A surface to air missile (Russian designation S-125; also known as "Pechora" and "NEVA-M") produced by the USSR and deployed there from about 1961, as well as in about 33 other countries including India; it is probably still deployed today.

The missile was first spotted by the West in 1959 when it was apparently still in or nearing the end of development. A satellite photographed two of what were believed to be R&D sites at Kapustin Yar: four launch pads were at each one and on one pad was what looked like a missile launcher, with "two missile-like objects about 20 feet long" on it. Over 35 more sites like this were photographed over the following five years; curiously they were mostly found near SA-1 and SA-2 sites.

Designed by the Lavochkin Design Bureau, the two-stage solid fuel SA-3 is a short-range missile system designed to combat threats like aircraft, helicopters and cruise missiles at altitudes up to 25 kilometres. It is a further response to threats of arial (by aircraft or missiles) attack at the low levels often employed, particularly for cruise missiles. The ability to dive (apparently this is/was unusual for a SAM) means it can also be used as a surface-to-surface (SS) missile and attack surface targets or ships. The SA-3 carries a 60kg high explosive warhead which is effective up to 12.5m from the blast centre, and is capable of intercepting targets 6-25km away.

SA-3s are guided by several radars: Flat Face truck-mounted radar provides target acquisition and designation. In many sites these have been replaced by Squat Eye radar which is mast-mounted, improving low-altitude targeting. The site's Low Blow radar provides tracking facilities; Low Blow is able to track 6 targets at once while engaging two of them. Modifications of the Low Blow system included video cameras (able to accurately image further than the missiles' range) so that guidance could still be performed in the event of targets employing ECM against the missile(s). As with SA-2 battalions, every HQ has a Side Net long-range height finding radar which supplements the radars of the individual sites.

An SA-3 is just shy of 7 metres long and is 60cm wide. It has four large rectangular fins mounted on the first (boosting) stage just forward of the rear, which are folded when not in flight (presumably to save storage space). All photographs of the missile on the ground show it in this configuration. Although it appears the fins are fixed this way, the rear end of the fin is hinged where it attaches to the body of the missile. When the missile is launched, the force causes each fin to pivot round 90° to its flight position. This section of the missile is jettisoned after its 2.6 second burn is completed. There are eight more fins on the second stage of the SA-3: four stabilising fins at the rear which double as antennae for guidance data (the missile is unguided until its first stage burn is complete), and a further four small fins on the nose for steering.

There are a couple of different launching setups for the SA-3. Although it is moveable the system isn't really mobile. The missiles themselves are carried two abreast on ZIL-157 or ZIL-131 trucks, but have to be moved onto ground-mounted launchers to be fired. Depending on the type, these launchers can hold two or four missiles each. Each missile can be slid straight from the truck's mounting rack on the truck onto the launcher rails, where it can be prepared for firing. The cycle of loading a missile onto the launcher, firing it, then loading and preparing the next missile for launch takes about an hour (the majority of that is preparing the next missile - loading onto the launcher only takes a minute).

A modification of the SA-3 (the SA-3B) updated the guidance system and allowed for the missiles to be fired from a vehicle, which dramatically increased their usefulness and viability.

There is a naval version of the SA-3, designated SA-N-1 Volna.

<<SA-2 Guideline | SAM Index | SA-4 Ganef>>

As with all (my) w/us on Russian military stuff, sources disagree slightly so this may contain minor inaccuracies. Please /msg me with any corrections.

Thanks to toalight for doing exactly that.

  • Rakshak, Bharat; "S-125M PECHORA CC (SA-3 GOA)"; <www.bharat-rakshak.com/IAF/Aircraft/Missiles/SA-3.html>
  • Missile Index; "SA-3/SA-N-1 Goa"; <http://www.index.ne.jp/cgi-bin/search?cat=missile_e&plate=type01b.html&fid=sa3&imgpath=/missile_e/gif/>
  • Pike, John;
    • "S-125 SA-3 GOA"; <http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/s-125.htm>;
    • "SIDE NET"; <http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/side-net.htm>;
    • "P-15M SQUAT EYE"; <http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/squat-eye.htm>
  • Federation of American Scientists (FAS); "S-125 SA-3 GOA"; <http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/russia/airdef/s-125.htm>

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