SA-18 (Grouse) / 9K38 Igla
Portable Shoulder-Launched Anti-Aircraft Missile System
The 9K38 Igla shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile system emerged from testing in the 1970s and has since proven an effective modern aircraft counter.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The SA-18 (NATO: "Grouse"), formally recognized by the Russian Army as 9K38 "Igla", is a modern man-portable, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft system. The system consists of the launch tube with integrated optics and trigger unit coupled to an infrared homing missile. The weapon was adopted by the Soviet military in 1983 and retained by the modern Russian military after the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1991. The SA-18 is classified a short-to-medium-range anti-aircraft counter for threats posed by low-flying aircraft such as fixed-wing strike platforms and attack helicopters. Production of the weapon is handled through the KBM bureau of Kolomna, Russia.
Design origins of the SA-18 can be traced back to an early 1970s initiative intended on producing a modern, more effective and portable anti-aircraft measure for the Soviet Army beyond the scope of theexisting SA-7 and SA-14 systems then in use. The program eventually evolved into two distinct product goals which produced the interim-minded (and technologically simpler) 9K310 "Igla-1" (NATO: "SA-16") and the more advanced 9K38 "Igla" (NATO: "SA-18"). The SA-18 launcher appeared as a follow-up to the SA-14 family though with an all-new missile development. The overall design of the weapon was conventional, including a sleek tubular launch tube which was set over the operator's shoulder when fired. When transported, the system was afforded a shoulder strap. The powerpack, trigger unit with pistol grip and optics are all contained at the frontal section of the launcher.
The SA-18 was adopted into Red Army service in 1983 (the SA-16 in 1981). A major modernization then produced the latest Igla incarnation recognized as "Igla-S" (NATO: SA-24 "Grinch"). A navalized form of the SA-18 is known to NATO as the SA-N-10 "Grouse".
The 9M39 series missile relied on a two-color infrared guidance system (minimizing vulnerability to flares deployed by targeted aircraft) and was propelled by a single solid fuel rocket motor. The missile managed an operational range out to 3.2 miles and could operate at ceilings of 11,000 feet while reaching speeds in the neighborhood of Mach 2.3. The lethal payload of the missile consisted of a 2.6lb warhead detonation reached by both contact and fuse. The missile was nearly as long as the launch tube itself and sported spring-loaded fins for in-flight stabilization after launch. With its new seeker, the missile now held an inherently longer effective range as well as improved engagement speeds. Perhaps the most noticeable improvement came from its self-protection against the latest in electro-optical jamming equipment. As such, the missile could manage a probable kill value as high as 48% against an unsuspecting, unprotected aircraft.
The SA-18 is utilized by a plethora of world powers with many owing procurement to close Soviet-Russian relations of the Cold War. As such, nations such as Egypt, Syria, Iran, Ukraine and Vietnam all field the SA-18 system.