Sunday, July 22, 2007

The S-200 SAM System: A Site Analysis


The S-200 (SA-5 GAMMON) SAM system is a long-range air defense system designed to defend large areas against all manner of airborne targets, including high-speed and high-altitude aircraft. The S-200 was originally conceived in part to defend against the expected overflights by Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft, although no such overflights ever took place due to a political restriction of manned overflights of the USSR in the wake of the Francis Gary Powers shootdown. The S-200 entered operational service in 1967 and has remained on combat duty in various nations worldwide ever since.

In a little known role, the S-200 was also employed as a national-level ABM system for a time. More information on this concept can be found here: LINK The same article also contains information regarding a prior use of the Western SA-5 designator.


The S-200 SAM system is a long-range strategic SAM system. The SARH-guided two-stage 5V21 and 5V28 missiles have a 220 kg HE fragmentation warhead. The 5V21 ad 5V28 differ from previous Fakel-designed air defense missiles insofar as their first stage is not a jetissonable booster stage, but rather four strap-on rocket motors. The missiles themselves are very large, with lengths of 10.5 meters for the 5V21 and 10.8 meters for the 5V28. Ranges vary from variant to variant, with a maximum of between 150 and 300 kilometers. Minimum ranges are between 7 and 17 kilometers, depending on the variant. Minimum altitude for all variants is 300 meters, with a maximum altitude of between 20,000 and 40,000 meters, depending on the variant. Target engagement functions are handled by the 5N62 (SQUARE PAIR) radar set, an H band system with a range of 270 kilometers, and a cpaability to engage a single target at a time.


CIA Intelligence Memorandum 69-15, The Soviet SA-5 Deployment Program, provides us with the following descriptions of active S-200 site configurations:

A typical S-200 site will contain between two and five launch areas, each containing launch pads for six 5P72 launch rails. The radar area will contain a single 5N62 radar for each launch area present in the site. This permits each site to engage multiple targets, reducing the negative impact of the 5N62's single target engagement capability. The image below depicts a typical active S-200 site located in Libya. Relevant areas are annotated.

The following image depicts the Libyan site's radar area. Note the placement of the two 5N62 radars, and the location of the control bunker housing the site's command and control section.

The launch area is detailed below. Launch areas vary in arrangement from nation to nation, but for the most part display a spade shape as seen here. It is common for S-200 sites to feature revetments for the launch rails, and individual environmental shelters to store the 5P72 launch rails during periods of maintenance or inactivity. Each launch area is controlled by crews in a centrally located bunker. Note the cable connections visible between the control bunker and the launch rails.

As witnessed in the imagery provided above, S-200 sites are rather large and expansive. Due to the large footprint of an S-200 site and the plethora of associated structures, inactive S-200 sites are relatively easy to identify.

The following image depicts an inactive S-200 site in Belarus:


The following images depict the most common S-200 site layouts. Most S-200 sites feature either two or three launch areas.

The following image depicts an active S-200 site in Kazakhstan displaying the two launch site configuration. While there are only two missiles visible on launch rails in the eastern launch position, there are two 5N62 radars visible, implying that the entire site is still active.

The following image depicts an active S-200 site in the Ukraine displaying the three launch site configuration. Only the southernmost launch area appears to be active, as the launch rails appear to have been removed from the other two sites.

Due to the expansive nature of an S-200 complex, S-200 sites can be identified in low-resolution imagery. While this does not provide any indication as to the site's operational status, it does provide the analyst with a location to file away for future observation should coverages be updated.

The following image depicts a Russian S-200 site captured in low-resolution imagery. This is one of two identified S-200 sites containing five launch areas.


North Korea and Iran have adopted unusual deployment strategies for their S-200 batteries for various reasons.

North Korean S-200 batteries are deployed in a fashion designed to increase their survivability. As seen previously in examining a North Korean S-125 site, the DPRK chooses to use a series of bunkers to protect the system components. There are individual hardened shelters visible for each 5P72 launch rail, as well as subsurface housings to protect the 5N62 radars when not in use. Two other subsurface bunkers are also visible, implying that the site may contain a total of four 5N62 radars.

The following annotated image depicts North Korea's western S-200 site:

Iranian S-200 batteries, in comparison to other users, are very unusual in their deployment. Iran deploys a single 5N62 radar with two 5P72 launch rails at each location. This is highly irregular, perhaps implying that Iran did not purchase a full complement of missiles or launch rails. It is also possible that, given the capability of the S-200 system, Iran views them as probable targets in any sort of military conflict and as such does not see the need to deploy a significant number of components at each site, choosing instead to hold them in reserve. As the 5N62 can only engage a single target at a time anyway, this would seem to be a sensible strategy.

The following annotated image depicts an Iranian S-200 site located on the grounds of Hamadan AB:


The S-200 SAM system possesses a very long range, which will only be surpassed once the 400-kilometer S-400 enters full operational service. To that end, the S-200 is capable of providing air defense over large amounts of territory. It should be noted that the long-range S-200 is commonly featured as part of an integrated network which incorporates shorter-range systems such as the S-75, which also helps to cover close-in targets who close within the rather long minimum range of the system. As the S-200 is not intended to counter close-in targets, this should not be considered a design flaw of the system.

The following image depicts the coverage provided by identified active S-200 sites in Iran:

CIA IM 69-15 provides the following conceptual look at theorized S-200 deployment in the former USSR, based on identified active and in-construction S-200 sites as of 15 June 1969:


The nations listed below have been identified through analysis of Google Earth imagery as being current users of the S-200 SAM system. The number in parentheses following the nation's name is the number of occupied sites currently visible in Google Earth, followed by the number of currently unoccupied sites in that nation.

Iran (6/0), Kazakhstan (2/2), Libya (4/2), North Korea (1/0), Syria (2/1), Turkmenistan (1/0), Ukraine (1/2)


The nations listed below have been identified through analysis of Google Earth imagery as having been former users of the S-200 SAM system. The number in parentheses following the nation's name is the number of unoccupied sites currently visible in Google Earth, not including those currently occupied by other SAM systems.

Belarus (1), Czech Republic (2), Estonia (1), Germany (4), Hungary (1), Latvia (1), Lithuania (1), Russia (19)


The nations listed below possess identified S-200 site locations in low-resolution imagery. As the resolution precludes identification of the sites as active or inactive, they are listed here as possible users. Some of the nations are already mentioned above, indicating that they possess active or inactive S-200 sites in various resolutions. The number in parentheses following the nation's name is the number of low-resolution sites currently visible in Google Earth.

Azerbaijan (2), Belarus (3), Bulgaria (1), Estonia (3), Latvia (4), Libya (2), Lithuania (1), Moldova (1), North Korea (1), Poland (1), Russia (48), Syria (3), Ukraine (10)


-Jane's Land Based Air Defense 2002-03
-All satellite imagery provided courtesy of Google Earth
-The CIA FOIA website at provided the documents shown and referenced above


John Cool said...

Hello. Very nice overview.

Poland still utilizes two S-200WE batteries in 78 Missile Air Defence Regiment (78 Pułk Rakietowy OPK) located in Mżerzyno.

Anonymous said...

I think few people know this information. I'm glad you share it with us. It is really great.

Anonymous said...

Great deal. I like as well your previous posts. And I'm gonna add you to my boomarks right now ;-)

Prime13 said...

nice work done..

Anonymous said...

Nice touch, thanks. How would you rate current activity level of Libyan S200 sites?
Some launch systems have locally received optical short-range guidance backup system. What is your knowledge of such mods taking place in Libya?

Sean O'Connor said...

No idea if the Libyans have done such a mod. But for the S-200, an optically-guided mode is relatively pointless. The missile has a 7 kilometer minimum range due to the time required for the boosters to separate after launch and the guidance system to capture the 5N62 signal. Optical guidance would get rid of the requirement to grab the radar signal, but you still have to wait for the boosters to separate before the missile will do anything productive. Plus, it's a big, comparatively non-maneuverable SAM. It may or may not be able to keep up with fast-changing optical guidance commands.