Friday, May 28, 2010

The Ukrainian SAM Network


Many individuals may be suprised to know the identity of the largest and most capable SAM network in Europe outside of Russia. The distinction goes to the Ukraine, the inheritor of numerous legacy Soviet SAM systems and facilities after the fall of the USSR. More importantly, many of these systems were top of the line during the 1980s, providing a very solid technology base on which the Ukraine would be able to rely going towards and into the 21st century.


The Ukrainian Air Defense Force is responsible for operating the radar and SAM systems tasked with defending Ukrainian airspace. The force is subordinate to the Ukrainian Air Force, and operates S-200 (SA-5 GAMMON), S-300PT (SA-10A GRUMBLE), S-300PS (SA-10B GRUMBLE), S-300V1 (SA-12A GLADIATOR), and Buk (SA-11 GADFLY) SAM systems. The Ukrainian Army operates separate, subordinate SAM assets for providing battlefield air defense.

Over two hundred air defense related facilities have been identified in the Ukraine. There are a total of 35 active and 133 inactive SAM sites, as well as 106 supporting facilities. These locations are broken down as follows:

EW sites: 54
36D6 radar sites: 30
64N6 battle management radar sites: 9
SAM Garrisons: 1
S-300P Garrisons: 4
S-300V Garrisons: 3
9K37 Garrisons: 2
SAM Training Ranges: 3

Active S-125 sites: 2
Active S-200 sites: 4
Active S-300PT sites: 16
Active S-300PS sites: 11
Active S-300V sites: 2

Inactive S-75 sites: 77
Inactive S-125 sites: 19
Inactive 2K12 sites: 1
Inactive S-200 sites: 12
Inactive 9K37 sites: 1
Inactive S-300P sites: 23


The following icons will be used to depict air defense related sites within the Ukraine:

Squares: support facilities such as garrisons
Diamonds: EW radar sites
Circles: 36D6, 64N6 radar sites
Triangles: SAM sites

The icons will be color coded as follows:

Dark blue: general EW radar, 36D6 EW radar
Bright blue: S-125
Purple: S-200
Bright red: S-300PT, S-300PS, 64N6 battle management radar
Orange: S-300V
Faded green: 9K37
White: an unoccupied EW radar or SAM location
Brown: a SAM garrison (type-specific SAM garrisons are color coded as above based on their respective equipment)

Engagement zones will match the color of the icon for their respective system.


Early warning over the Ukraine is provided by various radar sites located throughout the nation. These sites typically host one or more types of EW radar, as well as height finding and IFF interrogation systems. There are forty-one active EW sites, with thirteen additional inactive sites available for network expansion or asset redeployment should the need arise. Note that this does not include organic EW radars deployed at SAM sites, which provide further coverage overlap.

Primary EW assets are a mixture of legacy FSU systems. These assets are commonly deployed at mixed-type EW sites, ostensibly to capitalize on the different capabilities of different radar systems. The most commonly identified system is the P-35/37 (BAR LOCK), with P-12/18 (SPOON REST), P-14 (TALL KING), P-19 (THIN SKIN), and P-80 (BACK NET) also scattered throughout the nation. The 1L13 BOX SPRING is deployed to support S-300V1 batteries to provide additional EW capability.

Thirty 36D6 (TIN SHIELD) and seven 64N6 (BIG BIRD) sites provide target identification and battle management functions for the Ukrainian SAM network. One 36D6 sites is co-located with an S-300PS unit, possibly providing direct support to the assigned batteries. The 36D6 and 64N6 radars are positioned to provide overlapping coverage. These systems are capable of monitoring virtually all of the Ukraine's airspace, as well as significant portions of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, and as such the 36D6 radars may have a basic EW or GCI function as well.

The locations of the Ukrainian EW assets, including the 36D6 and 64N6 sites, can be seen in the image below:
The coverage zones of the 36D6 radar sites can be seen in the image below:
The coverage zones of the identified 64N6 battle management radar sites can be seen in the image below. A further 64N6 is likely positioned near L'viv, as there is an S-300PT battery deployed at a prepared site in the area. Likewise, 64N6 sites near Odessa and Sevastopol are not likely to remain inactive for an extended period as numerous S-300PS batteries are deployed in each area as well.
THE S-200V....D?

The S-200 is the longest-range SAM asset available to the Ukrainian Air Defense Force. Four active S-200 batteries provide air defense over all but the far eastern region of the nation between Kharkov and Lugansk. A further twelve inactive S-200 sites remain, although these are likely to be reused as homes for mobile assets such as the S-300PS if at all, due to the time required to redeploy an S-200 battery.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claims that the 250 kilometer range S-200V is in service, but the October 2001 shootdown of a Russian airliner over the Black Sea by an errant S-200 would seem to indicate that the 300 kilometer range S-200D is the variant operated by the Ukraine. The Russian airliner was reportedly no closer than 250 kilometers to the launch site and flying towards the Russian coastline. Hitting a crossing target at 250 kilometers would be nearly impossible with an S-200V, but would be within the capability of the S-200D.

The locations of the Ukraine's S-200 batteries, inactive S-200 sites, and relevant coverage zones for the active sites can be seen in the image below:

The S-200 is the longest-ranged Ukrainian-operated SAM system, but the S-300P variants represent the most capable and widely deployed systems. Twenty-seven S-300P series SAM batteries are in active service; sixteen batteries are equipped with the S-300PT, while eleven are equipped with the more capable S-300PS. Examining these sites in conjunction with the twenty-three inactive S-300P sites provides a great deal of insight into the deployment strategy of air defense assets within the Ukraine.

The S-300PT and S-300PS batteries are deployed to protect the most critical political, urban, military, and industrial areas in the nation. Dnepropetrovsk, Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa were each defended by no fewer than six batteries at one point, while Nikolayev and Sevastopol were defended by no less than five apiece.

The following image depicts the locations of the Ukraine's S-300P series batteries, inactive S-300P series sites, and relevant coverage zones for the active sites:
Standard deployment practice deduced through imagery analysis indicates that a full-strength S-300PT battery has twelve TELs, while a full-strength S-300PS battery has eight TELs. Each battery is equipped with a 5N63 or 5N63S (FLAP LID) engagement radar, as well as a 5N66 or 5N66M (CLAM SHELL) low-altitude detection radar. 40V6 series mast assemblies are commonly employed for both radar systems.

The capital of Kiev is the most heavily defended location, with five S-300P series batteries. Of the five active sites, four operate the S-300PT and one operates the S-300PS. The sixth site was occupied by an S-300PS battery, but as of April 2009 the site was unoccupied. This could be due to scheduled maintenance, deployment to a training facility, or site relocation, suggesting that a full complement of six batteries may still be assigned to defend the capital.

Dnepropetrovsk (S-300PT), Kharkov (S-300PT), Nikolayev (S-300PT), Odessa (S-300PS), and Sevastopol (S-300PS) are currently defended by three active batteries apiece.

The following image depicts the layout of the S-300PT and S-300PS batteries around Kiev, along with other air defense associated sites in the area:
The following image depicts the coverage of the air defense assets deployed around Kiev. Note the significant degree of overlap present in the S-300PT and S-300PS batteries.
36D6 EW radars can be co-located with S-300PT and S-300PS batteries to take advantage of added target acquisition support should the need arise. An S-300PS battery near Pervomaysk, seen in the image below, currently possess an on-site 36D6 EW radar, indicating that this type of interoperability may be practiced within the Ukraine even if it is not widely utilized in peacetime. However, due to the presence of other EW assets, it is also possible that a dedicated EW unit is simply co-located at the site, which would indicate that interoperability between the 36D6 and S-300P series is not necessarily utilized.
Recent activity near Odessa suggests that the older S-300PT may be being phased out, or at the very least redeployed to less important regions. A site south of Odessa was imaged in 2004, and was seen to be home to both an S-300PT and an S-300PS battery. As can be seen in the image below, the S-300PT battery occupied the site proper, with the S-300PS battery being deployed along the southeastern periphery.
In 2007, the same site was reimaged, with the S-300PS battery seen to have taken over occupation of the site proper, with the S-300PT battery having been removed.
Evidence of this sort of realignment or redeployment can be seen at other locations in the Ukraine as well. S-300PT batteries are deployed predominantly at older-style S-300P sites, containing six revetments for two TELs apiece, or four revetments for three TELs apiece and a position for a mast-mounted 5N63 in the center. S-300PS batteries are deployed predominantly at newer-style sites, featuring four TEL revetments and a significant raised berm in the center for the mobile 5N63S engagement radar. It is likely that the S-300PT sites were built over old S-75 locations, perhaps explaining the similar launcher revetment placement. At any rate, an S-300PS battery northwest of Kiev is deployed at what would typically be a six-revetment S-300PT site. This likely indicates that the S-300PS replaced an S-300PT battery at this location at some point prior to 2003, when the earliest available imagery was captured. Furthermore, the native language website for the MoD no longer claims that the S-300PT is operated, only listing the S-300PS. It is therefore possible that the S-300PT is in fact being phased out. The latter case is interesting given that there are still numerous S-300PT batteries operational in imagery captured as late as September of 2009. This could indicate that the S-300PT is perhaps no longer serviced, and will be allowed to retire on a battery-by-battery basis as service lives are exhausted.


One strategic-level SAM asset which may still be operated by the Ukrainian Air Defense Force is the S-125. The S-125 was imaged at two active locations in 2002 and 2003, but has not been mentioned in the Ukrainian MoD's annual White Book as far back as 2005. The latter fact indicates that the system is not currently being trained on or funded for service life extensions, occurrences which would be necessary for the system to remain viable into the future. Given that these events have not taken place, it is likely that the Ukrainian S-125 batteries were removed from service between 2003 and 2005. While further analysis is necessary to make a definitive statement to that extent, the evidence does suggest it to be the case.


There are two tactical SAM systems which serve in the Ukrainian air defense network. The Ukraine operates both 9K37 Buk and S-300V1 systems, with a portion of these systems being subordinate to the Air Defense Force. The Ukrainian MoD claims that the Army operates the Buk-M variant, with the Air Defense Force operating the Buk-M1. The MoD also claims that the Army and Air Defense Force operates the S-300V1 (SA-12A GLADIATOR), indicating that the Ukraine may not be in possession of the S-300V2 (SA-12B GIANT) ATBM system.

The Buk issue is somewhat complicated, as there is no known specific "Buk-M" variant. The term has been used by Russia to refer to both Buk-M1 and Buk-M1-2 systems collectively. Alternatively, this may indicate a local modification of the original Buk system. The original Buk system was present in the Ukraine as late as 2005, as evidenced by the sighting of a 9S18 Kupol (TUBE ARM) target acquisition radar at a Buk-affiliated SAM garrison. This can be seen in the image below:
Two Buk garrisons and three S-300V1 garrisons have been identified, with S-300V1 components seen field deployed near two garrisons. The garrison affiliations cannot be effectively determined, as the Ukrainian Army and Air Defense Force each operate both systems, although the Zolotonosha garrison displaying the Kupol radar may be affiliated with the Ukrainian Army if the original Kupol radar was in fact retained in the Ukraine's "Buk-M" system.


Identified support facilities for the Ukrainian Air Defense Force consist of numerous SAM garrisons and three SAM training facilities. Ukrainian SAM units have also been known to travel to Telemba in Russia to conduct missile firings. Identified SAM garrisons, including those potentially supporting Army assets, and SAM training ranges can be seen in the image below:

The Ukrainian SAM network was inherited from the USSR following the collapse of the latter nation. Air defense assets are organized to defend key population centers and geographic regions. The capital of Kiev, key industrial and urban centers Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, Nikolayev, and Odessa, and the Crimean peninsula are home to the majority of the assets. Other assets are scattered throughout the nation and along the western border.

The following image depicts the locations of all air defense oriented sites, both active and inactive, throughout the nation:
The following image depicts the total coverage of identified EW and SAM assets deployed throughout the nation:
As can be seen in the images above, the Ukraine enjoys near-total nationwide EW coverage and boasts a layered SAM defense network around multiple key locations. While the network no longer faces the threat of a war against NATO, and has downsized significantly since the fall of the USSR as a result, the Ukraine remains very well equipped to defend itself from aerial attack.

The possible recent retirement of the S-300PT by the Air Defense Force will not necessarily impart a significant loss of capability in terms of overall coverage to the network. While the S-200 is not well suited for engaging maneuverable, non-cooperative, or low-RCS targets, it can deter any ISR platforms or other large combat aircraft from approaching Ukrainian airspace. Given that the S-300PS has a maximum engagement range of nearly double that of the S-300PT, 90 kilometers to 47, it would be possible to redeploy S-300PS batteries around key locations in a fashion which would allow S-300PT batteries to be retired. Having fewer batteries would certainly mean that fewer targets could be engaged at a given time, but the longer engagement range would alleviate some of this loss by allowing targets to be engaged further down range, with more targets engaged following intercept of the first wave. This would be a sensible redistribution of assets, allowing the capability to be virtually retained by only operating roughly half of the assets. This would result in an appropriate reduction in yearly operating and training costs as well. This course of action could necessitate removing and redeploying the solitary S-300PS batteries near Khakovka, Kherson, and Pervomaysk, and the resulting gaps in coverage would need to be assessed to ensure that they represent acceptable degradations of the overall network. Alternatively, S-300PS assets currently identified as being held in-garrison could be field deployed to counter the retirement of S-300PT batteries.

The potential gaps in the air defense network which would be caused by a redeployment of S-300PS assets could be filled by the Buk or S-300V1 batteries tasked with an Air Defense Force mission. These mobile units are capable of serving as effective "gap fillers" and complements to the longer-range strategic SAM systems. Buk or S-300V1 batteries could also be deployed to provide close-in defense of key facilities, taking some of the workload from S-300P series batteries. Alternatively, they could be deployed along the nation's periphery underneath known or potential ingress routes in an attempt to ambush inbound aircraft during wartime.

Mobile assets such as the S-300PS, Buk, and S-300V1 are capable of operating wherever they are required, virtually anywhere in the nation. 64N6 coverage and 36D6 deployment can provide these systems with battle management and target acquisition support wherever they may deploy, thanks to the robust EW network. As S-300PS SAMs are typically deployed at prepared sites, the large network of inactive SAM facilities in the nation represent potential deployment sites, or locations for field training exercises. There are over 100 inactive SAM sites of various configuration in the Ukraine, the locations of which can be seen in the image below:
It is interesting to analyze the former SAM locations in a historical sense. The Soviet military had placed two ICBM units in the Ukraine under the command of the 43rd Missile Army. These were the 19th Missile Division near Khmelnitskiy and the 46th Missile Division near Pervomaisk. It is interesting to note that, while numerous active and inactive SAM sites are located near Pervomaisk, no evidence of strategic SAM deployment near Khmelnitskiy has been found. This would seem to indicate that the defense of ICBM batteries was not a significant priority, or that this mission was primarily handled by aerial assets.

The locations of the Pervomaisk ICBM silos and nearby SAM sites can be seen in the image below:

Despite the modern, robust nature of the Ukrainian air defense network, it will require modernization in the future. The S-200 and S-300PS systems will likely require replacement in the 2015-2020 timeframe. Even without taking service life into account, both systems are likely nearing (S-300PS) or past (S-200) their prime, thanks to constant development of ECM and SEAD/DEAD systems and tactics throughout the world.

The simplest option would be to procure S-300PMU-2 Favorit (SA-20B GARGOYLE) or S-400 (SA-21) systems from Russia, as they would be able to operate within the existing EW and battle management networks. This could also be packaged together with Buk-M2E (SA-17 GRIZZLY) systems as Buk-M1 replacements. Current tensions with Russia regarding Ukrainian desires to join NATO and the nation's support of Georgia have been well-publicized, but may not be enough to impede an arms deal of this expense. The Ukraine is a member of the CIS Air Defense Network and has shared information in that capacity with Russia, continuing to do so through 2009, and participates in various multinational exercises related to the network as well. Russia and the Ukraine also do well over $10 billion USD in trade annually, demonstrating that while the governments do have issues they are still able to coexist and cooperate in other areas.

After the breakup of the USSR, the Ukraine began to research many indigenous missile systems, including the Grom/Sapsan SRBM and Korshun GLCM. An IR-guided AAM, the Izdelie 611 "Gran" is also under development, and could represent a stepping stone towards a new SAM design. No evidence of any BVR AAM development has surfaced in the Ukraine, but a viable WVR AAM could lead designers down that path in the future. A BVR system, particularly an active or passive radar missile, would certainly be a candidate for surface-launch as a SAM system. Such a weapon could potentially replace the Buk systems, as well as S-300PS systems in a boosted form for extended range. This option remains less attractive than pursuing Russian-made SAM systems, however, as indigenous radars may be required and development could consume a decade or more given that the Ukraine is basically starting from scratch. An alternative but more complicated solution would be to merely develop a SAM to replace the 5V55-series missiles employed by the S-300PS. This would enable the system to retain the guidance systems and components of the S-300PS, while rejuvenating its service life through the addition of a new missile with a new solid rocket motor.

The last option would be to purchase a foreign-made, non-Russian SAM system. NATO entry could theoretically open the doors necessary for a Patriot or MEADS purchase. While these systems would certainly be viable, they would potentially require a new EW network for support, further increasing the overall cost of modernization. This EW requirement stems from the issues many nations have had, particularly Greece with the S-300PMU-1 (SA-20A GARGOYLE) and Patriot, at getting Russian-made and Western-made SAM systems to operate cooperatively. In that light, a Russian-made SAM system purchase would be far more logical.


The Ukrainian Air Defense Force remains a very capable, modern SAM network. With a renewed focus on training and professionalism in the Ukrainian armed forces as a whole since 2005, the Air Defense Force stands ready to take on any regional aggressor and defend the citizenry underneath its umbrella. It will be very interesting to watch as the network evolves in the coming decade.


Feel free to discuss the content of this article at the IMINT & Analysis Forum in the discussion thread found here.


-Satellite imagery provided courtesy of Google Earth

Ukraine's Air Defense Force
Failed Firings in 2008
Ukraine and the S-200D
The Ukrainian Air Defense Force (in Ukrainian)

This article has been updated, the original version was published in July of 2009.


Hapi said...

hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

CayceG said...

Superb work! I've been waiting for an analysis of Ukraine's SAM network for some time now.

Just by looking at the overall coverage and the ability to move SAM systems around to empty prepared sites, it seems like any aggressor nation would have their hands full with neutralizing the Ukrainian network. Even in a place as small as, say, Crimea. Clearing out the SAMs covering that airspace would certainly present a daunting task.

And, one not-so-minor nitpick... The term "The Ukraine" is incorrect. The name of the country is Ukraine. There is no "the."

Fantastic work, SOC!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the info!

Jordan said...

Could you share kml or kmz file of locations of over 100 inactive SAM sites (as on picture)? I am going to look at them and analyze the former SAM locations for historical sense.

Sean O'Connor said...

They're in this image from the article:

Also, all of them are included in the SAM Site Overview file, found here:

Stas said...

I can drive all the locations you want and take pictures of some. I have already some of that places in my collection. I want just sharing of gas for the places wich is far away from Kiev or if the place is working SAM location. I am interested only in abandoned ones, but can take a pictire of an entrance of working ones. FE You can find some fotos of that
in my blog:

PS860 said...

There were some press reports in October 2009 about Ukraine planning to reactivate two S-200 sites. I can't find a full article but this is a quote from a Ukrainian newspaper:
"Ukraine's military leadership has made a decision to enhance the country's air defense forces. It has to do with the deployment of at least two new positional districts for the S-200V Vega air defense missile complexes in addition to the four existing ones."
Will be inteesting to see what comes out of this.

Clark said...

Thanks for that analysis, it's really interersting to note the intense Air Defense infrastructure of Ukraine.

On PS860s Comment:
The deployment of additional S-200 Batteries, especially covering the black sea would be a clever move. Even though the system can be regarded as thoroughly exploited it still poses a threat to large ISR and C3I assets. Keeping a recon craft or an AWACS in a constant threat environment is a clever move.
Plus as far as I've read in other sources there are a couple of developments for possible new kill vehicles for the S-200 in the works.

ika said...

i think Ukraine can now procure the s300pmu2/s400 systems to replace the older ones. imo it will be logical to try to introduce the 9m96e2 missiles to the older s300pt or s300ps systems if possible and replace the s200 with the s400 or s300pmu2. the second modernisation step can be replacing the s300pt and s300ps with the vityas sam later on