The SA-8 was the first mobile air defense missile system incorporating its own engagement radars on a single vehicle.
All versions of the 9K33 feature all-in-one 9A33 transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) vehicles which can detect, track and engage aircraft independently or with the aid of regimental surveillance radars. The six-wheeled transport vehicles BAZ-5937 are fully amphibious and air transportable.
A Brief History of the SA – 8/9K33
As well as the USSR/Russia, there are many export customers for this system, including Cuba, Greece (from the former East Germany), Poland, Syria, Ecuador and Iraq. In late 80’s Cuba deployed several SA-8 units in southern Angola and posed a significant threat to South African air superiority at shorter ranges. Iraq used Osa systems during the 1991 Gulf War. South African 61 Mechanised Battalion Group captured a complete SA-8 anti-aircraft missile system on 3 October 1987 during the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. This was the first time that such a system had ever fallen into non-Warsaw Pact forces hands, giving Western intelligence agencies an opportunity to examine an important Soviet-bloc weapon system. The system was also seen used in the 2008 Russo-Georgian War by both Georgians and Russians. Libyan SA-8s were used and some destroyed during the 2011 Libyan war
Engagement range for the early versions is approximately 2–9 km (1.3-5.6 miles) and engagement altitudes of between 50–5000 m (164-16,400 ft). The 9M33M2 “Osa-A” missile extends the ranges out to 1500-10000m (1-6.2 miles) and engagement altitudes to 25–5000 m (82-16,400 ft). The 9M33M3 missile greatly enhances the altitude engagement envelope to 10–12000 m (33-42,500 ft), and as such are also able to fly further (about 15 km/9 miles) but the system is not able to engage targets at longer ranges, due to other factors such as the radar tracking of the missiles. The system is designed for use primarily against jet aircraft and helicopters in any kind of weather.
The 9M33 missiles are 3.158 m (10.3 ft) long, weigh 126 kg (278 lb) and use command guidance. There is also a backup low-light optical tracking system for heavy ECM environments. The latest 9M33M3 missiles have an increased total weight of 170 kg (375 lb) in order to provide the extended range coverage and larger warhead. Propulsion is provided by a dual-thrust solid fuel rocket motor. Both versions feature a missile speed of around Mach 2.4 (peaking at around Mach 3) for a maximum target engagement speed of around Mach 1.4 for the original missile and Mach 1.6 for the M2\M3 missiles. The warhead for the initial and M2 versions weighs 19 kg (42 pounds), increased to 40 kg (88 lb) in the M3 version to improve performance against helicopters. All versions have impact and proximity fuzes.
1S51M3 (“Land Roll”) – C band target acquisition radar, H band conical scan target tracking radar and two J band pulse mode fire control radars (range 35 km/22 miles for acquisition, 30 km/19 miles for tracking and 25 km/16 miles for guidance). Mounted on the TELAR.
How to Defeat SA – 8/9K33
The SA – 8 is an exceedingly dangerous SAM if you are unprepared and caught of guard. However there are several weaknesses that you can exploit to avoid being annihilated by this SAM.
The first weakness we can exploit is the SA – 8’s relatively short range, about 5 – 7nm in BMS. Because of this and the AIs tendency to prosecute at maximum range one can react quickly to the incoming threat by performing a maximum performance brake turn away from the missile while descending sharply before rapidly exiting the threat envelope. While conducting the defensive turn chaff should be used liberally. Additionally the system has a shallow launch angle, one can use this against the SA – 8 by performing a rapid climb then a rapid descent which should drive the missile into the ground.
The second weakness of the system is its radars inability to sort through ground clutter, make use of terrain masking and low level ingress/egress to and from your targets. Be aware that this will expose you to AAA/SHORADS/MANPADS so plan appropriately.
How To Destroy A SA – 8
The process of destroying an SA – 8 can be a very simple task, due to the systems low altitude ceiling it is optimal for a medium altitude laser guided bomb release using the TGP to find the SA – 8 TELAR systems and picking them off one by one. However if the medium/high altitude is unavailable then a low level TOSS attack should be used using CBU/Mk series of bombs. DO NOT attempt to close within firing distance of the SAM however if this is is not possible fly as low and as fast as possible and expose yourself for the most limited amount of time possible (seriously this SAM is no joke).
Tactical Use Of the SA – 8 in BMS
Much like in real life, the SA – 8 in BMS is attached to high value battalions, for example HQ battalions will usually have an SA – 8 platoon attached to them to provide a aerial denial bubble over their important assets. Additionally in other theatres like Lorik’s Balkans theatre they accompany some infantry battalions and the SA – 8 features heavily in the Israeli Theatre of Operation on the syrian side.