A Brief History of the SA-14

The SA-14 Gremlin (Russian designation 9K34 Strela 3) is essentially an updated and partially redesigned SA-7 (9K32 Strela 2). The SA-14 was a response to the poor performance of the SA-7 which was becoming rapidly outdated by the early 1970’s. The system was developed quickly largely due to the fact it was based heavily on the pre existing SA-7 and was ready for mass deployment in the Russian armed forces in 1974.

Iranian Revolutionary Guardsman Firing an SA-14 – Note the considerable back blast

The System

The Launcher

The system consists of the 9P59 gripstock, 9P51 thermal battery/gas reservoir, and 9M36-1 missile. The external appearance of the SA-14 is very similar to the SA-7, and the gripstock, launch canister and aft missile body are almost identical. Externally the most significant differences were the new seeker system and the addition of a ball-shaped 9P51 thermal battery and gas reservoir instead of the SA-7’s canister shaped battery.

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An insurgent holding a modified SA-14, this image shows how widely available ManPADS are.

The Missile

While the external appearance of the SA-14 is broadly similar to the SA-7, it is in the design of the missile that all similarities stop. The most significant change in the new missile was the inclusion of new infra-red seeker head. The seeker tracked targets through the FM modulation ‘con-scan’ principle, which was much less prone to infra-red jamming and being seduced by flares than the earlier AM ‘Spin Scan’ seeker heads (the same seeker found on the SA-7’s missile). Another important feature added to the missile was seeker element cooling. This provides the seeker with greater sensitivity when scanning for targets as it is pre-cooled (much like an AIM-9 before launch). This cooling was provided by a nitrogen bottle attached to the launcher tube. This also had the effect of slightly increasing the wavelengths that could be effectively tracked (slightly over 4 micrometers as opposed to 2.8 in the SA-7s uncooled PbS seeker head). The missile was fully supersonic with an average speed of 410m/s or 796.976 knots. In reality the SA-14 could engage near supersonic targets at a range of 4.1km or at an altitude of 2.3km. The missile contained a 1.17Kg directed energy blast fragmentation warhead with a smaller 20g charge to set off any remaining fuel. It had both a proximity detonation and contact operated fuze. Due to the new seeker the SA-14 had a limited yet improved forward aspect engagement capability however, the missile was best employed against a tail aspect target. The system was best employed against helicopters and low flying tactical aircraft. The system is also credited with several surprising kills to its name. In Iraq on the 6th May 2006, a Royal Navy AH-7 Lynx of 847 Squadron was shot down over Baghdad by an SA-14, unfortunately all the crew were killed as the helicopter crashed into a house. In the Abkhazian war several Russian Mi-8s fell victim to the SA-14 as they dropped supplies and troops into the battlefield.

How To Defeat SA-14 in BMS

If an SA-14 launches at you not all is lost. The missile has decent IRCCM capability within BMS, so a liberal spread of flares combined with a break turn away from the missile is recommended. After the missile has been defeated exit the threat envelope to be completely out of danger. It is worth noting that in BMS the SA-14 is fully all aspect so approaching front aspect on is not recommended. Additionally, terrain masking can be used to avoid detection and engagement by an SA-14. Attempting to mask in front of the sun to avoid engagement by an SA-14 can be used but is not recommended as the SA-14’s new seeker has a limited background filter in BMS.

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How To Destroy a SA-14 in BMS

The fact that a SA-14 is a man operated system (ManPADS) and not part of launch vehicle is both a blessing and a curse. Humans by nature are very intolerant to explosions and shrapnel, especially if they’re delivered from an F16 dropping cluster munitions from medium altitude. However humans carrying weapons are exceedingly hard to spot from high altitude and can wait in an ambush position to catch a low flying pilot unawares.

Cluster bombs detonating over Nevada Test Range

The Tactical Use of the SA-14 in BMS

The deployment of the SA-14 in BMS mirrors the deployment found in reality. The SA-14 is attached to high value combat and logistics battalions such as modern armoured, infantry and HQ battalions. They are often used to augment the SHORAD capabilities of larger battalions.

Quick Reference

  • Rmax – 2.5nm
  • Rmin – N/A
  • AltMax- 14,000’
  • AltMin – N/A