A first generation Russian surface to air missile (Russian designation S-25 Berkut). Introduced when the Cold War was beginning to gather momentum, the SA-1 served from about 1951 to some point in the 1980s. It was first observed by the West at the 1960 May Day Parade.

The SA-1 was part of the first major example of anything that might be termed a Missile Defense Shield - developed as it was, in response to the increasing threat of nuclear attack on Russia from the United States after the end of World War II and the subsequent tension that built between the two superpowers.

The SA-1 was intended solely for the protection of Moscow and surrounding industrial centres from air attack. SA-1s were deployed in two concentric rings around Moscow - the first ring, 25 nautical miles out from the city centre, had 22 of the 56 total sites. The remainder were all on the outside ring, which was a radius of about 45nm from Moscow. Reportedly, over 1 billion (unadjusted - presumably) dollars' worth of missiles were used in the S-25 program. Moscow's ring roads were originally built to support this system's infrastructure.

Designed by the Lavochkin Design Bureau, SA-1 missiles were themselves capable of carrying a nuclear warhead in place of the conventional 250kg of high explosives. An SA-1 missile could intercept aerial targets up to 20 nautical miles away (dependant on the approach and size of the target), and reach speeds of mach 2.5. However, because of the time it took to reach this speed it was of limited usefulness against targets already travelling at supersonic speed. The possible intercept altitudes ranged from about 3,000 to 60,000 feet, although the effective range could be increased to as much as 80,000ft if a nuclear warhead was carried.

An SA-1 is 12 metres long, 71cm in diameter, with four large stabilizing fins towards the rear, with smaller steering fins towards the nose. They were not designed to be mobile (one reason they were only used to protect Moscow was that it was too problematic to move them elsewhere) - going by the information available the only time any of them left their launch sites was for May Day Parades, when they were carried on ZIL-157 trucks.

A typical SA-1 missile site had 60 launch positions, all joined by a road network. A total of about 3,200 launchers were deployed throughout the operational life of the SA-1. The B-200 radar that supplied all the missiles with their targeting data was of the track-while-scan type (termed yo-yo by NATO): capable of engaging up to 20 targets simultaneously. This, coupled with the amount of missiles at one site and the amount of sites, as well as the backup of the second ring of missile sites, meant the S-25 system was capable of responding to incoming targets with an extremely high rate of fire. A later modification increased this further, enabling each battery to engage twenty targets with up to three missiles per target.

SAM Index | SA-2 Guideline>>

Information is less readily available on Russian military hardware and sources tend to disagree slightly, so there is a lot of 'about's in this w/u and some supposition. Please /msg me with any corrections.

Thanks to toalight for the extra detail he provided.

  • Pike, John (?); "S-25 SA-1 GUILD"; <http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/s-25.htm>
  • Burr, William; "Soviet Cold War Military Strategy: Using Declassified History"; <http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/CWIHP/BULLETINS/b4a11.htm>
  • Missile Index; "SA-1 Guild"; <http://www.index.ne.jp/cgi-bin/search?cat=missile_e&plate=type01b.html&fid=sa1&imgpath=/missile_e/gif/>
  • Zaloga, Steven J.; "Defending the Kremlin: The First Generation of Soviet Strategic Air Defence Systems 1950-60"; <http://libraryautomation.com/nymas/defendingthekremlin.htm>

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