26 computer, communication equipment, the operators stations, and a 5S17 gas-turbine electrical power unit. The radar had a range of 250 km and could observe a 60º sector with the antenna fixed. The antenna could be quickly turned to change the observation sector towards any direction. The radar works in the X band, and its initial production version had 16,000 phased-array elements. The early radar can be recognized by the more square shape of the antenna, which is wider than the later 30N6-1 version associated with the S-300PM. It could be easily recognized by the hydraulic telescopic servo-motors that are attached to the bottom part of the antenna. In the S-300PM (Flap Lid B) version, the servo-motors are attached to the sides of the antenna, which has a more rounded shape. The radar has that capability of electronic beam shaping and can engage up to six targets at time with up to 12 missiles (two per target). The 5N63S and later 30N6-1 sets were produced by AOOT Moskovskiy Radiotekhnicheskiy Zavod (Moscow Radio-Technical Factory).

The 5N63S radar and battery command post with six launchers (two main and four auxiliary) formed a S-300PT battery, together with a crane and three 5T99 missile-transport vehicles. Technically, it was possible to associate as many as six main and six auxiliary launchers with a given fire-control radar, but this possibility was never pursued in front-line units. Three such batteries formed a battalion. Again, technically it was possible to attach six batteries to a battalion's command system, but this possibility also was not pursued in Soviet and Russian front-line units. The battalion command post was formed around the 83M6 command-and-control (C2) system, which consisted of the 54K6 C2 post and the 64N6 observation and target-acquisition radar. The latter was not developed on time, and early S-300PT and S-300PS systems were issued with the "off-the-shelf" ST-68M (19Zh6; NATO: Tin Shield) radar. The radar was renamed 36D6 for the S-300PT/PS system. It works in the S band and has 3D capability. It uses electronic scan in elevation and mechanical scan in azimuth. The detection range for a fighter-sized target is 147-175 km between 2,000 and 18,000 m, 80 km for the targets around 1,000 m, and 38-42 km against targets flying at 100 m. The radar could track up to 100 targets at a time. The ST-68M and 36D6 were accepted to service in 1981, together with the first S-300PT fielded. It was developed and produced by Zaporozhskiy Kazenniy Electromashinostroitelniy Zavod "Iskra" from Zaporozhe, in Ukraine.

The other radar usually attached to the battalion's command post was initially the 5N66M (NATO: Clam Shell) radar for the detection of low-flying targets. It was developed by KB "Lira" from Lianozovo (a part of NPO Uties from Moscow). The system was later produced by Lianozovo Electro-Mechanical Plant (LEMZ) in Lianozovo. This radar had a vertical parabolic antenna, similar to the antennas of altitude-finder radars. The range of the radar was 300 km, and it had ability to detect targets flying at 100 m at a distance of 48 km. The antenna was placed on a special 24.4-m 40V6 mast.


A 30N6 fire-control radar of the 5N63S battery command post. The phased-array radar illuminates the target for the S-300P engagement, with the missile typically operating in track-via-missile mode. This installation is from a Slovak S-300PMU export version.
Photo by Miroslav Gyurosi

The 54K6 command system is a fully automated system, with the ability to track up to 100 targets in the vicinity of 500 km. The system controls the associated radars (initially, the 36D6 and 5N66M) and has interfaces to the Senezh (or Senezh-M) SAM brigade/regiment command system. The target tracks are a combination of the plots of targets detected by the battalion's organic radars and plots of targets tracked by the Senezh system, which are passed to 54K6 in real time. The latter system merges data from all sources into a single air-situation picture and sends information about targets tracked by the battalion's radar to the Senezh. Interestingly, the tracking data can be originated by passive detection systems and then fed through an automated C2 system to the 54K6 and further down to the S-300P batteries. In later systems (S-300PM/S-300PMU-1/2/S-400), it is possible to launch a missile against a target tracked by passive systems with all the battalion's radars silent, just turning on the 30N6-1 radar for the final part of the engagement, a few seconds before a hit. Such a test with the use of Kolchuga-M stations (it is not known, however, whether it was Ukrainian Kolchuga-M or the much less known Russian Kolchuga-M) was conducted at the Sary-Shagan shooting range in September 2003.

By December 1972, the first elements of the future system started to arrive at Sary-Shagan. At once, the radio-command V-500K (5V55K) and semi-active radar-guided V-500R (5V55R) missiles started their static tests, followed by controlled and guided launches. The V-500K was intended as back-up in the case something went wrong with the V-500R. The decision proved to be smart, since a lot did go wrong with the latter's novel guidance system. There were a lot of difficulties with the track-via-missile mode, especially at low altitudes.

Trials of the separate elements were completed in late 1975, and the time came for comprehensive tests of the complete system. Such tests ran through 1977. During the factory tests, more than 1,200 engagement processes were conducted, including more than 200 at extremely low altitudes. During comprehensive tests of the whole system, eight engagements were conducted against group targets consisting of 8-16 drone aircraft. There were also two mass raids of 32 drone targets. During 70 of the tests, active jamming was applied. However, in late 1977, the S-300PT was still not fully ready. Above all, the systems used the "interim" missile instead of the semi-active radar-guided version and the required engagement range of 140 km had not been reached. The 140-km range was set because it was believed that the longest range of US and NATO anti-radar weapons did not exceed 100-120 km. Also, the system was still towed, while the original requirements called for mobile system. But despite all of those shortfalls, it was decided that the S-300PT system would be assessed during state trials, and if the results were satisfactory, the system would be accepted into service, pending the ultimate version built to specifications.

State trials of the S-300PT started in late December 1977 and were completed on March 31, 1979. Usually, state trials in the Soviet Union ran from four to six months, but the S-300PT trials lasted for more than one year, thus indicating that the initial results were not fully satisfactory. In October 1978, two battalions of S-300PTs were conducting live tests against a group target of 68 drones. This test was successful, demonstrating that the system was able to engage multiple targets at a time, and most of the drones were shot down, so the raid was considered to be "repulsed." After analyzing test results, the decision was made to accept the S-300PT into service. The S-300PT was officially commissioned into Soviet service on April 23, 1979, and the first battalion achieved operational capability on Feb. 23, 1981, in the area of Severodvinsk. While the S-300PT was subsequently deployed in various locations in industrial areas of the Soviet Union, though, Moscow would not receive its first systems until 1985.

The system was sometimes called the S-300PT Biriusa, but this name was not really used in the armed forces. PVO-Strany more often used the unofficial name Volkhov M6, which referred to the deployment of the S-300PT, in which a battalion of three S-300PT batteries usually also controlled three more batteries of adequately modernized S-75M3 Volkhov M3 and S-125M Neva systems. Thus, the capability of controlling six fire batteries was maintained, although every S-300PT battery could engage six targets at a time, and every S-75M and S-125M battery could engage just a single target at a time. The Volkhov M6 nickname was relatively short lived, and for years the system was simply referred as the S-300P or in more specific way: S-300PT, S-300PS, S-300PM, and so forth.


An auxiliary launcher of the S-300PMU system, the export version of the S-300P. A given S-300P battery consists of a dozen launchers carrying single-stage, solid-fuel missiles; a target-tracking and -illumination radar; and a command post.

After extensive factory tests, state trials of the 5V55R missile began in 1980. The tests were successful, and early in 1981 the missile was accepted into service, which increased the engagement range of the system from 47 to 75 km. Production of 5V55R missiles started in 1982, and the first examples entered service in 1983. Production of 5V55K missiles was probably terminated in 1984, but they were used until very recently, and some may still be deployed.

Missiles of all types were sealed in their launch containers in the factory and had a guaranteed shelf life of 10 years. After 10 years, the missile had to be overhauled by industry and resealed for the next 10 years. Missile life was rated at 20 years, but this could probably be extended to 30. Initially, the missiles were fired by "hot" launch, with the missile's engine ignited in the container. However, this proved to be unworkable due to the danger to the equipment caused by the hot gases. Starting in 1981, a "cold" launch mode was used, with each container possessing its own ejector charge. At an altitude of around 20 m, the missile's rocket engine is ignited, and the missile starts its flight.

Factory tests of the S-300PS self-propelled version with 5P58S (main) and 5P58SD (auxiliary) launchers mounted on MAZ-543M vehicles were conducted from December 1980 through November 1981. After some improvements, the system was submitted for state trials. The state trials were treated as supplementary and only lasted for about three weeks. During the trials, 47 simulated engagements were conducted, with 16 missiles actually launched against drone targets. The self-propelled version was officially accepted into service in 1983, but full-rate production did not start until late 1984. The system started to reach front-line units in 1985, and S-300PS production continued until the early '90s.

Between 1985-1987, Moscow air-defense units in the external ring that had received the S-300P got the S-300PT version, probably transferred from other units that had been issued the S-300PS. It was expected that Moscow air-defense units would operate from prepared positions in a less mobile mode than in some units closer to the Soviet Union's borders. Moscow's internal ring units were equipped with S-300PS systems from the outset.

Modernized S-300PM

Despite being accepted into service, the S-300PT and PS did not meet the main requirement for a 140-km range. Therefore, in January 1983 Soviet authorities mandated that a new upgraded system called the S-300PM would be developed. Work started immediately, and soon the new upgraded 30N61 radar was developed. It had range of 300 km and could work in a several modes: sector observation of 64º horizontally and 14º vertically (range: 160-240 km) as its primary mode, sector observation of 64x5º for long-range search (maximum range: 300 km), and 90º in azimuth and 1º in elevation for low-level search (range of around 80-130 km below 1,000 m of target altitude). The 30N6-1 radar received a new, narrower, rounder antenna (recognizable by a side attachment of hydraulic servo-mechanisms for antenna deployment and folding). The radar received the new 40U6 digital computer developed by the Moscow Institute for Precise Mechanics and Computing Technologies. The new digital computer enabled introduction of new powerful software, which greatly increased the jamming resistance of the system. The modernized S-300PM system also received the 64N6 (NATO: Big Bird) observation radar and 5N66M (NATO: Clam Shell) low-level observation radar (known better under its export designation of 76N6) and the new 48N6 missile.

The 64N6 observation radar was intended for the S-300P from very beginning, but its prolonged development time forced the use of the 36D6 as temporary solution. The 76N6 was a further developed version of the 5N66M used in earlier systems. The 64N6 radar was developed by Novosibirskiy NII Izmeritelnikh Priborov (Novosibirsk Research and Development Institute of Measurement Instruments) in Novosibirsk, which is presently also a part of "Almaz" consortium. Production of the radar got underway at Novosibirskiy Zavod Imieni Kominterna (Novosibirsk Factory of Komintern) around 1985. The radar has large double-sided phased-array antenna and can work in 360º observation mode (with revolutions) or in sector mode, observing a 75º sector. In elevation, the observation sector is 13.4º in detection mode and 55º when the target is tracked. The radar's range is 260 km against fighter-sized targets at medium altitude. The radar can track up to 200 targets at a time, with an accuracy of 30º in azimuth, 35º in elevation, and 200 m in distance. In the closer zone of observation (out to 64 km), the radar is protected against jamming by frequent power-output adjustment. At greater ranges, it uses a special algorithm that stabilizes false signal levels. In addition, the radar employs frequency hopping and electronic beam shaping. It has been assessed that its jamming resistance is relatively high.

The 5N66M radar, developed by KB "Lira" in Lianozovohas, has an antenna similar to its 5N66 predecessor. This is one of the most mysterious radars in the S-300P system, and not many of its technical parameters are known. The radar has a range of 300 km, and the antenna rotates very quickly – 20 revolutions per minute. The antenna is usually placed on the improved 39-m 40V6M mast, but doing so takes two hours.

The key for achieving the 150-km range was to develop a new missile with better energy characteristics, and such a missile – the 48N6 – was developed by MKB Fakel. The 48N6 missile is slightly bigger to accommodate a larger rocket engine. The missile's length was increased to 7.5 m and the diameter to 519 mm. The missile's weight was increased to 1,850 kg, including a 143-kg warhead (slightly heavier than in previous missiles). The 48N6 missile's rocket engine burns for about 12 sec., which enables the missile to reach a maximum speed of 2,000 m/sec. The missile has a track-via-missile guidance mode and can maneuver at up to 20 Gs. The maximum range of the missile was increased to 150 km, and the minimum engagement altitude was lowered from 25 m to just 10 m. The maximum engagement altitude is probably around 30,000 m.

The first elements of the S-300PM system entered tests at the shooting range in 1984. Factory trials ended in mid-1987, and the system was submitted to state trials, which were conducted in 1988. The S-300PM system accepted into service in the autumn of that year.

Currently, Russia has 37 air-defense missile regiments armed with the S-300PT/PS/PM. Since late 2005, one of them was reportedly re-armed with the S-400 system (one of the S-300PTs deployed in Moscow area), but this advanced type still has not officially achieved operational capability. The number of regiments in Russia was confirmed by commander of the Russian Air Force, Gen. Vladimir Mikhailov. He stated in 2005 that Russia had 35 SAM regiments, all armed with S-300P systems. However, he was talking only about Russian Air Force S-300P systems, since two units were passed to the Navy, due to their specific locations: the 183rd Independent Air Defense Missile Brigade in Gvardyeisk (Kaliningrad region) belongs to Baltic Fleet, and the 1096th Air Defense Missile Regiment, deployed in Sevastopol and tasked to protect the base of Russian Black Sea Fleet, has been passed to the Navy.

Among the remaining 35 regiments, no less than 18 are deployed within the area of responsibility of 16th Air Force, near Moscow.
If you have Google Earth, one of the BBS has a link which displays all the SA-1 sites round Moscow - ans some SA-10 ones as well:

You're welcome. I've also marked pretty much anything military in the Crimean, some Russian Northern Fleet stuff that's visible, and the Moscow ABM network, to name a few other things :D
53T6 launch - video found at Airbase.Ru forum

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