A Russian surface to air missile; also known as the V-75, and the HQ-1/2 (Chinese versions). Introduced in Russia around 1957 (when it was first seen in a May Day Parade) and deployed in at least 750 installations in Russia alone, between then and 1964. Also widely deployed in Iraq until the coalition blew most of them up during the 1991 Gulf War. It was an SA-2 battery that shot down Francis Gary Powers' U-2 over Russia near Sverdlovsk on mayday 1960; curiously, it shot down one of the MiG-19s that had been sent to intercept him as well. An SA-2 was also responsible for the only casualty of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when on October 27th 1962 one shot down Major Rudolf Anderson's U-2 while it was on a surveillance mission over Cuba (ignore what the movie Thirteen Days says about this - the missiles it shows shooting Anderson down are wrong in more ways than one*).

The SA-2 is capable of covering a 360° area, a considerable improvement over the 55° coverage of its predecessor. Engagements could be made out to 30-45km (depending on the variant) but the system cannot engage as many targets at once as the SA-1. The SA-2 was made to combat small groups of aircraft and designed far more mobile than the SA-1. While the installations were fixed, all the major parts of the launchers were fixed to wheels so they could be moved along with the missiles. Having said that, moving the missiles and equipment from one place to another and setting up took time, and was heavily dependant upon suitable roads being in place.

The SA-2 was made chiefly to defend population and industrial centres against attack; most cities with populations over 200,000 were defended by SA-2s, with the amount deployed depending on the Soviet assessment of the value of the area as a target. Sites containing government facilities, military installations, or other areas of critical importance would have their value accordingly increased and thus many relatively small urban areas (such as long-range missile silos, bomber bases or nuclear facilities) also received SA-2 protection. The missiles were also deployed to a limited extent to protect field operations - mostly relatively static facilities like command and control centres or airfields. Even Moscow was defended by SA-2s, with seven batteries installed in 1964 to supplement the SA-1 sites.

Most of the SA-2 deployment was finished by about 1965. By that time over 750 separate installations were in place in Russia in defence of over 200 sites. 1960 saw the coverage expand to include Soviet field forces and Warsaw Pact targets, mostly in East Germany. These were manned by either East German and Soviet troops, depending on the particular target.

Designed by the Lavochkin Design Bureau, the SA-2 was produced in six variants: SA-2A through SA-2E. Each was capable of carrying a 195kg high explosive fragmentation warhead activated by external command, proximity fusing or by contact fuse. One variant, the SA-2E, was also capable of delivering a nuclear warhead with a yield of about 15kt. An SA-2 missile is between 10.6m and 10.8m long (again, dependant on the variant) 50cm wide, with four sets of fins. Four large delta fins at the rear of the two-stage missile and a further four smaller fins near the middle provide stabilisation, with another four on the nose cone for steering. The remaining small fins serve as antennas for guidance and control data.

A standard SA-2 deployment uses the common 'flower' configuration, with six launchers arranged equally (60-100m apart) around the radar and other support systems at the centre. These included either a Spoon Rest or Knife Rest early-warning radar, the Fan Song missile guidance radar, and a few artics with reload rounds stacked on them. For every four SA-2 sites there is a headquarters installed at one, at which there would also be a fourth Flat Face radar for height-finding up to an altitude of 32km, inside an area 150-200km in radius.

While given Soviet assistance, China was also allowed to manufacture these missiles under license - this version was the HQ-1 (HQ = Hong Qian = Red Leader); the HQ-2 was a modification of this, with longer range and higher service ceiling. Egypt also used the SA-2: reverse-engineering and modifying it, it was called the Tayir as Sabah. Egypt got their own version of the SA-7 in the same way. Several surface to air missiles used by Iraq are also derivitives of the SA-2.

The SA-2 has a naval equivalent, designated SA-N-2 Guideline.

<<SA-1 Guild | SAM Index | SA-3 Goa>>

* First, no Soviet SAM in use then or ever (to my knowledge) has fins in the configuration shown (three sets of delta fins, from front to back each set larger than the one before). Second, a Soviet SAM that could be fired from a mobile launcher was not in use until 1964 at the earliest (and even that couldn't be fired from a truck, as depicted in TD). Third, all Soviet SAMs in use in 1962 were two-stage designs - TD shows single stage missiles. Right, out of geekboy nitpick mode.


  • Frisbee, John L.; "The First Air Force Cross"; <http://www.afa.org/magazine/valor/1295valor.html>
  • Pike, John (?); <http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/v-75.htm>
  • Missile Index; "SA-2 Guideline"; <http://www.index.ne.jp/cgi-bin/search?cat=missile_e&plate=sa2.html&fid=sa2&imgpath=/missile_e/gif/>
  • Sword of the Motherland; "SA-2 History"; <http://www.russianwarrior.com/1947vehicle_SA2history.htm>