The S-200 (NATO: SA-5 Gammon) is a Russian medium to high altitude surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. A highly-proliferated weapon, it is currently in service in at least 12 countries.
S-200 at a Glance
Originated from: Soviet Union
Possessed by: Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Libya (?), Myanmar, North Korea, Poland, Russia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Ukraine
Alternate Names: SA-5 Gammon (NATO Designation)
Class: Surface-to-Air missile (SAM)
Basing: Static, ground-launched
Length: 10.7 m
Diameter: 0.86 m
Launch Weight: approx. 7,000 kg
Payload: 217 kg or 25 KT
Warhead: High-explosive fragmentation, nuclear capable
Propulsion: Single stage liquid motor, 4 wraparound jettisonable solid propellant boosters
Range: 60-300 km
In Service: 1967
Soviet engineers began to develop the S-200 surface-to-air missile system during the 1950s, primarily to counter the U.S. B-58 supersonic bomber, U2 spy plane, and other reconnaissance aircraft.1
Since its initial deployment in 1966, the S-200 received multiple upgrades to increase the system’s range and accuracy. In 1967, the original S-200 A “Angara” fired the 5V21 missile, which incorporated relatively advanced technology for the era, such as a continuous wave (CW) semi-active homing seeker radar for terminal guidance.2 The S-200V “Vega,” S-200M “Vega M”, and S-200VE “Vega Export” were introduced between 1970 and 1972. These systems fired the 5V28 missile to distances of 200-250 km.3 The S-200VE is identical to the S-200V, but was sold with a high explosive warhead, and is not nuclear capable. Operational by 1975, the S-200D “Dubna” is a nuclear capable system that fired an improved 5V28V rocket with a range of 300 km.
At its peak in 1985, the S-200V was deployed at over 130 launch sites throughout the Soviet Union, comprising of 338 batteries, or about 2030 launchers.4
|Variant||Missile||Length||Diameter||Booster Length||Booster Diameter||Range||Payload|
|Angara (A)||5V21||10.5 m||.086 m||4.9 m||0.48 m||150-180 km||HE-Frag|
|Vega (V)||5V28||10.7 m||0.86 m||4.9 m||0.48 m||200 km||HE-Frag|
|Vega M (VM)||5V28||10.7 m||0.86 m||4.9 m||0.48 m||200-250 km||HE-Frag, Nuclear|
|Vega E (VE)||5V28||10.7 m||0.86 m||4.9 m||0.48 m||200-250 km||HE-Frag|
|Dubna (D)||5V28V||10.7 m||0.86 m||4.9 m||0.48 m||300 km||HE-Frag, Nuclear|
The original S-200 Angara fired the 5V21 missile. The 5V21 is 10.5 m in length and 0.86 m in diameter, with a range of 150 km. At launch, the 5V21 weighs roughly 7,000 kg, and is propelled by 4 jettisonable solid propellant rocket boosters and a single stage liquid motor. The system uses semi-active radar to direct the 217 kg HE fragmentation warhead to its target.
Vega, Vega M, Vega E
The later S-200V, S-200M, and S-200VE use the 5V28 missile. The missile measures 10.7 m in length, 0.86 m diameter, and has a range of 200 km. The 5V28 is a dual-capable missile, using either a proximity fused conventional 217 kg HE warhead or a command detonated 25 KT yield nuclear warhead.5
The S-200D fires the 5V28V missile. The 5V28V is similar in size to the 5V28, but features enhanced maneuverability, improved radar guidance, and a maximum range of 300 km. The S-200s is typically deployed in six-launcher batteries that require numerous radar and mechanical systems: one 5N69 D-band 500 km radar, one P-35M E/F-band 320 km range target search and acquisition radar, one Square Pair H-band 5N62 270 km missile guidance radar, six trainable semi-fixed single rail 5P72 launchers, and several pre-launch preparation cabins and diesel-powered electricity generator stations.6 The Square Pair radar is responsible for target tracking and missile guidance during the inflight stage, before the interceptor’s terminal radar seeker is activated.7
The Soviet Union exported the S-200 to numerous countries during the 1980s. Several former bloc states, such as Ukraine, inherited active and inactive S-200 sites following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Others received the system through direct sales from the USSR/Russia, or from third party transfers. Today, the system remains in service in no less than 12 countries.
Believed to be the first country outside of the Soviet Union to use S-200s, Syria purchased a total of eight S-200 Angara launchers and 96 missiles from the USSR between 1982 and 1985.8 During this time period, the system was deployed at three locations: the city of Homs, Dumayr (northeast of Damascus), and the southern city As Suwayda.9 Until 1985, however, the S-200s were manned by Soviet antiair specialists.10 As of 2014, five S-200 sites in Syria were believed to be active.11
Libya acquired six S-200 Angara launchers and 72 missiles from the USSR between 1985 and 1986. Several of these launchers and their radars were damaged after an engagement with United States in the Gulf of Sidra in 1986 (more on this below). The Soviet Union replaced these damaged systems in 1988.12 Libya’s S-200 units are likely out of service, possibly destroyed during NATO’s 2011 Libyan intervention.
In 1991, Iran purchased two S-200 systems, as well as 25 5V21 missiles.13 An additional 10 interceptors were purchased by Iran in 1993. The systems were deployed at seven sites in Iran: Bandar Abbas, Hamadan, Tehran South, Tehran East, Bushehr, Esfahan, and Semnan. In 2007, six of these systems were active.14
In 1989, India purchased two S-200 Angara systems and 24 5V21 missiles from the Soviet Union. Today, the S-200 augments India’s lower altitude air defenses as the country pursues more advanced ballistic missile defense capabilities, such as its Prithvi Air Defense (PAD) and Advanced Air Defense (AAD) missile interceptors.
Reports indicate that North Korea may have transferred as many as 20 S-200 launchers to Myanmar.15 The number of S-200’s that remain in service in Myanmar is unclear.
In 1986, Poland purchased two S-200 Angara systems and 24 5V21 missiles from the Soviet Union.16
There are four active S-200 batteries (approximately 24 launchers) and another twelve inactive sites in Ukraine. Some of these sites are likely legacy systems that came under Ukrainian control following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but reports indicate that Ukraine may have purchased an unknown number of S-200V launchers from Russia in 2010.17
Azerbaijan likely inherited the S-200 system when it broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991. Satellite images show at least one active site near its capital city, Baku, and a second possibly active site west of Yevlax.18
Bulgaria is believed to have one to two S-200 batteries still in service at a single site in Dramsha, north of Sophia. Declassified intelligence documents indicate that this site was first constructed in 1983.19
Despite its age and widespread deployment, operational use of the S-200 system has been rare.
After obtaining six S-200s between 1985 and 1986, Libya attempted to use the system against American fighter planes the morning of March 25, 1986.20 Libyan forces fired two S-200 interceptors at American aircraft taking part in U.S. Navy maneuvers in the Gulf of Sidra, but both missed their targets. Subsequently, one of the S-200’s radars was destroyed by an AGM-88 High speed Anti-Radiation Missile fired by an A-7 aircraft from the USS Saratoga (CV-60), rendering the system inoperable.21
S-200 systems in Syria have drawn significant attention for their attempted use against two Israeli fighter jets on March 17, 2017. Following an Israeli airstrike on a weapons convoy transporting arms from Syria to Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, Syrian military forces fired two 5V21 missiles from S-200 systems that were repaired by Russia in November 2016.22 By the time the 5V21 missiles were fired, the Israeli fighters were already back in Israeli airspace and out of range of any threat. One 5V21 missile was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow 2 ballistic missile interceptor, the first-time Arrow had been used in combat. It is unclear whether the second 5V21 landed inside Israeli territory, but the Israeli Army said the safety of Israeli citizens and aircraft was “not compromised.”23 While Syria claimed to have shot down one of the Israeli aircraft, no evidence corroborated its claim.24
On October 16, 2017, Syria’s national “Air Force and Air Defense Day,” a Syrian S-200 fired on several Israeli aircraft flying reconnaissance over Lebanon.25 The missile interceptor failed to hit its target, and the aircraft safely exfiltrated Lebanese airspace. Several hours later a separate Israeli sortie launched four missiles at the S-200 site, reportedly located 30 miles east of Damascus, incapacitating the system.26
Siberia Airlines Flight 1812
On October 4, 2001, the Ukrainian military accidentally shot down Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 flying from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk. As part of an air defense exercise, two antiair missiles, one from an S-200 and one from an S-300, were launched at a target drone off the Black Sea’s Crimean coast. The missile from the S-300 successfully intercepted the drone, but the errant S-200 missile flew an extra 240 km before hitting a Russian Tu-154 commercial airliner.27 The plane was hit while flying 35,000 ft above the Black Sea, killing all 78 crew and passengers.28