With the rise of ever-faster and more powerful warplanes in the 1960s and 1970s, the missile age was forged as a direct counter. This led both the East and West of the Cold War period (1947-1991) to fund development of all manner of missile-based defenses. For the Soviet Union, this led to the creation of a new self-propelled Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system known as the 9K330 'Tor' (NATO codename of SA-15 "Gauntlet"). The system was specifically designed to engage aerial targets in the low-to-medium altitude envelopes - making it ideal for area defense.
Design work began in 1975 with Antey OKB leading the charge aided by MKB Fakel supplying the missile component. Manufacture of the series, introduced in 1986, was undertaken by IEMZ Kupol, Metrowagonmash (managing production of the tracked chassis), and MZKT (providing a wheeled chassis derivative). Production of the line has since spanned from 1983 until the present day and variants of the series now include the original 'Tor' and subsequent notable marks of enhanced capability - the 9K330 has been progressively modernized to keep it a viable air-defense missile platform for the foreseeable future.
At its core, the 9K330 features an operating crew of three and weighs in at 34 tonnes in its tracked chassis guise. Overall length of the chassis reaches 7.5 meters with a beam of 3.3 meters and a height up to the hull roof line of 5.1 meters. The tracking radar sits atop the hull and can be stowed away during transport. Power is from a V-12 diesel -fueled engine of 830 horsepower driving the conventional track-and-wheel running gear, the engine being mated to a hydromechanical gearbox. The hull is suspended atop a proven torsion bar suspension system ideal for offroad traveling and the vehicle complete can reach road speeds of up to 65 kmh and operate out to ranges of 500 kilometers - allowing it to keep up with the main mechanized force is need be.
The included solid-fueled, rocket-boosted missiles of the 9K330 SAM system are typically fielded in packs of four ready-to-launch munitions. These 10-foot long weapons are designed to engage more agile targets at range, the missiles reaching speeds of up to Mach 2. Guidance is through a command-input system allowing for changes/corrections on-the-fly while detonation is through an onboard proximity fuse-based arrangement. The base missiles have a listed engagement range out to 12 kilometers giving the overall vehicle a good "reach" in a warzone. The weapons can target and engage enemies at altitudes beyond 30,000 feet (depending on missile mark).
The Tor SAM system is currently (2020) operated by the military forces of Algeria, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, China, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Peru, Russia, Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen, Morocco, and Syria. Russia is, by far, the largest operator of the series with some 172 units in service with production currently ongoing. Georgia and Kazakhstan has both given up use of the missile system.
Russian forces deployed the Tor SAM system in the Syrian Civil War in support of the acting/current regime.
Variants of the 9K330 SAM system include the original 9K330 'Tor' unit of 1986, these followed by the improved 9K331 'Tor M1' mark of 1991 which brought along the new 9M331 missile of greater accuracy and a multi-target engagement capability. The 9K332 'Tor-M2E' became an upgraded model of 2007 and marks the latest widespread version available - boasting an all-new, more accurate fire control capability as well as greater automation with increased reaction times. The smaller size of these missiles allow eight to be housed in a pack while engagement ranges are increased to 16 kilometers.
The 'Tor-M1-2U' is a model of 2012 given a broader target reach - therefore more useful against smaller UAVs becoming commonplace over the modern battlefield as well as traditional large fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. An all-weather capability is built in, increasing the tactical flexibility of the unit. This form is beginning to become available in useful numbers as of this writing.
The 'Tor-M2KM' is more of a versatile "mount-anywhere" version with a 15 kilometer engagement range while the 'Tor-M2DT' is designed for cold weather operation (particularly in the Arctic environment where weather extremes prove more common). The 'Tor-2E' is a more mobile, versatile offering being marketed along with a wheeled vehicle chassis equipped with 16-shot missile modules and intra-vehicle communications for a shared exchange of target information.
The navalized form of the Gauntlet became the 3K95 'Kinzhal' (exported as 'Klinok') known to NATO as SA-N-9. These missiles were introduced in 1989 and are similar in form and function to the 9M330 land-based weapons though optimized for on-water/over-water operation against aerial targets. The weapons are typically fitted on mid-to-large Russian Navy warships.
The HQ-17/FM-2000 is a Chinese variant thought to be based on the Soviet/Russian Tor SAM system.
Despite its Cold War-era roots, the Tor SAM system maintains an active presence around the world, primarily with Soviet/Russian allied partners and nations.
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