Because of advancements in Western aircraft regarding speed and operating altitudes, the Soviet Union was forced to remain on the cutting edge of air defense technology. Its defense network was eventually arranged to include a variety of short-, medium-, and long-ranged solutions to help counter the threat posed by high-flying bombers and spy aircraft. One of the entries into the long-range category became the classic S-200 missile - known to NATO as the SA-5 "Gammon" - and this series went on to see considerable adoption in the Cold War decades by a plethora of global operators beyond the Soviet Union. Design work on the S-200 is attributed to the Petr Grushin design bureau.
The Gammon series was introduced in 1967 and was featured in many of the notable conflicts of the 20th Century thereafter.
The SA-5 missile is directed primarily by way of the 5N62 series "Square Pair" radar which can track out to a distance of 170 miles (there are other available radar fits that can also be used). Several versions of the S-200 missile eventually appeared - the S-200A "Angara" is an original form of 1967 with 110 mile range followed by the S-200V "Vega" of 1970 with 150 mile range. The S-200 "Vega" increased range out to 190 miles and the S-200M "Vega-M" arrived as a modernized form. S-200E "Vega-E" was developed as the export-minded product form of the Gammon missile and S-200D "Dubna" arrived in 1976 as a nuclear-capable variant with 250 miles range.
The standard design of the missile itself consists of a tubular, highly aerodynamic shape with stabilization fins added. Each missile is fitted with four solid-fueled rocket booster units to help the missile reach engagement speeds as quickly as possible - offering little time for the target to react. The missile weighs in at 15,700 pounds and feature a nose-to-tail reach of 35 feet. The warhead is made up of a 478lb Fragmentation High-Explosive (Frag-HE) mix detonated either through proximity with the target or through command fusing. The rocket motor is a dual-thrust, liquid-fueled unit which, when coupled with the rocket boosters, allows the missile to reach speeds of 5,600 miles per hour up to altitudes of 130,000 feet out to 190 miles (range is variable and dependent upon the missile model in play). Guidance is through a semi-active radar homing seeker installed in the missile's head.
Since its inception, the SA-5 has proven its worth as a defensive-minded solution and deterrent. It is generally seen as accurate and its evolution from its original Cold War-era form has ensured it a place on the modern battlefield. Indeed both Russia and Iran are known to have undertaken more advanced forms of the missile. Current, notable operators of the SA-5 series includes Russia, Algeria, India, North Korea, Poland, Romania and Syria (among others). Former operators of the SA-5 system include many former Soviet allies like Belarus, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Georgia and Ukraine (among others). Gammon missile units were fielded in East Germany prior to German unification in 1990 as a deterrent to the West. In Russian service, six missile launcher units are assigned to a battalion and the current-generation missile in use is the S-200 "Dubna" type.
An SA-5 missile was responsible for the downing of a civilian Tupolev Tu-154. The incident involved a Siberia Airlines flight and a Ukrainian SA-5 system and occurred on October 4th, 2001. Seventy-eight people were killed.