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Surface to Air missiles in Finland


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I've been reading an excellent book "Ilmatorjuntaohjukset Suomessa" (Anti-aircraft missiles in Finland). Published in 2009: editor of the book, colonel Ahti Lappi, is former Inspector of Air Defence, so he knows his stuff. The book is very through and contains quite detailed information about the missiles and their use. Surprisingly good information even from some still operational missiles, traditionally Finnish military has been more secretive about its stuff than North Korea. Thought that some bits might interest some people here.

 

Paris Peace Treaty 1947 banned Finland from acquiring missiles. In the face of developing technology, this restriction soon was viewed obsolete as it became essentially impossible to have any kind of effective military without missiles. Finnish airspace was essentially defenceless in the '50s - this greatly irked Soviet Union, as not only US recon aircraft used Finnish airspace, many likely bomber routes went over Finland. Thus in early '60s, Soviets pressured Finland to update its air defences. This didn't sit well with US & UK who were worried about Soviet military influence in Finland. Result was a bizarre Mexican standoff, as each of the three countries supported modifying the Paris Peace Treaty restrictions, but only if the missiles were acquired from THEIR country.

 

Missiles were also expensive, but it was argued that "Helsinki would surely cost much more!" In 1962 a preliminary deal was struck with USSR about purchase of 15 MiG-21's and three batteries of SA-2's, but the missile part was torpedoed by foreign politics. Buying missiles from both West and East was not financially feasible, so missiles were dropped altogether. (Price comparison: three batteries would have costed 4.6 billion Marks (87 million Euros in modern currency), 15 MiG's costed €89M. Thus, fly-away cost of a MiG-21F was around 3.67 million euros - less than 1/10th what cheapest modern fighters cost today!).

 

This debacle led to unfortunate situation where old 88mm Rheinmetall-Borsig remained as primary air defence asset against high-altitude threats until late '70s. Only then political climate had changed and missile purchase finally became feasible. Missiles were bought from Soviet Union, as the purchase was easiest to fund using bilateral Soviet trade.

 

Strela-2M (SA-7B, in Finland ItOhj 78): 122 launchers and 1091 missiles were acquired. They were organized to form six batteries which basically meant that six most important brigades got a missile battery each. Tactics were to position the missile teams well behind front line, to take shots against targets attacking frontline units. Strela's ability to really "defend the target" was of course limited as it would lock only on jets exhaust, thus their role was defined to attrit the enemy air assets. Strela batteries also experimented forming a "line" against cruise missiles (simulated by Hawk trainers). Results were thought as promising, single battery could cover a front of about 30 kilometres and about 70% of the targets were 'intercepted', even in nighttime.

 

611 missiles were expended in training against various targets: of these, 10% were direct hits, 75.5% were "aircraft hits" (ie. passed so close they would have likely hit a real aircraft), 14.5% were misses. Thus, the hit probability was over 85%, which is especially good when one figures that some misses were because missile was fired well outside launch envelope, or that many rounds had reached or exceeded their operational lifetime. Lappi mentions that aging missiles tended to become "stiff" (I assume this means they would not guide well). The missile proved highly accurate which might sound surprise given many horror stories about Soviet manufactured missiles.

 

Practice targets were usually either target rockets, or drone, or balloon. Rocket was the most common, it was uncomplicated but somewhat challenging target as it was quite fast and flight time was short. Soviets did not utilize any kind of proximity sensor with the targets, so Finns designed their own to find out how close the missiles passed. About two-thirds of the firings were made by conscripts, accuracy difference between conscripts and professional soldiers was negligeble. Trial firings were made also from Nuoli-class motor gunboats, but these were somewhat abortive, rocking small boat was not an ideal platform for a MANPADS.

 

S-125M1 Pechora (SA-3 Goa, ItOhj-79): choice was made between SA-2, SA-3 and SA-6. SA-2 was probably rejected as increasingly obsolete, whilst SA-6 was seen as having inadequate ceiling and range for intended role (defence of the capital). Although SA-3 did not represent latest Soviet technology, version was the most recent which had entered Soviet service only few years earlier. Purchase included equipment for three firing batteries and one 'technical battery' (ie. support unit).

 

Sometimes it is written about deficient Soviet customer support for the weapons they sold, but this is not the impression one gets from reading about these missile projects. Personnel training in Soviet Union for SA-3 was very through, some of the instructors had combat experience from Vietnam or Middle East. Pretty much only mentioned problem was that some of the training equipment was very unreliable (Soviet practice was to relegate systems rejected by operational units for training). When the missiles arrived, all the components were very throughly packed and supporting equipment bordered on being excessive (down to stuff like vacuum flasks for the missile testers). There was also plenty of spares. Some upgrades to system was done in 1984, mid-life overhaul was performed in 1993. Manufacturer also regularly issued technical bulletins about user experiences and maintenance, these were written by other end-users and were very useful. Being old-fashioned tube-technology, it was sometimes difficult to recruit enough qualified people to maintain the system, particularly in later years.

 

As a system, SA-3 was somewhat cumbersome, at best semi-mobile. One deployment was done in Lapland, in middle of winter: this proved workable, though pretty laborous. Although the system itself performed well, it was vulnerable to both countermeasures and direct attacks. Finns attached ZU-23 batteries as close-in defence for the missile batteries, 57mm guns were also used in this role.

 

40 missiles total were fired in training, of these, 38 were hits (95% hit rate). One of the misses was with optical back-up system. Live firings were done by both conscripts and reservist units. Targets were either drones (Northrop KDR2R-5) or parachute target deployed from MiG-21. As can be seen, targets were not very challenging, so system's actual combat performance can't be deduced from these. However, system in itself was highly reliable and accurate. Longest range hit was from distance of 20.4 kilometres. Lowest altitude hit was 400 metres, highest 4.5 kilometres. As can be seen, system's ceiling was never put to proper test, Finns did not have suitable targets. As a curious detail, sometimes foreign militaries attempted to jam the radars, particularly Swedes (Lohtaja training area is located on Finnish west coast). Generally this jamming did not cause major problems.

 

Last firings were done in 1995 and system was retired in 2000. There was a plan to keep the radars operable after missiles were retired, but this was not done. Upgrade of the system was not considered as manufacturer had announced in 1992 that 'Pechora' spare part production was to be discontinued and missiles were no longer manufactured. This proved to be premature as the upgrade packages were later indeed marketed, but by then Finns had already purchased Buk.

 

Igla-1 (SA-16, ItOhj-86): as said, there were enough Strela units only for six brigades. More were needed, and as Soviets were willing to export their newer Igla-1 missiles, a major new purchase was made: around 160 launchers and over 1500 missiles. This meant that there were now enough missiles to attach a MANPADS battery for all frontline brigades. Igla-1 was much superior to Strela in essentially all respects. Seeker head was tested against various aircraft targets and it proved many times more sensitive than old Strela seeker, now frontal aspect attacks against jets were possible. Seeker also had limited ability to dodge flares. Guidance had an interesting feature - unlike Strela, it did not guide directly to the hottest part of the target (ie. jet exhaust), but slighly ahead of it, thus hitting more vulnerable parts of the aircraft instead of exhaust pipe.

 

Curiously, no actual training course took place: missiles were taken to training without any prior experience. This didn't prove to me much of a problem as firing of the missile was not too different from Strela. Later, a short course was held in Turkmenistan. 302 missiles were expended in training, producing 45 direct hits (15%) and 40 misses. Hit rate was thus around 87%. This was only marginally better than Strela, but in real battlefield, difference would have been undoubtely considerable.

 

 

...to be continued.

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More! More! I will not sleep until i get part 2!!!! :excl:

 

This debacle led to unfortunate situation where old 88mm Rheinmetall-Borsig remained as primary air defence asset against high-altitude threats until late '70s.

 

Serious? :blink:

 

...accuracy difference between conscripts and professional soldiers was negligeble...

 

Butbutbut....modern military visdom is that conscripts are crap and pros are the only thing that matters..... :blink:

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...Serious? ...

Hey, around here while SA-2 were acquired in 1961, SA-3 in 1971 and SA-6 in 1975 (IIRC) last heavy AA gun batteries (various UK 3.7" and US 90mm) were only disbanded in 1981-82. Edited by bojan
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Good stuff.

 

My work in FDF was lot into SAM-stuff, so one day I might be even able to talk about it without ending into "pound-u-in-the-ass-prison".

 

Lappi definitely knows what he is talking about, met him quite a few times (obviously) because of my position. For low-ranked officer, on that area my immediate superior was colonel... REMF stuff.

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Hey, around here while SA-2 were acquired in 1961, SA-3 in 1965 and SA-6 in 1971 (IIRC) last heavy AA gun batteries (various UK 3.7" and US 90mm) were only disbanded in 1981-82.

 

Bojane, do you have any info on when did they officially disband 88's on the coast line? AA, or coastal defence?

 

I know the things where kept, though no longer deployed up until a few years back (well, parts where in storage at least a decade ago, possibly longer...?).

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Hey, around here while SA-2 were acquired in 1961, SA-3 in 1965 and SA-6 in 1971 (IIRC) last heavy AA gun batteries (various UK 3.7" and US 90mm) were only disbanded in 1981-82.

 

Wasn't heavy AA used in various capacities (shore artillery etc.) even after that date? ISTR seeing something about 88mm guns being used in Bosnia. Or am I imagining things?

 

EDIT: As for the topic at hand, thanks , Yama, and moar, MOAR!!! ;)

 

As for the "technical support", maybe Finns got better treatment because a. Finland was covering approach to Leningrad and b. the Finns (as well as WarPac countries) were viewed as "worthy of training"? I don't recall many complaints about support of Soviet stuff in Czechoslovakia as well, maybe the support was more lax in the Mid East as it was seen as unnecessary due to local customs of not reading the damn manuals? ;)

Edited by Tuccy
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So, by the mid-1960s the Finnish army had its first ATGMs (Vickers Vigilant), the air force had its first AAMs (K-13s and the Mig-21s), but it was only at least a decade later when the armed forces got their first SAMs?

 

Yes. SAMs were viewed as having strategic signifance. Undefended Finnish airspace was seen advantageous for USA. There was also kind of a 'SAM scare' following Gary Powers shootdown. Curiously, it was the British who thought that Americans were overestimating the signifance of SAMs and that few Finnish SAMs was not such a big deal. Later, atomic bombers became largely obsolete and SAMs were seen as tactical weapons.

 

Pace of development was amazingly fast in '50s and '60s so it is not surprising there were many miscalculations. Aircraft and entire doctrines were obsoleted literally overnight. In space of less than 10 years, Finnish Air Force went from WW2-era prop fighters to Mach 2 capable, missile-armed jet fighters. This in contrast to modern times when development of a fighter takes 20 years.

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Basically, it was advantageous to NATO to have rather open airspace over Finland...and Soviet Union benefitted if airspece was actually defended. Thus SU was willing to sell rather advanced weaponry and fighter jets to Finland.

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Bojane, do you have any info on when did they officially disband 88's on the coast line? AA, or coastal defence?

Last class of recruits for fixed coastal artillery was trained in 2001-2002. Weapons still in service were 88mm D56 (various 8.8cm FlaK), 90mm D50 (Barrel from US 90mm M2 AA on fixed mount carriage of Italian 90/53 AA) and 85mm D55 (85mm M1939). Training for mobile coastal arty (130mm M46) continued until split with Montenegro.

IIRC both fixed and mobile coastal arty were official only disbanded after split with Montenegro.

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Wasn't heavy AA used in various capacities (shore artillery etc.) even after that date?

 

Yes, it was, but those guns were no longer AA capable. Coastal guns were designated "Obalski Top XXmm, Dyy" - eg "Obalski Top 88mm D56". where "Obalski Top" is Coastal Gun, XX was caliber in mm and Dyy was length ("duzina") of barrel.

 

ISTR seeing something about 88mm guns being used in Bosnia. Or am I imagining things?

 

Yes they were, along with even older stuff. Some of that stuff was no longer in official use but was in Bosnia to be scrapped (like 75mm M.37/Vz.37 AA guns)...

 

As for the "technical support", maybe Finns got better treatment because a. Finland was covering approach to Leningrad and b. the Finns (as well as WarPac countries) were viewed as "worthy of training"?

 

Have to say that Yugoslavia also got decent technical support from Soviets when relations were OK - spares for SA-2 were so abundant that most were actually sold in original crates (to Iran) in 1993. after withdrawing SA-2...

 

I don't recall many complaints about support of Soviet stuff in Czechoslovakia as well, maybe the support was more lax in the Mid East as it was seen as unnecessary due to local customs of not reading the damn manuals? ;)

 

Problems with technical support for Soviet weapons started after 1990-91.

Edited by bojan
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I'll post rest tomorrow (Igla, Mistral, Crotale etc). Alas, there will be less detailed info on newer missiles.

 

Interested in the Mistral myself :lol:

 

Want to see if our imprecision of it matches the Finish experience.

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...on to part 2.

 

Igla (SA-18, ItOhj-86M): in 1990's, preliminary plans about Strela modernization were made. Russians considered 17 years as absolute maximum for missile's service life, after that missile propellant would become unsafe. However, these plans were abandoned. Russia began to pay off old Soviet debt by weapon deliveries, and this proved to be somewhat of a jackpot for air defence arm. Newest variant of Igla was presented to Finnish officers in 1992 and purchase of 912 missiles was made in 1994. Russians told that this variant had been produced since 1983, which explains why Igla-1 was released to export so soon. Cost of a launcher was 13 580 US dollars, and missile costed $66 680. Whole deal costed about same as two F-18's.

 

Most important feature was the new dual band seeker, which was about twice as sensitive as Igla-1's. Russian presenters had claimed that it's ability to avoid countermeasures was superior to other similar missiles, and tests showed that this was not an empty boast. Seeker would completely ignore all IR flares, it wouldn't lock to them at all! Even Mistral was not as good at avoiding flares. Russians also claimed that the countermeasure avoidance was effective against "optic-electric" active IR jammers (I assume this means 'lamp' style radiators like L-166), but it was not designed to counter 'shutter' type modulated IR jammers.

 

Magnavox-IR sights were also tested on Igla (same sights were used on Stinger), and the sight worked well. American representative commented that the sight was actually easier to use on Igla, which was more ergonomic than Stinger. Compared to older types, relatively few Iglas were expended in training. Only 67 missiles were fired: six were direct hits (9%) and seven missed (10.4%). Since entire weapon type was removed from service, there was no large "shoot-off" of older stock, like with previous missile types. Last firings were done in 2005, and missiles were gradually removed from stocks.

 

Crotale NG (ItOhj-90): First missile acquisitions left air defence lacking any short range missile systems to protect important targets and key forces. This role was covered by radar-guided artillery systems like 35mm Oerlikon KD or 57mm S-60, however, they were few in number and their range insufficient against some threats. S-60, particularly, was rejected already in 1960 as an "obsolete weapon" - and then bought anyway 15 years later. SHORAD acquisition was long and drawn-out process. Since first missiles were bought from USSR, it was decided that SHORAD system would be bought from the West. Despite this, several Soviet systems were also evaluated. Of various requirements, mobility, all-weather operation and good performance envelope (range & ceiling) were thought paramount. One problem was that when the project got underway (mid-80s), first generation systems were getting obsolescent and newer systems might be politically difficult to acquire. US & UK were traditionally sensitive about selling modern military equipment to Finland, and Roland had to be dropped out as Paris Peace Treaty made acquiring German made systems impossible. Anyway, one by one, candidates were narrowed down:

 

-SA-13 and RBS-70 were too short-ranged and lacked all-weather capability

-SA-8 was viewed being obsolescent tube technology (note the problems maintaining same generation technology in SA-3), and also overpriced.

-Rapier Blindfire was obsolescent, lacking in range and overpriced. Finns requested information about Rapier 2000, but British refused, undoubtely believing that Finns would immediately sell it to nearest GRU agent.

-Skyguard was lacking in mobility, also the missile (Sparrow) was American and export license might not be granted.

-ADATS seemed for long a front-runner, but it was lacking in all-weather capability, and eventually, US would not grant export license. This was probably a blessing in disguise, as ADATS ended up having a rocky development path.

 

Crotale was eventually a clear winner, particularly after French offered a completely new NG-variant at very reasonable price. It featured new, very capable Vought VT-1 missile, and entire system, along with radar, could be integrated to one armoured vehicle - for example, Finnish XA-180, resulting to intimidating looking system. Original plan called for 16 batteries (32 vehicles) at first phase, later expanded to 30: it was a major disappointment that only ten units (20 vehicles) were acquired. Nevertheless, Crotale was a huge boost to Finnish air defence capabilities as the system was truly top-notch. Total cost of 20 vehicles was over 900 million Marks (240 million Euros in modern currency): about same as the cost of later Buk acquisition.

 

Sensor equipment was extensive: surveilance radar, fire control radar, TV camera, IR detector and FLIR. All are integrated to vehicle turret. Surveilance radar was frequency-hopping doppler radar, it could handle 20 targets at one time, and track 8 of them simultaneously, at range of 18 kilometres. Fire control radar was frequency-hopping monopulse radar with range of about 20 kilometres. FLIR could detect targets from up to 15 kilometres range under good conditions. In addition to normal radar guided mode, missile could be fired using either of two different optic backup methods. Radar was so sensitive that it was calculated that stealth aircraft could be targeted near maximum firing range, which was 11 kilometres. Although the system could fire at only one target at the time, flight time of the missile was so short (10 seconds to 8 kilometres) that flight of four aircraft could be shot down in less than a minute, this capability was later demonstrated in training. Operationally, Crotale battery was coupled with separate mobile surveilance radar and ZU-23 batteries.

 

Of course not everything was perfect. As the system was so new, there were some teething problems which attracted some embarrassing publicity. First firings resulted to several misses: proximity fuze failed to detect small targets and there were problems with datalinks. These issues were solved.

 

Initial training was done in France: training course was well-executed, though schedule was puzzlingly loose, with hours of time reserved for matters which were handled in 15 minutes: apparently the French were used to less experienced foreign trainees. Spare time proved no problem as it left more time for practical training. English skills of some of the teachers was not the best and could be described as 'Franglish'.

 

Russian general Pavel Grachev visited Finland in 1993 and told the press that Crotale was a crappy system and Finns should have used their money on Russian systems. Finns pointed out that none of these mythical systems had been offered to Finland at the time: SA-15 was presented to Ahti Lappi in 1993. It might have been a serious entry had it been offered five years earlier, but Lappi's impression was that its fire control system was much more basic than Crotale's.

 

Crotale MLU program was started 2004. Designation was ItO-90M. Not much detail is provided about the modernisation, it seems however that new, longer ranged missiles are integrated.

 

Mistral (ItO-91). Navy had occasionally experimented using Strelas, both to protect ships and bases. However, dedicated missile was needed. As the missile had to be fitted on small combatants like Rauma-class missile boats (240 tons), weight & space restriction was severe. Crotale was studied, but naval variant was far too large & cumbersome for these small vessels. Again, number of potential candidates was quite small. Missile with 'fire & forget' capability was preferred as it was thought that small ships' rocking and heaving would make command guided missiles impractical, this ruled out RBS-70. Norwegians had been using Mistral, so they were quickly consulted about the system, and procurement decision was made.

 

Original idea was to construct combined gun-missile turret, with Mistrals and 23mm guns. This proved impractical for the space constraints, so instead Sako designed separate but interchangeable turrets for Mistral and ZU-23, which could be switched at the harbour. In addition to shiborne systems, Navy acquired land launchers: it is mentioned that six launchers were bought for every ship-based system. I'm unsure about total number of shipborne systems, but it was probably around ten to fourteen: this would mean 60-70 or so Mistral land launchers. Naval launcher has a FLIR and TV camera; land launcher has just an electro-optical sight, though FLIR could be attached.

 

Mistral was larger than shoulder-launched missiles. Missile was faster, had large warhead (almost three times heavier than Igla/Strela) and proximity fuze (shoulder-launched missiles had only impact fuze). Maximum range, however, was only marginally greater than that of Igla. Missile seeker contained four separate detection elements and was more complicated and sensitive than in smaller missiles. Approaching jet aircraft without afterburner could be tracked at distances of 4 to 5 kilometres and light helicopter at 3 to 4km, this was beyond even new Igla's performance. Seeker was programmed to reject flares based on their angular movement, however it was not as insensitive to flares as Igla. Launch required spinning up the gyro and cooling the seeker, this took about five seconds, similar to Igla.

 

No detailed shooting results are given, but it is mentioned that ships' combined gun/missile fire against two separate targets was not a problem. After Gulf War where several Iraqi missile boats were sunk by helicopters, it was claimed that the boats small size rendered their fire control radars ineffective, but this does not seem to have manifested at least on Finnish vessels. Of course, target drones are not particularly challenging targets: author expresses some scepticism whether Mistral could actually shoot down incoming anti-ship missiles due to missile's range limitations.

 

As a shipborne system, Mistral is on its way out: all ships carrying the missile are either retired or upgraded or going to be upgraded to Umkhonto. It however appears that the land launchers will remain in service for at least some time.

 

part. 3 later...

Edited by Yama
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One reason Mistral was preferred by Navy over Igla variants was that Mistral is better when engaging approaching targets head on. Obviously that sort of capability is valuable for naval ships.

Edited by Sardaukar
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With Roland being a Franco-German collaborative project, wouldn't it have been possible to acquire the system from France (apparently the West German government under Willy Brandt had already agreed in 1972 not to block any sales of jointly developed and produced weapon systems: Euromissile Milan, HOT and Roland missiles were sold by France e.g. to various countries in the Middle East like Iraq, and the Panavia Tornado was sold by Britain to Saudi Arabia). Or was Finland simply not allowed to buy any weapon system with German content during the Cold War?

 

WRT to MANPADS during the Cold War, did they also evaluate other systems like Blowpipe, Javelin, Redeye, Stinger etc. (considering the fact that the Finnish army adopted a western ATGM in form of British Vigilant in the 1960s)?

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With Roland being a Franco-German collaborative project, wouldn't it have been possible to acquire the system from France (apparently the West German government under Willy Brandt had already agreed in 1972 not to block any sales of jointly developed and produced weapon systems: Euromissile Milan, HOT and Roland missiles were sold by France e.g. to various countries in the Middle East like Iraq, and the Panavia Tornado was sold by Britain to Saudi Arabia). Or was Finland simply not allowed to buy any weapon system with German content during the Cold War?

 

WRT to MANPADS during the Cold War, did they also evaluate other systems like Blowpipe, Javelin, Redeye, Stinger etc. (considering the fact that the Finnish army adopted a western ATGM in form of British Vigilant in the 1960s)?

 

During the Cold War there was a policy of balanced buys from West and Warsaw Pact. For example getting both Drakens from Sweden and MiG-21s from SU.

 

Soviets were very sensitive with Germany even 30 yrs after WW2, so purchases related to West Germany would have been extremely difficult politically. It might also have been in conflict with Paris Peace Treaty clauses concerning Finland.

 

ATGMs were also bought similarly as planes, e.g. TOW from West & 9K111 Fagot (AT-4 Spigot) from East. But I have not heard that western MANPADs been going through any serious evaluation before 90's and fall of Soviet Union. There was some interest towards Stinger, but later Igla variants were considered better both ergonomically and performance-wise. One reason was also that Igla is quite "idiot-proof" and simple to use, Stinger requiring little bit more skill.

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Most important feature was the new dual band seeker, which was about twice as sensitive as Igla-1's. Russian presenters had claimed that it's ability to avoid countermeasures was superior to other similar missiles, and tests showed that this was not an empty boast. Seeker would completely ignore all IR flares, it wouldn't lock to them at all! Even Mistral was not as good at avoiding flares. Russians also claimed that the countermeasure avoidance was effective against "optic-electric" active IR jammers (I assume this means 'lamp' style radiators like L-166), but it was not designed to counter 'shutter' type modulated IR jammers.

 

noice

 

 

Also, does this mean that (if the scenario is right), the F-22 can be shot down by the Igla?

Edited by IronsightSniper
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...Also, does this mean that (if the scenario is right), the F-22 can be shot down by the Igla?

 

Anything can be shot by anything if scenario is right.

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9K38 Igla is very good system with good ability to avoid counter-measures. This caused problems in operator training, since suitable targets for live-fire excercises with "full performance" training were hard to come by.

 

Usually targets were e.g. 132mm rocket with flares attached into it, so obviously IR ECCM in missile ignored it, requiring operator disable countermeasure avoidance system before firing (system has simple switch for that). That was less than optimal situation, of course.

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