A short-range combined anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) and surface to air missile (SAM) system designed and manufactured by the Soviet Union in the mid 1980s. It is currently in use in Russia and has been exported to India, China, Peru and Ukraine. They have seen action as recently as the Kosovo conflict, reportedly shooting down several NATO aircraft.

The 2S6 is unique: At the time of writing the 2S6 is the only single-unit land-based AAA/SAM system in operation (thanks to locke baron for pointing out the existence of the 2S6's naval counterpart). It seems a successful combination as the US military prototyped a similarly-themed system called the Blazer: an M2 Bradley chassis with a 25mm gatling gun and rack of Stinger missiles mounted on it.

When design work began on the 2S6 the system it was replacing, the ZSU-23-4 (Zenitnaya Samokhodnaya Ustanovka - Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun - four 23mm cannon), was well over twenty years old. The basis of the system is an even older towed 23mm AAA system, the ZSU-23-2. Upgrades on the ZSU-23-4 by various former Soviet satellite nations ran right up to the end of the last century but apparently the system was being overtaken by the technological gains of its adversaries. Also, short-range SAM systems were either outdated or man-portable, the latter being unable to keep up with and therefore defend mobile fighting units. This system was introduced in part as a more mobile replacement for the SA-14 and SA-16 units.

Design work was done by the KBP Design Bureau in Tula, Russia. On completion and acceptance of this work in 1981 the Ulyanovsk Mechanical Factory was contracted to market and manufacture the system. The system was intended to replace, as well as the ageing but highly successful ZSU-23-4, the SA-13 and by extension the SA-9 which was, somewhat unsurprisingly, still in use (some years earlier, the SA-13 had been introduced to replace it).

Design & Layout

The production version of the 2S6 changed a little from the initial version but only in load-out. The vehicle uses the same steel tracked chassis as the SA-11 and SA-15, just differing in the turret arrangement. The vehicle is powered by a turbocharged, water-cooled V-12 diesel engine developing 780hp. This propels the 2S6 at up to 40mph for over 300 miles. The driver sits at the left front of the vehicle next to the gas-turbine auxiliary power unit, which allows the vehicle to operate when halted with the engine switched off. The other three occupants are the radar operator, the vehicle commander and the gunner, all of whom have positions in the turret. The vehicle has all the usual refinements of a Soviet anti-aircraft system including an NBC overpressure system, air conditioning, night vision, hydraulic track adjustment, hydro-pneumatic adjustable suspension, a limited fording ability and passive backup for the targeting systems.

As with the SA-11 and SA-15 the 2S6 has a 360°-rotating turret containing the vehicle's weapon and targeting\tracking systems. The initial production version has twin water-cooled 30mm cannon that can be raised up to 87°, with a combined rate of fire in the region of 10,000 rounds per minute. Two pairs of two missiles are mounted on turret, two on either side; the mass-produced version - the 2S6M - is the same except it has two pairs of four. By and large the missiles used are the SA-19 Grisom type and if you search for that name, this system is frequently returned as the result.

Targeting, Guidance & Weapons

The fitted Hot Shot radar can be easily seen when its spinning receiver is operating on the rear of the turret (it can be folded flat for travel or a smaller radar cross-section). It can detect targets from 18km away and track them from 16km. An optical tracking system is available to the gunner if the target is using electronic countermeasures or to allow the unit to remain undetected. Both of these systems are mounted on the vehicle roof.

The 2S6 is able to fire its cannon at targets while it is moving but must stop to fire missiles; this is to protect the missiles from damage as they leave the launch tubes, as they employ spring-loaded stability fins which pop into position after exiting the tube. A rather cool feature of the 2S6 is the ability to lock its suspension when halted, to provide extra stability for firing. This also improves the accuracy of the cannon.

SA-19s are supplied in hermetically sealed containers, in 'clips' of two much like the missile cartridges used in the SA-15 system and the missile tubes used by the SA-10 and SA-12 systems. The SA-19 is a two-stage solid fuel missile (aka 9M311). It is 2.5m long, 17cm wide with a 9kg high explosive fragmentation warhead. This can be either be remotely detonated or set on a proximity fuse before firing. The propulsion is quite curious for a SAM system: after it launches the booster stage fires for about 2.5 seconds, accelerating the missile up to about mach 4. The booster then jettisons leaving the forward, unpowered section carrying the warhead. This then manoeuvres on a ballistic course to intercept its target.

The makeup of a 2S6 battery is six TELAR (Transporter-Erector-Launcher) vehicles, a resupply vehicle carrying cannon rounds and missile clips, several maintenance vehicles and a battery command post. All of the vehicles besides the TELAR itself are wheeled, based on 6x6 truck chassis of various types.


This is the most recent version of the 2S6 with a several improvements. The missiles are replaced with 9M311M missiles which are faster and have a longer range than the 9M311 missiles, and have their own guidance systems making them "fire and forget" weapons. The vehicles have upgraded electronics, with increased resistance to jamming and an automatic target distribution system which allows the battery command post to automatically allocate targets to individual launchers. Further, the gyroscopic stabilisation system for the cannon barrels has been improved, giving increased accuracy when firing on the move.

When deployed in a naval theatre the SA-19 missiles the 2S6 system uses are designated SA-N-11 Grisom, part of the CADS-N-1 CIWS system which appears to be a 2S6 sans chassis, stuck onto a ship.

<<SA-18 Grouse | SAM Index

  • SPG Media Ltd (Author unknown); "TUNGUSKA M1 LOW LEVEL AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM, RUSSIA"; <http://www.star.co.yu/armtech/pages/tekst016.htm>
  • Wade, Mark; "Tunguska"; <http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/tunguska.htm>
  • Yanko, Eugene; "SA-19 Grison / Tunguska"; ><http://warfare.ru/?catid=264&linkid=1693>
  • juni0r@orcon.net.nz; "Battlefield of the Information Age; 2S6 Tunguska"; <http://juni0r.orcon.net.nz/milessay.html>
  • Cullen, Tony & Foss, Christopher; "Jane's Land-Based Air Defense 2003; "Ulyanovsk Mechanical Plant 2S6M quad 30mm/SA-19 self-propelled air defence system Tunguska"; Printed word, published by Jane's Information Group, ISBN 0710626282
  • (Author not specified); "2S6 Integrated Air Defense System"; <http://www.army-technology.com/projects/tunguska/index.html>

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