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A surface to air missile system manufactured by the Soviet Union (designation "ZRK-BD Strela 1"), used there and in over 20 other countries from 1968 onwards, though not seen by western observers until the 1975's may day parade. It is presently active in several countries and has seen more combat than many other Soviet SAM systems. It was first used in hostilities in Lebanon in 1981, when a battery shot down two Syrian helicopters. A couple of years later an SA-9 was possibly responsible for the downing of a US A-7E Corsair II during a raid on Hezbollah and Syrian facilities in Lebanon. Iraq apparently used to have quite a few SA-9s before most were blown up during Desert Storm in 1991.

The SA-9 continued the trend in Soviet SAM production to lean towards tactical air defence rather than strategic, and to make the transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) as much a feature of the design as that of the missile itself, if not more so. It appears to have been intended to fulfil a design brief not unlike that of the SA-8: to protect battlefield assets - infantry, tanks, howitzers, intelligence equipment etc - from low and relatively slow-flying air threats such as ground attack helicopters and aircraft like the A-10.

The SA-9 system uses a TEL that is based on the BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicle chassis; an amphibious boat-shaped chassis weighing 8 tonnes, powered by a 140bhp V-8 engine with a top speed of about 60mph over even ground, to a maximum range of 750km. Fording, the TEL travels at about 6mph using a water jet at the rear. Outwardly the design is not unlike a simplified SA-8: the vehicle shape is similar but shorter, with two sets of road wheels instead of three. The physical design of the BRDM-2 is more or less unchanged except that the standard machine gun turret is replaced with a fully-rotating and partially elevating quadruple missile turret. The crew complement of 3 is the same as the BRDM-2, with a commander, driver and gunner.

The electronics of the SA-9 are also simplified compared to the SA-8; while the SA-8 has its own targeting and tracking radars the SA-9 has none at all; one Flat Box A passive radar detection antenna is fitted on either end of the hull, meaning targeting is performed on the basis of radar emissions gathered from a prospective target rather than active searching by the SA-9. This is perhaps a response to the vulnerability of previous Soviet SAMs with active radar to anti radiation missiles, although the design decision could conceivably have been financially motivated as well.

This makes battle potentially slightly safer for an SA-9 than, say, an SA-8; an SA-9 does not advertise its position while scanning like an SA-8 does. However an SA-9 relies on its targets using radar so potentially it could be "spoofed" by an adversary in a role reversal of the situation perpetrated by SA-6 operators, who would sometimes use their unit's infrared tracking capabilities to avoid giving themselves away by using radar. In the past pilots have been fired upon by an SA-6 before they were aware of its presence. An SA-9 battery could be fooled similarly.

The SA-9 system uses 9M31 missiles designed by the Nudelman OKB-16 Design Bureau. The 9M31 is actually a refinement of the 9K32 missile used by the SA-7 system. It has gone through a few iterations since its introduction but all of them are outwardly the same. A 9M31 missile is 1.8m long with a 32cm wingspan and 18cm body width. Solid-fuelled, it has a top speed of mach 1.5 with a range of 800m to 6km and effective altitude of 10-6000m. A later version, the 9M31M, reduced the minimum range to 560m and increased the maximum range to 8km with a possible 11km under certain circumstances.

2.6kgs of the missile's 32kg launch weight is taken up by a high explosive fragmentation warhead; the lethal radius of this is about 5m. Detonation of the missile is triggered by a proximity fuse. Guidance is performed by an uncooled lead sulphide IR seeker head; this is another component that improved in later versions of the missile. The last variant used cooling on its seeker head, giving it a greater sensitivity to heat changes than its predecessors.

The SA-9 is commonly deployed as a partner for ZSU-23 23mm antiaircraft guns, collectively supporting local SA-6 air defences. Although still in widespread use the SA-9 is nearing the end of its service life, slowly giving way to replacement the SA-13 Gopher.

<<SA-8 Gecko | SAM Index | SA-10 Grumble>>

As with all my Russian military nodes, sources can be sketchy and I have tried to add some of my own analysis to flesh out the relatively small amount of information available on this system, using the (hardly encyclopedic) knowledge gained from researching my SAM nodes thus far. If you know better than me, please /msg me and I'll correct the problem.


  • Pike, John; "SA-9 GASKIN 9K31 Strela-1";
  • JED Military Equipment Directory; "ZRK-BD STRELA-1";
  • (Author unknown); "The SA-9 "Gaskin" Strela-1 SAM system";
  • (Author unknown; probably copied from John Pike); "Air defense weapons of the Former USSR";
  • Missile Index; "SA-9 Gaskin";
  • Federation of American Scientists; "BRDM-2 (BTR-40P-2) Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle";
  • (Author unkown); "Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II in US Navy Service";

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