SA-13 (Gopher) / 9K35 Strela-10
Self-Propelled, Tracked SAM System
The Soviet-era SA-13 Gopher replaced the earlier SA-9 Gaskin line of mobile SAM systems for the Soviet Army.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The 9K35 "Strela-10" was developed by Soviet engineers to replace the 1960s-era 9K31 Strela-1 line (SA-9 "Gaskin") of mobile Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) systems in service with the Red Army during the Cold War years. It was a budget alternative to more technology-laden programs of the period and therefore somewhat limited in terms of overall engagement capabilities. It lacked all-weather functionality though its more direct operator participation (it is optically-aimed and guided) made its engagement of aerial targets far less prone to jamming and evasion. Development work began in 1969 by KB Tochmash Design Bureau of Precision Engineering to which the 9K35 was taken into service in 1979. To NATO, the vehicle was known as the SA-13 "Gopher". It continues to see use today (2014), having been taken on by forces ranging from Afghanistan and Angola to Ukraine and Vietnam. Former operators include Czechoslovakia (dissolution), Poland, Slovakia, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia (dissolution). Modern Russian Army versions use a new missile.
The 13.55-ton SA-13 is built atop the existing hull and chassis of a slightly modified MT-LB multipurpose armored tracked carrier and therefore retains the same YaMZ-238 V diesel-fueled 240 horsepower engine and performance specifications of 37 miles per hour road speeds and 310 mile operational ranges. A torsion bar suspension allows for the necessary off-road capability and the hull is amphibious as in the original MT-LB, treading water at a 3-mile-per-hour-clip. Its crew numbers three - commander, driver, and gunner and armor protection is only against small arms fire, measuring 7mm thick. Primary armament is its four-shot 9M333 missile launcher which sits atop the hull on a trainable mount. The launchers are grouped as two pairs of launchers in a side-by-side format, the pairing separated by the radar array at center. The mounting hardware features full traversal and elevation controls. The launcher can also fire the older missiles of the Streal-1 family.
The original missile was the 9M31M of 1971 which used an impact and proximity fuse. This was followed by the 9M37 of 1976 and its proximity and impact fuse. Then came the 9M37M of 1981 and the 9M333 of 1989 - the latter introducing an eight-ray laser proximity and impact fuse. Maximum range has been progressively increased over the lifespan of the missile's evolution while minimum intercept altitudes have been steadily increased.
Over the decades, the Strela-10 system has been continually improved to help expand its battlefield usefulness. This has produced the Strela-10M, Strela,10M2, and Strela-10M3 marks. Its combat service has ranged from the Angolan War (1975-2002) and Operation Desert Storm (1991) to the Kosovo War (1998-1999) and others though with mixed results.