By Bijan Razzaghi
In 2019 Surface to air missile systems continue to be widely proliferated throughout conflict zones and have been employed by both state and non state actors. These systems pose a significant threat to allied aircraft over conflict zones such as Syria and Ukraine. While threat aircraft also pose a danger SAM systems are more affordable, mobile, require less maintenance and easier to train operators on. The current common SAM systems most likely to be encountered by allied aircraft include the BUK M2/M3, TOR (SA-15) and S-300PMU-2.
The S-300PMU-2 is the longest range of these SAM systems with an effective range of 120 mi (200 km) this missiles can fly at speeds as high as Mach 8.5 leaving little time for aircraft to take evasive action. The S-300PMU-2 is the most common export model that has been widely exported to US and NATO adversary’s. S-300s are mobile systems and are often deployed by wheeled TEL (Transport Erector Launch vehicles) or tracked vehicles.
The Tor missile system is a short range system often deployed for point defense or as a mobile air defense system to defend ground forces. The Tor has an effective range of about 7 mi (12 km). The Tors small size makes it easy to deploy and easy to hide making it particularly dangerous for low flying aircraft as its search radar can be turned on and off relatively quickly.
The Buk M1 and M2 are medium range SAM systems that are also small and mobile like the more modern Tor missile system. The BukM1-2 armed with the 9M317 missile has a reported effective range of 19 mi and 30 km with a speed of Mach 3. Also not as effective as the S300 and Tor systems the Buk has been re manufactured and widely exported to several countries.
More affordable than fighter aircraft
Threat air forces have preferred to purchase large numbers of SAM systems instead of fighter aircraft as a cost cutting measure to reduce training, maintenance and operating expenses. Fighter aircraft are also vulnerable and are only meant to hold of the initial waves of air strikes. SAM systems on the other hand are far more mobile and easy to hide.
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